I don’t know that I would call myself a masochist but I’d be lying if I told you I don’t enjoy suffering. Be it wallowing in self-pity or legs so full of lactic acid they feel like they’ll burst, it doesn’t matter. I don’t believe I’m alone on this either. I think anyone who participates in a sport likes to push themselves into discomfort and they’re happier for it. It comes in degrees of course, but it’s there for all of us. I remember watching a video of an American national sprint cyclist performing threshold testing in a lab, and when finished his coaches very nonchalantly walked to the corner of the room and brought the garbage bin back to the cyclist. Here you go. Don’t make a mess.
While I don’t generally push myself toward vomitting, I do push myself past what my body enjoys. The hurt in my legs and lungs in cycling is medicine to my mind. I will gladly tear muscle tissue apart in order to lather a thick salve onto my brain and protect it from the other bits of myself that would rather see it implode. When my legs ache, the rest of me is better for it.
I have this little secret that I do, but I guess in the end it isn’t much of a secret at all. From my doorstep I can follow single track trails from Canmore all the way to Deadmans’s Flats. From Deadman’s Flats I can follow more single track all the way to Quaite Valley, then up Quaite Valley and into all the wonderful punishment available in Kananaskis Country. If one were so inclined and didn’t actually enjoy mountain biking, one could get one of those stupid new bikepacking wheel sizes and travel here for days under their own motor, but there are better ways to do things.
The Trans Canada Trail from Deadman’s Flats to Quaite Valley is one of the best kept secrets of the Bow Valley. Hosting some of the most technical cross country riding around it isn’t at all pleasant without the stomach for it. You have to pedal this stuff. And I mean really pedal. From my house there is a solid twenty-five’ish kilometres of steady grunt work to do to get into K-Country, but it’s worth every pedal stroke.
Once you gain Jewel Pass via the Quaite Valley the options open up. Down Jewel and back up Prairie View for a quick little loop? Through Razor’s Edge if you’ve got the legs and the marbles? Across the road to Baldy Pass and then back up Prairie? You can even pony up and take Lusk Pass to Jumping Pound Ridge and Cox Hill, a tour that would only end in suffering for even the seasoned endurance rider.
Pain, glorious pain. In an office it would be unbearable, but in the mountains it’s fuel for the soul.