Newsletter - 2007 Archive

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by Harold Bridge

          After 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".
          I 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.
          Before 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.

          Events 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,
          1987 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.
          At 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.
          1991; 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.

          Out 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.
          I 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.
          I 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.
          The 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 it.
          After 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"!
          I 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