July 15, 2024

Stream Health Care

It Looks Good On You

24 Hours of Bobsled Raising Money for Global Health

6 min read
I’m twelve hours into a twenty four hour ride, and it’s 2am. I’m somewhere north of 40 laps down Bobsled and I cannot shake this one absurd thought: “Maybe it would be cooler to use the money we’ve raised to turn the iconic wooden berm feature into a giant glowing piano like in the movie ‘Big’? But what tune would it play as you ride over the keys?? Hmmm…”

Sometimes your brain goes to interesting places in moments of deep fatigue.

My name is Steve Petrar and I’m a volunteer with Team Broken Earth (TBE) Canada, and I’m also a mountain biker. At 2pm on June 20th I began riding the 2.3km loop of the trail “Bobsled” on Mt Fromme in North Vancouver BC. This loop has 102m of climbing and subsequent descending. My plan was to ride this loop as many times as I could in a 24hr period, as a fundraiser for TBE. I would invite people to pledge an amount per lap ridden, and then I would do the work of riding all day and night to both raise some money, as well as to inspire and give people a laugh. What could go wrong?

I’ve done big rides before, but this one was a bit different. Bobsled is an “easy” trail, as far as the North Shore goes. But it still demands concentration and focus to get down safely. I know experienced riders who have crashed and been seriously hurt on Bobsled. The risk is always there. The last thing I wanted was for this to end like that, and fatigue and darkness can certainly amplify that risk.

I believe TBE’s medical director Dr Jim Kim was the most worried – although he was also stoked on the idea. “Jim, I know what I’m doing. I won’t crash! I’m gonna do a lot of laps, but I’ll be safe!” You can imagine my chagrin as I’m going over the bars on LAP ONE! “Crashing on Bobsled? What the hell? How is this possible!?”

I maintain this one was NOT my fault, as the crash was caused by a near collision with a rider unfamiliar with the trail, who was climbing up. I nearly flattened him coming around one of the blind berms at speed. “Whoa, buddy! Bobsled is a descending only trail! You can’t climb this one” If you’re out there, dude on the Santa Cruz, I apologize if I was unfriendly. I was 10 minutes into this thing, and a crash was not in my plan! Fortunately nobody was hurt, and the bike was undamaged. Onwards!

I had so many supporters! Too many to list here, but if you’re reading this: Know that I saw you! Perhaps the most unexpected was when a childhood hero, Wade Simmons, turned up at midnight and rode a lap with me. Wade had had a busy day, and this was when he was available, so he came. So rad. “Wade, you don’t have any lights, man! How are you gonna ride this? It’s pitch black in the trees!” “You lead, I’ll follow your wheel! It’s all good, Steve!” Okay… When you’re a hall-of-fame mountain biker like Wade, I assume you know what you’re doing. And he did.

I’m a health care provider, and have volunteered my time on several occasions in Guatemala providing surgical care. TBE is a group of nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists (that’s me!), and logistics personnel who travel to under-resourced areas and perform surgeries for people who need them, but who face barriers (usually financial) to accessing care in their local healthcare systems. Our upcoming mission will again be in Guatemala, and this year we will be including urology surgery for the first time. Urology surgery is expensive to provide, as it requires a lot of extra supplies and equipment, which ultimately costs money. Hence the “Ride for Flow” fundraiser.

The majority of our patients will be elderly men with trouble urinating due to prostate enlargement and/or prostate cancer. The operations they require are not especially complex. But they can be absolutely life changing. Many of these men have lived for YEARS with permanent catheters and bags strapped to their legs to drain urine. They get chronic infections, and it is generally unpleasant, for obvious reasons. We can fix that, and the money raised will be directed towards this aspect of our mission. I invited people to sponsor me riding an iconic North Shore flow trail, in order to reestablish a semblance of normal “flow” for some people elsewhere who I believe really need it.

bigquotes 13 hours in and 50 laps in the books. Gonna be pricey for a few ppl!3am text to TBE Team Lead Kristi

Global Health is ethically complex, and I have grappled with this myself. Ultimately missions and groups like ours do not correct the systemic problems underlying why Guatemala has trouble providing good healthcare to all its citizens. I have come to realize these are “big picture” issues such as wealth inequality, poverty, the fallout of colonialism, corruption, racism…. I wish these weren’t so, but ultimately I alone cannot fix them.

What I can do is use my time and skills to better the lives of even a few dozen people during our mission. Perhaps that improves their quality of life, and they are able to return to work or be less of a burden for their immediate family? Perhaps they simply have less pain and illness? Regardless, it’s not a magic bullet to fix the issues of poverty in the Global South, but it’s what I can do right here, right now.

The shortest night

Now it’s coming up on the final few hours of my ride. I’m fatigued, but I’m also feeling peaceful, and proud of what I’ve done. And I’m amazed at the energy and sheer stoke of the community surrounding me. Keara and Trina have brought me coffee and homemade bread for breakfast, Shannon has been by with a plethora of snacks and cold Pepsi, Sep has come to trail-run a few laps with me again in the final hour, Mackenzie has been up Fromme half a dozen times making sure that there is somebody there to smile as I go by the parking lot for the 80th time, the 82nd time, the 85th…..

It was at about noon, with 2 hours remaining, that I did some mental math. I concluded that an “Everest” (climbing 8,845m in a single ride) was possible – but just barely. It was going to require two hours of very spicy laps to get it. No time for breaks or rests. Sometimes, these arbitrary goals can completely take over your consciousness. This was one of those times.. At 1:51pm I reached the top of Bobsled on what would be my final lap – #87 – and my Wahoo showed 8,849m climbed. That’s it! That’s the Everest! All I had left was to get down one more time, and “Ride for Flow” was done.

The “Everest” ride is complete

When I popped out the exit at 1:54pm, my partner Mackenzie was waiting for me, as were Sep and Anne-Marie. “Are you gonna go for 10,000m?” I asked myself. Nah, we’re done here. Almost exactly 24 hours riding – and almost exactly the height of Everest climbed – with over $10,000 pledged to our organization.

That seems like exactly the right time to call it. I challenge anybody to come after my Strava “Local Legend” on Bobsled. Kudos to you, if you take it!

I am eternally grateful for all the donors that ponied up and made this a successful fundraiser, and I am humbled by the enthusiasm of folks to come out and participate. As a wrap, I made a short video that I hope captures some of the energy of this day – from my perspective.

Ride for Flow!


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