As so often happens, an adventure begins with a dream that is hatched from an overly active imagination.
That’s why a handful of area Ironman veterans are pedaling north out of Coeur d’Alene Wednesday morning with a goal of reaching Jasper, Alberta – 480 miles away on more than 21,000 feet of climbing – in four days while raising as much as $50,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of Kootenai County.
“All of us in the group are looking for a challenge,” Kris Stanton, an emergency room physician at Valley Hospital, said. “Whether that is Ironman or a four-day bike trip to Canada, we jump on board. The charity is important but a long, grueling bike ride is a good challenge.”
For many of his 41 years, Ian Martin would go to the family cabin in Jasper and remembers thinking that people riding bicycles in the high Canadian Rockies were crazy.
That didn’t change until a health scare led him to drop more than 100 pounds and complete the 2010 Ironman Coeur d’Alene.
“Then I thought how cool it would be now that I’m actually capable of doing it,” said Martin, a vice president of commercial sales for Great Floors in Coeur d’Alene.
He mentioned that to Greg Gervais, who had encouraged Martin to tackle Ironman last summer. Gervais, 39, co-founder of Copper Basin Construction in CdA, had just returned from France where he spent about a week watching and riding a couple of mountain stages of the Tour de France. That’s when their adventure started to take shape.
Stanton, 34, Duke Dixon, 47, owner of International Marketing Corporation, and George Rohlinger, 45, co-founder of Redyns and chief business development officer of OptimisCorp, climbed aboard and the charity was an easy choice because Gervais is on the board of directors.
“I’ve always been adamant, I’m going to help children,” Martin, a father of two, said. “They don’t really have a choice (for the situations they’re in).”
Martin has been the ring leader for what he is calling “Big Bike Adventure 2011.”
“Ian has done the most work,” Gervais said. “It’s been impressive.”
Much of it can be seen on the website a friend designed as a contribution.
“We’ve been surprised at the overwhelming response,” Martin said. “Not just from community members, bikers and associates, but people all over the United States and even some folks in Canada. A lot of people have offered sponsorships. Every day I’m surprised.”
Martin was raised in Spokane, graduating from Shadle Park in 1988. Most summers the family went to his grandfather’s place in Jasper. He settled into a normal life, which included slipping out of shape. In September of 2008 he had a pulmonary embolism and likely would have died had his wife, Sherri, not taken him to the hospital.
“It was probably one of the best things that happened to me,” he said. “It gave me the push. It was scary, but as bad as it was, it was an eye opener. It was what I needed.”
He jogged while on blood thinners and bumped into Gervais shortly after doing Bloomsday, reporting that his proud children, Paige and Cole, figured he was now Ironman material.
Gervais took that tongue-in-cheek remark seriously and 10 days later Martin signed up and signed on with Gervais’ trainer.
“They say life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” Martin said, and now he faced that on an almost daily basis.
Such things as wearing biking shorts or stepping into the pool with accomplished swimmers were way beyond his previous comfort zone.
Look at him now, 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, ready for any challenge.
As the plan took shape a six-day ride seemed to work, but as the group of busy professionals signed on, time became an issue. Believe it or not, two days was mentioned.
“Why would you want to do it in two?” Martin asked. “Let’s do it in four, make a couple of stops and actually enjoy what we’re seeing. It’s probably one of the most beautiful rides in the world. It’s got to rank in the top 10.”
Before the first pedal stroke there is a sendoff Tuesday afternoon at 2 at the Boys and Girls Club in Post Falls.
Next is a 160 miles to Cranbrook, followed by a pair of 80-mile days with overnights at Radium Hot Springs and Lake Louise. Finally another 160, much of it downhill, to Jasper.
Much of the ride will be captured on the website or by liking their Facebook page, Big Bike Adventure 2011.
“I’m a bit apprehensive but really excited,” Gervais said. “One of the things that puts my mind at ease is it’s not a race. We’ll make it through it. We’ll be there to help each other out.”
Stanton, who just finished RAMROD (Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day, 152 miles, 10,000 feet of climbing), said, “It gave me confidence, but it was a little bit of a wakeup call. In the morning I woke up a little tired and I would have had to ride 80 miles if it was the middle of August. Instead I got to sleep in, then sit here with my family and eat cereal.
“The hardest part, I think, is recovering from the day’s ride and being ready for the next day. Each day is not too much of a challenge, but the sum of them all is going to be very difficult.”
But it is what dreams are made of.