Not ready to face the reality of my years or reminisce about "Stairway to Heaven" and the senior prom, I decided to forego a trip back east to Bethany, Connecticut and hang in Bend. Every year, it feels like a class reunion at the Nordic center on Thanksgiving weekend. I skated around the nicely groomed trails all weekend, catching up with dozens of Bend's outdoor athletes. Ski, chat, ski, chat, ski, chat.
WHERE'S THE LATTE STAND?
Ted Ford must have completed three laps of Woody's while I worked my way from Bob's Bungalow up to Yuppie Junction. Personally, I think Powdr Corp could achieve some major revenue enhancement with a latte stand at Yuppie Junction.
Jamie McAlister told me about Cherie Touchette's impressive performance at Ironman Arizona last week. Cherie is a former pro triathlete who won a silver medal at the 2001 Xterra World Championships. She is a personal trainer and spin instructor in Bend, as well as a full-time mom. She won the women's 45-49 age group in a time of 10:25:19.
Anticipation was in the air. Some people were buzzing about the upcoming Cyclocross Nationals to be held in the Old Mill December 10-13. Visit www.visitbend.com for the full schedule of events. Others were buzzing about the first nordic race of the season, coming up December 12. Visit www.mbsef.org for the full race calendar.
And, of course, there was some good Civil War trash talking going on. The Un-Civil War Hash Run on Sunday set a Bend record of 44 participants, including American outdoor mile record holder (women's 75-79) Suzi McLeod. Suzi, who can run the pants off any hare, commented to me during a beer check, "This hash sure is slow!"
GO, VERSON, GO
With some other friends, we talked about Verson Pandian. Absolutely no one loves the bike more than Verson, who I met years ago on a bike ride, of course, and I enjoy his spin classes at the Athletic Club of Bend, where he distracts us from the pain by telling stories about his epic bike rides. I mean epic.
Verson is hooked on a cycling sport known as randonneuring. Randonneurs enter events called brevets, which sound like short little rides around the neighborhood, but in fact are long-distance, unsupported endurance rides of 200 to 1,200 kilometers, each with a specific time limit.
Randonneuring is something crazy the French thought up and the Paris-Brest-Paris is the most famous of the brevets. The 1,200-kilometer (745-mile) ride begins in the suburbs of Paris, heads west to the Atlantic seaport town of Brest and returns to Paris along the same route. Only those riders who complete the PBP in 90 hours or less receive a finishing time. The ride is so epic, it is only held every four years, in Olympic fashion. To qualify for the torture, one must complete four qualifying rides - one each of 200, 300, 400 and 600 kilometers - in that same year.
In 2007, Verson completed all of the qualifying rides during a single brevet week in Wisconsin and proceeded to finish the PBP in 88 hours and 5 minutes. Imagine that- almost two hours to spare! Not surprisingly, Pandian immediately set his sights on the 2011 Paris-Brest-Paris. "Next time, the goal is to do it in under 84 hours," he said at the time "I think that's very achievable."
Ever the Energizer Bunny, Verson just launched a new business in Bend, Cascade Air Charter, in between logging miles on his bike. But in late October, Verson suffered a massive stroke. He has been recovering at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix, Ariz. ever since. On Saturday, Verson's daughter Camille posted this message from her dad on his site at www.caringbridge.org/visit/versonpandian:
Similarities between stroke recovery and a bike ride:
1. Stay focused on the goal. Every pedal stroke brings you closer to climbing the hill.
2. Be afraid not of the pain or the work.
3. Always finish stronger than when you started.
4. Recover from the false summits.
5. Attack at the steepest sections of the hills.
6. It isn't over till you cross the finish line.
7. Keep your spirits up, ride hard and strong.
8. Show no sign of weakness.
If anybody has the fortitude and the attitude to make a comeback, it's Verson. We're all sending you warm thoughts and healing vibes, Verson, with every spin of the crank.