Friday, January 20, 2012

Push for the Cure 2011, Day 3 Finale

       Day three was one of those days where it was hard to muster the motivation to roll out of bed. My support leg felt better after giving up on me the day before, but my left leg (push leg) was feeling funny right where it joined with my hip, a little bit like it was grinding a little every time I moved it forward and back. It wasn’t a painful sensation but I wasn’t looking forward to it complaining all day either.
       The plan of action for the day was pretty straight forward: push from the Maple Ridge fairgrounds to the Tim Horton’s at the junction of Dewdney Trunk Road and the Lougheed Highway for breakfast, two breaks in Coquitlam, one at the top of the Barnet Highway (start of East Hastings) and then one last epic push through downtown Vancouver to Stanley Park. Leaving the fairgrounds that morning was very reminiscent of the previous day, where we pushed for a few minutes and were greeted with an ugly hill. Lucky for us, this was the only one for the next 40 kilometres, minus one climb over a bridge to cross the Fraser River as we left Maple Ridge. On the other hand, this was the first day where we didn’t have great weather to push through, and it was raining hard. Hill one was an easier climb than a lot of the hills tackled on day two, as this one was clear of debris, and well sealed, making for a fast, smooth, if not slightly pulse raising push. It was also fairly short, and not overly long, taking us about 5-10 minutes to reach the summit, after which we had almost perfectly flat pushing conditions to the foot of the start of the Barnet Highway.
       Maple Ridge was a buttery smooth push all the way to Tim Hortons, and even for a ways after that. Smooth spots could be found on the shoulder of the road even when the road became a little too rough. The rain was leaving respectable sheet of water on the road which our wheels would pick up and fling on us and our boards; anyone with a dish shaped deck was pushing along with a tub of water at their feet which wouldn’t drain, sloshing back and forth and filling their shoes. One rider had the clever idea of wearing motorcyclist’s boots and had dry feet all day, the rest of us weren’t quite as bright and squelched along for the whole 60km. Beyond Maple Ridge was Pitt Meadows, and then Coquitlam, both of which were very long, very flat stretches of road that seemed to go on forever. Just short of the foot of the Barnet highway the wind picked up, as did the rain. It was blowing into our face, hard and cold, any exposed flesh felt like it was going to fall off. The wind and rain of early October isn’t intolerable, but the droplets were so small and travelling so fast that they made anything they struck sting.
       Pushing up the Barnet highway to East Hastings from Coquitlam was, for me anyway, one of the more epic pushes of day three. The entire troop was warned that if they didn’t feel good pushing up a very long hill then jumping in a support vehicle was probably the best course of action. I was feeling pretty beat up from two full days of pushing, and I was definitely feeling like I should hop in a support vehicle but after giving up just short of day 2’s finish line, I felt I had something to prove, at least to myself anyway. It turned out that the first 80% of the Barnet was pretty tame. There were very gentle uphill sections, with generous and well paved shoulders to push along, followed by flat sections which made for good spots to let some sensation return to our very sore legs. It was the last 2 or 3 kilometres before the Barnet turned into Hastings that were the real killers. The Highway suddenly curved upward into a very steep angle and a few people dropped off and jumped into the support vehicles. I started to worry about being a little too slow, being overtaken, and having to jump in myself, but I figured as long as I could keep ahead of the last guy in the line up I wouldn’t have to resort to that. The gentleman at the very back was pushing a LandYachtz Evo with Centrax wheels and was having a very awkward time pushing up the hill so I could keep well ahead of him. I couldn’t comfortably push switch yet, and had to jump off, grab my board, and jog a few hundred metres at a time to give my leg a rest before resuming pushing. The problem with this is I was drenched to the bone from all the rain we’d been fighting that morning. My pants were so saturated that even though I had a belt keeping them up, the sheer weight of them was stretching the fabric down, putting the crotch of the pants closer to my knees, real gangsta-like. All the effort I put into sprinting ahead was only resulting in taking 6 inches of ground at a time since my legs were restrained by how wet my pants were. Carlos Koppen Rolled by, pushing along with his hands behind his back, not a care in the world like this was the easiest part of the trip, and I suppose with the 6000 kilometre width of Canada already under his belt, it probably was.  I called out to ask how much longer this stretch was and he called back over his shoulder that we were over half done this incline. And so the process repeated, push push push, jog jog jog, all the way to the top of the highway where the last break of the day was to be had. All of us who gave it our all for that section were feeling pretty great and expected the rest of the trip be a gentle downward trip into Vancouver but after the break ended and we rounded one more corner, we were treated with another upward incline. Groans rose from many in the troop. I think I laughed; coming up the Barnet to be greeted to another wall of pavement in the distance seemed hysterical at the time. It was another short ascent though, like the first one of that day, but also steep, and involved lots of people doing the mix of jogging and pushing to keep up with the front of the pack.
       There were two more climbs like this as we made our way deeper into Vancouver, and then one long and very gentle upward incline as we approached the entrance to Stanley Park. These uphill climbs weren’t as rewarding as the climbs from the other two days since we were in the middle of a busy city and couldn’t very well bomb the other side of each hill, disregarding traffic lights. As Lori Dixon, the event organizer, had said earlier that morning “Society has a love-hate relationship with the longboarding community.” Good cause or not, there were those motorists who would love to get us in trouble and get us folks on “those damn things with four wheels” off the road for good. We had to be on our best behaviour. There were several volunteers at the Push 6, affectionately named “The Assholes” whose job it was to control traffic by keeping ahead of the lead support vehicle and hold up their boards at intersections, the decks of which has stop sign stickers on them, and they controlled traffic as we passed through the major cities on our way to Stanley Park. Once the troop had past, they would be at the back of the pack, and only they were permitted to bomb to front so they could continue the leap frog pattern to direct traffic. One particularly experienced volunteer put on the show for the rest of us as he bombed down the hills while doing nose manuals; it was hard to take your eyes off him.
       Vancouver was a lot like Mission, passing along through downtown yelling “Push for the Cure!” all the way. The looks we were given by confused homeless people and drug addled east Vancouverites were worth all the hills and rain we’d pushed through that morning. Hastings street began to narrow the closer we drew to Stanley Park and we passed the Marriott Hotel, the chefs of which had been kind enough to donate a few hundred burger patties to feed us. The buildings were changing around us quickly, we’d passed by run down looking one and two floor shops, followed by older buildings which were several stories taller, even more immense buildings which looked as though they were made of nothing but black glass in the commercial areas, and now we were pushing past residential high rises. Every time we saw a gap between these buildings we could spot the masts of sail boats tied up in the marinas. A quick zig and a zag later and we were on a new road, coasting toward a “Welcome to Stanley Park” sign, and were only 1200 metres away from having completed the 173km trip.
       Stanley park was covered in buttery smooth pavement, as one would expect, and it helped us fly to the parking lot at the north end of the island which was the finish line. Spirits were high on the last sprint through the park, and judging by the speed we all carried there, everyone had forgotten about any aches and pains, spurred on by the proximity of the end of the trip. Some people were in tears upon our arrival, others looked as though they were crying just because of the sheer amount of water dripping down their faces. But everyone was in a euphoric mood for pictures, left over hamburgers, and most were in even better form after putting on a change of dry clothes at a nearby restroom facility. People trickled out of that parking lot in Stanley Park rather abruptly after that, some on their own, others in packs, bound for home, and the Salmon Arm crew I’d been with destined for the Greyhound station. We’d arrived an hour ahead of schedule and I was waiting for my ride, my father, after the rest had disappeared, sitting on my overturned LandYachtz Switch in that Stanley Park parking lot.
       It’s true what they say about the journey being more important than the destination. Getting to where you’re going is a great feeling, but it’s a bit of a buzz kill at the same time especially when it’s all over so quick. The actual push was better than the finish line. All that time on the road with a bunch of new and exciting longboarders was great, partaking in my first long push like that made for one of the more memorable weekends of my life, and I knew as soon as the push was over that I’d want to document it somehow and share it here. I also know that I’ll be attending again next year, and that since I know what weekend this yearly event falls on, I’ll take some extra time to do my fair share of fundraising for the occasion as well. I’ve already collected 20$ for Push 7 from one of my university profs come to think of it…. Maybe I’ll see you there too!

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