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Big Chills, Big Hills, Bighorns and a New Personal Record
Time was running out if I wanted to keep mt BC 12 string going beyond 1, so it was February 25 or nothing. I chose to do Jeff Mudrakoff's Kelowna-Enderby route, modified for an Enderby start. I had been wanting to try this route as there were sections I had not ridden for many years, as well as some I had never ridden. The weather forecast was iffy at best: 40% chance of flurries for Kelowna, 60% for Vernon, lows around -8, highs around +1. I didn't want to ride the Surly with the studded tires, but was nervous about icy patches, so at Susan's suggestion I had moved the studded tires to the Trek 920. Best thing I could have done (apart from staying warm at home). I got up and checked environment Canada and Drive BC highway cams for Kelowna and Armstrong- clear roads, temperature of -7. Current temperature at home: -4.5. Let's give it a go.
I started at Sutherland's Bakery in Enderby, with clear skies and the thermometer at the gas station showing -9. Remembering the last long ride I did at this temperature, I used two insulated water bottles, plus travel mug full of hot coffee that fits nicely into a bottle cage. It was a chilly but pleasant ride to Vernon, and eventually the sun came up and started to warm things a bit. A few people were ice fishing on Swan Lake. Looking at the route, it's obvious Jeff made a real effort to keep it off highways as much as possible. He made no effort to keep it away from hills. Jeff is tough. He would have even loved the weather, which would possibly have had him wear long sleeves. I was wearing four layers, two of them wool. So, up out of Vernon I went, up Commonage road, climbing waaay higher than I would have on the highway.
By the time I got to Winfield (via the Hilly east side of Wood Lake), it was necessary to swap the lobster mitts for fleece gloves. Just as well, as the lobsters made opening food and eating impossible, and removing them meant stopping, then fighting wet soggy hands back into wet, soggy mitts. One place where it would have been better to stay on the highway was Glenmore road. It used to be a nice ride, but road improvements have not kept up with development. There is no shoulder for the first half, and Kelowna drivers pass whether there is room or not. It seems almost as busy as the highway. Once into Kelowna, Jeff used the trail along Mission Creek. I'm sure it's a nice ride in the spring and summer, but today it was (depending on whether it was in the shade or sun) alternately icy and muddy. Glad I had those studded tires. It was the weekend of the Hypothermic Half Marathon, so I was constantly passing muddy runners. Fortunately I had a bell on. Some didn't hear it, or pretended not to.
I'm pretty sure I controlled at the wrong Starbucks in Kelowna, due to brain fade. I was way behind schedule, and pretty much spent, with a lot of climbing still to go. A sandwich and a coffee (to go) perked me up a bit, and I crossed the bridge to Westside Road. It was starting to cloud up a bit but I wasn't worried- yet. I even was able to remove my jacket for a while. Just past Bear Creek Park I saw the first of two herds of Bighorn sheep (with disappointingly small horns). Later I saw another smaller herd, but with much more impressive headgear. Quite a few deer were about too. I was getting slower and slower, and later and later. Chocolate milk and Coke from the Little Kingdom Store helped a bit, but I couldn't get the anticipated climbs of Schubert and Lansdowne out of my mind. Approaching Armstrong, the weather was looking uglier by the minute. Climbing Schubert, I glanced at my GPS- 6 kmh?!! It was starting to snow. I had never ridden Gulch Road. It's gravel, and as the name implies, it drops down into a steep gully, then climbs up the other side. During said climb, I was so slow that my GPS thought I had stopped and auto-paused. The snow was starting to build up on the road. Onto Lansdowne, and another 6 kmh climb, but I knew it was the last one. The Canyon Road descent had a skiff of snow on the top half, once more making me grateful for the studded tires. The thermometer in the middle of Enderby said -1. I rolled into Sutherlands Bakery after 10 hrs, 57 minutes, making this my slowest 200 km ever by 12 minutes, with exactly 10 hours on the bike. Unlike my other slow 200s, this one did not include a stop at a pub, or 42 bonus kms. I was just slow, physically unprepared for the toll the cold and climbing would take. I want to try this route again later in the season, when it should be easier.
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February 26, 2017