Tip to Tip – A Journey – Shannon Courtney

April 16, 2008

This is a friend of mine, Shannon Courtney, this is how she is thinking about what may unfold for her as she trains for Tip to Tip. If you have a story about this and would like to share it please let me know – Rob

“Every journey has a beginning, but we often miss the first steps of our own journey to an unknown destination.

We don’t realize that we are moving away from the familiar, towards something that will revive and redefine who we are. There are baby steps in the beginning. A thought that sneaks up from some unknown place in our subconscious or a dream that we can’t shake the next morning. Maybe a comment by a friend that strikes a nerve, or a piece of music that speaks to something deep within. We
don’t catch sight of it yet, it still hasn’t surfaced.

But if we are ready, then the synchronicities begin to emerge. It’s only chance that four people have mentioned that author’s book to me this week. Maybe I’ll check it out and see what it’s all about. Then there’s that writing workshop that’s coming up. I keep seeing notices for it everywhere, and then my old professor asked me if I was interested in going. How strange is that? Well, I have been dedicating a lot of time to my writing lately and I am looking for some guidance. I guess it couldn’t hurt to check out what a workshop is all about… We call them coincidences and flukes because it makes it easier for us to dismiss them OR accept them.

And then there’s a moment where everything shifts, where you realize that you have crossed the line between the familiar and the unfamiliar. Your heart began the journey awhile back and your head has just caught on to the fact. And when that happens, you are filled with such overwhelmingly contrasting emotions – fear and giddiness, anticipation and doubt, pride and shame. Then there’s the choice that your mind imposes – retreat or forge ahead. Ah, but if your heart has already begun the journey, there is nothing to be done but forge on. The heart will ALWAYS triumph over the logical mind in matters that involve the self’s evolution.

And so it is, that I have crossed over the line.

I have crossed the line before, most often my journeys have been leaps of faith that literally involved journeying to far off destinations. I think perhaps my first journey was when I moved to Ireland in 2003, but really that journey began a year and a half before I found the courage to get on a plane and move to another country where I knew not a single soul. That journey really began with me ending a relationship that was holding me back from my dreams of traveling the globe. Oh how the world opens up wide to embrace you when you choose to follow your dreams.

Now I am doing it again. I have set myself a challenge to bike 400 kilometers, from the Western tip of PEI to the Eastern tip of PEI. To my mind it seems a daunting challenge. I know there are athletes that would see it as a breeze, but I am not an athlete by any stretch of the imagination. And while I have been steadfastly dedicated to working out and eating well for quite a while now, this is still very much a leap for me.

Biking is not my forte. I am full of fears, mostly that I will injure myself, or my eyes will water constantly as they sometimes do at the most inopportune times. I worry that I will be last, that someone will have to keep coming to the back of the pack to make sure I’m still actually on my bike. I stress that my bike will give out on me and I’ll be stranded because my mechanical abilities have been absent since the day I was born. I worry that I won’t be able to sit or walk for days after the 4-day adventure.

But I am excited too. Almost giddy with anticipation. I LOVE a challenge. I thrive on setting a goal and reaching it. I decided, just ten days ago, that I would do the Tip to Tip for Africa, committing to not only completing the 400 kilometres, but also to raising at least $600 for the Townships Project.
This is what is driving me – if I am raising money for a worthy cause and people are so willing to support me, then I WILL complete my end of the bargain or injure myself trying (not planning on that, just trying to get a point across!).

Already, I have devised game plans for both fundraising and training, and things are happening. Call them coincidences or flukes, but I know they are synchronocities..opportunities and occassions that are presenting themselves because I AM ready for this journey.

And on that note, I will sign off. More to come re: my training and fundraising.

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What is it like? Part 1 – What was my experience as a middle aged unfit man

April 11, 2008

Some of you might wonder if you can do this? Are you fit enough to have fun? Could you have fun?

Here is part 1 of a 4 part piece I wrote after my own ride. It’s a parable like parts of the bible.

The Call & the Support of Angels
Until last year (2006), I had never really biked before. Not only had I no real experience of biking (not even as a child) but I was very unfit. When my doctor told me this winter that if I did not get into shape and lose 30 pounds, I might die young as my father had, I wondered what to do.

A dear friend who is at the centre of the biking community suggested that I set myself a big challenge and convinced me that I did this in the community of a great group, I might be able to pull it off. So I signed up in February for this bike ride. I knew nothing of the cause, other that I am familiar with Micro credit, but going into this with my friend was the key. She got me to go to spinning classes to get fit. She, who is an iron woman, spent many boring mornings spinning in my class for support. Her going along at the outset got my inertia broken.

At the spinning class, there was a group of women of my age. They and the instructor bathed me in support as I struggled to get fit. I saw that others as old as I had already made a big change. Their achievement gave me hope. They made me welcome and all helped me in their own way. There was never any sense of my being a “Loser”. As my confidence grew, my angel was able to drop out of this phase and leave me supported by the Spinning girls.

Now the need for good equipment. Again I was lost. What did I know. But my angel returned and introduced me to the owner of one of the better bike shops. I had a very different experience I think from the walk in punter. I was tagged as being related to a person who could not be short changed. I ended up with a beautiful a machine and with the confidence that I now was “Known’ and could continue to get support from the store on my own.

My spinning instructor is also part of a biking family who own the other main biking store. She set me up with all the clothing that I would need. My two angels had taken an outsider and made him an insider. I now wanted more.

Lesson 1 – How I found that real community works
I am sure that many of us have joined “Social networks” and been plagued with wannabe new “Friends”. You can see that my experience of joining a real community was very different. This was all about love and trust. My Angels were the doorways into a community of trust. They were already icons in their own community. They offered me true love – acceptance of who I am and that I had a mission that they could help with.

Their own iconic role in the bike community carried with it a message – they trusted me, so I was trusted immediately by the community. I did not have to spend a lifetime trying to make my way in. being trusted, I got the attention of the rest of the community such as the bike shops owner that an outsider would never get. I was special and it felt that way. He could trust me too. He left off an item on the bill. I showed that he had undercharged me . Trust was reinforced on both sides. Now when I go into the shop, I enter as a family member. Quite a different experience.

Nor was I a “Wannabe”. My motives for joining this community were selfish but about my true self. Was I going to have the guts to change how I lived my life was the deal. My angels and many other responded because they could see in me, their own struggle to be more real and more human. More complete.

So even before I got on the bus, I had found the community that I had longed for all my life. A group who accepted me up front as a frail man who was trying his best to do something difficult. I could be weak. I could be stupid. I could look like an idiot. They did not care. What they cared about was me. In seeing me, I could start to become me too and start to put away my pride and my shame of being me.

Real community, I am finding, is about allowing another to become themselves. The way is maybe a common cause. For you it may be sailing. But for me it was biking. But of course it was not about biking. It was about becoming human. What better motivation can you find that that?

The garden of gethsemane
Finally the big weekend. Ask me to speak on one day’s notice to 1,000 people – no problem. Ask me to write a 20,000 word report in 5 days – no problem. But the physical world is an unknown to me. I live in my head. So in the bus on the way up with 45 strangers except for my two angels, I was quite frightened. Was I going to be able to do this and what price would I have to pay in harm to my self esteem and maybe to my poor old middle aged body? The most I had ever ridden in a day this year was 40 k and we were set to do nearly 300! All but one other couple were experienced bikers. I was scared. They were going to laugh at me. I was going to get hurt. I was going to feel that the whole thing was a grind.

But I had made a public commitment. I had asked many of you to support me with money and you had come through for me. My family expected me to get through this. My two angels had given so much. And most importantly I felt that I owed this to myself. How would I live with myself if I did not do my best. After all, for me this was about my chance to break the habits of a lifetime that had been literally killing me.

So I set out on a cold and blustery Friday with a bunch of strangers. Into the unknown and into part of my life that I knew the least and feared the most.

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