Monday, June 11, 2012

Thoughts from the Lanterne Rouge by Maddy Marsh

Erik, Maddy & Brad make the ride a family affair.

Most professional cyclists will probably list yellow as one of their favourite colours. This is because the leader of the Tour de France wears the maillot jaune, or the yellow jersey. In fact, the lead of each category in the Tour comes with an associated colour: the green of the Points Leader, the red and white polka dots of the King of the Mountains, and the white of the Best Young Rider. But there is one colour that is not sought after by the riders of the Tour: the red of the Lanterne Rouge. Named after the red lantern on the back of the caboose of trains, this title is earned by the rider in last place. And on the 90-Day Challenge ride across Canada, I am going to be the undisputed Lanterne Rouge.

After spending a few days on the ride, two things have been made clear to me: Canada is very big, and I am a lot slower than the men in my family. Although I spent most of my time on the bike drafting behind Erik, I still found myself having to crank it in a high gear to keep up. So somewhere between Kingston and Ottawa I made the decision to approach this as more of a mental challenge than a physical one. On a particularly difficult stretch of the road that had my legs burning, I turned to an old strategy that I had used during my time as a rower. I used to make a mental list of reasons to keep going, whether it was a person who inspired me or a personal goal I wanted to accomplish, and dedicated 10 strokes of each race to each of the items on the list. On the bike, I broke it down into 10-minute segments.

The first 10 minutes was a no-brainer: my dad. For obvious reasons, he is a huge inspiration. His commitment to the community, to the Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs, and to his 90 day challenges is more than reason enough to keep the legs pumping. In the interest of time and space, I won’t go into all the details but will simply say that he is one of the biggest inspirations in my life and helped me get through those ten minutes in the same way that he has gotten me through innumerable situations.

Next I pedalled for the Boys and Girls Clubs. It sounds silly to say that I dedicated 10 minutes to them when the entire ride itself is devoted to them, but during those few minutes I spent some time thinking about what exactly it meant to be riding for them. I thought of the stories my dad had told me from the clubs out west, the little boy in the bike parade in Kingston who showed up dressed like Batman, and the look on a little boy’s face when he scored on a penalty shot during floor hockey. Those 10 minutes were when I truly understood what my dad had been saying this whole time about how the kids make it easy to get on the bike.

In the next few segments I rode for each member of my family who has contributed in some way to the trip, for our family friends who have supported us in countless ways so far, for the chance to see our beautiful country, and maybe a little bit for myself and my pride (Sorry, Erik, but I just couldn’t let you have the satisfaction of dropping your little sister).

While my first two days of riding certainly weren’t easy, they were a ton of fun and I can’t wait to get back on the bike in Moncton. Instead of one 90-Day Challenge, for me, this will be a succession of 10-minute challenges. Hopefully my mental lists will help me claw my way to Newfoundland, and maybe by the end of the trip I’ll be able to upgrade from the red of the Lanterne Rouge to the white jersey of the Best Young Rider.


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