A rocky road to glory

400-kilometre race can be done in one day without sleep and without darkness

By Shawn Wenger

Kamloops This Week

It has been done.

Against better judgement.

Against the forces of headwind.

Against all messages sent by muscles, heart and lungs — I have qualified for the B.C. Randonneurs Rocky Mountain 1,200-kilometre race on July 22.

After last year’s unsuccessful attempt at the 600-kilometre race, I went into this year with trepidation.

Even after completing the 200-metre and 300-metre races and almost cracking the women’s B.C. Randonneurs’ record in the 400-kilometre, I was worried.

The 400-kilometre race can be done in one day without sleep and without darkness.

The 600-kilometre requires an overnight, making it a whole different challenge.

And, as if that wasn’t enough to worry about, we started the day with the threat of rain and wind.

Thankfully, the only rain occurred in the first two hours, but the wind persisted.

The first 118 kilometres to Cache Creek took eight hours when the trip should have taken four or five hours.

It is in that first 100 kilometres when the mental games threaten to make you give up and stop the forward struggle against the never-ending wind.

I was a little concerned when my husband Chris broke into the Red Bull so early on, but it turned out to be just what we needed to lift our energy and spirits for the long uphill ride through my childhood memories.

Cache Creek, where I went to elementary school, 20 Mile, where I turned off every day on the school bus home, and Clinton, where I had my first summer job.

As we climbed toward 100 Mile, the sun came out, but the wind never ceased.

We climbed on, arriving in 100 Mile at 6 p.m. and checking into the hotel. But, it wasn’t time to stop.

The headwind continued toward Williams Lake and I began to fantasize about the tailwind on the way back.

We finally rolled into Williams Lake at 10 p.m., just in time to load up with chocolate and Coke, turn on our bike lights and turn back for 100 Mile.

Riding in the dark is surreal.

Perspective disappears, leaving you unsure if you are climbing or riding on the flats. Only your gears give you a clue.

The temperature dropped to 2 C as we rode back into 100 Mile at 2:30 a.m. and pulled into Tim Hortons.

A hot meal never tasted so good.

I have mixed feelings about whether it would have been better to keep riding since getting on the bike seat again at 6:30 a.m. was excruciating.

In the morning, the sun was out and Horse Lake Road was quiet.

We had our only tailwind, but the enjoyment was short-lived when we began to ascend McDonald Summit.

Thankfully, we began our descent into Little Fort, dropping 10 kilometres on an eight per cent grade with seven runaway lanes.

From Little Fort back to Kamloops became a bit of a sufferfest.

I would have expected nothing less.

The final 20 kilometres were crazy.

The headwind came back with a vengeance.

It’s a good thing we were so close, or it would have been easy to sit on the side of the road and cry.

But, we rolled into the Halston Husky and dismounted at 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.

Out of the nine people who started on Saturday morning at 6 a.m., we were two of the four who finished.

I am proud to have persevered.

I am excited to have ridden my bike with my awesome husband for 600 kilometres in 33 hours with 16,000 vertical feet of climbing and 340 kilometres of headwind.

The end result — qualifying for the Rocky Mountain 1200, which takes 120 riders from Kamloops to Jasper to Lake Louise and back to Kamloops in between 84 to 90 hours.

I am terrified, exhilarated, exhausted and excited.

Did I mention I was terrified?

~Shawn Wenger is a BCRPA registered personal trainer and weight training and group fitness instructor.

She runs her own business called Fitness For Mortals. E-mail fitnessformortals@gmail.com for information.