Ian Llambi certainly is a long way from home from his life on the Gold Coast as a stuntman! Now based in Toronto Canada after following the love of his life, after seeing some friends do a similar trail, Ian decided to spend his newly acquired (and COVID-19 induced) free time into something meaningful - cycling across Canada for mental health awareness in support of the LIVIN charity. And with only two weeks experience of cycling, that's exactly what he is doing and he managed on one of his rest stops to touch base with us and answer a few questions.
Tell us a bit about yourself . . . .
I'm 36 years old and grew up on the Gold Coast. After leaving school I became a Fitter Machinist, eventually having a small workshop by myself for about 6 years, which I sold to train and work as a stunt performer for film and TV in which I got some work but nothing consistent enough to make a career out of.
I then went back to some normal trade work, eventually working as a jeweller which had always been a dream of mine.
I met a Canadian girl that was studying on the Gold Coast, fell in love and followed her back to Toronto about one year ago. I'd done two ski seasons in my younger years so was excited to get back to Canada!
How long have you been cycling and why do you enjoy it so much?
I'm usually fairly fit, but I bought my bike about two weeks before my adventure and did as many K's as I could to learn to ride the road bike and get some fitness!
For me cycling has always had an appeal for touring as a different way to see way to see a country side.
As a pastime or hobby, I'd probably prefer to go surfing or something like that.
Tell us about your incredible initiative Cycle across Canada . . how did you come up with the concept and what was the main reason behind you doing it?
Two of my best friends did a similar ride about two years ago, raising money for a prostate cancer charity, with about as little experience as me with cycling. They made it 2/3 the way across Canada before work commitments got in the way, which planted the seed for me.
As COVID-19 happened and most of us have a lot of time on their hands, I found that I had enough time off that I probably wouldn't usually get and as borders and stores started to open I decided to commit to it with very little time to change my mind.
A big reason for the adventure was that I wasn't enjoying big city life in Toronto and wasn't ready to get back to everyday life and work there, so basically running away to take advantage of this time we have and work on my own mental health as well as see the great countryside.
LIVIN was always a charity that resonated with me, because of the extreme sport (although I don't like that term) and tough guy appeal that shows we all still battle and struggle sometimes.
What was the preparation and/or training involved leading up to the start of the big ride?
As I mentioned, I literally bought my bike the day that I booked my flight to Vancouver to start the trip two weeks later. I think I rode about 250ks in that 2 weeks and then went all in! I also watched a lot of YouTube vids about cycling and touring.
You have been cycling for a few weeks now, what has been -
Some of the highlights:
I've made it through British Columbia and into Alberta now, which is mostly mountain ranges so the scenery has been stunning with snow capped peaks and beautiful streams. The people that I'm meeting along the way have been incredible and more supportive/encouraging than Id expected considering current world we are in. As with most travels the people are a huge part of the experience!
Some of the challenges:
As a total rookie, my legs struggled up some of the mountain passes and it rained for the first 5 days of the trip, which was like being thrown in the deep end. There was a day that I took a wrong turn and had to ride a 10+hour day for 130ks in the rain, cold and fog over the most brutal mountain I could imagine, with literally nowhere to stop and set up my tent if I gave up for the day. Funnily that day was when I learnt the most about myself and how much more we can get out of ourselves than we know is possible.
Logistically it has been easier than I expected to be mid-COVID, with people being very kind and welcoming as long as I show respect and follow some precautions.
I use a website called warmshowers.org which is like couch surfing for cyclists and they have been great saving me from having to camp in "discreet" places.
You are proudly representing the LIVIN logo on your bike throughout your journey, have you had any conversations with locals across your trip so far about the initiative?
I don't want to sound more noble than I am, the ride is mostly for myself and my own enjoyment and mental improvement, with the idea to raise money for LIVIN as a very last minute addition. If I can raise some money then that's a bonus!
Quite a few people notice my little signs and start conversations about me and the cause, and how important it is to keep removing the stigma from speaking about mental health.
On the nightmare day where I took the wrong turn, I stopped at a rest stop for some food, to warm up and to deal with the voices in my head telling me to give up, when a guy came up to me and gave me $20 for what I was doing and how incredible I am. Even though my body was hating me, that gesture and reminder gave me the boost I needed to push through the rest of that day.
I'm expecting a few more experiences like that over the coming 6000+ks...
How important do you feel keeping physically healthy is with keeping mentally healthy?
Physical health is a huge part of keeping your mind healthy. Not only for all of the chemical balances, but not many things compare to buzz of something like a "runners high" and feeling of accomplishment you get. It can also for the most part be free, not many things in life can give you a great feeling without spending a cent.
What advice would you give someone who may be struggling with their mental health?
As it says in your hashtag, IT AINT WEAK TO SPEAK! I found talking is one of the best things you can do, giving the problems your struggling with a voice and also creating some accountability to it that then makes you deal with them.
One thing I'm finding with my rides each day is that when my body is struggling I'll look for a marker up ahead and aim to reach that. When I get to that mark, I'll find a new marker to aim for. Bit by bit you knock of those little milestones and before you know it you've made some real progress you can be proud of. You can always break down a challenge or a task into and infinite amount of steps, and the smaller the steps are the easier it is to get the ball rolling.
I also remind myself that anxiety or depression is just like having a bad back. Once you've hurt your back, sometimes you'll just wake up and your back hurts for no particular reason. You then have to take it easy on your back and do some rehab until it starts to feel good again, keeping in mind that it could flare up again. Try to have that approach with your mental health!
To support Ian's awesome initiative, click here to check out his Everyday Page