Adventures with Sonya

I sat on the top of the hill pretending to make phone calls as Sonya looked on; little did she know that I was making excuses to catch my breath.

A few weeks ago, I was at a party with a group of mountain bikers. In that environment, it takes about a “hello my name is” to get into the real conversations — what scary, epic stuff have you done this week? 

At the end of the evening, my wife, Jackie, came home and said she missed participating in outdoor adventures. She wanted to be able to tell some stories as well as listen to them.

She is a self-professed bookworm, but I know another Jackie, the one that boogie boarded with me down a white-water river for our wedding anniversary, then flew off a mountain in a para-glider, or heads in to deepest Africa to live with tribal communities while she loves them and creates plans and funds to get them safe water.

The Jackie I know is truly an adventurer.

However, she took the proverbial bull by the horns last week, rented a downhill mountain bike, signed up for Ladies Night at Whistler and went whizzing down the hill at ridiculously crazy speeds. Not one, but three times.

I nearly died after seeing her come down the second time and assuming there is no way she would go back up again.

I chugged my beer sitting, ran to the hostess, paid my bill, sprinted down the stairs, almost tripping and killing myself before I arrived breathless at the lift to watch Jackie go up a third time.

Breathing heavily, I texted one of my kids: “your mum has just gone up Whistler for a third time.”

The response: “What!!!! Mum?”

My wife had a grin from ear to ear when she came down from the last run and truly enjoyed the “thrill” of downhill-mountain biking. 

Secretly, I had contacted a friend, Sonya Looney, who is an extraordinary mountain biker and probably the most positive person you could ever want to bump into.

Sonya and I both spoke at TEDX in Kelowna last year and I asked if she could spare the time to help me figure out downhill biking.

We met up in the parking lot where I met my steed, a fantastic “all mountain” bike that her husband, Matt Ewonus, had lent me (thanks Matt!). My time had come.

I pressed the button on my Google fit bit thingy and started off. 

Riding with Sonya was in a little like visiting the dentist. After a few hundred metres, I was already breathless and Sonya was keeping an effortless conversation going.

My responses were about as clear as the dentist gets when he has half a surgery of contraptions in my mouth. That is my sign that I am about to get into trouble.

It is so cool to see someone so proficient ride ahead and be a cautious and expert guide for you. I enjoyed the climb up the Smith Creek trails, which I had never visited before. 

By comparison, my steed at home was a second-hand, rigid-frame Cascade Lava Dome, which I purchased from a mountain guide in Canmore back in 1989.

I had thrashed out of the French Robertson Glacier on that thing a few times, but the jaw-shaking, rattling bikes of the ’90s are out in favour of the full suspension, big travel fully adjustable mountain bikes we see today.

We kept climbing on a cloudy and slightly damp afternoon, but the ride was already epic. Small challenges to distract you from the climb snuck up on you and unsettled your rhythm.

Sonya was always close at hand to hint at the solution to a problem on the trail.

We had climbed about 700 feet when Sonya asked if I needed a break.

“Yes, I would like a drink,” I politely replied.

That meant I needed to check my phone and pretend I had lots of important business to do to stall the rest of the ride.

My plan worked and I even had my phone ring for the fist time on the ride. I could finally get my pulse back to something resembling normal while I drew out a conversation as long as I possibly could.

My legs were like jelly and I knew that going down I would need my brain and my leg muscles so when Sonya asked if I wanted to carry on I wimped out and said “in the next five minutes I am good to head down.”

We climbed to another lookout. We had taken something close to 45 minutes to climb about 820 feet. 

We arrived at another viewpoint and checked out the scenery before Sonya announced we were off.

I jumped on Matt’s steed, made sure I wasn’t going to pass out after my bit had already had a Google fit.

Then, whoosh, we were on our way. All of a sudden I experienced Jackie’s grin.

The bike was so unbelievably comfortable to ride. My bone-shaking Lava Dome would have made a milk shake out of me in the first hundred feet!

I hung on to the handlebars and watched Sonya effortlessly glide through the air from jumps.

I got cocky. “I can do one of those,” I thought. I boldly rode up a wooden ramp with what really was a small jump and thought the bike was good enough to do it on it’s own without me helping out… wrong.

That was nearly an epic fail. I flopped off the end and scarily regained control. I was locking up into corners, brushing trees with my shoulders, ducking under bridges and generally having an awesome time.

Sonya stopped a few minutes into it. She must have been worried about me. I rode up to her less breathless than I had been on the on the climb, but perhaps a little big-eyed and grinned.

I expected to get going again to enjoy this thrilling elevator ride down Smith Creeks trail system.

Then, she pointed out the parking lot to me. What had taken 45 minutes to get up just took less than 10  minutes to get down. It forced me to ask myself if it was all worth it.

Yes! It was!

It was epic and to add to my grin I had to eat two dinners that evening to replenish (at least that is what I told Jackie.)

Big thanks to Sonya and Matt for helping me experience my first climb and downhill on a mountain bike. If you would like to know more about Sonya and her epic adventures, check out her site.


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About the Author

Mark has been an entrepreneur for over forty years. His experience spans many commercial sectors and aspects of business. He was one of the youngest people to be appointed as a Fellow of the prestigious Institute of Sales and Marketing Management before he left the UK in 1988.

His column focuses on ways we can improve on success in our lives. Whether it is business, relationships, or health, Mark has a well-rounded perspective on how to stay focused for growth and development.

His influences come from the various travels he undertakes as an adventurer, philanthropist and keynote speaker. More information can be found on Mark at his website www.markjenningsbates.com

He is a Venture Partner with www.DutchOracle.com a global Alternative Investment company.

Mark Jennings-Bates:
[email protected]

Photo credit: www.SteveAustin.ca 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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