I was on my Bowflex strength training machine this morning. It’s in the basement. For half of the exercises I’m facing a fun red wall. For the other half, I’m looking up through the window well at the Southern Ontario sky.

As you can tell, the metal well is ribbed and resembles brick. I love the natural look. I was grunting through two sets of the leg press when my vision caught something unusual in the scene. About eighteen inches below the lip, there was an earthworm, basically vertical. As I pressed in, I’d occasionally glance at the newcomer. Between sets, it was clear: the worm had died there, and his body would stay stuck to the side until I scraped it off. I made a mental note to do that … tomorrow. Future exercise sessions wouldn’t be disturbed by a dry thing hanging onto the lovely bricked pattern.

Minutes later, it was the leg extension exercise. Another glance showed that my flexible friend was a bit higher up the well, and not quite so vertical. “It’s alive!”

Closer inspection showed a tiny head wobbling back and forth, and the whole being wriggling upwards. When it came to a rib, it would keep on going, pulling its body above empty space in its pursuit of freedom.

“Oh my God … I’m looking out the window at an elite athlete!”

As the workout continued, I saw “higher, higher…” No cage will constrain. My mouth kept dropping open.

When there were no more exercises, I pressed my nose close to the window. Mr. Worm was pretty much horizontal now, about four inches below the lip. It was approaching a tiny crevice in the plastic surrounding the window. As I watched, there was a full five inches of invertebrate being poking towards the hole. Then four. Three … two … one …



I’ve been worrying about my cross-Canada cycling trip. The same old refrain: “Too old. Not strong enough.” Happily though, in the past few weeks fear and excitement have switched places. I’m far more in touch with the thrill of it all.

Still … I’m scared.

A month ago, my doctor asked me to have an EGG done. The results showed some “irregularities”. So Julie prescribed a treadmill stress test. Sure, why not? Cover the bases.

I talked to a few friends about the test and their basic response was “No sweat. You just walk slowly.” Didn’t sound like much stress to me.

It happened yesterday. Shorts, t-shirt, running shoes, electrodes on my chest, leads running everywhere. I looked like a member of the Borg, a sinister race of machines/humans on the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” TV show.

And then the fun began. This was no walk in the park. Speed increased, as did the tilt of the machine . Sweat made its appearance, in large quantities. This was the MAXIMUM stress test. After 15 minutes or so, the deed was done. I was winded but doing fine. The doctor had engaged me in conversation about my bike ride the whole time and I had no problem keeping up my verbal end.

Now the results: “It took you 12 minutes to get your heart rate up to 90% of maximum. This is very unusual [i.e. good] for a 69-year-old. It’s more like what I’d expect to see with someone in their mid-twenties. You’ll be fine on the ride.”

Well …

I’m fine. I’m strong. I may even be amongst the fittest of the 20 Tour du Canada riders. I’m pleased and shocked.

The mythical “they” say that achieving any great result is 90% mental. And my mental just zoomed through the stratosphere.

What’s true? I am an athlete. Like all my fellow cyclists, there’ll be times this summer when I’m exhausted. But I can do this. I am doing this. See me fly!