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Rocky Mountain 1200


Supporting Ken Bonner
by Dewain Emrich

The Rocky Mountain 1200km ride was the second ride that I drove support for Ken Bonner this year. The 1st time was the Cascade 1200km from 23-26 June (he road the Colorado High Country solo 9-12 July) and I enjoyed that trip so much that I signed on to support him for the Rocky Mountain 1200km from 22-26 July. Ken is a great person to ride support for as he is very organized and, no matter what the conditions he has ridden in, he is always calm, cool, and collected (a Navy phrase for someone that doesn’t ever get upset about anything) and very thankful to see a support person at the controls. He has a van that he sets up for the ride with a cot and storage space for all his food, clothing and extra bike parts and all of the stuff is separated into bags so that it is easy to find in the dark.

I had several meetings with Ken before the Cascade ride and also met with one of the other guys that had supported him solo in the past to get some lessons on how to support a guy that road 1200km nearly nonstop. The biggest lesson I learned was to not linger at the manned controls for more than an hour after he left and get to the next control as quick as possible so that I could get some sleep before he arrived. In order to do this I had to make sure that all of the potential clothing and food was made ready during that hour after he left.

In order to estimate how long he would take to get to a control, we sat down before the ride and looked at the route, maps, and previous ride results to get an estimate of how long he expected to take between controls. The general rules that we came up with were average 30kph to the 1st control and 25kph to all the rest of the controls. After adjusting those times up or down for known hill climbs we came up with what we thought were reasonable arrival times at controls. During the Cascade 1200km ride I learned that these estimated times were accurate plus or minus and hour or so and varied mainly due to heavy winds, rain and very hot or cold weather so by looking at his actual arrival times and leaving an hour after he left the last control, I was able to update the estimate. As I passed him on the road about an hour or so after his departure, I would check the distance he traveled and calculate his average speed over that hour. Then at some time further along the route, I would stop and check the wind speed and direction to see how that would impact the rest of his ride.

When I arrived at a manned control I would try to park in a spot where Ken didn’t have to walk through gravel while keeping out of the way of the control people (to keep the dirt out of his Speedplay cleats) and then the 1st thing I would do is go into the control and, unless the volunteers were very busy with other riders, I would introduce myself to the volunteers and let them know how far back the next riders were and when I thought they might arrive. The next thing I would do is find the washroom. After getting those priorities resolved, I would find out if any of the food they had would be suitable for Ken and where the ice (hot days) or hot water/chocolate (cold nights or days) was located. After that I would either enjoy the company of the control volunteers if they weren’t busy with other riders or help them out if they were busy or find a good spot to put out the lawn chair and read (during the day) or climb into the cot in the van and, after setting my alarm for about half an hour before Ken’s expected arrival time, get some sleep.

Ken’s food needs were fairly simple – natural sugars and chocolate. He would use a Camelbak Hydration system and, for estimated times between controls of over 4 hours, he might also take a water bottle. The Camelbak would be filled with juice mixed with Gatorade powder and ice and the bottle might be filled with coke or a gel/water mixture. In the compartments on his Camelbak or in a bento bag on his bike, he would also carry some custom made rice crispy squares that had a bit of protein added to them and, in a bag around his waist, he might put a peanut butter and banana or jam sandwich for eating along the way. At the controls, he would only eat stuff that could easily be digested and eaten quickly. Creamed soups, hot chocolate, ice cream, and sliced meat sandwiches worked well along with massive cookies brought along from his favourite store in Victoria.

When Ken arrives at a control, I set the timer on my watch for 5 minutes (on repeat) and let him know every 5 minutes how long he is at the control as the longer he is at the control the more chance that his legs may cramp up and the faster he has to ride to make his planned finish time. When he arrives, he says a quick hello and thank you to the volunteers, has a quick drink of Boost followed by either a sandwich or soup and, unless he needs a change of clothes or his night helmet, he is back out on the road carrying his cookie. If he will be riding at night, he has a helmet that he wears that has a 700 lumen light attached to the top powered by a heavy battery that he carries in his back jersey pocket. While he is eating, I replace the Camelbak bag with a full one, check his tires for debris, and if it has been raining, clean and oil his chain. His planned time at a control is less than 5 minutes but in adverse conditions or when he knows he will not be able to make his planned finish time, he tends to spend more time eating and chatting with the volunteers and other riders.

During the Rocky Mountain 1200km Ken spent time at each control warming up on the first day and over an hour in Jasper thawing out his hands. After Jasper he spent as little time as possible at the Beauty Creek control as it was unheated and slept for an hour in a hotel room Near Saskatchewan crossing. Here is a list of his actual [] and planned () arrival times and times at the controls in minutes {} along with the conditions enroute:

- After departing Kamloops at 0355 in the dark and light rain, he arrived in Clearwater at [0819] (0800){5}- raining and 14°C, new Camelbak bag;

- Blue River [1305] (1224){12} – raining, thunderstorms, tailwind, 11° C, new Camelbak bag;

-Valemount [1706] (1700){29} – raining, light wind, 12°C, night helmet, warmer O2 rain gear rain coat, new camelback bag;

- Jasper [2313](2235){1h17} – raining, head winds, dark, 5°C, hands so cold he could not move them, change of clothes and rain coat, warm lobster style gloves with hand warmers inside an outer thin mitten shell, new Camelbak bag;

- Beauty Creek – [0530] (0400){15} – raining 1st 2 hrs then clear and cold, 1°C;

- Saskatchewan Crossing [0900] (0815) {3h05} clear, 3-6°C and warming, egg and bagel sandwich, 1hr sleep;

- Lake Louise [1536](1535)({12} clear, 11°C, soup and sandwich;

- Golden [1928] (1915){16} Dry, 11°C, road construction leaving Jasper, night helmet with extra battery, soup;

- Rogers Pass [0030](2315){15} – clear 11°C, hot chocolate;

- Revelstoke [0350](0315){5} – fog patches on descent, chain wrapped around pedal during descent, 11°C, joined up with Keith Fraser for the rest of the ride, sandwich;

- Armstrong [1004](0855){28} – sunny warming to 20°C, filled camelback with coke and ice; - Salmon Arm [1216](1200){19} – sunny, 26°, ate ice cream at control, refilled camelback with coke;

- Westwold [1628](1535){32}- clear and 26°C then Thunderstorm with hail dropping temperatures to 5°C for about an hour, soup and cheezies at control;

- Kamloops [1843](1900)- clear skies, 26°C, tailwinds for a total of 62 hours and 43 minutes.

All in all, it was a great time driving the route seeing how people could endure such horrendous conditions. One of the best stories I have from the ride is about the Scottish rider that arrived in Jasper near midnight in a sports car driven by a couple of young guys. The Scottish rider had finally given up 10km out of Jasper after trying to repair his 3rd flat tire and could no longer work his hands except to get his thumb out for hitch hiking. The young guys took his bike apart and stuffed it into the trunk of their car and drove him into Jasper with the heat going full blast. When they arrived at the control in Jasper he was still hypothermic and, while standing in the warm entrance way of the control, he spent several shaking minutes trying to get some money out of his wallet to give to the young tattooed guys. When he tried to hand them the money in his shaking hand, they refused to take it. They told him that he was a guest in Canada and that he was being treated to some Canadian hospitality and that his money was no good. After making sure he was in good hands, they drove off. The last I had heard of the Scottish gentleman is that, after he had warmed up and repaired his flat, the next morning he was driven back out to the place he had been picked up and continued the ride.

The only good thing I heard about any of the rain gear was the Rain Legs worn by a few of the riders. These Rain Legs are attached to a mesh belt worn around the waste and roll down to cover the tops and sides of your legs as well they have a thicker padding for over your knees. One of the riders reported that the only time his legs were wet while wearing the Rain Legs was when he was passed by transport trucks that splashed water up from below.

August 1, 2012