Monday, April 30, 2012

Catching Kelowna

Erik, Brad & Kirsti ride it out.
The past few days on the bike have been incredible. It has been incredibly hard, incredibly demanding and incredibly beautiful. Cycling is like that. A good ride combines a perfect amount of suffering with the right amount of reward. An easy coast around the block doesn’t leave you with the satisfaction of putting in a good honest effort and testing your body’s capabilities. Conversely, it’s no fun maxing yourself out into the red zone to the point of spotty vision and dizziness. The perfect day on the bike challenges your physical limitations without killing you.

The ride on Highway 5A between Merritt and Kamloops may just be among the most amazing bike rides I’ve ever had in my entire life. It was the ideal mix of rolling hills, no wind, beautiful weather and even more beautiful scenery. It was not the beautiful lakes dotting the desert landscape that made that day so amazing however. It was the pure feeling of setting your tires to the road and having perfect freedom. Just like the first day Dad takes the training wheels off your first bike and the simple act of riding to the end of the street fills your heart with joy.
This morning we set out for Kelowna hoping for a repeat of the day before. The weather seemed to be cooperating as the sun shone over the Okanagen Valley but our invisible nemesis, wind, made the day very challenging. This was also the first day of our ride where we were under a time constraint. We promised the BGC in Kelowna that we’d be in at 2pm to play road hockey with the kids and we didn’t want to be late. After some tough miles into the wind, we welcomed some help. Our friend, Kirsti Lay, a speed skater from Vernon, BC, joined us to get us into Kelowna on time. As much as cycling is largely an individual effort, there are cooperative aspects to it as well. Cyclists often use a technique called “drafting” where one cyclist ride in front of the other, breaking the wind for the person behind them. In doing this, the rider in front carries a much harder workload while the rider behind uses considerably less effort to maintain the same speed. By alternating who rides in front, the workload is shared and the day is a lot easier. Especially with the wind blowing like it was, it was great having a strong rider like Kirsti helping out.

We arrived at the Kelowna club to a road hockey game already in progress. We were a little slow out there after our ride but we had a great time playing with the kids. I signed a few autographs and they presented me with a sweatshirt and a water bottle (that will come in handy!) from their club. I even met an old friend of mine from my elementary school in London so with the night free I was able to relax at his house and catch up over a well-deserved cold one. Tomorrow we’re headed to Revelstoke and back into the mountains. I’m starting to look forward to those flat prairies.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Merritt & More Part 2

Day 2 didn’t get any easier. The rain was still coming down and the temperature had dipped to around 3 degrees. We had a tough day of climbing ahead of us and the bulk of it was right from the start. The first 50km was entirely uphill. We were feeling good, albeit very wet, as we made our ascent into the foggy mountains surrounding the Coquihalla Highway. The rain turned to snow and about 40km in I had a flat tire. Luckily Mom was close with the van so I set to changing the flat as quick as I could as Dad pushed on into the fog. After changing the flat I had been in the cold, covered in soaking wet clothes for so long that I started shivering so intensely that I couldn’t go on. Dad was left on his own to solo the remaining 80km.

Watching him from the car is terrifying. Every truck that passes seems to just miss him and waiting for him to catch up when we drive ahead is a nightmare of worry. Dad told us after he didn’t mind riding alone. He imagined himself in a breakaway in the Tour de France, escaping the peloton for a stage win with Phil Ligget announcing his every move, “Marsh seems to be in fine form, today just might be the day for the big man from Canada to hold off the pack and take the stage win in the mountains!” It was a long day with almost 7 hours on the road but the sun may finally come out tomorrow, and hopefully we can arrive in Kamloops dry and happy.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Merritt & More Part 1

As I sit back and reflect on the last few days, its hard to take it all in. It seems more like a month than three days. So much has happened it is difficult to distill it all down to one or two overriding themes.

As much as we’ve been preparing for months and we’ve been away from home for almost a week now, it felt like everything started as soon as we stepped into the Kimount Boys and Girls Club in Vancouver. When we walked up to the front door of the Club there was no way any of us could have imagined the beehive of activity going on inside the modest building, hardly any bigger than the houses around it. As it turns out, the Kimount club was the first club to be built specifically for the BGC in all of Western Canada. The kids were bustling all around the club and Joel, a supervisor, showed us around. Our tour finished in the gym where the kids were anxiously getting ready for a floor hockey game.

Big welcome & thanks from the kids
The goalies stretched and the other kids picked out their sticks while Dad was introduced and he told them what we were doing. The support from the kids was unimaginable. They had made a sign on the wall and presented us with a tee shirt all the kids signed with their words of encouragement. We finally got down to business and started playing hockey. Canucks Alumni Bob Murray and I joined one team while Dad went to the other. The competition was fierce and the kids really had us running. In the end my team won. I think it had something to do with our strategy. While waiting for our shift one kid, maybe 11 years old, said to me, “You and Bob play forward next shift.” I said, “Well I thought we’d put all the speed up front?” To which he replied, “Yeah but I have a better shot so pass it to me on the point!”

After the game Dad signed some autographs and the kids all wished us good luck and gave us high fives and hugs goodbye. After spending just a few short hours with these amazing kids it’s easy to see why this ride is so important. Kids need a place to be kids, a place where they have a positive environment to grow and play. It’s amazing how a few nets, some sticks, and a fun game of hockey can bring together kids of so many different ages and backgrounds.

When we woke up the morning of the 25th and got all our gear on and loaded up the car, we were excited to do the Kimount BGC proud. We went to Kitsilano beach and dipped our tires in the Ocean. Some new friends from Visalus and my uncle, along with a few of his friends came to see us off. My uncle is a minister and blessed us for our ride and we were off. We didn’t have much time to enjoy the early excitement, however as 15 minutes into our ride, we were lost. Trying to weave our way out of Vancouver, our heart-warming Father-Son ride quickly turned into frustration before we rendezvoused with Mom. We quickly re-evaluated the route and got back on track. On the open road toward Hope we finally settled into a rhythm and could enjoy the scenery as we headed into the mountains. Even then, we weren’t without challenges. It was chilly and very rainy and a local told us there were cougar sightings in the area. We were quite relieved to roll into Hope and stretch out after our first day of riding.

Erik ( Co-pilot and son)

Press and Luck

Brad in the Kamloop News

Former NHL'er to pedal into Kamloops for floor hockey match with kids club here

The Kimount Boys and Girls Club wishes Brad luck on his ride across Canada

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Night Before

It’s the night before the ride and I can’t wait to get started. As the sun rises on Wednesday April 25, Erik and I will dip our tires in the Pacific Ocean and set out on our mission to raise money and awareness for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada.
Brad plays some floor hockey
@Ottawa BGC
Along our way we will be stopping in at the clubs to play floor hockey with the kids, which we are really looking forward to.

We leave Vancouver tomorrow and head into the mountains. After having seen the route we’re going to be taking when we drove into Vancouver a few days ago, I have to say I’m a little nervous. The climbs are long and steep, the altitude gets high enough to really impact your breathing and some of the wildlife out here will literally eat you for lunch. That said I know that if I work hard and I do my best, I’m going to have fun and that’s what the 90 Day Challenge is all about.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Bike Pick Up

Brad with Ridley's owner Ron
We just got to Calgary and after a long flight it’s nice to have things for the trip in motion. We’re headed to Ridley’s Cycle in Kensington to pick up our new Trek 5.2 Madone bikes. Ridley’s is one of the biggest Trek dealers in western Canada and we’re lucky enough that my son Patrick works there.

Ron, the owner, greets us at the shop and after some catching up, we get changed into our bib shorts and sit upon our new bikes for the first time. I went first and spun on the rollers similar to when we originally got sized up at Bushtukah, in Ottawa, except this time the adjustments are more minute. Cycling greats like Lance Armstrong and Eddy Merckx were known to be fanatical about their bikes, stressing perfection down to the millimeter, so I know the importance of a good fit.

Pat takes a look and has Ron take a look for a second opinion. They seem to be channeling the spirits of those legends’ mechanics as he moves the seat forward slightly and swaps out the stem for one that’s slightly longer to accommodate my long gorilla arms. Erik goes next. It’s interesting to watch the process from a different perspective; you really can see how the smallest adjustments to the bike or seat position affect the way the rider moves on the bike. The more efficient we can make our riding, the easier it will be on those long days in the saddle that lay ahead.

Brad and son Patrick
Once we’re all fitted up, Pat starts up “The List.” With our spring start date and the unpredictable nature of the Rocky Mountains, we have to be ready for anything from rain to snow to sub zero temperatures. We gather all sorts of gear so we’ll be ready for anything and grab some spare parts so we can make minor repairs as needed. It may be a flat tire, snow over the mountains, or maybe even something worse but the more prepared we are to cope with what’s thrown in our path, the better.

Wheeling my bike out of the store, I’m excited to get out and go for a ride with Erik and Patrick around Calgary and try out my new bike. I’m feeling fast and strong and I can’t wait to dip my tires in the Pacific and start the journey.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Why the Boys and Girls Club?

People have asked me why I chose the Boys and Girls Club as my charity for my ride.  It was actually an easy choice.  Over the last number of years, I have worked closely with the Boys and Girls Club in Ottawa, and have been very impressed with their focus on mentorship and leadership.  This is something that really hit home with me.  You see, I was lucky in my life to have had great mentors and leaders, and I took great pride in becoming a mentor and leader myself.  I am proud to say that I was a captain or assistant captain on every team that I played for (all the way back to minor hockey), and I have tried to remain a leader in my community since I retired from the NHL. 

I think sometimes people don’t put enough emphasis on the value of good leaders and mentors. If I had not come into contact with leaders like Bobby Clarke in Philadelphia, or Steve Yzerman in Detroit, I know I would not have become the player I was able to be.  Seeing their focus, work ethic, and commitment every day really led me to take a hard look at how I was conducting myself, and look at what more I could be doing to improve my play. 

But you do not have to be an NHL player to have that kind of effect on young people. You can be that mentor, that leader, that person that makes a difference in someone’s life. It can be as simple as taking an interest in a young person’s life, helping them to accomplish a goal they have set out for themselves, or being a sounding board for them when they need to talk something through.  Not much to ask, and the benefit can be so great.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Evening at The Keg

Supporters Geoff Moore from Scotiabank
& Brian Bockstael of Coughlin 
With only days left until I saddle up and start peddling across Canada, it was nice to meet some key supporters of my bike ride across Canada in support of the Boys and Girls Club of Canada. The Keg Steakhouse in the Byward Market was kind enough to host a reception for this group to get together and mingle before my son Erik and I head out to Calgary to pick up our bikes.

It means a lot to me, the support I have already received and continue to receive as we countdown to what will be life on the road. This is my 8th 90 Day Challenge and I've been preparing for it for quite awhile now and am so pumped to put the foot to the peddle.

Brad Marsh with supporter Brian Hicks
I look forward to meeting all kinds of people along the route including those from all the different Boys and Girls Clubs, my NHL Alumni buddies, my new rocker friends (compliments of the JUNO Cup), ViSalus and you, my core supporters in every town I stop in.

Tomorrow is another big day with our press conference at the Boys and Girls Club in Ottawa. At that time we will also launch my Challenge video which I can't wait to share with everyone. Check back here at the blog and my Facebook page as the video will be uploaded there soon. I'll be curious to hear what you think and so invite you to drop me a line either here in the comments, on Facebook or on Twitter.

Thanks again and see you on the open road!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Shiny New Bike for the Open Road

After 25 plus years of riding the same bike, it was exciting to head to Bushtukah back in early March to get fitted for a new bike along with my son Erik, and so I thought I'd share the experience here as we will be picking up our bikes in Calgary this weekend as my bike ride across Canada in support of the Boys and Girls Club of Canada gets started.

Its 8pm on March 7th and Erik has just arrived at Bushtukah in Ottawa. We're getting fitted for our new bikes from Trek today. Trek has been kind enough to get behind our cause and is donating equipment for our ride. I've always prided myself on being a part of a good team and Trek is a great partner to have on this ride for so many reasons. On top of that, I haven't bought a new bike for myself in over 25 years and bike technology has come a long way. My old steel bikes are classics and I've kept them in great shape but it's definitely time for an upgrade.
Dan is our bike fitter and gets right down to business, asking us questions about our riding history and our trip as he grabs a bike off the showroom floor and guides us to the fitting room.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

When I Was Young

By Erik Marsh

When I was young, Dad would take my brother and I on his bike rides. Early in the morning, with the dew still on the grass, Mom would pack us a plastic bag full of cereal and we'd cram into the trailer attached to the back of Dad's red road bike. I have no idea where we went or how long we were gone. I couldn't even narrow down exactly what city I'd have been in during these trips, however somehow I do remember them. At the time I couldn't comprehend the meaning of those rides and I didn't really care. The pure joy of going faster than I ever could on my yellow bike weighed down with its training wheels was all I needed. As I've grown older, life happens and I can't fit into that little trailer anymore but in different ways I still jump at every opportunity to get into that trailer and tag along with Dad, wherever we may be going.

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