On December 19th as we wrapped up our holiday bike giveaway we were contacted by a local radio station out of Telluride, CO. They asked us to come in and do an interview about our bike giveaway and the overall mission of the Axel Project. You can listen to our interview by clicking below:
Three years ago Jen and I were in ripping shape. A race called the Breck Epic was in its second year and we were training for it. The Breck Epic is a six day Mountain Bike Stage race held in Breckenridge Colorado. Unlike other stage races where you go point to point everyday and finish in a new place, the Epic is based solely out of Breckenridge and finishes back in town at the end of each stage. Each day begins at over 9K feet and you just go up from there. Stages range in distance from 30-40+ miles and elevations go over 12K feet. Our training had us putting in a ton of miles, lots of hill intervals and some races around Colorado. Everything was on track for a strong performance at the 2010 Breck Epic. Then Jen started to feel a bit ‘off’. A quick trip to the drug store for a pregnancy test confirmed it, Jen was pregnant with little Axel. We went from supercharged race training to full brakes in a day! Of course that race never happened for us but Jen still stayed on the bike throughout her whole pregnancy and we had a lot of fun regardless.
Fast forward to 2013, I received an e-mail from Mike the director of Breck Epic. He had heard about Axel’s death and said he wanted to reach out and see if he could help the Axel Project in any way and also he had two free entries in the race for Jen and I if we felt up for it. This race is no mild undertaking but after some thought we decided to go for it. Axel came into our lives during the Breck Epic so let’s celebrate him by finishing what we started three years ago! We certainly have no illusions of winning this thing but we feel fairly confident that we can finish each day respectably. The race starts August 11th and we are Team Axelove, wish us luck!
As an adventure seeker, type A, and travel addict I’m usually longing for the next thing. Always looking ahead for the big moments. I believe life is to be embraced and fully lived.
But much of life, even for adventure seekers, is filled with ordinary moments.
Pushing your child on the swing, sitting in the grass for hours while your child navigates every inch on his Strider bike, cuddling in bed, hide and seek, or eating together. I guarantee you those ‘everyday’ moments are meant to be lived intentionally. They are just as important.
The best moments are sometimes the moments that are happening right now.
I still re-live the last morning of Axel’s life. It was perfectly normal…
Jumping in bed with me and pretending to sleep. Insisting he sit on my lap the entire breakfast. Interpreting toddler speak when he says “me cuckoo” and points in the air. After his frustration escalates I realize he has spotted my stash of chocolate chip cookies on top of the fridge and he wants a COOKIE. I give him one at 9am. Minutes later he is back in excitement saying “I wacky.” It’s only after I see Randy waxing his surfboard I realize he wants WAX to help.
Ordinary moments can be priceless and beautiful.
Sitting on the beach with Axel was always so much fun, he loved to play with other kids. We found a great spot on the on the west end of the beach in Sayulita where we always hung out. This is where most of the locals ‘beached’ their fishing boats when not in use and the women sold food. We’d head down there around 10AM with a cooler, umbrella, towels and surfboards then settle in for the day. One lady had a little boy Axel’s age and the first day he came over Axel gave him one of his trucks and they happily played in the sand together. As the weeks went on the little boy would visit us anytime he saw us. His mother would work about 50 feet away serving fish while he hung out with us playing trucks. Axel had such a giving spirit and you could see the joy in the little boys face when he came over and Axel handed him a toy.
That is part of the inspiration for the Axel Project, the joy of giving. So far we’ve given away close to a dozen Striders – it’s a great feeling to give a bike to a child, watch their face light up, and see them cruise around gaining confidence and independence with each push of their feet. We’ve also sold a lot of Striders, t-Shirts and stickers – those sales along with your generous donations are what allow us to donate bikes to organizations like the Blaine County Recreation District in Haily, ID. They have a great youth program there and I have no doubt the five Striders we donated to them are going to see a lot of miles! I know when we are able to make a donation like this, Axel is up there smiling down cheering us on.
Thanks to all of you for helping us continue the mission of Axel Project.
My Wife Jen, AKA Velomom had a great analogy the other day on her Blog.
“When I sit down to meditate I picture my mind like a snow globe that has just been shaken, the snow is everywhere and nothing is settled. During meditation I try to get that snow (my thoughts) to settle.”
I can really relate to that. During the day my thoughts are everywhere and my brain runs in overdrive just bouncing from one frivolous thing to the next. It’s not until I get on my bike that the snow settles to the bottom and I have time to let thoughts of Axel in. Actually Axel is on my mind every waking moment but it’s amazing how disconnected I am from those thoughts as they just blend in with all the other chaos. On the bike I really have room for only two thoughts, first keeping the bike upright and second whatever is most important to me. Of course that is Axel
It seems incredible that he has been gone now for almost 4 months. On one hand it feels like a lifetime and on the other I can still feel him climbing up my back to try and tackle me on the couch. Lately though the thoughts have not all been great. On my rides I get vivid images of him laying dead in the hospital bed, it really hurts and I try my best to move past it but it doesn’t happen it’s just burned into my memory. I think(hope) it’s all just part of the process. As time passes I would expect the hard memories will be replaced by more of the good ones.
Either way, I will continue to get on my bike and let the snow settle. I welcome any time I can spend focused on Axel and the bike seems to be my gateway to him.
Have you ever had that feeling of just cruising along effortlessly on your bike? It’s a pretty amazing feeling, like the chain has been removed and you’re just spinning your legs to keep them moving. You look down at the computer and it’s showing 30MPH on the flats and can’t help but smile.
I had a day like that today but it was going up the Dallas Divide. It’s about a 6 mile ride from town to the base of the main climb then about 3 miles up the hill. I wasn’t expecting much out of the ride, I’m not in the greatest shape right now and I’d just raced in the 12hrs of Mesa Verde this weekend. However heading right out of town things felt great, I had a tailwind and the pedals we ticking over pretty easy. At the top of town I flicked it to the big ring and I was cruising, nothing but the hum of the tires and the breeze blowing in my face. As I neared the base of the main climb I thought to myself “better dial it back a bit, the climb is about to start”.
Climbing a long hill or mountain is sort of like meditation, you focus on your breathing, what’s 20 or so feet in front of you and try to ignore the burn. As I hit the base of the climb my legs were still ticking over at a good rate, I felt pretty darn good! Shortly after that realization, as I was deep in my zone little Axel came to mind. Was he sitting right here with me pushing me up this climb? Is this my sign that he is still here?
At this point I feel it’s right to bring up that I’m not a religious or even a spiritual person. I’ve always felt (in my adult life) that death is death and that person is gone. Axel’s death has really caused me to struggle with this belief that I’ve held for a long time.
As I reached the half way point of the climb emotion over came me, it’s pretty hard to cry and pedal a bike up hill!
Climbing at 7500ft + crying = hyperventilation
I backed it off a bit to collect myself then settled right back into the rhythm really feeling my little partner. I reached the top of the climb feeling invigorated, like I had this big release of pent up emotion. I zipped up my vest and turned around looking forward to the long descent back to town.
I’ll never be the type to go to church, it just never has and never will be me. I’m not even certain if Axel is up there reaching down to connect with me. But when I’m on my bike in those long grinding climbs, when nothing else is on my mind, that’s when I feel I can open my heart, my mind and ‘feel’ him.
Thanks for the ride today buddy!