I grew up in a small town in Ontario, Canada, where little changes year after year. I played sports like baseball, volleyball, and basketball. I spent my free time roaming around in the fields that sprawled out beyond my backyard and the small plot of trees in the back corner of those fields. My family went car camping in the summers and I loved exploring these new places, being out in Nature, and playing with the campfire. For the most part, I was given quite a bit of freedom to explore and play however I wanted.
I was in high school when I first heard about a sport called "adventure racing". There was a race called “Eco Challenge” that had mixed four-person teams racing in the most remote places in the world for more than a week (non-stop!); hiking, mountain biking, and paddling to a series of checkpoints, using only a map and compass. It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen, and it instantly pulled at something inside of me. I was determined that I would do a race like that one day! I showed the Eco Challenge website to a few friends of mine and we agreed that we’d do the race together... That is, until we saw the $10,000 USD entry fee and the massive list of certifications and experience that was needed in order to race. Just like that, the idea was gone. It seemed like an insurmountable obstacle, given that I’d never mountain biked or paddled, never used a map and compass, and never been in a truly remote wilderness area before. I reluctantly let the idea of adventure racing slide away and went on to play a number of different sports throughout my high school career.
Over eight years after my first encounter with adventure racing, I moved to Ottawa, Ontario to pursue a Master’s degree in Sport Psychology. I began dating an athletic girl and somewhere in our casual conversation the sport of adventure racing came up. As it turned out, she had also heard of adventure racing and always wanted to try it too. We decided to investigate the possibilities and discovered that the sport had evolved to include shorter, more accessible races, including some in our region. This led to us to connect with the friend of a friend who had previously done a race and knew how to navigate. Soon the three of us were signed up for our first race – a winter race!!!
The morning of our first race was brutal and intimidating. It was -25C, there was deep snow, and we were all very inexperienced. We had up to 8 hours to finish the race and none of us could imagine how we were going to survive for that long outside in these frigid temperatures, nonetheless do portions of it on a bike! But we did our best to get prepared and off we went. It was as brutal as I thought it was going to be. My hands and feet were frozen, my nose was constantly running, and I was dead tired less than an hour into the race. The temperatures were so cold that sometimes our bikes would not even work properly, forcing us to push them instead of being able to ride them. At about the 2-hour mark in the race, I had what would be one of the most confusing yet powerful experiences I’d ever had. I was completely exhausted... and smiling ear to ear. I didn’t feel good physically and I was struggling mentally to stay focused, but it still felt "good" to be there. It felt good to be doing the race even though I was struggling. I remember at that moment saying out loud “I’m completely hooked!”. And I never looked back.
For the past 15+ years since that first race, I’ve been focused on becoming the best adventure racer I can be. But I’ve also been designing a lifestyle for myself that allows me the freedom to do the things that I'm passionate about. When I completed my Ph.D. in Education, I took a job with the federal government. But I soon realized that this was not a good fit for me, so I left my job to look for something different. While I was unemployed, I wanted to visit my family who lived an 8+ hour drive away – I had plenty of time but not a lot of money, so I decided to bike the 1,000 km to get there, which took me 5 days. It was an amazing adventure that allowed me to train, be outdoors, camp, visit with friends and relatives along the way, meet a few new people, and ultimately spend time with my family.
When I finally started working again, I chose a job that had flexibility in terms of working from home a couple days a week and working on a flexible daily schedule. This allowed me to work and train more efficiently by breaking up my work day with a 1-2 hour training session in the middle. I also negotiated for the ability to take an extra week or two of unpaid time off , in addition to my regular vacation time, in order to compete in two or three expedition length races each year. Fighting for that flexibility allowed me the opportunity to race in many amazing places all over the world and participate in 5 Adventure Racing World Championships.
In 2016, my life was suddenly flooded with major changes. My longtime girlfriend/training partner/team mate and I decided to move to British Columbia in order to live, train, and play in the mountains. However our relationship abruptly ended shortly before I moved there to meet up with her. Nevertheless, I decided that I would still move out West, as it’s what I’d wanted to do for many years. Soon after arriving in B.C., I had a mountain bike crash and injured my knee quite seriously. I suddenly found myself without a partner, without any friends nearby, without a place to live, without a job, and without the ability to train or race. While these certainly were some very difficult moments, the circumstances also allowed me the freedom to completely redesign my life in a way that I would like.
As I recovered physically, I rediscovered how much I like simple activities, like hiking, camping, and leisurely paddles on a calm lake, not just always training hard and racing. As I recovered emotionally, I remembered what kind of people that I like to surround myself with and sought them out among old and new friends. That led me to unexpectedly meet an amazing woman named Cara that has been a true partner in every sense of the word since the day we met. As I readjusted financially, I realized that I prefer living with less “stuff” and that I feel better when I consume and waste less. And as I rebuilt my career, I chose a remote (online) job that allows me the freedom to live a life that I like in exchange for less pay.
I always knew that I wasn’t cut out for a 9 to 5 office job, but it’s taken me a long time to find a way to blend the type of work I like to do with the type of lifestyle I want to have. But now that I’ve found something that works for me, I can say that it was definitely worth the all the time, effort, and hardship. I feel good about my job because I know that I can be effective when it’s time to do work for it. And I feel good about the rest of my life because I get to live it fully throughout the day, not just during early mornings, evenings, weekends, and vacations. My weekdays are mine once again and I’m happy to do my job because I know it’s what allows me financially to have and do the things that are important to me. I don’t really long for the weekends anymore because the weekdays don’t really feel all that different from them now. That's because I know that no matter what day of the week it is, and no matter what time of day, I’m never more than a few hours away from being able to get outside to play.