In just over a week I will try, along with some other crazy mofos, to ride my bike across Prince Edward Island, along the Confederation Trail. 297kms. In one day. It will be both the farthest I’ve ever ridden in one ride and the longest I’ve ever been on a bike. The trail itself is not that long and doesn’t run the full island, so we’ve tacked on 2 road sections at the beginning and end to make it a true ‘tip-to-tip’ ride. If you’re so inclined, you can view the route here.
I’m not sure I can do it, but that’s probably not the point.
A year or so ago, my buddy Andrew Titus had this crazy idea, that somehow became a plan. Initially the idea was to do a big bike ride the day before the Brookvale Ultra, and then do the run the next day. Sort of a crazy man’s duathlon type thing. I’m not the ultra runner he is so I would have done, like the 10k. Somewhere along the line when looking for the ride portion, it occurred to someone to just ride across the whole island.
Over the span of the year there have been many people who signed on for the endeavor but for various reasons (injury, time commitment, schedule) have opted out. Indeed, even Fearless Leader Andrew, who was initially going to do the ride and run can no longer do the run portion due to injury/timing. So it’s become mostly about the ride. As it stands we’ve got +/- 5 riders slated to go, with a few still to confirm for sure. What started out as a ride/run has become mostly just a ride. I think there’s currently 1 rider who anticipates also doing the run the following day. We’ll see what happens next year if it becomes an annual thing.
To say I have ‘trained’ for this would be a lie. I have ridden my bike when and as far as I can. The general consensus I’ve always heard from more experienced riders than I is that anyone can pretty much do 2x what their longest ride has been. I’ve done 160k.
More importantly I have tried to get my head straight approaching the whole thing which I think is probably more important when you’re looking at spending 12-14 hours on the bike. I think a huge chunk of the work will be mental.
It’s not that long really. Tour riders do 300k in a day. And do it in 4 hours. They average 50k an hour though. We’re looking to average 20k. Not that long. Ha.
From the recon we have, the trail is predominately the hard, packed red clay PEI is known for (hence the ‘Red Island’ moniker) and crusher dust trail, relatively flat and rolling. I’m thinking that my Giant Defy Advanced will be the perfect bike for the ride with the inclusion of some puncture-resistant 28mm file-tread tires on it. (Bontrager AW3s). I’ve spent the past few months riding it and trying to focus on and really dial in the fit for a long day in the saddle.
We’ve got a good buddy, Matt Tibbits, a distance runner himself and crew veteran to several other local ultra runners, who’s volunteered to step up and drive our SAG Wagon and meet us with food, water and kicks in the ass at various pre-planned points along the route.
I don’t know what I will get out of it. What I hope to get out of it. I hope it’s a beginning. A beginning of something that remains yet unclear. I’ve spent the last 2 years trying to change the way I approached life and the living of it. Last year I tried the Elgin 120 MTB race, and failed. It was still a massive learning experience, and positive overall. Though initially hesitant I finally decided to try this. See what happens. I’ve resolved to start doing things with unsure outcomes – something that was previously foreign to me. For many years I thought to be extreme meant I had to do so in far less healthy and beneficial ways.
The experience is much clearer now. That word extreme has an entirely new meaning.
My wife, though tacitly supportive, doesn’t get it I don’t think – and I don’t blame her. Pursuits of this kind are a relatively new interest for me. I think she sees it as selfish, and in some respects, she’s right. I try to walk the line between being a good, present Dad but also trying to be an example of how to live your life – to pursue the things that are important to you and make you happy, because ultimately that makes you a better person for those close to you. It’s still hard. It’s cliché, but it is a balance thing as a million internet posts attribute – and I know sometimes I don’t always get it right.
I don’t think my kids get it – but I haven’t really talked to them about it yet either. ‘Dad’s going to ride his bike.’ They can’t come this time. That bums them out. I hope that when I come back I’ll have better insight and a story to tell them that may make more sense, even if it’s not until they’re older and facing their own challenges.
Andrew recently sent me a relevant quote from a book he’s reading, Simon Donato’s The Boundless Life: 13 Lessons Learned the Hard Way:
…sometimes what lifts us up and allows us to be our best is not going it alone for glory, but sharing the experience with people who matter to you.”
Let’s see who comes out the other side.