I have been fortunate enough to spend the last 7 Father’s Days with my Dad. This might not be something special for most, but I live over 2500 km away from my Dad, so it’s not actually that easy. Thankfully Father’s Day is always celebrated on the same weekend as the Kluane Chilkat Bike Relay. This gives Dad the perfect cover to come see his favorite daughter without alienating the other two.
Every year I try to do something special for my Dad. One year, I took him out for an amazing dinner in Whitehorse only to realize I forgot my wallet. I think of it as the year I gave my Dad the gift of reliving my childhood. Dad thanks of it as the year I made him buy his own Father’s Day dinner. Another year, I told my Dad that after the Kluane Chilkat Bike Race we should do a fun 100 km relaxed ride back. That year, we rode 180 km, mostly into the wind, up a 1100 m pass. This is the year I gave my Dad the gift of the bonk. This year, I decided to really up the ante by giving him rain, headwind, and single digit temperatures.
The bad weather for this year’s Kluane Chilkat wasn’t a surprise. It had been raining and cold for weeks, and forecasts were not looking promising. We agreed that if the weather was bad enough, we would just stop riding. But, I’ll be honest – I wasn’t sure we actually meant it.
One thing my dad has taught me is perseverance. One year, the night before a 55 km ski race, my Dad got sick with the flu. He spent the night vomiting, yet in the morning was eating his oatmeal with the hopes that he could still race. He only conceded with the oatmeal didn’t stay down. My Dad’s perseverance is not limited to sporting events. I remember my Dad volunteering for the ski club, in between going to my soccer games and work. When people tell me I should just quit or stop because something is hard or frustrating or tiring, I think to myself – Dad would do it.
This was the thought that went through my head after the first 30 km of the bike race. Despite Gore-Tex socks, and Pearl Izumi booties, my feet were soaked and freezing. My hands were starting to lose their dexterity. I was wet and I was cold, and I wasn’t too sure how I was going to finish all 120 km of my half. In a fairly big pack of riders, I was not keen on stopping to readjust my clothes – knowing that even a 5 second break would mean having to ride into the headwind all alone. I thought that working hard would warm me up, but by 55 km I had started shivering – quaking is not a popular habit in a peloton. At 75 km, I pulled off the road, and sent my Dad out 40 km before planned.
As I peeled off my wet clothes (with a friendly 5 year old standing behind me screaming “I can see that lady’s bum”), I was already regretting my decision. I hate quitting. Even in the car, while I shook violently with the heat cranked to high, I wondered if I should have just powered through.
After another 40 km, we were about to reach the halfway mark. This was the spot we were supposed to trade riding. At the checkpoint, my Dad rolled up to the car and said: “I told them we scratched” and started loading up his bike. This was when I learned the actual lesson – it’s about not quitting the stuff that actually matters – and hammering through hypothermia and headwinds doesn’t count. So, instead of finishing a bike ride that would have left us sick and exhausted, we hung out together in Haines, Alaska. Damn my Dad is a smart guy.
I wonder what I’ll get him next year…