Saturday, June 19, 2010

Yeah Banff

It's been a mere year since a wonderful Banff ultrarunner named Leslie e-mailed me out of the blue and said, "You're coming to town for the Tour Divide ... do you want a place to stay?" Since then, she and her husband, Keith, have become good friends of mine, Banff has become one of my favorite places on this wide continent, and I've been back to visit four times. "Do you realize I've visited you guys more times than I've visted my home in Utah in the past year?" I said to Keith as we geared up for another binge that he calls "training" and I call "I'm really tired from driving 2,100 miles but yeah, why not?" Keith just laughed. "Honey, we're your home now," he replied.

I wish Banff could be my home. I'm still looking for that Canadian citizen husband, but Keith tells me it's not as easy as getting married to a Canadian. Until then, I learned that Missoula is only 7-8 hours away by car (and maybe four days by bike), so there will hopefully be many opportunities to come and visit. We crammed a lot into this weekend - power hiking, road biking, mountain biking, barbecue and race spectating. I have to say that my favorite part of the weekend was the road biking. I'm actually one of those people who can count on one hand the number of times I've been on a "real" road bike. This particular bicycle (which belongs to Leslie, who was in Wyoming running a 100-mile ultramarathon, crazy girl) was ridiculously light. It zipped effortlessly up hills and rocketed downhills. At one point I tore down a hill and sprinted by the small group yelling "This is soooooo fun!" as I flew by. I think I can finally understand now why people bother with road bikes, rather than just riding their heavy steel mountain bikes on pavement. :-)

I'm also officially kitted out for TransRockies. It occurred to me recently that the seven-day stage race is a mere six weeks away. Gulp. I said to Keith, "Does it really matter that I haven't been training and that I still kind of suck on singletrack?" He just laughed. "It's our bike holiday," he replied. "We're not calling ourselves 'Team Self Preservation' for nothing." (I think our actual team name is "Rocky Mountain Trail Trash," because we're sponsored by Rocky Mountain bikes. Gulp. By the way, don't tell Rocky Mountain that I'm not Canadian. It's OK to not be a pro or even a very skilled mountain biker, but an American is just scandalous.)


After hour three-hour mountain bike ride, we headed downtown to sit in front of the Ski Stop and watch the crit races come by. Another new experience for me ... the pro group was by far the most exciting. Two riders broke away in the 50-km race (50 laps) and eventually lapped the entire pack. One of the riders then pushed all the way to the front of the pack and was in fifth position after lapping the group. Plus, a tight group of 60-odd racers fly by at 30 mph and sometimes crash hard on hairpin turns. Exciting stuff!

Being in Banff near the summer solstice has also left me steeped in Tour Divide nostalgia. While visiting the Ski Stop, I chanced across a DVD of the documentary "Ride the Divide," which documents the 2008 race. Keith and I watched it and I relived my own race experience, instantly recognizing the locations of most of the landscape shots and relating to the wildly swinging joy and malaise. Then, during Saturday's crit races, I just happened to bump into Robin Borstmayer, a Banff resident who started the 2010 Tour Divide a week ago but dropped out of the race in Helena. He said knee was bothering him, he was surviving on painkillers, and the mental game wasn't worth it. I can completely relate. I got really lucky in my own race to have fairly easy passage through Canada and Montana. All of my big struggles came later, by the time I was fully entrenched in the Divide.

I then talked to Robin's wife for a while. She asked me to sum up my race experience and I said "It was really like living an entire lifetime in the span of three weeks. I entered that race as one person and left as another." It was the first time I had ever voiced that thought, but after a year to reflect on my experience in the Tour Divide, I still believe that's true. I was a child in Montana, when I was traveling with John Nobile and learning from his examples. I was an adolescent in Wyoming, discovering my own path and facing the desert alone. I was an adult in Colorado, at ease with my situation and wise in my own ways. From Summitville, Colo., through New Mexico was my old age: broken down, exhausted, plowing through struggles that would have seemed insurmountable in my childhood. At the Mexican border, I felt reborn. The idea sounded corny then and it still sounds corny now, but there's a lot of truth in that simple word. Rebirth. New starts. It's one year later, and I begin my next new journey tomorrow. Wish me luck.

23 comments:

  1. James2:40 AM

    Jill, may your new home, new job, and new life bring you all the happiness you could ever wish for, all the challenges you crave, and all the joy you so deserve.
    Looking forward to reading all about your new journey and yet another lifetime over the coming weeks, months, and years.
    james

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  2. I wish you more than luck. I wish you divine providence and blessings. I wish you peace: wholeness in every aspect of your life, and lots and lots of happiness.

    And I wish you a blog that never grows old (I'm really wishing myself this one).

    The idea of a rebirth is not corny at all, especially if it's true and there's no better way to say it.

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  3. I can fully understand what you like about Banff. I was there last month for the first time and loved it. Good luck with rocky mountain and being American but just say "eh?" a lot and they won't know the difference.

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  4. I've enjoyed your journey from afar for several years now. Thank you for sharing it. I was mulling a name change for your blog and figured you had at least considered it too. On the other hand it's like the last obvious vestige of your time in Alaska. People will always ask, "Hey Jill why Up in Alaska?" Looking forward to all the new adventures as well.

    Tom

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  5. Yeap, there is something about the zippyness that occurs from the contrast of going from trail to light weight bikes and pavements.

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  6. I like the part where you mentioned that the best part of the visit was road biking ... I know you were just mentioning that because AC is road focussed. HA! No roding in Zootown (well it isn't the best) ... its all dirt baby ...o/o

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  7. Banff sounds like a wonderful place--clearly completely unforgettable. Finding places like that is one of the greatest parts of traveling.

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  8. it is always such a pleasure and an inspiration to read your blog, thanks!

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  9. Sounds like a great weekend. I think I said this already once but you can ride along with me when I go up to Banff - my car might be a tad more reliable :p And you can't miss Porkapalooza in Fernie with Keith and the Fernie-ites.

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  10. Best wishes Jill.
    You've made Alaska so appealing over the years I'm surprised the tourist burueau hasn't employed you.

    What about a new blog?
    Start from scratch?

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  11. Best wishes Jill.
    You've made Alaska so appealing over the years I'm surprised the tourist burueau hasn't employed you.

    What about a new blog?
    Start from scratch?

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  12. Don't call me Two Tongues.

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  13. Come back! You forgot Brenda's cookies!

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  14. Good luck tomorrow sister. I have been thinking about you and the little Geo cruising across the country four too many times. Here's to the next chapter...

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  15. Aaron7:11 AM

    So you 'still kind of suck on singletrack'. Don't worry, Transrockies sucks at singletrack too. I did it in 07 and it was the biggest disappointment of my mtb life. You could do it on a 'cross bike!

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  16. I love road biking too! It feels like gravity likes me.

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  17. Good luck, I hope to keep reading epic stories in the morning before work.

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  18. Just a thought...you could just call your site "NO LONGER up in Alaska" (for now...giving you plenty of time to ponder things).

    Glad to hear the Geo held up...maybe Chevy should get invovled here and get some advertising out of it...or even comp you a new 'adventure' vehicle to write about as you continue your fabulous journey??

    Good luck in Missoula! I'll be anxiously awaiting new stories from MT!

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  19. I think I can finally understand now why people bother with road bikes, rather than just riding their heavy steel mountain bikes on pavement. :-)

    Ya think!

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  20. Can relate with the age analogy on the iti, though I never felt reborn just old and tired :)

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  21. Best of luck Jill!

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  22. I *heart* Jill and I *heart* Banff, too!! Sounds like I missed a good Banff weekend. Grrrr. Glad had some fun on the road before embarking on the new adventure. G'luck!

    It's a good thing I was having my own adventure in Wyoming! Never recommended: running a 100 miles and then driving 900 miles.

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  23. Yes, I got my Banff pictures! Thank you!

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