There was a mass exodus from Ontario to British Columbia last year, many of them mountain bikers, many from my peer group. Why move across the country in the middle of a pandemic? And why seemingly so many of us from Oro Medonte? Well, “why not” seemed to be more the mantra.
I can only speak for myself, and speculate or share what I’ve heard about the choices of everyone else, but it is staggering how many people I know made the move west in the last 12 months. My move came mostly from feeling like I needed change, there was nothing specific, but I just needed to do something, something deliberate and different. Having been graced with extremely supportive parents who welcomed me home after I finished skiing in Thunder Bay to gather and reorient my future, I felt like the sheltered time was drawing long and I wanted to find space to become more my own person and my own way.
The hook that baited me to British Columbia, was an earlier open invite from Catharine Pendrel to “come visit and train in Kamloops sometime!”. I wrote about the move shortly after I arrived here as well. Needless to say, what was initially a summer visit has turned into a mid to long term stay; and I’m happy about it. I owe both Catharine and Keith a lot of credit for that. They, and everyone I work with and have met in the shop have made this new city familiar enough to feel a bit like home.
When I came out, I knew the quality and variety of riding was going to be outstanding, and I knew exposure to more new trails and terrain would challenge me to improve as a rider. What I didn’t anticipate was how much variety there really was. I don’t know or can’t really quantify how much faster I’ve gotten as a technical racer, but having seen more trails has helped increase my comfort level and continue to speed up more learning on other new terrain. I’m (a little bit) more likely to just drop into things and figure it’ll probably be fine (“It’ll be fine.” – famous last words)
Beyond the riding itself, I think the lifestyle in BC suits well. Back home in Ontario, my family lives in a bit of a microcosm of what the norm here lends to: active and outdoor oriented. COVID has given both cycling and cross country skiing enormous boosts over the past year, both sports that have been central in my life, and it’s been phenomenal to see. I think living somewhere that is conducive to the lifestyle you want to maintain has become much more important to the current generation of young adults; ahead of, say, getting your dream job position and then adapting your life to fit wherever that may end up. Of course, with many more people working remotely, the flexibility to live wherever you want is increasingly possible.
In my case, the COVID bike boom meant everyone needed bike mechanics – especially in BC where the market has been absolutely manic. Several shops in Kamloops were looking for staff when I started my search, so I remarkably had choice for where to work even on the 1-week hustle I spent getting organized to move across the country. I’m super glad I ended up where I did, at Spoke Bike & Ski; the vibe with my co-workers as friends for casual and sendy rides after work, and handful of regulars who are game for a good endurance pedal makes my place in the cycling community, beyond being a racer, feel very complete.
Anyway, all I really wanted to write about, in some meandering way… was that I’ve been feeling extremely grateful for where I’ve found myself in life right now… I’m especially grateful for my parents, for my upbringing, to be raised with opportunity, to be active and spend time outdoors, to be encouraged to work hard and to my potential, and to pursue a fulfilling life. I am still working on all of these things, and learning what truly fulfills me. How you feel about your state in life changes day to day over smaller details and mood, but overall I think my situation and outlook are pretty good.
Maybe I’m just a bit homesick lately, which is why I’m writing. There’s some big events on the horizon, the start of a new race season; and while I’m definitely excited and have been anticipating the return to racing for a while, I still get a bit gun-shy ahead of actually jumping in. When I head to Europe to race in May, I’m leaving my day-to-day identity here in Kamloops in favour of the athlete-identity I hold in tandem. The balance of identity is something I’ve struggled with for so long, in different forms, but always to some degree… I hope with this longer race campaign that I can be the athlete, the person, I aspire to be, and have enough confidence and purpose to feel fulfilled in doing so.
Meandering thoughts today, or the last few days rather… I had this page open for a little while since the writing wasn’t coming steadily to me, it’s been a while since I’ve done any longer form expressive writing. Blogging seems to have fallen out of style with the rise of Instagram, Vlogging, and podcasting, but I kind of miss this. I’ll probable write more this summer, even if it is a little disjunct, I find these thought catalogues interesting to look back and reflect on sometimes. Anyway, hope spring has sprung and all is well wherever you are.