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Chilling on a Chilly “Chili 200”
Michael Tilitzky

After finishing my first brevet series last year I decided to try a 1200 this year, and what better one to start with then the VanIsle 1200. I knew I would need to ride a lot of km’s before July and so I’ve been training for the first ride of the year, the Chili 200.

Like all the brave souls who had pre-registered for the ride, I was watching the weather forecast several times a day which went from bad to worse, calling for rain and cold temperatures. Regardless of the weather I was committed, and who could pass up a bowl or two of Mike and Brynne’s chili, and how bad could it be, really? its not like I hadn’t ridden in the rain before, living in Tofino. And so I made my way to Victoria on the Saturday and prepared for the Sunday ride.

My sleeping pattern for the night before a ride persisted. I woke at 1:00 am, 3:00 am, and finally got up at 5. I ate breakfast and was sitting outside the Croy house in my car at 5:55 waiting for the curtains to open. Even with an hour to sign up and get ready for the ride, I was still scrambling to fill my water bottle and get on my bike for the 7:00 am start, jittery with anticipation.

As I sat straddling my bike waiting for Mike to anoint the ride, I found myself beside Jim Runkel who I had ridden a 400 km with last year, along with Phil Lennox and Mike Croy. The pace that we had ridden on the 400 was exactly what I was looking for and I readily agreed with Jim to spend the day riding together.

The weather was cool and the roads were wet, but it wasn’t raining as we headed out on Burnside and along the rolling hills of Interurban, down West Saanich Rd and around Lands End Rd. Along the way a small group of riders had formed: Jim and I, Paul Hovey, Mark Ford and Paul Christopher. It was an easy pace, good conversation, and exactly what I had been craving. While Tofino is the Surfing capital of Canada, there is a very small committed group of riders consisting of, well, consisting of me. I spend many hours alone riding back and forth on a single ribbon of highway along the outer coast of Vancouver Island, waiting for the brevet’s to begin.

After Lands End Rd we spun our way back south along Hwy 17. Not the best stretch of road to ride, but I am used to riding highway, and there was a wide shoulder and the group set a good pace back to Quadra St and the first control. After obtaining the required signature, various drinks and chocolate bars, we headed back north on Hwy 17 to the second control at Mt Newton X Rd. There were a number of banana peels along the paved shoulder and I presented my theory about the fruit of choice to Jim. The question is, why do you see more banana peels then say apple or pear cores, or orange peels, or the remnants of any other fruit along the shoulder of the road. Only banana peels. Are bananas the preferred fruit of the traveling public? Oranges are far too juicy and sticky and an unlikely choice, where as bananas are the perfect fruit. Easy to peel, no need to physically touch the fruit, easy to discard the peel. But the same applies to apples, which have many of the same characteristics, and while some people eat the cores they are in the minority. So where are the cores? My theory is aerodynamics. Banana peels catch the wind and lay flat when they hit the ground, staying on the shoulder of the road. But apple cores are more aerodynamic, travel further, and skip into the ditch when they hit the ground. Apples could still be the fruit of choice, we just can’t see the evidence. Jim’s silence confirmed that I probably spend too much time riding alone.

It was after the second control that I started to appreciate the name for this permanent, the Peninsula Wiggly Worm, and I was glad we had Jim to navigate. After numerous twists and turns we were at the 3rd control on Oak Bay Ave. After we had our control cards signed Mark Ford headed on, we had lost Paul Christopher at the last control, and Jim, Paul Hovey and I made our way across the street to Discovery Coffee. While Jim checked his phone, Paul and I stood and discussed the riding scene in Victoria which is a bit more vibrant then Tofino. As I stood and sipped my latte I couldn’t help but smile. We weren’t going to set any time records, but then this ride wasn’t about setting records, but getting back in the saddle, getting some km’s in your legs and air in your lungs. And of course the chili. 200 km for a bowl of chili was a small price to pay.

We headed out from Oak Bay caffeinated and ready for the next leg of the ride. It was as we rode along Beach Drive looking out over the water towards Trial Islands that I stated the words better left unsaid until after a ride; “we are blessed”. It was shortly after that Paul could no longer turn his pedals, and upon inspection it was discovered that his cassette locking ring had backed off, the sprockets floating freely. If you are ever going to have a mechanical, you want to find yourself with Jim Runkel. Jim is a man who is prepared for all occasions. Out came the tool box clipped under his bottom bracket with a variety of tools. Jim and Paul soon had the lock ring secured in place, and we were back on the road. And then the rain started. In earnest.

It was a wet ride as we wound our way back north towards Sidney. Wet became wetter and the 4 degree Celsius temperature started to feel like 4 degrees. We dripped our way into Sidney and found some warmth at a Serious Coffee. As we sat huddled at a table, numb hands wrapped around a warm beverage, we discussed the challenge it would be if this was a 300 with 140 km to go, and not the last 60 km of a 200. It was at that moment I came to appreciate the skills of a prepared rider. Jim said “yes, I just put on my third and last set of dry clothes, it would be a challenge to stay warm if we had another 140 km to ride in this rain.” As I sat in the same wet clothes that I had started the ride in, I could appreciate the benefits of a few extra cloths.

Jim, Paul and I headed out one last time towards Swartz Bay, then around Lands End Rd, and back towards the Croy house. We peddled through the rain along West Saanich Rd, Patricia Bay was scattered with small flocks of Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead and Surf Scoters. Good day to be a duck, not the best day for a ride. But then, we had a bowl of chili waiting for us at the end of the day, what did a duck have to look forward to?

We pulled in to the Croy house at 5:21, wet, cold and happy to be finished. We were greeted with warm hospitality, a bowl of chili, or two, and a beer which tasted good even on a cold day. Steven passed out the new pins which absolutely rock, and I couldn’t help but feel content with a good start to the year, a great ride on a beautiful route, rain and all.

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March 10, 2014