No one gets to where they want to go alone. That thought keeps coming back to me as I prepare for YK2HR – an annual 500 km bicycle ride from Yellowknife to Hay River. I am not an athlete by nature, but this journey is about much more than athletics.
Just a few years ago, a combination of family life and a stressful, sedentary job meant my weight had been climbing. My pants were continuously shrinking, my blood pressure was rising, and my latest tests indicated other risks were looming. Then came 2012 – a perfect storm of loss and discouragement. The year started with my mom’s death. We knew it was coming but I was devastated. Six weeks later, I had a huge crisis at work that left me reeling. So there I was: unhealthy, grieving, and wounded. I entered a dark cloud of discouragement and depression. It was at its worst in the quiet times – in the middle of the week – and the rest of the time it was a chore to drag myself around and be functional. One week turned into a month, then two months…
It’s been said that everyone has a story that will make you cry and many people have stories that will bring you to your knees. As stories go, I know mine is on the lighter side. But what made all this really challenging for me is that I’m the pastor of the Yellowknife Seventh-day Adventist Church. Getting knocked off my feet a couple days a week and having a persistent dark cloud does not a good pastor make; it just made things worse.
Through my work, I can access a confidential and free care line. Getting the courage to call is another story. Thankfully, I got desperate enough to pick up the phone. It was September 2012. That call was my first step to recovery. After listening, the counsellor suggested I was describing serious depression and I should seek medical assistance. That was the proverbial straw. I had to make a change.
Break Away Fitness
My first stop was the gym. I started going to Break Away Fitness to get in shape, which I knew would in turn alleviate the depression. I’ve lost nearly 40 pounds, dropped pant and shirt sizes, and all my health indicators are normal to better than normal. Setting goals, using tools like MyFitnessPal, and participating in challenges keeps me motivated. The thing is, something more happened. I found community. The gym owners, Kelly and Carey, have been a huge blessing to me and I’ve made many new friends. Let me introduce you to them…
One of the first friends I made was Alyssa Mosher, a CBC reporter. She interviewed me for a challenge I had organized. There’s nothing like making a public declaration of your goals to make you determined to achieve them. I just hope that when she gets super-famous she remembers the little people.
I met Andy Wong, an avid cyclist and organizer of the YK2HR ride, and I started to pick his brain about buying a bike. He went one better and offered to sell me one of his used bikes, a higher end bike for less than what I was planning to spend. Riding was transformational and as the season ended I planned to invest in a new bike over the winter; something lighter and fitted just for me.
Ron Ogilvie changed my plans. I told him about my new biking goal and he encouraged me to do YK2HR 2014. I was hesitant. I love to bike but I hate camping. (Personally I think camping is against God’s will – Jesus said he was going to prepare a room for us so we can dwell with him. A room – not a tent or a camp site.) Ron’s persistence wore me down. Last November I committed to the ride.
Preparation is Half the Battle
After I committed, I realized how unprepared I was. A different bike would be needed which meant additional accessories, most importantly, padded bike shorts! That last item has inspired my sister to call me a MAMIL (Middle-aged Man in Lycra). That’s okay, her 40th is coming up and I have something special planned.
As YK2HR gets closer, I am giving more attention to stretching and massages – hey, it’s harder than it sounds. I’m giving some extra attention to biking muscles. To be ready for NWT roads I regularly go up and down on a teeter-totter while my wife throws dust in my face.
When I started to exercise I needed a revamped diet; a new lifestyle. The game changer was Vegucated, a documentary on iTunes and Netflix. It wasn’t new information – Seventh-day Adventists have been talking the plant-based diet since the early 1900s – it was just the right information at the right time. I will confess it’s not easy to be vegetarian in the NWT if you keep your mouth open when you ride a bike. As I prepare for YK2HR, the latest change to my diet is dropping added sugars. I feel better than ever but one thing is certain; I’m not very sweet right now.
As I look back on where I’ve been and forward to where I’m going, I believe the best is yet to come. One way or another, Yellowknife and its people will continue to be a part of that.