Interview with Pierre Lavoie

September 23, 2013

Once the interview was over, I said to myself: “The greatest men are often the most humble.” – Cynthia Byrne, Editor-in-Chief

A man with a vision, who’s persuasive and persuaded of his cause, whose passion for cycling carries people of different generations along in his wake.

Many people are familiar with Pierre Lavoie’s story. He used to work in a factory. As a younger man, he was fairly sedentary and a smoker. That was until the day he met the love of his life and the mother of his children, an athletic woman from an active, non-smoking family. He developed a taste for sports and training, to the point that he even participated in several Ironman competitions around the world and was a three-time winner of the Hawaii Ironman competition. Ironman is an arduous physical and psychological challenge. It is one of the longest forms of the triathlon, combining 3.8 km of swimming, 180 km of cycling and a marathon (42.195 km).

Then, one of the hardest things a person can go through and one that forever leaves its mark happened to Pierre Lavoie and his wife. The couple lost two of their children to a hereditary genetic disease called lactic acidosis, the rates of which are higher than average in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region. To try to deal with his grief and prevent this sort of tragedy from happening again, he would cycle across Québec to raise money for medical research into orphan diseases.

Since he was going to cycle around Québec to raise money for research, Pierre Lavoie figured why not promote the benefits of physical activity at the same time. The idea would inspire him to work tirelessly with schools, municipalities and the Government of Québec to put in place health initiatives. “Bringing everyone together to change a whole society’s culture when it comes to healthy habits is a monumental task,” Pierre Lavoie says.

We all know the rest of the story. His passion for physical activity started spreading to young people and adults. Schools now run three activities developed by Pierre Lavoie: Aiguise ta matière grise, Get Up and Move and the Grand défi Pierre Lavoie au secondaire. The fifth edition of the Grand défi Pierre Lavoie took place in June, which involved cycling 1,000 km from Saguenay–Lac-St-Jean to Montréal in 60 hours. This year, a brand new competition was added to the Grand défi Pierre Lavoie, called La Boucle, a 135-km ride that gives cyclists a chance to join the 1,000 km pack.

Lobe Santé auditive et communication clinics are proud to sponsor the LOBE CYCL-ORL team for the great adventure that is the Grand défi Pierre Lavoie. In doing so it is also showing that it believes in the importance of adopting healthy habits. For more information, visit www.lobe.ca.

Here are some of the questions we asked Pierre Lavoie during our interview.

GRAND DÉFI PIERRE LAVOIE

Q: Where does the money raised by the Grand défi Pierre Lavoie go?
A: The money raised by participants goes to the Fondation Pierre Lavoie, which supports health initiatives in two ways. Part of the money raised goes to schools for healthy lifestyle projects and part is donated for research into hereditary orphan diseases.

Q: What’s involved in participating in the Grand défi Pierre Lavoie?
A: Doing the challenge is a lot more than riding a bike; you also have to get involved. Every team that enters the Grand défi must team up with a primary school by encouraging pupils to enter the Get Up and Move competition and act as mentors to young people when it comes to healthy habits. A portion of the donations collected by participants goes to the school they mentor for health-related projects, such as buying sports equipment.

Q: Did you know that a team of hearing health professionals took part in the Grand défi Pierre Lavoie?
A: Of course! The LOBE CYCL-ORL team. I am very proud of their participation and the donations to the École oraliste de Québec pour enfants malentendants ou sourds. I also know that this school distinguished itself this year by coming in first in the Get Up and Move challenge and third in the Aiguise ta matière grise challenge in the National Capital region. The school will be a force to contend with in the future, I’m sure of it.

Q: When you look back on the years of the Grand défi Pierre Lavoie, what impresses you most?
A: The number of participants, and the fact that it keeps increasing. I knew there was a need, but I didn’t know it was so great! We launched this program to send a message and to see who would get on board with us. The people who listened to and heard the message on the importance of healthy habits, well, they’re the ones we created this challenge for. The other thing that surprises me is the enthusiasm across Québec; it’s seeing the growing number of schools that take part in our programs when they aren’t required to do so. It’s great to have the support of the schools, because change happens largely through education.

YOUTH

Q: When young people meet you, what do they talk about?
A: They tell me that I’m an inspiration to them. They see me as a role model who does more than just talk. I talk a lot, but beyond the words, there’s plenty of action. You have to do more than just talk; you have to set an example. I’m active, I still take part in sports, I’m still competitive, and I know that these are what make me credible when I talk. Young people say that I inspire them and that’s great. I tell them they’re the future of Québec and that by adopting healthy habits, they’ll build the Québec of tomorrow.

Q: Is going to school when you suffer from hearing loss a challenge comparable to the Grand défi Pierre Lavoie?
A: Yes, because it takes a lot of effort. These young people are role models for society. They have every reason to be proud. I encourage them to keep striving; they will be rewarded.

HEARING

Q: Do you suffer from any hearing loss?
A: My wife says I do! I will have problems eventually because I use my iPod a lot. I listen to music while running and cycling. I think my hearing has suffered because I use my iPod too much! I have done a hearing test in the past, and I was average. But I need to do another test soon. And today’s hearing aids, wow! The technology has really evolved. They’re so small, you can’t even see them. They’re nowhere near as big as they used to be.

Q: What message do you have for our readers who have hearing loss or a language disorder?
A: You can accomplish so much in spite of this little problem. I recently met a man who had only one leg and who did La Boucle (135 km) during the Grand défi. There’s a message for you when you see him on his bike! No matter what your problem or disability, you shouldn’t feel sorry for yourself. If you are determined, the sky is the limit.

Entrevue intégrale accordée par Pierre Lavoie

My discussion with the man with a big heart and an iron will was an eye opener. It was a lesson in hope and optimism. I would like to thank Pierre Lavoie for being kind enough to take the time to speak with Lobe Magazine.

I leave you with a maxim that says a lot about the work of a man who is passionate about cycling, a motivating force and a role model for young people: “The passions are the only orators that always persuade.” 

 

The author: