Cy­cling Celebrity

On writ­ing and moun­tain bike rid­ing

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Carolyn Pioro

Nov­el­ist Claire Humphrey on writ­ing and moun­tain bike rid­ing

The 2013 it­er­a­tion of Paul’s Dirty En­duro was per­haps the “dirt­i­est” in the race’s 21-year run, and Claire Humphrey was poised to have her worst race re­sult ever. The rain, which started fall­ing the night be­fore, turned the course at Ga­naraska For­est near Port Hope, Ont. – about an hour and half north­east of Toronto – into a muddy mess of dirt and sand.

Humphrey, a mem­ber of Toronto’s Lap­dogs Cy­cling Club, was com­pet­ing in the 30-km cat­e­gory of the an­nual long-dis­tance moun­tain bike race that dou­bles as a fundrais­ing ef­fort for men­tal-health aware­ness.

As the rain be­gan to get heav­ier in the early af­ter­noon, it be­came clear that most cy­clists would be post­ing dnfs.

“A lot of peo­ple were pulled off be­cause their brake pads were just ex­pired and every­body was tak­ing so long to fin­ish it – es­pe­cially the 100-km rid­ers, they were not go­ing to make the time cut off,” says Humphrey. “I was do­ing one of the shorter races, but every­body who was be­hind me was also pulled off.” In fact, of the 45 par­tic­i­pants in the 100-km clas­si­fi­ca­tion, only six com­pleted the race.

But Humphrey pre­vailed, and race mar­shals let her fin­ish the course be­cause of a bit­ter­sweet con­nec­tion to the event. The year prior, she was reg­is­tered to race but had to pull out un­ex­pect­edly be­cause her younger brother, Ted, passed away from can­cer the same day. A year later, she re­turned to com­pete in his me­mory.

“That was an in­cred­i­ble experience,” Humphrey re­flects. “I think I ended up be­ing the No. 1 fundraiser in the his­tory of the event be­cause it’s one of those sto­ries, and when you tell it, every­body un­der­stands and wants to be sup­port­ive.

“It was ab­so­lutely my worst per­for­mance in a ride and yet also the most memorable and the most pow­er­ful.”

These days, Humphrey finds less time for com­pet­i­tive races, but en­joys tak­ing her bike out to do some gravel rid­ing and hit the trails in and around the Greater Toronto Area: “I love Durham For­est; it’s re­ally beau­ti­ful. Al­bion Hills is re­ally con­ve­nient and the Hy­dro­cut trails in Water­loo. Those are prob­a­bly my favourites that are close by,” says the St. Catharines, Ont., na­tive.

She cur­rently rides a Trek Cali, pur­chased us­ing the book ad­vance she re­ceived for her first novel, 2016’s Spells of­blood­and­kin. Humphrey, who has worked as a buyer for In­digo for al­most 20 years, has also re­ceived ac­claim for many of her short works of spec­u­la­tive fic­tion, which have ap­peared in lit­er­ary mag­a­zines and an­tholo­gies.

Late last year, Spell­sof­blood and­kin won the an­nual Sun­burst Award for Adult Fic­tion in the fantasy genre. It ex­plores the i nter­wo­ven lives of con­tem­po­rary Toron­to­ni­ans with ele­ments of all things witchy and macabre, but grounded in re­lat­able themes such as fam­ily and per­sonal his­to­ries.

“Part of the im­pe­tus be­hind Spell­sof­blooda ndk in came from the experience of my brother ac­tu­ally – the one who passed away while I was at Paul’s Dirty En­duro,” she says. “He was a re­ally con­flicted per­son and had a pretty trou­bled re­la­tion­ship between what he wanted to be and what his abil­ity let him be; he suf­fered a lot from anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion,” she con­tin­ues. “There’s a dark un­der­pin­ning to that, but the other part was also I al­ways loved writ­ing fantasy in par­tic­u­lar be­cause there are some tropes that are just re­ally fun.”

Her next book – a work in progress – is a cy­clingth­emed story that fol­lows a woman who re­stores bone­shaker bi­cy­cles in an imag­ined 19th-cen­tury mi­lieu. Although, Humphrey doesn’t do tons of city cy­cling (she lives within walk­ing dis­tance of her of­fice), she finds that writ­ing and rid­ing are in­deed cosy bed­fel­lows. On a re­cent Lap­dogs train­ing camp to South Carolina, the 42-yearold spent time do­ing some pretty sweet trail rid­ing, as well as tack­ling writ­ing dead­lines from her cabin – among the old-growth trees of Pis­gah For­est – while the road­ies were off on longer rides.

She lets her writerly con­sid­er­a­tions im­press upon the land­scapes ex­pe­ri­enced from the sad­dle: “One of the things I love about moun­tain bik­ing, in par­tic­u­lar, is you get out on these trails that you can’t re­ally ac­cess any other way,” she says. “It’s a lit­tle bit meta­phoric, but that’s what I feel like I want to do as a writer. I want to give peo­ple per­spec­tives that they could only see through my eyes.”

“It was ab­so­lutely my worst per­for­mance in a ride and yet also the most memorable.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.