In the 90’s I was an avid mountain biker; being young with no real obligations let me spend an obscene amount of time with my bike on the trails. Life changes happened, the reality of being an adult reared its ugly head, and with it free time slowly went away. I lost my fitness level and a little bit of happiness, but the desire to ride was still there even if the time wasn’t. By 2006 I found some freedom again and jumped back in the saddle.
Looking for some social time on my rides I convinced my buddy Mike to give it a shot, taking him out for road rides to let him get a feel for it. He had quit smoking a few months prior so he found it hard to keep up as I was at my fittest then. I would joke that rides with him were my off days, the times when I just wanted to take it easy and not put in a big effort.
When I took him mountain biking I planned rides as easy as I could but being in the Okanagan there are not many flat rides. Everything involves going up until you come back down. During these early trips I found out something important about Mike; he would find reasons to give up easily. It’s too hot, it’s too steep, it’s too far. At that time he had not discovered a way to break through the mental wall that all cyclists and runners know. To ignore that part of your mind that says helpful things like “You could be watching tv right now, why are we out here?”.
I had only been able to get him out to see the lower section of Myra Park and I knew that he would love to see the views from the upper areas but running into that mental wall was stopping us every time I tried. I had to do something to get him up there and I think I had figured out what it was.
We started early on a Saturday morning, enjoying the cool air before the heat would have a chance to build. The climb up to Teddy Bear Junction seemed almost pleasant and we continued on hitting the first hard climb up Lost Lake trail. This is a section I can rarely ride clean and looking back I could see that Mike was starting to hit that wall.
I knew from this point we had a decent climb before we hit our destination; the fork for the Outhouse trail. I also knew that if Mike was aware of this he would find reason to stop. I did what was needed; looking back at him I started with the bullshit.
“The turn off we want is about a 500 meters away, just around the next few corners. Not much of a climb either and we can catch our breath there.”
He looked drained as he glanced up at me and panted out, “Ok… I think… I can make… that.”
I kept my pace down, moving along at his speed just in front of him, hoping to make the most of the psychological power of the chase. Forcing him on by staying in sight and keeping myself a steadily moving target. Mike didn’t have a bike computer which was a blessing as the next stop was about a kilometer away at an intersection of the trail and a road that borders the park, not the 500 meters I had said.
We made it to the rest spot and Mike dropped his bike, breathing deeply as we took a break. There’s a large concrete block at the junction and with the trees thick in that spot it is in the shade most of the day. As the heat was starting to pick up I knew this would be a nice spot so I suggested that Mike sit down. He quickly lay back, enjoying the cold concrete. I almost felt bad for the next lie.
From here the trail is a deceiving flat section about 300 meters long, moving across the slope. At the end it has a left hand bend that shoots straight up the hill for the next kilometer before popping you into a small clearing with the Outhouse trail-head.
“This flat part here is next, then we turn left and go up a short slope to the Outhouse. It’s pretty easy, nothing too taxing,” I said, “Maybe another half a kilometer.”
He looked to where I was pointing, then back down the trail we had just come up. “We can just head back down that way as well, right?”
Of course we could, and it’s a damn fine descent as well, but that would defeat the purpose of coming up to this point. I knew that this was a delicate situation. A situation I had to handle like a modern mature male.
“Shit man, stop being such a pussy,” I laughed. “Flat section, small climb, better descent. Trust me. You’ll love it.”
He looked at both options again, taking his time, getting his energy back. “So we’re close?”
“Just around that corner and up a bit. It’s easy.”
“Ok,” he paused, “Ya, Ok, I can do that.”
“You’re doing good. The downhill from the Outhouse is amazing, just roll along and end up right back at the parking lot.” I said as we mounted our bikes and started along the flat portion.
We made it to the end and started the turn leading up the slope. I always disliked this section, it’s a long grinding climb that never seems to end. A constant painful grade with very little shade that has always sucked the energy and will out of me. The first sight of it is fairly short and leads to a small kink that hides the bulk of the climb from view. It tricks you into thinking it is much shorter than it really is.
“See, just up to there.” I said, pointing out that deceptive spot.
I rode beside him, talking as we went. Keeping his, and for that matter my, mind off the grind. We hit the kink and there was no way Mike would believe me at this point. The trail just kept going up and up with the next summit hinted at in the distance between the trees. I honestly don’t know if he was still believing my fibs or simply didn’t notice anything but the ground in front of his wheel, but he kept going like a champ. Eventually we hit the top, saw the actual Outhouse at the fork in the trail,and put our bikes down to take a break.
Mike walked around the clearing a bit, getting his breath back, drinking some water, and enjoying the view of Kelowna spread out below us. He turned and looked at me.
“Just around the corner and up a bit, eh? Asshole!” he laughed as he said it.
The descent was worth it. It always is.
In 2013 I took a self-imposed hiatus from the bikes for health reasons.
That spring Mike decided he was going to complete a triathlon and he spent the year cycling, running, and swimming to get prepared. In August he competed and finished his race; an amazing feat in my opinion and something I don’t see myself ever doing. A week later he asked me to go for a ride which would be just my forth for the year.
We hit the road and I immediately realized that I had lost my cycling legs over the course of the year. Mike dropped me on the straights and disappeared on the climbs. I was suddenly reminded of our rides from previous years but now from his point of view. He noticed the pace was destroying me and slowed down, letting me keep close.
“So this is my off day you know,” he said riding along beside me.
I looked over at him but couldn’t say anything as I struggled up a hill.
“The top is just around the corner and up a bit,” he said, laughing.