Chasing Shadows, or: Life is about the stories you tell

This is the text from the opening sequence of my talk about the winter adventure in 2010. I reworked the talk for my colleagues at Scottish Swimming, and though it is worthwhile sharing. Take it as inspiration for yourself if you struggle to cycle in winter. Take is as an example that adventures wait for you on your doorstep, sometimes there is no need to travel far. I, for my part, have used it to remind myself to break out of my own comfort zone very soon. Because otherwise I wouldn’t have a story to tell. But life is about the stories you tell, and how you tell them. No matter how many times.

Snowed in bike

28 November 2010

In just one day some parts of Scotland experience more than 25 cm of snow. Some villages are cut off due to the heavy snowfall, as Ian Ezzi and Markus Stitz try to cycle from Dunblane to Crianlarich. They never get further then Callander, but manage to attract all the attention in a local pub in Dunblane on their return.

Events get worse. In the next two weeks schools are shut, trains are cancelled; motorists are stuck on the M9 for more than nine hours. The army is called helping clearing the streets of Edinburgh. Scotland’s economy loses more than £50 million a day; the transport minister loses control of the situation and is forced to resign. It is the most severe start of winter in Scotland since more than 30 years.

At the same in Germany trucks are being banned from the Autobahn, while just a few flights leave the airports. Trains are stuck, the main roads become impassable. It is one of the coldest Decembers since records began.

In the center of Edinburgh Markus holds a Haggis in the lens of Greg Macvean, photographer of the Edinburgh Evening News. Shortly afterwards he puts the Haggis back in the fridge and enjoys the warm temperature there, it feels like summer. He has 4 days left. Tomorrow his face will be on page three of the Evening News and he will make sure he will visit a barber before the next photo shoot.

He grabs a piece of paper, and writes the following words on it before he switches of the light: Ride if you can. Walk if you need to. Crawl if you must. But never give up. NEVER!

Exactly 14 days later he switches the lights off again. Down in the corridor the ice and snow melts off his bike after 5 days of permanent frost, while leaving big puddles on the recently polished wooden floor of the hostel. He is the only guest since days. He is happy to recognise the shopping carts again, which were painted on hubs, handle bars and seat post in California. He tries the shower for a last time, which still has no hot water. It is the shortest day of the year, and 135km are sitting in his bones, all on one gear. The temperature never climbed over zero in the last seven days, and there was only one mean of transport that was reliable: the bike.

24 December 2010

Markus fiddles his iPod out of his pockets for the last time, scratches the ice off and looks for Amy MacDonald’s ‘Road to Home’. He enjoys the last 2 minutes of his ride while he happily slips controlled around a corner on which he accidentally shortened his moped 10 years ago by about 5cm. 2 hours away thousands of passengers are stuck in London Heathrow. It’s the first White Christmas since a long long time. The sun has been hiding away from the icy cold for about a week now.

For the last time Markus imagines his shadow, opens the door to the estate of his parents and smiles. It’s Christmas!

Check out more pictures from the trip on Flickr here