Monday, December 5, 2016

Where did the finish line go?




I was always a hyper child growing up.  I don’t think that I would have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD if it existed at that time since I could still sit for a certain period when necessary, but it always had to be in balance with physical activity.  I also did eat quite a bit of sugar back then which could explain this, but I mostly think that I am wired to function at a pretty high speed.  I initially thought that this was normal since most of my friends were high-strung also, but now I realize that most function at a slower speed.  

When Adele was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, the adrenaline kicked in and I dove in at an all-out pace.  I didn’t seem to know how to do things any other way.  I understood the Type 1 game to be a marathon and not a sprint but the thing was that I would probably start a marathon the same way.  Full gas until I blow up was how I rolled.  When I raced BMX as a teenager, the start was the most important part of the race.  If you were not in the top 3 out of the gate it was very difficult to be in contention to win.  We used to practice starts for that exact reason.  Looking back, most everything that I did has been accomplished with an element of speed from the get-go.  It seems to be how I approached everything in my life.


For as long as I remember I have always believed that the highest pinnacle of human achievement was pushing the physical body to its extreme limit.  I believed that a super-fit body gained from a lifetime of dedication, sacrifice and physical training was what our time here was all about.  I admired that more than anything else.  I thought that the goal was getting every single ounce of performance out of our physical bodies.  Anything less seemed like such a waste.  I idolized Olympians and World Champions because given my view of what the human experience should be, they had achieved the highest level.  I know that genetically, most of them were the gifted ones, but the maximization of their physical capacities through a lifetime of training was still the most impressive to me.  They were pushing themselves to their limit.  

Growing up, my heroes were the athletes who stood out because of their physical accomplishments, the champions of their game.  I wanted to be like them.  So based on this belief, I pushed myself in that direction.  And like everything else in my life before, there was no pacing myself as I pursued these goals at an unsustainable fast pace.  I believed that the pursuit of exterior growth was what I was meant to strive for in order to live fully.  Society also pushes us in that direction because anything on the outside can be measured and seen.  This makes sense to our logical brain.  And because of this, it is the norm of how society tends to measure success.  But thinking about the following quote by Eckhart Tolle that I recently came across “Nothing that is of real value can be lost, only the false dissolves”, I began to realize that all that is exterior in reality is fleeting.  It is but a temporary illusion that will surely eventually die or dissolve.   This may partly explain why I was pursuing this as fast as possible with an element of urgency.  Maybe, unconsciously I knew that time was running out and that the window of opportunity was slowly closing?  Maybe what I was pursuing wasn't even real?


A term that is often used to describe an athlete is “being physically fit”.  I now know that there is a big difference between being fit and being healthy.  Being able to bike faster than another does not mean that you are healthier.  Being healthy certainly has a physical component, but it also has a very strong emotional element to it as well.  We tend to forget this.  Very often those that we admire because of physical accomplishments are reaching these heights trying to run away from their emotional problems.  The emotional problem becomes the driving force required to keep on pushing your physical limit.  But how often do we hear of Olympic athletes succumbing to a very deep depression right after their medal-winning performance?  Health all comes down to balance between your outside (physical body) and your inside (heart and soul).  This balance will be different for me than it is for you but it is necessary for health.  It cannot be measured completely, it can only be felt.

We are born perfect, unflawed.  Then, as we grow up, the world messes us up and we accumulate baggage.  This process happens to everyone and is simply part of the human experience.  We can spend all of our time ignoring it while keeping busy building our exterior or we can courageously work on digging, purging and healing our wounds thus creating depth.  Its hard work and very messy, but unlike accumulating exterior accolades, accomplishments in this area are permanent.  This work eventually changes our heart and is the only thing that is real.  

Physically, on my good days, I seem to feel like I have turned the corner towards wellness in regards to my post-concussion syndrome symptoms.  Last week my symptoms were much better, but after a very short fat bike ride on the weekend, I’m feeling the symptoms again.  My progress seems like 2 steps forward and one step back.  Bowen therapy continues to have the most positive effect on my healing. 


Emotionally, in so many ways, my concussion has felt like a spilling of all of my life baggage.  It’s like the container holding all of my issues, wounds, worries and experiences got knocked over and all of its contents have been scattered all over when my head hit the ground.  They were all there before, neatly organized to ensure my survival so far and now they feel exposed, very disorganized and raw.  The task of putting them back in the same order seems overwhelming.  But the reason for the spill is likely that they needed to be rearranged or dealt with and discarded.   It’s a messy job, but it’s time.  What an unfixable “problem” like a chronic disease such as Type 1 Diabetes has started has now been intensified by the concussion.  It is one of its hidden gifts.

The pursuit of exterior accolades is the calling of the ego while interior growth is your soul’s curriculum and in the end, the only thing that is your truth.  One of the hardest parts for me personally in this quest is that much of the required effort for gaining depth is through stillness, not very easy for a person hard-wired to race through or away from life’s hardships.  They say that life’s challenges can either make you hard or soft, bitter or better.  Once you realize this, you get to choose.  That said, I think that it is now time for me to re-balance my outside with my inside by facing my truth, slowing down and softening in order to make room for something better...

Monday, October 31, 2016

Faking it




It does have a name.  It is called “Post-Concussion Syndrome”, but to me it feels more like a condition I would call “Personality Fraud”.  On the inside, I have been feeling like I am not really here, while on the outside, I have been faking it in order to try to still be able to function in the world.  A new buzzword that I have been very interested in the last few years is “mindfulness”, but lately, all I can say is that I feel rather like the complete opposite, I feel “mindless”.  “In a fog” and “out of touch” are other ways of describing it.  My symptoms include dizziness, extreme fatigue, inability to concentrate and focus, anxiety and depression.  This injury has been unlike any other injury that I have had to deal with.

At the time of my Pericarditis health crisis in April 2015, my doctor told me that she saw it coming long ago.  It was “diabetes burnout” disguised as viral Pericarditis.  She said that I managed to last much longer than she expected.  I felt like death at the time, but my ego liked the comment.  It was the epitome of what bike racers strive for, to be “hard men”.   A part of me was proud of it.  Now looking back, it surely wasn’t a compliment because the longer I had been ignoring the warning signs and simply putting my head down and continuing to push harder like if managing Adele’s Type 1 was a bike race, the deeper I was digging myself into the dark hole that I eventually found myself in.  Looking at it that way, it surely isn’t commendable, but rather very, very stupid.  Then again, if I had a do-over, I think things would have to unfold the same way again.  It just seems to be the only way that I learn.  And to be honest, I was just dealing with the stress of being Adele’s Type 1 caregiver the only way that I knew how.  I was doing the best that I could at the time. 

I am not a doctor, but I have a theory that this physical collapse last year was setting me up for the struggles that I have been facing the last few months.  I believe that chronic stress and burnout cause biochemical changes in the brain not unlike mental illness which rendered me more susceptible to injury.  Not only did it affect my ability to focus but also made the concussion symptoms worse since my brain was already struggling with burn-out and exhaustion.  Again, I am not a doctor, but I just know in my gut that this is true in my case.  Looking back, I could feel it happening last year when recovering from Pericarditis.  I could feel that my brain was different.  Understanding this doesn’t really change anything except that it alleviates the suffering a tiny bit.  I have no regret giving up what I lost while trying to be the best pseudo-pancreas possible for Adele for the past 14 years.  The only regret that I have is that I did feel “off” on the day that I crashed and smashed my helmet in July.   I regret not listening to my intuition and either stopping or backing off.  Again, nothing is gained going there, except trying to learn what I need to from the experience.

I have been going through constant ups and downs since my brain injury close to 4 months ago now.  I have had good days when I feel close to normal but most of the time I feel like my body is going through the motions, but nobody’s home.  What seemed like a minor concussion initially seems to be quite adamant at staying longer than expected.  I thought that I was doing well in August and started riding more, but to be honest, Cyclebetes really set me back.  The stress in organizing the event along with too much riding too soon worsened my symptoms.  A few days after our annual ride in support of JDRF, I finally got in to the SportMed concussion clinic at the Université de Moncton and the doctor told me that I was indeed doing too much too soon which was lengthening my recovery.  I was really a mess, but in total denial.  I committed to healing and promised that I would only think about the bike after becoming healthy again.  This has proven to be easier said than done.  It is very difficult for me to forgo all exercise after being so active for so long.  Physio has helped a lot with regaining my balance and some focus, but the fatigue and inability to push myself whatsoever will still take some time.  On the good days, I feel like I can do more only to feel the symptoms return with a vengeance the next day and linger for days afterwards.  It has certainly been an exercise in patience.  I have started Bowen therapy and am finding that it is helping a lot.

I messed myself up really good.  Sometimes I get angry for letting it get to this point.  Other times I just look at it as the path that the universe has set for me.  Like I didn’t have a say in the way things have unfolded, that it simply had to be this way.  It is my soul’s curriculum.  And my job is to learn the lessons that I need to learn.  True knowledge and wisdom are gained through suffering.

I always feel the utmost sadness when I hear of children diagnosed with Type 1 as babies because I know what the parents will be going through.  Looking back, I still don’t know how we managed.  As a parent, you do what you need to do, but the stress of caring for a Type 1 baby / child is one of the most stressful things that a parent can go through.  The required effort is constant and inhuman.  


To my friends who see me and ask how things are going, that’s the longish answer that I never bother to explain instead of the simple “I’m doing pretty good, getting better”.  I apologize if I can’t seem to commit to anything lately.  It’s just how things have been, up and down.  I only know as I go.  Working full-time, I am quite tired at the end of the day so I can’t really do much during the evenings except rest.  Looking at the big picture, I can see progress being made.  It just hasn’t been linear like most people assume.  And as much as I look “normal” on the outside, this is what’s been going on inside. 

I’m happy that we’re now entering the “dark” season.  I don’t feel like I’m missing out as much.  This is when wild animals prepare to hibernate for the winter.  I’m going to follow their cue and keep on relaxing, recovering and healing also…  The bikes will still be waiting for me next spring.  Now if I can just stay away from social media with all of the cyclocross photos !

Friday, September 16, 2016

Thank You




The older I get, the more that I realize and believe that it isn’t about me.  I believe that it isn’t about checking things off a bucket list.  I believe that it isn’t about accumulating external accolades.  I believe that it actually never was about me and it is not about you either.  So who or what is it all about?  I have come to believe that it is about the collective.  I believe that it is about everyone as a whole.  I believe that we are all one and that we are all part of this collective.  I believe that it is about working together to help the collective to thrive and survive.  I believe that it is about helping and making a difference however we can.  I believe that it is about finding what we’re good at and how we can contribute to making things better.  I believe that our job or purpose here on earth is to figure that out what that is for ourselves.  If everyone did their share, the planet would be such a better place.   It doesn’t have to be much because it all adds up.  Even a positive thought will spread and create good karma…

I feel very grateful and blessed that one of the things that I can offer to the collective is to use my passion for cycling to help raise funds for research and awareness for Type 1 Diabetes.  I believe that this is what the universe expects of me.  And the universe has provided me with amazing friends that make awesome things possible…  What else could a guy ask for?

We had set a lofty goal of raising $30,000 for JDRF this year.  I hate goal setting.  Sure, they give us something to aim for, but they also create a stressful expectation given the potential failure if we fall short.  I prefer to set an intention.  But we had to set a goal.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure we were going to reach it this year.  Fundraising is getting more and more difficult.  Or maybe it was my health issues the past few years or my brain preparing to deal with the failure to meet our set goal even if deep down the true intention was to create SOME Type 1 Diabetes awareness and to raise SOME funds for JDRF that wouldn’t exist without our efforts.

In the end, I was blown away by everyone’s generosity and effort !!!  We surpassed our goal by writing a cheque for $30,500 to JDRF which brings the total raised by the Mike’s Bike Shop cycling club since 2007 to over $180,000 !!!  I am speechless…

Too many people believe that this ride is about me since it was born from my dream, but really it isn’t about me at all.  It’s about all the volunteers who step up and put in so much effort, many of which have no personal connection to Type 1 Diabetes other than being my friends.  

Thank you to our main sponsor, Mike’s Bike Shop who is the backbone of this ride.  Thank you Rick Snyder for your continued support even after all these years.  Your kindness and generosity continue to amaze me and are beyond words.  I am constantly blown away with everything that you continue to do in support of JDRF.  Thank you for all of your hard work and very generous financial support.  I am forever indebted for all that you do.  Thank you.

Thank you to Luc Belliveau and Pablo Vergara who have put in so many hours in meetings, finding sponsors, setting up the website, running around getting food and setting everything up.  You are both key players of our Cyclebetes organizing committee.  Without you, the ride could simply not exist.  I am very proud to call you true friends.  I owe you big time.  Thank you.

Thank you Jeff Currie for the maps, your help with event insurance and leading morning and afternoon rides.  Thank you Martin Pelletier for signing all the routes and leading morning and afternoon rides.  Thank you Charles Cormier for removing all signs and leading an afternoon ride.  Thank you Christian Charette for helping with setup on Friday evening, leading the morning ride and managing an afternoon feed station.  Thank you Melissa Bordage for helping with registration on Friday evening, leading the morning ride and managing an afternoon feed station.  Thank you Andre Landry for leading rides and for the ice and BBQ pick-up and delivery.  Thank you Philippe Theriault for the photocopies and flags and signs from the Atlantic Cycling Centre.  Thank you Don Ricker for working your camera magic in capturing the true essence of the whole event in pictures.  Your talent behind the lens is crazy and one of the things that riders appreciate the most about Cyclebetes.   Thank you.

Thank you Bill Goobie and Rachel Parkins for driving the last mechanical support vehicle all day.  Your job is quite stressful and makes for a very long day.  Thanks for doing such a good job in keeping our riders safe.  Thank you Janice Lirette-Evers for taking care of registration Friday evening and Saturday morning.  Merci beaucoup pour ton support et d’avoir accepté de revenir nous aider cette année Janice.  Thank you Gerry Allain for driving the first support vehicle and Elmer Wade for navigating.  Gerry, you have officially become a PRO Cyclebetes support vehicle driver after so many years of experience.  Thank you for the help and continued support.  Thank you Christian Jasper for managing the morning feed station and support vehicle driver in the afternoon.  Thank you Erica Griffith for your help with registration and for managing a feed station in the afternoon.  We are very lucky to have such trustworthy volunteers year after year.  Thank you Gilles Gallant for generously offering to help by representing JDRF, accepting our cheque and managing an afternoon feed station.  Thank you Steve Kikkert for directing traffic in the morning and leading an afternoon ride.  Thank you Serge Noel for directing traffic in the afternoon.  Thank you Johannah Bubar for all of your help including keeping food on the tables for all volunteers and riders.  Thank you Jacob Button for giving up your entire day to volunteer and help.  Thank you Dan Hachey for setting us up with Molson.  Thank you Caroline Belliveau, Jenn Boyd, Cindy Guitard and Rhonda Currie for taking care of all of the food and beverages.  Thank you Bruce and Audrey Thorne for driving support in the afternoon.  Thank you Ben Thorne for speaking to the riders before leaving for the afternoon ride.  Your message was very heartfelt and reminded everyone of why we were there.   Thank you.

Thank you to all our sponsors:  Mike’s Bike Shop, Sobey’s Dieppe, MacDonald Buick GMC, Giant Bikes / Guy Pellerin of Pellerin Sports,  Papa John’s Pizza, Clif Bars, City of Dieppe, Molson brewery, Cape Bald Packers, Terry Tomlin of Tomlin Sports Marketing / Oakley, Maritime Propane Services, Starbucks, Kevin Noiles of Lambert, GoodLife fitness, Pat Bolduc of Shimano / Pearl Izumi, IGA Dieppe, Joanne Phillips for the reefer truck, Philippe Theriault of Cadillac Fairview, Adrien Lesvesque at Falstaff Media, Atlantic Cat for the BBQ, Long and McQuade for the PA system, Chris Mitton, Jim Currie.  Thank you to all that donated, participated and fundraised.

And last but certainly not least, thank you to my wife Michele and Adele who drove a support vehicle and who continue to put up with me and support me year after year. I love you.

If I have forgotten anyone, I apologize and want to thank you as well. I feel very blessed and grateful to be surrounded by so many incredibly generous friends. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And I hope to see you again next year at the 10th anniversary Mike’s Bike Shop Cyclebetes ride !

All online fundraising pages will still work until December 31st, 2016 so you can still donate here...  2016 Mike's Bike Shop Cyclebetes

Friday, August 12, 2016

Concussed


Pretty sure I was about 4 years old when I learned to ride a 2-wheel bike.  Back when bike helmets didn’t exist.  I remember when I was 17 years old and we built a ramp to jump over a car.  We worried about how to get enough speed before hitting the ramp to be able to make the gap.  But it never occurred to us that it would be a good idea to wear a helmet.

I got my first road bike in the late eighties but purchased my first helmet in the 90s only because I needed one to do my first mountain bike race.  As I got older, I evenually always rode with my helmet.  It has become as automatic as buckling my seatbelt as soon as I sit in a car.  I feel naked without it.  Lately, I have become quite paranoid about road riding given the drivers using their cell phones.  Because of this, I seemed to favor mountain biking since I trusted my skills much more than the drivers with which I shared the road when out on my road bike.

On July 5th, at the last race of the 8 week Hub City Challenge mountain bike series at Rotary Park, my mountain bike skills that I had such confidence in failed me.  Going down a rooty downhill that I had ridden literally hundreds of times, I lost focus for a fraction of a second and went down.   No other riders around me.  The trails were dry.  I knew in the air that the crash was going to hurt, then remember thinking “Wow my head hit the ground really HARD!”  I rolled out of it like they teach in the Sprockids program, but was seeing all sorts of stars after trashing my helmet.  I remember everything and never lost consciousness, but immediately knew that I had suffered a concussion.  I picked myself and the bike up and walked back to the start finish area and sat down.  I felt better after a bit.  After talking to a few people, I rode back home, told my wife, cleaned up and went to bed.  I thought about going to the ER, but Google was telling me that I only needed to go if I lost consciousness and/or felt nauseous.  I just felt very spaced-out / stoned.  I figured it was like when I’d get slammed into the boards as a teenager playing hockey and that it’d be better the next day.   It’s all part of bike racing right?

Unlike when I was a teenager playing hockey, I’m not 15 years old anymore.  I didn’t feel better the next day.  After symptoms were getting worse on the 5th day, I decided to seek medical advice / treatment.  They told me that yes, I had suffered a concussion, that an MRI wasn’t really necessary since it had not just happened and that I just needed to take it easy and rest.  Lying alone the next day in a dark hotel room in Halifax on our first day of summer vacation while my family was out enjoying supper, I didn’t feel very proud of what I had done to myself during a supposedly fun local mountain bike race.  I felt guilty for ruining our vacation and being a burden to the rest of the family.  This guilt and regret was on top of physically feeling worse than I have ever felt before.  I was suffering and completely miserable.  When your brain is injured, it pretty much affects every single thing that you do except for maybe sleeping.  I felt so vulnerable and out-of-control.  I also felt depressed, anxious, broken and afraid.  What if I don’t fully recover?  I desperately just wanted to feel normal again…

It’s been over 5 weeks since the crash and I’m much better, but still not 100%.  My balance is still off and I tire much more easily, but I now see light at the end of the tunnel.  I feel optimistic and expect a full recovery.  But where do I go from here?  Do I just treat this as an “accident”, a random occurence and continue living like it never happened?   Was this just bad luck or is there something to be learned?

Since last year, I have been trying to look at my time here on earth as being enrolled in a school.  I’ll call it “life-school”.  Everyone is enrolled in different courses based on what we need to learn during our time here.  When we fail a course, we must take it again (and again and again if necessary) until we pass and learn what it is meant to teach us.  We often fail our courses either because we aren't paying attention or when we're too busy looking at what others are doing with their lives, but this doesn’t work because others are most likely not enrolled in the same courses as us.  

So based on my life-school theory, what am I supposed to learn from this in order to move onto the next life-course?  The answer to this question must come from within…  In the last 1.5 years, I have had health issues that have affected my heart and my brain, arguably the 2 MOST important organs in the human body.  That’s pretty scary shit right there.  Both issues have also prevented me from racing bikes.  

If I am honest with myself, I know deep-down that my competitive racing days are over.  Not that I ever reached a true “elite” level in the sport, but I have invested a LOT of time and energy in trying to go faster and improve my race results.  This year, I started the season with the intention to only race “for fun”, but once I began to gain more fitness and was able to push myself more, my psyche went back into full race mode and I became a danger to myself.  The Pericarditis, which to be honest was really just a symptom of Diabetes burnout, has affected my ability to focus which is necessary in bike racing.  When speed surpasses your ability to focus, your timing is off and when you’re pushing your limits, being off by even just a fraction of a second is the different between nailing a fast section and becoming a helmet tester. 

My family needs me healthy.  I have responsibilities including care for a chronically ill teenager.  As Adele’s main Type 1 Diabetes caregiver, I really need a fully functional brain in order to be able to help her manage her blood sugar levels as best as possible.  I certainly don’t want to risk another head injury.  So for these reasons I have chosen health over my bike-racing passion.  I am officially retiring from all bicycle racing at the moment.

Why am I making this announcement here on this blog?  The first reason is to explain to my friends in the cycling community why I will not be attending their events.  I love to support those who support our beautiful sport, but right now I cannot support your competitive events with my participation.   Sorry.  The second reason is that I really don’t trust myself.  Like the alcoholic who thinks he can have just the one drink or the ex-smoker who thinks he can just smoke the one cigarette, I need something in writing (a contract !!) to remind me of my decision and why.  Like the broken helmet sitting on the shelf in my basement that will stay there as a reminder, I cannot forget that I am breakable.

I still intend to continue riding for fun and would still like to support and participate in non-competitive cycling events like grand fondos and charity rides.  Heading into the fall season, I know that Cyclocross racing is the discipline that I will miss the most.  It is also likely one of the least dangerous given that speeds are lower and courses are mostly on grass, but I am still not willing to risk it…  Not this year for sure…  Damn short attention span and addictive personality…