Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Push for the Cure 2011, Part 1

       I’d only been riding a longboard for about a week when I had to shelf it for a couple weeks to make a trip back to my hometown of Williams Lake to help my mom give her house a much needed coat of paint. During this time, I ended up having a fair many hours of watching paint dry which I filled with watching longboarding videos on youtube. One of these videos turned out to be a full series of them presented by Loaded and Rayne Longboards (can you guess what it was yet?) about three gents who made a 2500km journey through Bolivia and Peru. This was, of course, was Long Treks on Skate Decks South America. It was my first taste of anything to do with long distance longboarding and it had me glued to the computer. Even after all the intense videos I’d watched for advertising different freeride boards, all the carving videos, slide sessions on some incredible downhills, Paul, Adam, and Aaron, slowly pushing their way along the open highways in South America was the coolest thing I’d ever found in regards to longboarding. I started thinking about trips that would be cool to do on a board, about every trip I’d tried to conceive doing on a bike and how great it would be to try it on a longboard instead. It was novel to muse about, but unrealistic for myself, but then sometimes life comes along and kisses you right on the lips.
      Fast forward two months. I’m back in school, midterms are flying at me thick as flies, and I have one weekend, thanksgiving weekend, to get on top of studying for them when a distance skating opportunity walks up and jabs me in the ribs. I’m not sure how I found out about it, but somewhere in those days leading up to Push for the Cure 6, I happened upon it's webpage and started entertaining the idea of going down and participating. A few text messages later, I’d ironed out the logistics of how it could be done and would be bound for Hope BC the coming Friday. How awesome was that going to be? Pretty awesome! But I didn’t want to be a freeloader when I joined the longboarding troop for the 173km trek from Hope to Stanley Park; I wanted to raise some funds for cause (Breast Cancer) and not show up with just my admission fee so I did what anyone would do with a week’s notice and started preying on friends and family for small donations. I scared up a little over 100$ which wasn’t terrible for my one week’s notice of the event.
       When the Friday to leave Kamloops arrived, I got off to a rocky start. For most of the day I was a jittery mess, excited about the push, barely able to pay attention to anything going on in class. I got home and packed my backpack inside my suit case to save room on the bus. Then, realizing I was going to need some more room, I took it out. I left the apartment and realized once I’d boarded the bus that I’d left the backpack at home which had clothes in it, toiletries, a hydration bladder, and a netbook for studying in it. Great start! Getting on the bus was a whole ‘nother frustrating episode as well. I’d intended for my board to be my only piece of carry-on I had with me but the driver was quite insistent that it wouldn’t fit on the bus, citing overcrowding as the reason. He assured me it could not be propped between my legs or placed in an overhead compartment, both options which it certainly could have done, and that I must purchase an additional baggage tag. Upon boarding the bus I could see that it was quite empty. Thanks dude.
       The trip was a quiet one aside from my fuming about the thick bus driver and my own forgetting of all my clothes etc. I arrived in Hope, my dad was there, he had agreed to meet me and lend me an all weather jacket for the trip and camp out the night before, as well as the next night. We ate pizza at a local pub, camped, he snored loudly in the camper, it was a typical visit with dad.
       The next morning was quite a-typical. We disembarked from the camp ground, devoured some breakfast, and headed over to the Hope skate park, which I gotta say, is pretty nice for a small town skate park. I step out of the vehicle to go pay my registration fees and sign up and promptly get stung by a wasp. Thanks dude. I’d showed up alone, without a big troop of people and felt a little awkward trying to converse with the mass of new south coast longboarders in front of me, I did my best, and by the end of the day I’d end up finding myself hanging out with a crew of five people from Salmon Arm, and one Asian gentleman by the name of Mike.
       Registration was followed by photos, which was followed by a rapid dash on our boards to Cooper’s Foods two blocks away for a free barbeque lunch. We bid a quick thankyou to all those helping out at Cooper’s Foods and jumped back on the boards to head through, and then out of Hope toward Agassiz. We’d been told to be cautious on our way out of town as the high energy on day one had a tendency to cause someone to get injured in the first few kilometres. One year the casualty had been Rob Lewis, one of the original four to make the trip across Canada 6 years ago. I was worried it was going to be me this year when my wheels bit those of anorther boarder beside me, I bailed, and my board was sent across a few lanes of traffic. Luckily, neither myself nor the board sustained damage and 1500 metres into the trip, we came to the first of three hills we would be encountering on the first day. The pavement through Hope had been gorgeous, but his first hill, which was a ramp onto a bridge, the bridge itself, and some asphalt on the other side as well, was rough business. It was eye-rattling pushing along that strip, and you couldn’t build up enough momentum to bother putting your push leg on the board after getting yourself up to speed. It just slowed you down that much. I was wondering if I was cut out for the task at this point, doubly so because I’d had the genius idea of wearing a Bell Drop helmet for the trip, which for those who don’t know, is quite a warm full face helmet for downhill mountain biking. Don’t ever wear one of those for something like this, trust me, you'll cook your brain in five minutes easy.
       Sweating, gasping, panting for air after only two klicks, we came to our first break at the end of the bridge out of Hope. I was regretting my full face helmet very much, guzzling water, and hoping the rest of the trip wasn’t going be as rough as hill number one was and the troop was informed that the first downhill of the trip was right ahead after our break. This was both exciting news, as well as disconcerting since I’d actually never done a downhill section like what I figured was coming up, and being surrounded by other people on longboards, many of whom more experienced that myself was giving me some… performance anxiety… Remember, at this point in my life I’d been longboarding for only two months. But the downhill ended up being alright, we went down in two groups of people, and I quickly realized I could avoid wobbles if I didn’t tense up at all, but this was no reason to celebrate yet, there was a lot more ups and downs to conquer on the way to Stanley Park.
       After this, the road became much nicer to push along. There was a generous shoulder running the length of the highway, it was well paved, and it was flat for as far as the eye could see. We pushed for about another 7km and coasted down another very mellow downhill section before coming to rest stop number two. I think the rest stops were my only complaint about the trip, there were just enough of them, but they were all too long, just enough time to feel the cramping setting in, especially on day two and three. We continued down the road after this break and it was quite a gentle push along the lowlands along the river between Hope and Agassiz, the sun started to peak out from behind the clouds, and every car that passed by honked enthusiastically. We were keeping a good pace and spirits were high when we approached uphill number two for the day which we took another break at the bottom of. Uphill number two was much more manageable than the first as the road surface was much better for the most part; there was some kind of gravel excavation at one point which had left some debris on the road. This caused a pile up of people who it had caught off guard and prompted the rest of us to jump off our boards, jog around, and remount quickly to keep pace. There was another mellow downhill at the top of this peak, smoother than the first one, but still nothing to get excited about. It was fun, and the kilometre long downhill was all the payoff a guy could need to keep pushing along the flats on the other side.
       We didn’t take another break along the next stretch, and opted to power through to the next hill, climb it, and bomb the other side. Going up the third and final hill for the day was tricky, it was steep, and I was not a very quick pusher. Folks were passing me and a few other gentleman in front of me who were in seemingly better shape than myself. They were ‘those guys’ who people ran the risk of bumping into when they slowed up and breaking momentum, and I seemed to be one of them in this instance. The two immediately in front of me jumped off their boards and started to jog to keep up. I thought this was a brilliant plan and opted to join them for a jog up the hill but the three of us were quickly teased into pushing again by folks crying “Hey! This is PUSH for the Cure, not JOG!!” Ok, ok. We kept pushing on and a few cars blasted by, honking all the while. One of them terrified the lot of us as it went by, nearly to the point of wetting ourselves, since it was a semi which the driver appeared to have outfitted with a horn meant for freight trains. It was a shocker, but bad ass at the same time and spurred us onward. The top of this hill had what I think was the most exceptional downhill of the trip. It may not have been the best, but it was the smoothest for me, and most memorable since it was the first thing I could say I really, truly bombed down, smooth carving at the top and when it got too steep for that, just a smooth straight run to the bottom of the hill. WOW.
     We were at the final short flat stretch to Agassiz now, but the town was still 15km away and one final rest stop was due a few kilometres down the road. I grabbed some salty Old Dutch chips, some jerky, and Red Bulls were passed all around as they were a sponsor for the event and had sent a gentleman with a pickup truck full of the stuff to keep us all well fuelled. Once again, too many minutes passed during this rest before we departed for Agassiz. The final push of our 40km day was a smooth one. The shoulder of the road was in great condition and I was close to the back of the pack, everyone else’s wheels in front of me blasting away the pebbles that were there since the previous winter’s road sanding. One more slight upward incline and we were coasting down toward the streets into Agassiz, the setting sun making the entire valley look nothing short of gorgeous.
       The troop set record time covering the 40km that they covered on day one, and it was a wicked experience all on its own. Having a chance to go down the hills that we did in as controlled manner as we did was epic, being able to find out what covering that sort of distance in a day felt like, feeling all of the good vibes from the enthusiastic boarders there was all a really great thing and I knew after day one that I’d be coming back for Push 7 next year. Some of the boarders there still had a pile of energy left over, so a closed figure 8 race course was set up inside the fairgrounds building and we held a full contact “death race” to win a new kicktail skate deck. I was much too tired to partake in that and so loaded up on spaghetti and burgers before retiring early in preparation for the 73km push that was waiting for us the next day.

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