What possessed me to even consider pedaling over 200
kilometres in the mountains, I cannot explain. We had recently found out about
an event that was occurring just north of Kelowna on the 25th. We
were going to attend the event no matter what—it looked like we would have to
drive to it, and then drive back for me to do my pedaling the next day. There
was a little part of me that didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to waste the
extra time or gas, and I really wanted to cycle into the event rather than drive.
I knew that my dream wasn’t really realistic, but sometimes you get those ideas
that don’t leave your head. I figured I would leave early, keep pedaling, and
see how far I got. Here’s how the day went.
We slept the night in Sunshine Valley which was located
at an elevation of about 800m. I started my day with a 15km downhill that took
me to about 500m above sea level. It was cold—probably about 5 degrees Celsius.
I knew it would get colder as I climbed, so I wore winter cycling pants, winter
gloves, and a winter cycling jacket with a spandex layer underneath. Then a
40km uphill brought me to Allison Pass at an elevation of over 1300m.
On the way up, cars would give me friendly honks of encouragement here and there. The
trucks were courteous too, leaving me lots of space. Part way up, I passed the
snow line. At the top of the climb, there were full banks of snow at the side
of the road. I wasn’t thinking of my final destination as I climbed—that would
be deadly. I just had my bike in the lowest gear, kept a high cadence (my rpm
of pedal strokes), and enjoyed the scenery. Next, there was a full hour
descent. For over an hour, I coasted at 35 to 80 kilometres per hour, on
average around 40-45km/hr. I don’t know how low I descended, but I probably
descended down to about 400 or 500 metres above sea level. There was another
big climb which took me back up to an altitude over 1200 metres. After that
pass, there was a descent which didn’t seem to last long enough. Then there
were hills. By hills, I mean three or four 200 to 300 metres climbs and
descents. Then it was downhill to Princeton for about 15km. After cycling those
mountains in that time, it was a huge relief to arrive in Princeton, where I
rewarded myself with a Booster Juice. After Princeton, I had a lovely ride for
30km, following a slightly downhill road along a river. Then the headwind hit
me. I didn’t really consider that the wind could be so strong in the mountains.
The valley just channelled the wind into a really annoying opposing force. I
started to become discouraged. I knew the road was flat compared to what I had
been riding, yet I seemed to be going nowhere. Eventually I made it to Keremos,
and that’s where I looked at the time, felt the energy I had, and realized that
Penticton was within striking distance—only 40km away. It was about quarter to
six at this point. The road from Keremos to Penticton is uphill for the first
60%. I had never seen this road before. I had no idea when I would suddenly
start descending, or if it would be uphill the whole way. I had been fighting a
bit of a mental battle before Keremos, but I really began thinking of the
finish and focusing on my fatigue instead of the scenery or my technique. I
really was struggling, and then about 10km before the turnoff to Highway 97,
the downhill started. My body and my mind made a truce at that point, and I
coasted into Penticton.
It went from chilly rain, to a foggy valley, to a road with
snow, to grassy forests on mountains with thinning and shorter trees, into a
farmland valley that followed a wide and calm river, to desert. Needless to
say, I had to change part-way through the day. It was amazing to slowly watch
and feel the transitioning landscapes in a single day.
I had a true mountain experience on all fronts. Close to
the beginning of my day, on my climb up to Allison Pass, I went around a
corner, and there was a rushing river which the road passed over. There was a
very small grassy patch a little bit lower than the road’s shoulder. Noshing in
this grassy patch was a black bear cub. I didn’t see momma. I kept biking—the closest
I got was probably about 10 metres. The cub noticed me, seemed curious, but
didn’t seem startled or intimidated by me. Strangely enough, I felt safe
because I was on the bike, although that may have been naïve. I sped up as much
as I calmly could without giving off a sense of fear, and passed the bear
(while climbing) at about 15-20km/hr. The big goof tracked me as I went across
his/her field of vision. He/she seemed to be smiling. I also saw multiple deer
cycling into Princeton, two geese parents with their gooslings marching on the
shoulder of Highway 3 near a river, and a rattle snake on the road between
Keremos and Penticton.
My only regret of the day was that I didn’t get to talk
for long with some other cyclists travelling the same route as me (towards
Princeton). They were travelling with the full weight of panniers, which I wasn’t,
so I caught up to them just before the second pass. I pedaled and talked for
about 5 minutes, but I had to get ahead if I was going to make my goal.
I keep my bike as light as possible. I carry two water
bottles, a pump, and in my seat bag, a spare tube, tire levers, and my health
and debit card. Other than the occasional helmet cam, that’s all I need. I meet
up with the support vehicle every hour to hour and a half to refill my water
and eat. Pacing is the key to fighting deterioration. I eat even if I don’t
really feel like it—although I usually do. I drink when my mouth is still wet.
I don’t wait to get thirsty. My speed varies, but I always keep my cadence high
and the amount of effort I expend constant, with the exception of a few extremely
steep grades where that isn’t possible. I ate so much over the day that I can’t
remember what I ate. In the end, it’s mostly mental. If you can stay focused,
keep track of your need to drink and eat, stay tuned into your surroundings for
safety, stay clear of thinking of the finish and focus on thinking about other
more positive things in the present, you will succeed.
I hope that what I’ve written was an interesting read. I definitely
wouldn’t want to keep an experience like that bottled up to myself and
unshared. I want people to know what I do, what I experience, how I feel, and
what my accomplishments are. I can tell this story to my grandkids if they ever
exist (and if I remember all the details). Many Canadians aren’t given a way to
communicate (or often until they reach a school age, or they have to go on a
long waiting list) and there is a certain cultural loss. There are
extraordinary stories out there that are locked inside people. The key to
access them is communication systems, supports, and services. Without these,
stories, emotions, and accomplishments go unheard. Think of something
outstanding you’ve done. Imagine if you didn’t have a way to share that with
people. Imagine this: not only are you not able to share your accomplishments,
but people treat you differently and assume you don’t have many accomplishments
because you were never enabled to communicate. Imagine how frustrated you would
This is actually yesterday’s blog which I didn’t have
time to write until now. I’ll have today’s blog up a little later. I’ll also
post some helmet cam video footage sometime in the next day or two.
Also, check our Facebook group for more photos!