My Trans Rockies Classis (TRC) partner could be a surprising choice to some of my close family and friends. Let me present - my brother, Kevin Fahlman. Kevin is a father of 3 (aged 4 and under), a business owner, an MBA graduate, a natural born athlete, unfathomably competitive, and something stubborn. He is also a carbon copy of our late father with his black and white opinions and cunning wit. Though we rarely see eye-to-eye, he is the work horse that can drag me through this race, and I will be his anchor.
It’s hard to sum up the complexities of a sibling relationship with one short post, but a few well developed veins carry the blood of our relationship. We are both competitive, edgy, opinionated, and have our father’s type A personality. Did I mention we are competitive?
As a little sister I always wanted to be like Kevin. I wore his clothes, used his basketball number, followed him around, and mimicked his communication nuances. But no matter how much I wanted to be like him, he drove me nuts. We fought endlessly and I would go berserk. I once threw a medallion at his head and split it wide open. I would scream at him, and demanded recompense for the injustice of his relentless teasing. And relentless it was, continual some would say. Our poor parents.
But it’s not because of our solid history of companionship that I want Kevin as my TRC partner. Nor is it because we have a great history of teamwork. I distinctly remember one time we were helping our dad renovate the house. We were in the attic tasked with drilling a hole to run some wires. We were of course arguing viciously and missed the target, drilling a hole right through the kitchen wall. Dad was thoroughly unimpressed with us though it was quite obviously Kevin’s fault, because unfortunately for him, he was left holding the drill :).
Kevin can be given at least partial credit for influencing my passion for athletics. He was always quite the athlete himself, and when we played head-to-head he never held back. I earned every point I scored against him. He encouraged me to be strong, to play strong. In all my years of competitive sports, only once did I ever cry on the court. I was having a bad game and I let my emotions get the better of me. Kevin was watching that game. He didn’t try to comfort me, or let me make excuses for my lousy play, but instead told me to toughen up and get control over myself. He was embarrassed for me. Hearing that, I was embarrassed for myself. I never broke down on the court again, or in any competition since. This started my interest in the link between mental tenacity and physical performance.
Since those years we have both grown, matured, moved around the country, completed Masters level educations, owned businesses, and started families. Yet here we are much the same, as competitive with each other as we are with ourselves. Taking a firm stance with often opposite opinions, and still quick point out when we are better at something than the other. We push ourselves, push each other, and if we fall, we would be the first to point out what the other did wrong while helping them up. But there is no question we will be there to help each other back to our feet, to stand behind each other through hard times, hard choices, and hard lessons. Because family comes first… always.
The last project Kevin and I worked on together was writing our dad’s eulogy, along with our older brother Michael. This was no easy undertaking in composition or delivery. We fought, laughed, cried, gave up, regrouped, and persevered. Though not the glue that binds our family together (that’s arguably Michael), dad was the head of our family, and his death left a massive hole in me and my two brothers. Ultimately, we stood strong together and delivered one final tribute to our father.
Kevin has raced the TRC before. Though I will undoubtedly be more prepared for the race, he is the self proclaimed ‘Team Captain.’ Anyone that knows us both would agree this is the right allocation of roles. Kevin is a natural leader. Not a motivator as I tend to be, but more a ‘I’m better than you at this and everything else so you might as well just follow me and do what I say’ sort of leader. And somehow he’s typically right. He’s always been this way. Naturally talented at most things he tries, particularly athletics, and often with way little effort than the average person. He’s fearless on a mountain bike, and stubborn. Though I may match his stubbornness, I am no match for his mental strength and experience, both of which I will certainly rely on to successfully complete the TRC. I will confidently and blindly follow his lead, with full trust in his direction (literally following his line).
The last time Kevin completed this race our parents traveled with him as support crew, pulling their 5th wheel trailer as he’ glamped’ his way through the stages. This time it will be my husband Will pulling the trailer with my mother as his co-pilot (to my disappointment Kevin doesn’t share my affinity for sleeping outdoors, and refuses to tent).
I am thrilled about completing this adventure with my family, as Kevin and I grind our way from Fernie to Panorama. Our dad was not a man of many words, but he had one consistent message of guidance. After every conversation he would remind us to ‘keep pushing the boulder up the hill.’ His message: the struggle is real, but you have to keep going. How else would you describe the 550km and 15,000 meters of elevation that is the TRC?
I can already picture my dad shaking his head as we argue our way through the seven stages, pushing our mental and physical limits, and our tolerance of each other through the ruggedly beautiful Canadian Rockies. In my opinion there is no better metaphor for my relationship with Kevin. How fitting to complete this race with him at my side (or more realistically slightly in-front of me).