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Highway to Hell
Vancouver Island Spring 400 km Organizer's Report
by Jim Runkel

Nanaimo control (going) - Lee Ringham
Union Bay control - Union Bay Market Staff
Nanaimo control (coming) - South Nanaimo Tim Hortons Staff
829 Tulip Ave control (finish) - Brigitte Runkel

Moderate temperature to start, with overcast skies. Showers giving way to sun at times, with a stiff head wind through Nanaimo then easing off toward Union Bay. Tail wind all the way back! Mostly dry with some sun. Monsoon rain starting at around 9pm continuing heavy with no break.

Ride Report

8 riders braved the weather report, and started the ride at 3am in Victoria. It was warmer than predicted (~12C) and the climb over the Malahat was uneventful and dry, although we did pass Ross fixing a flat tire mid way up. I watched him pass Philip and I as we refuelled at the Duncan Tim Hortons. Through Duncan, and up toward Chemainus we got some rain...

but as the morning light came, sun could be seen and felt in places. A very stiff head wind greeted us in Nanaimo, and Lee checked us through the first control.

Steve M decided he would pack it in and instead enjoy the rest of the day with family! The faster group was long gone, and Ross was just leaving as we sat , chatted with Lee and ate some more! It was nice to get off the busy highway and turn toward Parksville and the nice ocean side scenery.

The wind died a bit, but was still in our face. We stopped for a quick V8 and Choco Milk break at the now familiar Shell station in Qualicum. In my mind I have broken the ride from Qualicum to Union Bay into 2 "humps" and one mini "hump". So from Qualicum you climb, plateau, descend back to sea level, then climb, plateau descend back to sea level a second time,

with a small climb and then down toward Fanny Bay followed by the last flattish push past Buckley Bay and on to the turn around point.


I had sent a letter ahead of the ride to the great folks at the Union Bay Market, explaining our ride and thanking them for the help of checking us through. They were glad to have the heads up and thanked me. We enjoyed a delicious soup and sandwich, and one of the fantastic blueberry homemade muffins.
We walked out into a downpour, but this was short lived and with the wind pushing us, we road into dry conditions after 20 minutes. Ross had left about 25 minutes before us, and so likely did not get wet!

The benefits of being a "fast" Randonneur were obvious on this ride. Not only do the fast folk get to bed earlier, but on this ride did not have to endure the 4 hours of monsoon rain which drenched us all the way home from Ladysmith.
Well anyway...back to the ride
After clearing the 2.5 humps back to Qualicum, I took the advise of a Hell Week rider and used the Laundromat in Qualicm to enjoy a "sleep reset" of 15 minutes. I did not want to fall asleep on the bike again!.

Back in Nanaimo the tail wind propelled us through the city at high speed. We enjoyed a supper break at the control, and then headed for Duncan. All was looking good....we were climbing up from Ladysmith toward Chemainus, when the "heavens opened up". If you want to experience this, take your bike helmet, put on a rain cover and go jump in your shower, full on...We kept calm and carried on! rain gear now covering us. In Duncan with darkness fully upon us, the rain continued to fall in buckets, so another quick Tims stop and then the final push. We got off the busy highway and took the quieter route through Shawnigan Lake. When the rain hits the ground and bounces up 6 " you know its really coming down, so in the village of Shawnigan, we found a covered porch and made a quick clothing adjustment. At the best of times, the next section to the Malahat has some of the worst pavement quality of any road I have been on, and with every pothole full of water, spotting the holes was very difficult. Near the Malahaht turn, a new coffee shop/strip mall has gone up. We took advantage of the cover and light to make an adjustment to my front brake calliper, which had loosened up. In the pouring rain, with extremely poor visibility due to fog in places, and the glasses on my face covered in water, we descended down toward Goldstream. Traffic was light thankfully. After navigating the first BIKE LANE underpass in Victoria, we spotted Ross, and so the three of us wet dogs, finished the ride together, and found the control faithfully staffed by my lovely wife, who checked us in at 1.07 am. A HIGHWAY to HELL....well maybe just a bit HELLISH!


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May 16, 2011