Bullfrog Founders Club
Endurance. Perseverance. Stamina. These are the essential attributes of the endurance athlete. For Sam Babe, they are also innate qualities that add up to one thing: survival.
Babe, a former runner who has won Ontario championships and all-Canadian honours, is an accomplished distance cyclist. He is also a leukemia survivor, having fought through three years of treatment to rebound as a national champion duathlete (run-bike-run) in 2003. So he knows a thing or two about battling adversity.
Today, when Babe cycles in to the office—he’s a lawyer at a Toronto law firm—he’s dreaming of the open road.
Or perhaps he’s having flashbacks. That’s because on June 12, 2007, Babe set out on a cycling journey across America. And true to his nature, this was no leisurely sightseeing trip. This was Race Across America (RAAM), a non-stop coast-to-coast ultra marathon and one of the world’s toughest endurance tests. RAAM stretches across the United States from Oceanside, California, to Atlantic City, New Jersey, dragging riders through some of this continent’s most rugged terrain. Teamed with friend Christopher Bolton (a producer/actor/director on the television series Rent-a-Goalie), the duo would relay their way across 5,000 kilometres of mountain, desert and flatlands, riding day and night and trading off in 2-hour shifts for over 8 days. Why would someone put himself through this kind of ordeal? We asked Sam.
Why did you take on this challenge?
When Christopher asked me to do it with him, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t afford to pass up. I knew it would be huge and life altering. Also, there couldn’t have been a better cause for me to support; in addition to being a former volunteer both at Sick Kids and at a camp for children with cancer closely tied to the hospital, I owe my own survival of leukemia to treatment developed at Sick Kids.
What was the hardest part of the trip?
The physical challenge went better than I had expected. I actually got significantly stronger and more confident as the race went on. The bigger challenge was the logistics and leadership needed to keep the team running smoothly.
What kept you going?
It was an amazing experience, so there was no reason not to keep going. But, even in the harder parts, I would just break it down into smaller practical challenges that needed to be solved one at a time. The thought of actually quitting is just not something that enters my mind in races… especially not if it would leave me and a team of 12 stranded in the desert.
You must have witnessed some stunning views along the way. What is the most memorable? Were you able to enjoy the scenery?
I had never seen the desert or the Rockies before, and that was amazing, but my favourite was Monument Valley on the Arizona Utah border. I always tried to enjoy what was around me, and I also had an awareness of how much I was missing as I pedaled in the darkness of night.
Did this experience renew your appreciation for the environment?
I was really struck by the intensity of development, especially in California and the Eastern seaboard. And, seeing the desert through California, Arizona and Colorado made very real for me the pressure on water supplies in those areas.
Why did you decide to switch your home to green electricity with Bullfrog Power?
I recognize that, while it takes groups to create political or market demand for change, groups are ultimately just collections of individuals who make personal choice. Power to create change thus ultimately rests with the individual.
Do you draw any parallels between endurance racing and the fight against climate change?
Certainly the training for RAAM forced me to reduce my personal carbon footprint, as I commuted to work on my bike nearly every day for six months through the winter and spring, regardless of the conditions. On a higher level, I believe that anything that inspires people to push their limits and/or expands their notion of possibility, ultimately empowers people to make change in their lives, communities and environment. If that inspiration comes from taking part in a green activity like biking or running out in the natural environment, then all the better.
How much money were you able to raise for Sick Kids? How can people still donate?
We’ve raised approximately $28,000 to date and people can still donate by following the link from our website (www.skraam.com) to the secure Sick Kids donation page.
What’s the next challenge for you?
I’m contemplating joining a cross-Canada charity ride next summer. It will be longer, but should be more relaxed.