Friday, 29 November 2013

red eyes, rain and (no) reservations

Last Saturday i cycled 115 miles, before i started i was shivering, once i started i was wet and shivering, after 10 mile si decided to give up, 100 miles later i somehow still hadn't. I burned 3500 calories and ate 350, i couldn't change gear, or use the brakes and when i went on the front nobody wanted to let me get off again. Oh and i rode my bike through a river. Then i got off my bike, got a $250 parking ticket and spent 8 hours shivering at the finish line. I'd slept five hours at the longest stretch all week and not eaten anything like enough.  It was also the best day I can remember.

 Thousand yard stare Jesus anyone? thanks to Conrad for snapping me as I babbled inanely 

The only time i can remember being as cold this year was in Flanders in March,  the odd thing was not that in Tucson i thought of Belgium but that in Belgium, i'd thought of Tucson. I can remember each and every lap that i passed the warm cafe with the smell of cigars and coffee i wanted to give up. my fingers hurt so much that i wanted to cry and my jaw was cramping from cold. I remember looking back through my legs, so low in the drops as the wind whipped straight from the Siberia (or so it seemed) and seeing the Yaqui charm dangling off my saddle and thinking that nothing i would ever endure on a bike would ever be anything like as tough as what the guys on the rez had to deal with just to get on a bike. If i gave up just because i was cold how on earth could i ask people to overcome the barriers that society, economy and culture put between them and the health of their community.

I'd spent the week before The El tour in the Casino Del Sol with my friends, fundraisers and volunteers from AYUDA preparing for The El tour de Tucson with our Pascua Yaqui participants, we put the finishing touches to bikes and introduced Mexican hot dogs to Canadian kids, we sat at the expo for hours trying to find someone who wanted to make a difference, not take a sticker. It was a pleasure to introduce the higher ups from AYUDA to the higher ups from the tribe, to see worlds coming together for the wellbeing of people who wnt to make themselves better. We attended stuffy, formal dinners where wine flowed and small talk came awkwardly and we had our own dinners where tears flowed and big ideas were raised easily.

It's hard for me to express how proud it made me to see my participants dressed up and being honoured in front of hundreds of people, what means more to me is that they were honouring themselves, that they had ridden themselves to a place where they could stand up, smile and be proud of themselves. What made me even prouder was seeing some of my participants stand up in front of just a couple of dozen people and talk about what this year has meant to them, about how through divorce, through the death of loved ones, through abuse from the roadside and miles and miles of self doubt, through (deserts as hot as) hell and high water they'd kept on with their cycling because it had come to mean something to them, it had stopped being about a medicinal benefit, about "taking" exercise and it had become a spiritual benefit and had become about loving exercise.

I stood at the finish line, shivering in my woefully inadequate jacket and welcomed all of our riders. From grandmothers to grade schoolers via tribal padres and boxers each one of them finished in the freezing rain with a huge smile. Some sang their ancestor songs along the way to stay motivated in the freezing rain, others thought of their children hoping that through their example they'd be able to grow up and look forward to long, happy, healthy lives. The power of a hero can't be underestimated but we all need heroes we can relate to. Overcoming the adversities placed in front of these guys makes them heroes, standing up and being proud of being native American makes them heroes, getting back up when a million and one things knock them down makes them heroes. These aren't heroes who you read about in magazines, these are the heroes who can really change the world, because people can really relate to them. They're ordinary people who have overcome their situation to prove that they CAN make their lives better, an din doing so they have made the world that they come from better, brighter and more welcoming. They really have changed the future of their community and that really is a victory more meaningful than crossing the line first.

In so many ways the start line was the finish line, months of training, hugely improved blood sugars, weight loss and as many finger pricks as pedal strokes. Just by getting to the start, by overcoming a distaste for wearing lycra and a fear of being out on the road. For keeping riding when people around them were reinforcing what society already told them: you can't. For all these reasons they'd already won. Yet for so many reasons they started as they crossed the finish line and made a commitment to share what they had learned with their colleagues, their community, their children. They committed to riding further and eating better to being more visible as positive role models and to teaching others what they'd shown through their example, that their health was their own and that they had the power to improve it.

What i saw people do on a bike this weekend is truly more impressive than anything i've seen before.I don't want to name all the individual who helped, i couldn't but It's only fair to extend my gratitude to Focus, Primal Wear, Camelbak, Kryptonite, The World We Want Foundation and the Diabetes hands foundation.  And to my partner in health Apryl Krause.  I want to extend my thanks to everyone who gave us money, product, support, letters, emails, good wishes, thoughts, prayers or even just a smile. Without so many people riding in front of us on our proverbial ride to health this wouldn't have been possible.
The Journey doesn't stop here! please join us at and donate at

Monday, 11 November 2013

i quite like Mondays,

I have my music on shuffle, Bob Geldof and the Boomtown rats just came on, "i don't like Mondays", apart from the fact that the song was written about a remorseless high school shooter. I can't hear that song and not thing of a train conductor in Belgium singing it full on karaoke style when i asked him to help me translate a letter into Flemish, the first word was "next Monday", he read that and went for it.  Nobody in the train really seemed to mind ( I imagine they didn't know he was singing about a girl who walked into school and shot her classmates to "brighten up the day"). 

Listening to the song took me down a terrible live aid rabbit hole, haircuts rapidly deteriorated and i ended up in a David Bowie place pretty quickly. It also made me think that lots of people really don't like Mondays (incidentally it also made me think it might be time for a haircut) we've been over this before but if you live for  the weekend you should really think about if you're living right. I like Mondays, I don't teach and often the museums are open for free. I do my long rides, I sometimes take my pupils to museums, I hear from my participants in Arizona about all that they've achieved over the weekend and the coffee shops are a lot less busy. 
If you're doing something you love you will never do a day's work in your life. You'll never retire because you never began working in the first place, you keep doing the same thing, just slower. If you're doing what you love, you also do it better (case in point possibly the greatest live music performance in history ) and if you exude passion for what you're doing, i firmly believe you'll meet with success.

On Friday i was sat in a car body shop, my car seems to be bleeding most of its essential oils at the moment and in order to ascertain exactly what is haemorraging from where I had to get the underside steam cleaned. As my car was getting cleaner than I am, is at with the most surly tradesman I've come across in a while, i didn't help myself by reading a book, weighing as much as a teenage girl or wearing pink sunglasses but it was pretty clear that on my entrance I'd been judged and I wasn't scoring 10/10. efforts at conversation were met with grunts so I went back to Clifford Geertz. After about 20 minutes one of my type 2 participants called me and we talked about some issues she was having, we talked for maybe 20 minutes and then i put the phone down.

The chap running the car shop waited until I was finished, i was waiting to have him tell me off for talking loudly in his office but to my surprise he told me he's been listening, he said he'd never been checked for diabetes but worried about it a lot, he said hearing me talking had made him think it wasn't that bad and that he was going to get himself checked out. He said it was really nice to hear someone taking the time to care about someone and that doctors never did that. he said lots of nice things, frankly he said lots of things i thought i 'd never hear from a shaven headed 250lb who fixed cars for a living, he showed me pictures of his kids and asked lots of questions.

I told him about what I did, about bike racing, about the Pascua Yaqui project i run, about AYUDA and about diabetes. He listened, he didn't grunt once. After I was finished he said he wanted to help, that he didn't have money to donate but that he wanted to help me put on a concert, he promotes his son's band and other musical groups and wanted to help me put on a concert to raise money.

my ride today took me into the military graveyard, there was a big field of white graves reminiscent of those I've found myself sleeping in more than once in Flanders. The difference was that this one didn't have grass, it had holes, waiting to be filled. That upset me a lot, that could so easily have been me, i was a hair's breadth from the army at 18 (literally, I decided to cut out when they decided I needed to get my hair cut) I wanted to be outside and i couldn't work out how to make it pay. I'm glad i decided to do what made me happya nd think later about how to put a roof over my head. Who knows if I wouldn't be filling a hole in the gorund otherwise.
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
I've often wondered how I seem to bump into people who are extraordinarily predisposed to help me, be it with a beer in Belgium, a sofa in Spain or a coffee in Catalonia  I've been pretty lucky the last few years to have a few minor moments of ill fortune more than offset by all the wonderful things people have done to help me. I'm not a big believer in religion, and i don't think i have any guardian angels. the only thing i can come up with is that i'm pretty genuine in what i do, I LOVE doing what i do and i care about it so deeply that i can't help but be passionate about it. I remember telling a young volunteer that my one tip for fundraising was to exude a passion for what you do, in her 16 year old wisdom she told me i was naive and idealistic (isn't that supposed to go the other way around?) and then she met someone in a cafe who ended up hosting her biggest fundraiser. I don't know if it's serendipity, karma, yin and yang or what but life and people deeply reward and appreciate passion. If there isn't passion in what you do then look to what you're passionate about and worry about making it pay later, I've always followed that approach and i might be underweight and living in a garage but i'm very happy!

seriously though watch this
greatest showman ever born.