by Harold Bridge
a solitary 200km randonnee in 1981 I got myself completely embroiled
in the Randonneur system in 1983 at 56 years of age. Given what
the cardiologist has told me in the past couple of years, it
is a pity I wasted 20 years of my life trying to be a "tester".
had always, even in my early teens during WW2, been one to see
what's over the next hill or around the next corner. I was encouraged
by the dearth of traffic on the roads of southern England at
the time. Army convoys rather spoilt that occasionally, but generally
speaking I often had both high roads and low roads to myself.
arthritis stepped to spoil things I managed, by 1994, to get
12 consecutive medals from Audax Club Parisien (ACP) for completing
a series of randonnees of 200, 300, 400, and 600 kms in each
of the years.
longer than 600 km were a different matter. I only managed to
complete 2x1,000 km events with their 75 hour time limit. I attempted
the progenitor of the Tour de France, Pair-Brest-Paris 3 times.
In 1983 I scrapped in just under the 90 hour limit with 89:38,
July 9, my 60th birthday. Suitable arrangements were in place
at work to celebrate the occasion, i.e; a big banner announcing:
"Weird Old Harold is 60 today!" This was all well and
good but at 05:00 the following morning I, with 3 youngsters
still in their fifties, was due to start a 1,000 km randonnee.
Route wise it was fairly straight forward. Start & finish
at Haney, a country town about 35 kms east of Vancouver. Go east
to Hope then north up the Fraser Canyon and on into Cariboo country
to turn round at Williams Lake and retrace.
Paris-Brest-Paris that year I was out before 400kms. A sealed
unit bottom bracket was so well sealed the rain couldn't get
out and the unit broke up. No replacement was available.
I was going well until 1100 kms when I stopped at the side of
the road for a power nap with my head resting on my arms across
the 'bars. A few seconds like that & a twitch of the knee
wakes me up & I push off. But unknowns to me the long grass
hid a ditch. Instead of pushing off, my foot slipped into the
ditch with me close behind. I hurt my ribs on some rocks, or
maybe my elbow, and had a very painful finale. On a short, steep
hill I had to stop & rest. I think I must have slept. After
being inside 70 hours at 1,000 kms and at about 89:50 at the
actual 1200 km point, I finished the 1230 kms in 92:30 &
went to hospital for x-rays. No broken bones were found, but
I was 6 weeks with a painful chest.
of all these stories the one I puzzle over is the 1987 Haney-Williams
Lake - Haney 1,000. I discovered a problem when we started, I
was constipated. I lasted in that unremitting pace line as far
as the first significant hill. I would arrive at a control just
as the others were leaving. Admittedly, the Fraser Canyon is
spectacular enough for it to be worth taking a camera, but I
didn't spend long on that.
was still inside time limit at Williams Lake & started to
head south at about 14:00 on Saturday. Through the night I had
to stop occasionally for a doze. Then, with dawn breaking I decided
to lie down for about 30 minutes in the grass. I checked my watch
& fell into a deep sleep. A very distinctive sound woke me
up about 10 minutes later - a rattle snake!
Wide awake I was on my way again.
knew a motel room had been booked in Clinton at about 650 / 700
kms, but didn't know where. I stopped & sat on a barricade
to eat something and the others appeared fresh and lively after
3 or 4 hours sleep. Clinton to Cache Creek is about 25 kms downhill,
so I rode that stretch with them. We stopped at Cache Creek for
breakfast before tackling the gradients in the Fraser Canyon.
Once we got going I was by myself for the rest of the ride.
steep sandstone walls of the canyon reflect the heat. The thermals
rise & draw in gale force winds from the south. I ran out
of water on this stretch and spent far too long sheltering from
the heat, 96F, hot enough for logging activity to be closed down.
As a result I got to the control at Boston Bar, 820 kms outside
the time limit. It was evening and I took a room at the Charles
Hotel. Dinner and a couple of beers cleared the problem that
had dragged me down. I went to bed planning to get the Greyhound
bus back to Haney in the morning. But I slept 12 hours and missed
a punishing ride under difficult conditions I expected to find
the remaining 180 kms very difficult. At 2 places there were
long lines of vehicles held up by Highways workers clearing rock
slides. I rode past the first line up & was passed by the
vehicles only to ride pass them again at the second stoppage.
As I passed the vehicles in the second line a voice from one
of the vehicles called out; "I hate you"!
rode back to Haney over some significant hills feeling on top
of the world. I got back to my truck having taken, including
all stops and 12 hours sleep, 86 hours!
November 14, 2007