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2011 Tour de North Peace 600 km Brevet
by Willi Fast, Edmonton

Previously in 2011, I have completed the first portion of the ride series required for Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) qualification. For me, that consisted of the Warburg 200, the Camrose 200, the Smoky Lake 300, and the Stettler 400. That meant, I had only to complete a 600 km brevet in order to qualify for Paris.

At the beginning of the season, I had thought I would use a mountain brevet for my 600, because climbing in the mountains would provide good training. I had either the Fairmont 600, or the Banff-Jasper-Banff 600 in my sights. As the date for these brevets came closer, the weather got correspondingly worse. I had no desire to re-live my Fairmont 600 experience of 2008, when John Devlin and I persevered absurd conditions in the quest for Rocky 1200 qualification.

Determined to try to get the 600 out of the way sooner rather than later, I began to look for other options. Wim Kok, the Peace Region Ride Coordinator for the BC Randonneurs, with whom I have ridden two previous Camrose 200’s, extended an invitation to join him for the Peace Foothills Randonnee 600 in Fort St John. I gave it serious consideration, and after family consultation and some scheduling adjustments, I made the decision to drive up to Fort St John to attempt the 600 there. Wim invited me to stay with him in Fort St John, and that turned out to be a very pleasant experience.

On Friday May 28, I left Edmonton just before 13:00 and began the 700 km drive to Fort St John. How appropriate, to ‘bracket’ a 600 km brevet with a 700 km drive on either side!

The drive was uneventful until Little Smoky, 1.5 hours from Grande Prairie. I came upon a van stranded on the side of the road, billowing smoke from under the hood, and two concerned looking, obviously Mennonite women (with long dresses blowing in the wind!) staring in disbelief at their misfortune. I turned around, looped back to their location, and asked if/how I could help. They had already made some calls, but had not yet put a plan in place for how to deal with their predicament. I asked where they were from, and they rattled off some two-part name of a small local town around Grande Prairie that I didn’t quite catch. I told them that I was on my way to Fort St John, and that they were welcome to ride along with me if that worked for them. They were very grateful, and accepted my offer. It turns out I had happened upon a mother, her two-year old son, and his grandmother. We loaded some of their groceries into the van, strapped their two-year old (grand)son in, and set off.

At that point, I had a scary series of thoughts. I had not quite caught the name of the town where they were from, but did catch that it was a two-part name. They were obviously Mennonite, or some other religious order ……………. and they were from ‘near Grande Prairie’, and I sensed a bit of a hesitation when I had asked where they were from. It was then that my mind began to play games, and I recalled that Wiebo Ludwig, the once-convicted, and twice-suspected pipeline bomber, was from the Grande Prairie area (Hythe), and that his farm was called ‘Cripple Creek’, or ‘Crooked Creek’ or something similar, and that when he was interviewed on TV, there was often a cadre of women in long dresses toiling in the background. I began to wonder whether I had just picked up Wiebo Ludwig’s wife, daughter and grandson, and what I would find when I ‘dropped them off’. Again, I delicately tried to ascertain where exactly they were from, and finally learned that they were from Ridge Valley, between Valleyview and Grande Prairie – they were not Ludwigs after all, and when I told them I was Mennonite myself, they seemed to relax a little too. We had a good chat, and before long, just after passing a VERY large, new, modern looking Mennonite Church, we made it to their house just one mile off of Highway 43. We unloaded their groceries, and they then insisted on trying to give me some cash for the ride. I tried to decline, and only after repeatedly insisting I would not take their money did they graciously say “Thank You” and wished me well.

I continued on my way to Grande Prairie, stopped there to refuel, buy some wine for Wim, and grab a quick sandwich at Subway. After that, it was an uneventful but pleasant drive through beautiful country to Fort St John. I had no problem getting through the check-stop at the top of the hill before the descent into the Peace River Valley and crossing over to Taylor.

In Fort St John, I made a quick stop at the Safeway for some groceries, and then drove to Wim’s place, where I was warmly greeted by Wim and his wife Ricky. They were in the midst of starting supper, and I was not hungry, but joined them for a cold beer while they ate. After some good conversation, some reminiscing, and then some ride planning discussion, I headed off to bed around 22:00.

I awoke at 03:00 on Saturday morning to prepare for the 04:00 start. The last minute packing takes longer than expected, as there is always some gnashing of teeth while deciding what to wear, what to take along, and what to risk leaving behind. Shortly before 04:00, fellow riders Jay Morrison and Erik Snucins arrived at Wim’s house, and we introduced one another. At 04:03, we were off.

The first 200 km of the course were 100 km out-and-back to the east, as far as Cleardale in Alberta. There would be two major river valleys to traverse across: the Beaton, and the Clear. After a very short northbound leg out of Fort St John (FSJ), we turned east, and almost immediately began the first big descent into the Beaton Valley. This would become a steep climb on the way back to FSJ! We had also noticed that there would be a slight, but not insignificant headwind all the way to Alberta. We rode along the Beaton Valley for some distance, and then began the (inevitable) climb back out of the valley. This was a long ascent, with a deceiving corner, seemingly near the top, that when reached, revealed even more climbing. At the top, Erik and I stopped to shed some clothes, while Wim and Jay cruised by. When we caught back up to them, we rode two-abreast for a long time, chatting as we rode.

I learned from Jay that he recently retired from Canada’s national long track speed skating team, and also learned that cycling is an important component of their training. It was a pleasure to ride with Jay, and to hear a lot about elite-level athletic training and international competition. When we reached Goodlow, we took a short break for a snack and a pee, were greeted by the local dog at the general store that was still closed, and then continued on our way.

I commented on the excellent quality of the roads on which we were riding – in fact, they were likely the best I have ridden on all year – smooth pavement, good shoulders. No sooner had I made my comment, than we crossed the border into Alberta, and the roads became noticeably worse! We usually pride ourselves on having good roads in Alberta, but in this neck of the woods, are definitely sitting second fiddle to BC!

Enroute to Cleardale, we came across a large moose carcass in the ditch, surprisingly not much decomposed or fed-upon by carion. It was obviously road-kill, likely from the past winter, and perhaps well preserved by being covered in snow and ice until recently.

On reaching Cleardale, the first Control (101 km, 08:20), we checked in at the Post Office/General Store, where Wim purchased William and Kate postage stamps to prove our presence at the Control. The (Mennonite) clerk stamped our cards, and I had a nice chat with her, again exploring the extent of the Mennonite influence in the area without seeming too intrusive. When she learned I was also Mennonite, she (of course !) asked my name, as always, to figure out if there was any family connection. There wasn’t.

Cleardale was the turn-around point for the first leg, and we now re-traced our way back to FSJ. As we headed westward, we noticed that the route was now generally, but gently, uphill. The forest-fire related smoke (Slave Lake fires), that we had noticed on the way out, became increasingly thick, but not overly bothersome. We continued to ride all together, or in groups of two. Whenever the route turned northward, we noticed an increasingly strong wind growing from the north, and that did not auger well for the second 200 km of our route which would be heading straight north from FSJ. We worked together into the wind when required, and flew with the wind when the route turned south – we had a lot of fun cruising at 37, 38, 39 km/hr with little to no pedaling effort. Wim and I agreed: “Enjoy this blessing now, and don’t think of the future!”

On reaching Goodlow for the second time (150 km., 10:30), the store was now open, and we checked in, Wim did his postage stamp thing for all our brevet cards again, and we had a short food / water break.

FSJ was only 50 km to go, but ahead lay another date with the Beaton Valley. Part way down the descent, I stopped to take a picture of the valley, then flew the rest of the way down, but not as quickly as anticipated, because of an upslope wind that had developed. Jay and Erik were ahead now, and Wim and I pedaled through the valley and on towards the climb that was waiting for us. We could see it from far away, and it looked very intimidating. As always, it was not as bad as it looked …… except for the last pitch, where we crossed a VERY steep bridge (how could something that steep be stable ?) and then biked up a steep pitch to the top. At this point, I was very hot, and getting tired, and began to serpentine back and forth across the road to make the grade easier to contend with. I caught Eric part way up, but Jay was long gone and un-catchable. I back-tracked and waited for Wim to complete the climb – it seemed that he was tired and struggling a bit – that seemed strange to me, since he rode so very strongly on our Camrose 200, when he pulled me all the way from Camrose to Wetaskiwin into a strong wind.

We were likely a sorry-looking rag tag group when we got back to Wim’s house in FSJ (203 km., 13:20). There however, we were greeted by Ricky, who had obviously been busy all morning preparing for us a cyclist’s feast worthy of a pro-cycling racing team! I changed clothes, and Ricky immediately offered, nay insisted, to wash them for me. The homemade soup was just what I was craving, and, augmented by some buns, and cookies, made for a great lunch. Wim offered me a non-alcoholic ginger beer, and I accepted. It tasted very good, but was very carbonated and likely acidic. I think it may have been related to GI problems I encountered later in the ride.

It was getting hot and sunny now, and I applied some sun screen to nose and ears. And, then we were off again.

This time, we embarked on a 200 km out-and-back to the north of FSJ. Immediately on reaching the northern limits of FSJ, we realised just how much of a problem the wind would be. We quickly agreed that the solution was to work together in a single pace line, each rider taking 1 km pulls on the front and then falling back in the line to rest. This worked well, and we made good progress. I began to realize that Wim was not joking when he had told me that this leg would consist of non-stop rollers. After a while, you begin to realize that the term ‘rollers’ is just an innocent sounding euphemism for non-stop hills, where the downhills are never long or steep enough to compensate for the effort expended on climbing the intervening (and seemingly steeper and longer) uphills! Before reaching Montney, Wim made a point of noting a particularly bad (and locally known!) hole in the road, warning that we needed to be aware of avoiding it in the dark on the way back.

On the stretch between Montney and Prespatou, I began to experience significant rumblings in my stomach, and began to feel like I seriously need to find a toilet – there would be none to be found for another 90 km, and it was with regret that I realized that I had forgotten to include toilet paper in my rack pack contents. Wim mentioned that there was a lot of grass and leaves that could be used as toilet paper substitutes, but the thought of irritating a rear-end, already compromised by 15 hours in the saddle, by rubbing with a combination of leaves and twigs, was unfathomable for me. Erik offered to ‘lend’ me some toilet paper he had on board – I told him that I would see how it went, and that I appreciated his offer.

Some time later, it became obvious to me that I could no longer wait. I got the required supplies from Erik, stopped at the side of the road, and headed into the bush to find my perch. Explosive diarrhoea ensued, and became the first of several other incidents, hereafter more graciously referred to as ‘nature breaks’ (to protect the dignity of the innocent reader). I was grateful for Erik’s supplies – I can’t imagine dealing with my predicament without them!

When I caught up to the rest of the group, who had stopped down the road for a break, I felt much better, but learned there that Wim was in distress. His stomach was also very upset, and he felt like throwing up. He could not keep any food down.

After a while, we continued on again, working together into the wind, until I again needed to stop to tend to Nature Break Round 2. Erik again obliged with supplies – this time Toilet Paper and Wet Wipes – oh Thank You ! Same story – I felt better, I caught the group who had also stopped, and this time Wim was even worse. He began to talk about stopping, but we did all we could to encourage him to continue. He tried to eat a little Tapioca Pudding, it seemed to stay down, and he agreed to try for at least Prespatou, our turn-around point for this leg.

After a while, Wim seemed to get stronger again, and even started to take turns leading on the front. I told him his new nick name was “The Tapioca Torpedo”, and so we continued on our way in to Prespatou. That stretch seemed to take a very long time. We were riding through BIG farm country, with long, open, straight roads where the wind had its way with us. It took forever to get to Prespatou (292 km., 19:00), but we eventually made it, and got there before the store closed for the night. More postage stamps for our brevet cards, signatures from the (Mennonite, of course) clerk (this time a man), and re-filling of water bottles. We had a nice break outside, and enjoyed a peaceful break at a picnic table ………….. until the local teenagers began to congregate with loud quads and trucks.

So, this was Saturday night in Prespatou – driving like mad on quads (no helmets, of course), motorcycles (again, helmets optional) and jacked-up 4X4’s. Northern culture at its finest.

I ate one of my (many) Peanut Butter and Jam buns and chocolate milk, and began to feel a little better, but it became obvious that Wim was not doing well. He was bent over, with head resting on table, trying to settle down and gain control of his situation. Finally, he said that he would start out slowly ahead of us. The remaining three slowly got ready to leave, and we set out one-by-one, all quite tired and more than a little intimidated by the distance yet to cover (130 km before we could sleep).

By now, I was getting cold again, and layers that had previously been stripped off were put back on. As I pedaled to catch up with Wim, I saw first one, then a second, then a third patch on the road where he had obviously thrown up while riding. I felt so badly for him. We both wanted desperately to finish this ride to qualify for PBP, yet it looked like it was slipping away for him. As we rode side-by-side, he was wretching with dry heaves. What do you do in a situation like that? Try to console? Try to advise? Or just let your fellow rider struggle alone as best he can to face the demons of the moment? We tried all three, and eventually slowly pulled away as we headed south again.

Feeling badly already, we were further stunned by the barrage of local traffic that now assaulted us. LOUD cars, trucks and motorcycles buzzed back and forth repeatedly, and then eventually left us alone while they headed off to the south. Several kilometers later, we came upon a group of these same kids, parked on the side of the road, drinking beer. Hmmmmm – Mennonites? I gave them a thumbs up sign and called out ‘Cheers’ as we rode by, and they all had a good chuckle.

Jay and I flew together for 20 kilometers, riding with the wind, and still discussing what to do about Wim. We stopped to wait for Wim and Eric at the Buick turn-off, and when they arrived, we had a discussion about how to proceed. Wim was pretty sure he would be abandoning. We discussed whether to call Jay’s father in FSJ to come out now to pick up Wim, or to ride on to Buick and see how things were there. Wim agreed to ride on to Buick, so we set off again.

Now, we were into ‘roller’ country again – same euphemism, same dilemma – lots of climbing, not enough descending.

As we rode, I glanced down at my bike, and suddenly realized I had left my water bottle in Prespatou. Crap! I still had my camelback, but the bottle is important for filling the camelback as required. Oh well – I would likely survive without it, and maybe some young Mennonite kid in Prespatou would get a kick out of having a Tour de l’Alberta water bottle.

At the end of one long descent, I spotted a bridge. I decided to let it run, and was doing 53 km/hr when I reached the bridge. At the last moment, I realised it was a wooden deck, and didn’t have time to slow down, or align my wheels with a specific board in the deck, thereby avoiding a wheel ‘falling’ into the gap between the boards. Five meters onto the bridge, the scariest possible outcome materialised, and my rear wheel slid into a gap. I was still going very fast, and planned for the worst. I thought for certain I was going down, and that at a minimum, my rear wheel would be toast. Luckily, the wheel came back out onto the deck and my momentum carried me across the bridge. I was also certain that I would have a flat, but no, the tire held. I stopped to inspect my wheel, which had been seriously bent on the Stettler 400, and which my mechanic friends at United Cycle had done their best to repair and straighten. Sure enough, the rear wheel now had a serious ‘wow’ in it, but not bad enough to have to widen the brakes to allow free spinning of the wheel between the brake pads. I checked all the spokes, none of which were broken, but a few of which were looser than others. Wim caught up to me, and with his thoughts now well on the way towards abandonment, offered to let me use his wheel so as to be able to finish. I told him I thought my wheel would survive, and we continued on our way towards Buick.

Upon reaching Buick (333 km., 21:37, no services), Wim was now convinced he would stop, and we called Jay’s father for the rescue.

As we had a break to eat and drink, I was assaulted by Nature Break Round 3 ……………… but this time, I was prepared. Unbeknownst to them, the Mennonite proprietors of the Prespatou Store had ‘donated’ a partial roll of toilet paper to my rack pack (perhaps I unknowingly paid for this sin by having forgotten my water bottle there ?) , so I slipped off to the bushes, confident in my ability to deal with the business at hand (pun intended).

By now, it was beginning to get dark. I donned more clothes, turned on lights, and headed out with Jay. Wim would limp along the road until Jay’s father found us. Jay and I rode together towards the Alaska Highway, climbing strongly, and flying downhills. Eric and Wim followed at a more relaxed pace. We passed several large gas plants (in the middle of NOWHERE), and soon Jay recognised the vehicle coming towards us as his father’s. We stopped, had a chat, waited for the other two to catch up, and then waited while Wim’s bike was loaded into the car. Jay and Erik put on their jackets, but I thought it was still too early for that and decided to continue on without mine for the time being.

We headed out, and almost immediately began a descent, where I got very cold. I stopped to put on my jacket, and the other two flew by me. By the time I got my coat out of my pack and put it on, they were well up the road, and it took me a long time to catch up. When I caught up with Erik, Jay was already well ahead, and we would not see him again that night.

Eric and I now rode together to reach the Alaska Highway, where we would turn south towards FSJ. I rode on ahead, but waited when I reached the turn off, and then we rode together towards the south. The road was quite busy, even though it was late. We passed the Shepherd’s Inn (closed control, 363 km, 23:30) without stopping, and pedaled on towards the turn off back onto back-country roads.

Eric was in the lead, and called back to me that if we reached the lit micro-wave towers up ahead, we would have gone too far. Again, it seemed to take forever to reach the turn-off, those towers seemingly never getting any closer. Finally, after some 15 km on the Alaska Highway, we reached the anticipated turn-off, and started on country roads back towards Montney where we had been so many hours before. Most of this stretch was downhill, which caused me to start to get very cold. I decided to hold off stopping until we reached the Montney Control. Getting closer to Montney, there were a few climbs, and then we reached the small hamlet.

In Montney (397 km; 01:06 + 1 day), we answered the Brevet Card question to prove our presence there, noted the time, and then I stopped to put on my rain pants – my legs were freezing. A yappy dog wouldn’t shut up (one in the morning, I’m sure the owners were pleased !), and I was happy to get out of town!

By now Erik was well ahead, and I needed to work hard to catch up to him – the chase seemed interminable. Eventually, I did catch up with him, then passed him, and we continued separately until the we reached the turn-off on the final leg back to FSJ. It was on this stretch, where I ploughed full-on through the big dirt hole on the road about which Wim had previously warned us. I did not see the hole until it was too late, and luckily Mrs. Marinoni did not sustain any further damage by the rough impact.

After a lot of lonely pedaling through the night, I reached the final turn-off, and waited there for Erik. After that, it was a straight shot to the south to reach FSJ, which we did, without incident (423 km, 02:36 + 1 day).

When we got back to Wim’s house in FSJ, Ricky (bless her heart !) came out on the lawn to greet us. She said that Wim had gone straight to bed, but that he was OK. Jay had arrived 30 minutes prior and gone home to sleep. He would be back at 07:30 (Sunday morning) to ride the final leg. Erik went home to sleep, and Ricky warmed up some soup for me before heading off to bed herself.

My head hit the pillow at 03:15, and I am certain I did not stir until my alarm awoke me at 06:45, 3.5 hours later.

I put on fresh cycling clothes (thank you Ricky !), had a quick breakfast, checked the weather (currently calm, but potential for wind in the afternoon), and packed (again !) for the day. Wim got up to say hi, and to assure me he was OK. The other two arrived, and Wim sent us on our way.

This day’s route would take us north (Alaska Highway), and then straight west all the way to Hudson Hope. The route posed three significant climbing challenges each way, outbound and inbound.

As we rode to the north, a slight breeze was stirring, but nothing that strong pedaling early in the day could not deal with. We were a group of three now, and worked together until the west bound turn-off. At that point, Jay and I pulled away from Erik, and stuck together over some initial rollers, and the first big descent and ascent of the day. These passed without incident, but not without some good effort.

Some time later, we reached the second big ascent of the day, the climb away from the Peace River before the descent down to Bear Flats. This was a long, hard, sustained effort, but after a while, we reached the top, and almost immediately began a fast, switchbacking descent into the Peace Valley. Again – no time to think about what this would be like on the inbound leg – I kept my attention on the road, and on the switchbacks, with the occasional quick glance up to appreciate the growing view over the valley.

Once at the bottom, closer to the river, we began a circumnavigation of Bear Flats – a pretty, green flood plain. Nice place to live – between floods!

Now we were on our way towards the last big climb of the west-bound portion, and were soon climbing once more. Again, a long, sustained effort was required, and just as I was telling Jay that I was ready for a break, he said that we were almost at the lookout. We reached the top, and just past that point, we pulled off into a fantastic viewpoint, with an impressive vista towards Hudson Hope, and the distant, snow covered Rockies. What a sight! Here we had a good break, and not long after, were joined by Erik. Some motorcycles had passed us on the climb to the lookout, and were just leaving the viewpoint as we pulled in (more on these characters later).

We took pictures, relaxed, enjoyed the view, and tried to delay the inevitable – having to continue ………………..

When we got back on our bikes, we had a long descent ahead of us, and then a nice stretch of flat, beautiful country to cycle through. Jay and Erik rode together behind, and I pushed a little harder up ahead, and rode for a while by myself – what a great stretch.

Wim had asked us to call Bill Lindsay, ex town manager of Hudson Hope, when we were about an hour outside of Hudson Hope – Bill wanted to meet us, to take some pictures along the road. 20 km out of Hudson Hope, I stopped to call Bill, and Jay and Eric passed me. I reached Bill’s answering machine, left him a message, and continued on. Not 10 minutes later, I came around a corner to see a chap standing beside his car, preparing to take a picture of me. I pulled over to speak with him, introduced myself, and confirmed that he was, in fact Bill Lindsay. He said he would meet us for lunch at the Sportsmen’s Café in Hudson Hope.

I rode on, quickly catching Eric and Jay, and then we leap-frogged with Bill all the way to Hudson Hope, Bill stopping two or three times to take pictures of us as we rode by.

In Hudson Hope (512 km, 12:11 + 1 day), we were VERY happy for a break. It was now very hot, and we all shed layers, ordered drinks, and food. Bill had brought out a cooler full of cold chocolate milk (what a saviour !), gator aide, and water.

While we ordered, and then ate, the bikers who had passed us earlier on the road and at the view point, who also happened to be at the restaurant and sitting out on the patio with us, engaged us in conversation. They said: “You must have found another gear. We have not been here that long, and you have made good time.” The number of beer bottles on their table, and cigarettes in their ash trays, made obvious liars out of them!

I ate excellent chicken quesadillas with some barley soup, and made use of the facilities inside. After a good rest, and engaging conversation with Bill, we prepared for the final leg of our journey – the return to FSJ. Bill offered us more food, snack bars that he brought along for us, lent us an air pump, asked if we needed any tools, then advised as to the preferred route out of town. Thank you Bill – you are a Randonneur’s True Friend!

We had bucked what we had thought was a slight, but not insignificant headwind, all the way to Hudson Hope, and spoke of looking forward to a tail wind for the journey home. Bill wet his finger in his mouth, stuck it in the air, and shook his head - “Headwind.” was all he said!

We posed for another picture in front of the Sportsmen’s, then headed off.

After a short climb out of town, it became obvious that Bill had been right – Headwind ………. And growing!

Jay and I had left Erik behind on the climb out of town, and now agreed to work together into the wind. We pulled hard, and made good time – what a pleasure to work with such a strong rider!

Halfway to the first big descent on the way home, the wind grew stronger, and so did a familiar urge in my GI tract. Another roadside stop was required for Nature Break # 4 – by now I was getting good at this routine, but the mosquito clouds in the bush necessitated quick action on my part.

As we descended back towards Halfway River, the wind became VERY gusty and swirly. My bike was tossed to and fro by the wind, and the descent for me was anything but fun. At the bottom, I worked hard to catch Jay, and was very tired when I finally got him. He pulled me around Bear Flats, as I dreaded the thought of the second big climb towards home – this was the one with big switchbacks, about 8 km of climbing. I struggled to stay with Jay around Bear Flats, even as he was pulling me into the wind. Jay easily left me behind at the bottom of the climb, as I was cycling very slowly. Adding insult to injury, the wind was dead in my face at the bottom of the climb, and I questioned if I was strong enough to make it up. How long would it take me? One hour? 90 minutes? I didn’t know. I just tried to keep my pedals turning. I had done almost all of the climbing on this brevet while seated, and the result was that my achilles tendon was in good shape. I was pleased about that, but now I knew that I would need to do some standing to be able to beat this climb. At points, it was all I could do to keep the bike moving forwards. I began serpentining across the road again, when traffic allowed, to deal with the grade, and began alternating standing and sitting. To my relief, the wind died on one of the switchbacks …………… but was right back in my face on the next – how demoralizing. Jay was long gone, and I powered on alone, not daring to look at my watch, or the GPS, for fear of finding I had made only a few minutes, or several hundred meters of progress. On and on it went, occasionally a large diesel screaming beside me, and not going much faster than I was – obviously loaded. As each one passed me, I listened to see how long it took for the diesels to stop screaming once they were out of sight, to get an idea of how far we were from the top. To my dismay, I never heard their engines sigh any relief. Still I continued – serpentine, stand, sit, keep pedaling. I remembered back to my running days, when I learned that if you ever actually stopped running, to walk, it became harder and harder to start again, and easier and easier to stop again the next time. That gave me a strong desire to not stop – I didn’t want to have to re-start again, and resist the urge to stop a second time. Pedal, pedal, pedal …………. Now I saw my GPS die – batteries dead. I hoped I would not suffer the same fate.

At last, the top was in sight – I rode over the top, pulled over, grabbed some water, changed GPS batteries, and took a Shot Block – rewards are always at the TOP of the hill!

I knew that I now had only one more climb to go to reach home. With that in mind, I pedaled harder, first a descent, then eventually onto the last climb. Why is there now a passing lane on my side of the road??? I didn’t notice that on the way down here this morning. Passing lane in BC equals hill – so, climb on Willi. Again, it was tough, and into the wind, but this time only 1.5 km long. This hurdle too was finally solved, and now I had just a short push back to the Alaska Highway and the final stretch back in to FSJ.

At the highway, Jay was waiting for me. He asked if I wanted to rest. I said: “No. I want to make sure that the first two digits in our total time are a 3 and a 7 (meaning 37 hours and change for the ride), and if we get back before 18:00, we will do it.” He said: “OK – let’s jam it home!”

Jay took off. We had 15 km to go. We were going mostly downhill, and WITH the wind. We did those last 15 km in less than 25 minutes, Jay pulling, and me drafting his wheel. What an effort!

We finished at 17:55. Total time: 37 hours, 52 minutes.

Looking back, I can say without reservation that I made the correct decision to avoid Alberta brevets this past weekend and to travel to BC to take on the Peace Foothills Randonnee 600. I could not have asked for a better 600 experience in 2011.

Of course, thanks are due to my riding mates Erik Snucins, Wim Kok, and Jay Morrison, for helping me get around this course.

And, special thanks to Wim and Ricky Kok, for outstanding brevet organization and logistics, and hospitality beyond belief. What an experience to finish a 600 with the aid of a personal soigneur like Ricky – pro teams at HTC, Garmin or Trek could be so lucky!

Thank you all – your contributions played a significant part in getting me to Paris this year.

If you ever have the chance to get to Fort St John to do one their brevets, take it. You will not be disappointed!


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June 1, 2011