Sunday, 30 July 2017

2017 BC Epic 1000: Day 4

Crawford Creek to Fernie
Daily distance: 272 km (169 mi)
Riding Time: 25 hours 33 minutes
Total distance: 1067 km (663 mi)
Standing: 2nd place



I was up at 3am hoping to get the jump on Lennard.  I knew Gray Creek pass was steep and I would be walking a lot of it so I want to start early.  As I was walking, I noticed a pain on my rear end.  I thought I would try sleeping in my bibs to save time in the morning; big mistake!  I will spare the gory details, but needless to say, my backside was quite sore for the rest of the ride.  Once I got to the face of the hill, I started walking.  It took forever and I was happy to get to the top. 

Top of Gray Creek Pass

The descent was fast and fun.  The trail followed some gravel roads, and then pavement until just before Kimberly.  I felt good until that point, but once I got into the steep single track, I started to feel really bad.  It started to get hot and I felt really run down.  My airway was closing up and I was having trouble breathing.  I was having trouble finding the track at times and had to backtrack to make sure I was on course.  This was definitely a low point.  I knew I would have to stop in Kimberly to get my airway back.  I stopped at store in Kimberly for about 45 min to force some food down and try to cough out some gunk in my lungs.  I did not feel very good at all.  After choking down some liquids and a sandwich I was off again.  I felt really sleepy so took another cat nap on the side of the trail.  I know with this type of racing that if you feel really low, eventually you will feel good.  I was waiting eagerly to feel good again and I started to feel better after Cranbrook.  The trail continued on rail grade and went into some fun wide single track after Wardner.  I got into a good place keeping my pace comfortable enough where my airway felt good.  I rode as it got dark and crossed the big bridge near Baynes Lake.  I climbed the paved hill and got to the RV campground as night really started to fall.  I found one of the hoses for the RVs had potable water so I filled up for the final push to the end.

The trail started to get a bit sketchy at this point.  I was having trouble finding out where I was and where the route went.  I kept fumbling around in the dark, up and down the gravel roads and narrow grassy paths.  The trail spat me out onto the highway leading up to Elko.  I remembered this stretch from touring it with Kristin a few years back.  That time it was 35 degrees and hot; this time it was late at night and muggy.  After Elko, and crossing the river, the trail deteriorated into a steep, rocky, hike-a-bike.  I had another airway-blocking coughing fit and had to stop to get my breathing sorted out.  The trail gradually got smoother and smoother the closer I got to Fernie.  At one point, I started to nod off and took a quick nap.   After that nap, I was determined to get to the finish.  I felt bad, and couldn’t eat or breathe well, but pushed on.  It was cold, but I didn’t even stop to put on warmer clothes.  I didn’t want to stop and just wanted to get to the finish line.  The sun rose and I pedalled as more and more civilisation appeared.  Farm houses and power lines meant I was getting closer and closer.  The gravel turned into pavement as I wheezed my way to the finish.  I was greeted by my loving family and Chip Andrus.  It was great to be done!  Kristin had a coffee for me to drink and after I was done that, I could speak a bit better.  Lennard pulled up shortly after and we talked about the race.  It was so much fun trying to catch him!  I went back to the hotel for a shower and quick nap and had breakfast with Lennard, Chip and their families.  It was great and I hope to do the race again sometime!

All done!

Glad to talk to Lennard after chasing him for four days

My recovery took a little while.  I went to the doctor after the race and found out I had bronchitis.  He gave me a bunch of antibiotics and I slept most of the time for a few days after the race.  It took a few days to recover and I was well enough to participate in the Alberta Rockies 700 race 11 days later.

Result:  3 days 22 hours; 2nd place overall; 1st place single speed (Eastbound single speed record)

2017 BC Epic 1000: Day 3

Christina Lake to Crawford Creek
Daily distance: 263 km (164 mi)
Riding Time: 19 h
Total distance: 795 km (494 mi)
Standing: 2nd place



My alarm started beeping and I thought, “Great, I got up at 3am as planned”.  I commenced getting ready, had a nice cleansing coughing fit and packed up.  Once I started riding, I realised that I slept through my 3am alarm and got up at my 4am alarm.  Oh well, I probably needed the sleep.  Today was the day with the ferry.  About 225km of riding and the last ferry leaves at 9:40pm… no problem.  The trail was more pleasant rail grade up and over a pass.  The tunnels here were awesome!  Some were really long and dark with water dripping from the ceiling.  I loved it! 

Long, dark, drippy tunnel

On the descent, the trail started to parallel a really big lake.  The views were great!  I was keeping a good pace and was breathing well.  I found the mornings were the best times for breathing well.  Later in the afternoon is when my airway would start to close up. 

View of the lake near Castlegar

I was planning on stopping in Castlegar for some cough medicine.  The trail met up with the highway and I followed it down across a big bridge.  I stopped to see where a store might be and discovered I missed Castlegar.  It was back up the huge hill and off route.  No problem, Trail is only about 40-50km away. Hopefully the trail is as easy going as it was in the morning.  I continued on.  I checked Trackleaders and saw Lennard was about 20-30km ahead.   The best thing for me to do is keep on riding and minimise stopping time.  Hopefully he would stop to take a nap or something.  Haha.  Little I knew the trail to Trail (had to say it) was not easy going. 

The single track was fun, but tough.  Steeper climbs than the rail grade so I was required to push my bike at times.  The trail paralleled the river and went up and down the riverbank.  It even went through the river at times and I had to wade through shin-deep water.  I enjoyed it, but it was slow.  I started doing the math.  It’s 1pm and I have to make the ferry in about 8.5 hours.  I am no longer averaging 20km/hr and I have no idea what the trail is like on the way.  I had better keep going and hope for the best.  On I went, pushing and riding where I could.  The trail would go over loose rock and through thick river bushes.  Again, lots of fun, but the ferry started nagging in my mind.  I resolved to stop fast in Trail and ride without stopping until I got to the ferry.  I had no idea if I had to be early to get on either.  We recently took the ferry from North Vancouver to Nanaimo and had to be there early to get on.  All I could do is ride.  Whatever happens - happens. 

I got into Trail at about 2pm.  I had 7.5 hours to go about 120km.  If the riding is easy, I should be able to cover that in about 6 hours.  If it’s not easy, I would take much longer.  I had better hurry!!  I stopped at Safeway and wandered the aisles looking for supplies.  Gas stations are much easier to resupply in.  More cold drinks, less ground to cover looking for snacks, and more ready-to-eat sandwiches.  The good thing is they had a pharmacy so I was able to get some cough syrup.  I took some, but it didn’t seem to help that much. 


Off I go to catch a ferry!  The road to Salmo was all paved so I made good time.  Hooray!  Since I had no idea what was ahead, I was hoping I could keep a good pace.  On the way to Salmo, the sleep monster hit me and I stopped for a quick nap.  I vowed to never ride drowsy due to safety and the fun factor.  On the Tour Divide, I would try to push through the drowsiness and it was miserable; not to mention unsafe.  I stopped for a quick 10 minute nap and snapped out of the drowsy zone.  The little magenta line on my GPS turned north at Salmo and I was back on gravel rail trail.  Uh oh, slower going.  It was about 5pm now.  4.5 hours until the ferry and about 70-80km to go.  I pushed on up the gravel rail grade.  As I reached the summit, I was riding along a creek and heard some crashing in the bushes.  I looked to my right and saw the square head of a grizzly on the other side of the creek.  I whispered, “Hey bear” (no voice) and kept riding.   I blew my whistle a few times, but I wasn’t too worried since he was on the other side of the creek.  After the summit, I started the descent into Nelson.  It was about 7:30pm and I had about 40km to go.  This was going to be close.  I blasted through town and was happy to see it was pavement all the way to the ferry.  I tucked into the aero bars and went as fast as my single speed could take me.  My throat was getting drier and drier no matter how much water I drank.  I kept rolling and staring at my clock.  The darkness fell and I rolled up to the ferry terminal at 9:32pm.  Eight whole minutes to spare.  I still didn’t know if I was going to get on so I attempted to ask a guy in uniform coming from the boat.  I opened my mouth to ask him what to do and nothing came out.  I had never lost my voice that bad.  I whispered my questions to him and found out the ferry was free and all I had to do was ride my bike on at 9:40.  I made it!!  I even had time to get some drinks and food at the store at the station.  

On the ferry

The ferry ride was about 35min long and I had a chance to use the bathroom and charge my battery pack.  On the other side, I started riding and looking for a place to sleep.  I found a spot in the trees by a creek and go to sleep about 12am. 

2017 BC Epic 1000: Day 2

Outside of Penticton to Christina Lake
Daily distance: 276 km (171 mi)
Riding Time: ~19h
Total distance: 531.5 km (330 mi)
Standing: 2nd place



I woke up to a strange groaning sound in the woods.  To me it sounded like a bear, but I wasn’t sure if that was my imagination.  I heard it a few times, sometimes close and sometimes far, as I was getting up so I thought it would be a good time to pack up and go.  I was rolling at about 5am.   I rode up the hill wondering if I would come upon Lennard in his bivy; no such luck.  I found out after the race he rode until about 2 or 3am and was way ahead of me.  I stopped in Chute Lake campground for some water and talked to one of the campers about the race.  Chute Lake was at the top of the climb and from that point on the grade was pretty gentle all the way to Myra Canyon.  The trestle bridges here are amazing.  The sun was rising, the weather was good, and my cough wasn’t too bad so I felt really good. 

Myra Canyon Trestles

The trail descended gradually toward Beaverdell and the temperature started to rise.  I started hearing a strange rattling whenever I went over bumps so I stopped to take a look.  To my horror, my front wheel was loose on the forks!  The only thing keeping it on was the ridge on the fork around the quick release knobs.  I was very grateful that it didn’t fly off going at high speed.  I was also glad that the repair was quick and easy.  I tightened my wheel and rode off down the hill.  Beaverdell was a welcome sight.  I was hot and thirsty.  My voice was all but gone, but I could breathe well and I felt good.  I stopped and had a drink and too much ice cream.  I’m not sure why, but after that little break, my throat started to close up.  I had about 70% of my airway at this point, but was still able to continue with little trouble.  I just made sure I was drinking and eating regularly.  As long as I drank, I could swallow the food.  Candy and sweets were going down the best.


I think it was Rock Creek where there was a little store.  I bought some Gatorade and found out from the attendant that Lennard had stopped for about half an hour.  It was good news that I was gaining a little bit.  I croaked out a goodbye and got back on the road in the 35 degree weather.  The next stretch to Midway was hot and out in the open through farmers’ fields.  There were a lot of gates that you would have to open and close on the way through.  This is where the heat started to get to me a bit.  I was feeling run down, I couldn’t breathe well and it was really hot.  At one stream, I soaked my shirt to cool off.  I stopped in Midway at the nice air-conditioned gas station for a break.  My airway loosened up a bit and I could breathe better after some liquids and ice cream.   I remembered not to have too much ice cream.  After the nice recovery, I was on the bike in the heat again.  It was starting to get a bit later in the day and cooling off.  My airway was still not fully open, but not too bad so I was enjoying the gradual climb up the rail grade.  I came upon the locked gate Lennard talked about at the start.  I remembered it was at the llama farm. I didn’t want to climb over so I managed to slide my bike under the gate.  On I rode until I came to Grand Forks about nightfall.  I stopped at a small gas station to resupply.  I tried to cough out some of the stuff in my lungs and had a scary experience.  I hacked some stuff out, but in the process, more got lodged in my airway and blocked it.  I had to stop the bike and really concentrate on my breathing because there was only about 10-20% of my airway open.  I started the process of relaxing my breathing and catching my breath, then coughing to clear my airway.  After a few tries, I managed to clear it out to about 60%.  Good enough to ride!  I vowed to keep the coughing to a minimum at that point.  I started climbing as darkness fell.  I stopped on the side of the trail at about 11:30pm to set up camp.  Once I got some sleep, I would probably feel a bit better.  Dion rolled up and startled me a bit.  I wasn’t expecting to see another bikepacker.  Lennard and I were pulling away from the field a bit at that point and I wasn’t considering a westbound rider.  We talked a bit and he carried on down the trail.  I ate my supper and after a nice relieving coughing fit, I went to sleep.  Sleeping was a bit interrupted as my breathing wasn’t easy and I would wake up coughing, but I did get a few hours of good sleep.  

2017 BC Epic 1000: Day 1



What a great experience racing the BC Epic 1000!  Thanks to Lennard Pretorius for putting together such an amazing route through central BC. This race brought some new challenges I had never faced before.  The Monday before the race start on Saturday, June 24th, 2017, I started to feel a sick feeling in the back of my throat.  Not a nervous feeling, but an actual cold or something.  I tried to ignore it and take some extra vitamins, but I was getting sicker and sicker as the week went on.  Being my stubborn self, this had no influence whether I was going to start the race.  I was going to ride no matter what.

I planned as usual and got my gear ready for the race. I rode my single speed Kona Unit and picked a bit harder gear ratio of 34:18 due to the trail being mostly on rail grades. This worked out really well.  I was able to keep a decent cadence on most of the climbs and still have a decent spinning speed on the flatter sections.  I made sure I had my Mike Hall bracelet strapped on my seat bag as a tribute to his legacy.

#rideformike

BC Epic 1000: Day 1

Merritt to outside of Penticton
Daily distance: 256 km (159 mi)
Riding Time: 16h
Standing: 2nd place




Grand Depart

The whole family drove down to Merritt for the start.  We got to Rotary Park about an hour before the start and I began putting my bags on my bike.  With the group photo, small chat with the reporter from the local paper, I was scrambling a bit to be ready on time.  I had just enough time to chug back my coffee from McDonalds and packed my BLT bagel for later.  In my haste, I forgot my cheap little lock on the bumper of the Pilot.  We rolled out of town and before I knew it we were racing.  The start was on pavement and I was able to keep a decent pace near the front of the pack.  The sore throat I had didn’t seem to be much of a factor at this point. 


Neutral start out of Merritt

I started getting into the habit of following the rider in front of me and then I saw him turn around.  We both went off route a little bit.  Not too far, but our turn around resulted in us being in the last group of riders.  Then the gravel started.  I rode with Dace for a while on the gravel and I was glad I did.  There was one section where we had to push our bikes up the side of a ditch to continue on course.  He was familiar with this so he was helping me with where to go. We settled into a nice pace and that’s when the ride really felt like the race started.  Nice, steady gravel for miles. The day started getting hotter and I started thinking about when I needed to stop.  Coalmont came into view, but the General Store looked like it was closed.  I was about to ride on, but noticed I was out of water.  I circled back and found a post office where I could fill up.  Dace rolled up and I said we could get water here.  While he was in the process of purchasing a pop, I packed up and kept rolling.  My throat felt dry and I was losing my voice a bit, but I didn’t feel too bad.  Maybe being sick wouldn’t be too much of a factor…I hope.

Before I knew it I was in Princeton.  I just filled up with water so I was debating stopping.  Then I saw a few bikes at the Subway.  This was my chance to pass a few riders so I kept rolling through town.  There was a steady climb out of town so I started grinding up the hill.  Lennard rolled up, we chatted a bit, and then he started pulling away.  The temperature started to get hotter and I started to run out of water.  My desire to not stop resulted in the bad decision of passing by some surface water sources without filling up. I thought  the Osprey Lake campground would have some water…nope.   Before I knew it I was out of water and getting thirsty.  I ran into Lennard and Ken and they just got some trail magic in the form of water so Lennard shared one bottle with me.  I was incredibly thankful, but could not remember if I actually said thanks.  That bugged me for a few days so I made sure I thanked him at the end of the race. 

I kept grinding away slowly up the hill looking for a water source.  Most of the time when I heard water, it was at the bottom of a steep slope. Then I found a nice rushing stream at the side of the trail.  I finished my BLT bagel from the morning, washed up a bit and filled up with water.  Now I had to wait 30min for the water purification tablets to work.  Thirsty!! That water was great after the wait!

Decommissioned rail trail

The descent into Penticton was nice and smooth.  I tried to keep eating and drinking lots as the town came into view.  As I passed through Summerland, I even got a few cheers from a car.  Nice morale boost!  I came into Penticton and started riding through town.  The route passed through some sort of festival so there were people and cars everywhere.  It was a huge party zone.  The road was pretty busy so I thought there should be a gas station up ahead.  I climbed a steep hill and it looked like I was on my way out of town.  I asked a guy on the street if there was a gas station up ahead – nope.  Lennard pulled up and let me know that the best resupply was right at the start of town.  Route knowledge certainly helps!  I resigned myself to backtracking to the store and letting Lennard ride on.  I croaked a goodbye (started losing my voice) and headed back into town.  After resupply, spotting an Elvis getting some snacks, and riding through town again, I started climbing the hill out of Penticton at sunset.  This was a start of a strange climb.  It seemed secluded, then a car would drive by, and then another.  Then I was riding through a crowd of happy drunks carrying coolers.  Then there were other very happy (drunk or something else) cyclists riding toward me down the hill.   I ran into Ken and we rode together for a short while until he decided to camp close to a picnic table and outhouse.  I kept riding for a while and stopped about 11:30pm and set up camp behind a rock outcropping just off the trail.  Just as I got comfy in my bivy, another group of very happy cyclists came coasting down the hill.  I laid quietly as they loudly organised themselves and chose their playlist for the ride down the hill.  Where were these cyclists coming from?  My cough was getting worse so I dozed off between coughing fits into a nice sleep. 

Sunset in Penticton

Monday, 6 February 2017

Maligne Canyon Icewalk

   

The power of the Maligne River in summer is undeniable with the rushing water crashing fall after fall. Maligne Canyon in the winter is an entirely different experience. Sections of the river solidify to create a navigable, tranquil slot canyon adorned with frozen waterfalls. We took a day trip to Jasper, Alberta to go on the Maligne Canyon Icewalk through Maligne Adventures.
     
We booked our tour online a few days before. On the big day, we arrived at their office inside Pure Outdoors Outfitters where we signed waivers and they provided us with warm, waterproof boots and ice cleats. We hopped on the shuttle and met a friendly traveller named Camille from Montreal. On the shuttle drive to the canyon, there was no shortage of wildlife viewing. We drove past a pack of coyotes and saw a huge number of elk grazing outside the townsite entrance. With the bears in hibernation, it was strange for me and Dean to turn off our bear awareness, which has been deeply ingrained from bikepacking and backpacking. 

We arrived at the 5th Bridge entrance, stepped off the bus and took in the lack of view. The mountains were hidden behind clouds and snow. We put our ice cleats on and entered the canyon.

It was -17°C (1.4°F) or -24°C (-11.2°F) with the windchill but inside the canyon we were sheltered from the wind. We hiked Maligne Canyon with our kids in August so it was bizarre to be hiking on the exposed rocks that were submerged in the river just a few months before. The island I could only view from a distance in the summer was no longer an island but blended seamlessly into the riverbank.    
    
Island
Not an island
     
Our tour guide, Brody, informed us that the water maintained a temperature of about 5°C (41°F) where the river flowed out of the ground. We reconnected with the marked trails, soon to approach a section where the river disappeared under the rocks. Where the waterfall was once noisy, it merely hissed beneath an intriguing shell of ice and then disappeared beneath the rocky riverbed.

    


Framed by the pristine snow and the icy shell beginning to form around the edges, the silly string waterfall seemed more beautiful in the winter. The less it looked like a spider web, the better, I think.




The chain-link had been rolled down on a section of the safety rail. It was our entry point into the main event. We stepped off the riverbank onto the frozen river. Even with the ice cleats on, it was very slippery. Note to self: Next time, bring hiking poles! Brody advised us to walk on the wet ice when possible because it was grippier. I never thought I would be eager to walk on wet ice in my life.

Brody and wet ice

We were on a gradual incline. It would be seconds of fun sliding down sections on the way back. Before crossing a narrow, slippery bridge made of skinny logs, we stepped in about 4 inches of water. The warm rubber boots worked great. The chill of the water didn’t infiltrate at all.



The canyon began to narrow as we approached the 4th bridge. I couldn’t believe we were standing where it would have been impossible last August.




We arrived at the first of the towering falls, in awe of its span and the beautiful blues.



   
Something about the mountains brings out the Gollum in Dean.


Precious waterfalls at Johnston Canyon
All-weather Gollum at Maligne Canyon
Gollum Vision

 We got to explore behind another waterfall.


His view
Her view
Interior
Exterior
Moving on

I noticed similarities to Upper Antelope Canyon [located in Page, Arizona, 2352 km (1463 miles) away]. We toured it on the way home from the Tour Divide in July. I was fascinated with how similar forms could be found in such different places. 


One was carved out by the Maligne River in the Alberta Rockies and the other by flash floods in the Arizona desert.





We stood on a layer of ice and snow at one and sand in the other. 




A chockstone was wedged between the canyon walls at Maligne and a log swept away by floods lodged in the other.




The technology faced some challenges with the freezing temperatures. Dean stopped to change the batteries when his camera died but the batteries were fine. Water dripped onto the lens and froze in the camera. He switched to his phone camera and was able to take one picture before the cold took it down too. My phone later tapped out at Athabasca Falls even though the battery life was at 60%. We made sure to store them in inside pockets to warm them up.


Changing Batteries

K-mart pose

We had reached as far as we could go. I took so many pictures of the last frozen waterfall with this nagging feeling that I might miss something. Even as the tour group started to walk away, I was hesitant to leave until I got the picture just right. It wasn’t until Dean stepped into the frame that I had found the shot I was looking for. It encapsulated everything I was hoping for on this adventure: exploring with my other half and discovering new, beautiful places outside.

  
From the point-and-shoot

Ice Ice Baby