We took the opportunity to sit down with one of Branch Out's over-and-above-go-getters, Martin Flanagan, to learn more about why he rides in the Branch Out Bike Tour.
Welcome Martin! For those Branchies who don't know you, please introduce yourself.
Hi team, this will be my sixth year riding with Branch Out. I live in Calgary, and previously called Panorama, BC home. I like riding bikes, drinking wine and meeting nice people. I work for Canada Rail Vacations so you’ll like know me as the guy wearing the CanadaRail.ca cycling jersey when I ride. If you’ve done the Branch Out ride in Panorama before, my wife Heather is the one pouring champagne at the finish line at the picnic tables.
How did you first get connected with the Branch Out Foundation?
I was living in Panorama, BC when I first heard of Branch Out. There was a sign on the side of the road saying there was a Bike Tour coming up in a month. I saw it was for a good cause and signed up. I had previously ridden in a cancer ride and this was my second riding event ever. I’ve since ridden in many other rides for good causes. I was inspired after meeting Crystal Phillips and hearing her story and I’ve been a Branchie ever since!
Tell us about your plans for Saturday, June 13, 2020. What are you and your teammate planning to accomplish?
As part of the 2020 Climbduro challenge, a few weeks ago, Denny Morrison and I decided to do all of the 8 available challenges in a day. We both rode from home and did all 8 of them on a 225 km ride with 2900 metres in elevation. It was during that ride we decided we should do the Highwood Pass one once the snow was gone. Our plan on June 13 is to ride from our homes, out to Kananaskis, do the North Approach Climbduro first, then go back down the other side and do the South Approach Climbduro (this one still needs a sponsor – do we have any sponsors in the house?). Then we’ll ride back to Kananaskis and on to Calgary. We’re guessing this will be about a 320 km total day. We’ve got different people joining us for parts/ all of the ride. If anyone wants to join, we’ve posted approximate meeting times on our fundraising page.
What does cycling mean to you?
Cycling reminds me of the freedom we had as kids. We didn’t have cable TV, so we’d jump on our bikes and explore Calgary. We knew we had to be home before the street lights went on at night. That freedom to me is still old school riding. I don’t ride with a Garmin or any devices to measure speed, power, heart or anything, I just ride for the fun of it (with a Strava upload from my phone afterwards). I’ve got a collection of road, mountain, fat and gravel bikes to ride year-round.
Why clock so many KM's?
Four years ago, my buddy Cam was sick. I tried riding from Panorama to Banff (170 km) to meet up with him. I wasn’t strong enough to make the second pass and ended up hitchhiking. He passed away a month later so I wanted to show myself that I could do it and rode Panorama to Calgary (300 km) after his funeral. After realizing I could do it, I kept pushing myself more. I have since done that ride in under 10 hours and do a lot of plus 200 km days per year. For 2020, my goal is to ride 10,000 km outdoors.
Why do you always set the bar so high?
I’ll set the bar high when it’s for a good cause. Two years ago for Branch Out, I tricked my donors into donating per kilometre. It was advertised as a 100 km ride, but I didn’t tell them my plans. That day I started early, did six laps of the lake and finished in Panorama at 10:00 pm after a 400 km day. I raised over $1000 that year!
If you had one piece of advice about perseverance... what would that be?
Keep a positive mental game at all times. You can be well trained physically, but all of it is gone if you don’t have the mental strength. I’ve had times where I’m having a pity party in my head, but you have to get rid of that and have a good celebration going on up there.
Anything else you'd like to add or share?
I’m really pumped to be able to promote Branch Out through physical effort. Our company, Canada Rail Vacations, has always supported Branch Out financially. Last year we donated a trip that went for over $6000 at the live auction. Right now, as the travel industry is going through a tough time, I was feeling bad about not being able to contribute financially, so I devised a way to contribute physically and further support the great cause.