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"Forget It, It was a Smart Move"
by Alard Malek

A day after I finished the spring 600 I checked my e-mail. Kevin Bruce had sent me the following e-mail.

"Here I am at home less than two hours after the start of the 600. Stopped in Coquitlam to put on my rain booties and discovered that I'd forgotten them. Now, I could have carried on and hoped that it wouldn't rain on me, but that would have been ridiculous….ah, FORGET IT, I said to myself."

I replied,

"FORGET IT, it was a smart move." The Spring 600 was one of the toughest rides I've completed, even though it started out well. In the early stages of the ride Manfred and I kept pace with the high performance bunch. This wasn't because we were as fit, but simply because we used a better strategy, i.e., we timed the intersection lights. They stopped, we caught up, they stopped, we caught up, and then they disappeared.

Eight or 9 kilometers into the ride a light rain began to fall. Kevin Bruce pulled over to look for his boots. The rain became stronger. On Highway 7 the odd trucker provided a cyclist's shower. By the time we reached the Dogwood Café, the rain had stopped. We had marvelous tailwinds up the Fraser Canyon. We cruised at well in excess of 30 kph. While descending a long meandering hill, I checked my speedo. 65 K!! Huh, what gives I thought? Simple, with the strong tailwind it took 65 k before the air felt calm. Indeed, the winds were so strong they pushed us up Jack Ass mountain. Wow, it was great!

Great things end. We reached Spences Bridge. After a brief break at a 'secret' control, we headed to Merritt. Headwinds, headwinds, and more headwinds! The wind that had made us feel like champions, now made us feel like aging slugs. Hills, hills, and many, many more hills! Ron Penner and Dug had joined us. Twenty kilometers from Merritt, Ron became ill. The coffee concoction he drank at Spences Bridge left him feeling nauseous with stomach cramps. Several roadside, impromptu, and makeshift outhouse stops failed to alleviate his discomfort. Nonetheless, we reached Merritt control, the overnight stop, at 11:15. (Ron did not ride the next day.) Paul's wife was at the control. She made us hot soup and sandwiches. (Thank you, thank you.) By 11:45 we were asleep.

At 4 A.M. Sunday morning, Manfred and I left Merritt. Dug had departed half an hour earlier with another group of riders. Alex Pope joined us. He had reached Merritt around 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, had a full night's sleep, and looked well rested. He intended to take a leisurely ride back to the Vancouver. "Ride with us," I thought, "and it will be very leisurely." We turned onto Coldwater Road and started our crawl to the Coquihalla.

Winds! More headwinds, albeit not as strong. And hills, many more hills! Alex Pope, traveling at a leisurely pace, pulled away. He was about 400 meters ahead of us when a large, white dog rushed out after him. But Alex had too much of a lead. The dog returned to its yard, hidden from sight.

I looked at Manfred and said, "Did you see that size of that dog that tried to chew on Alex!" Manfred, with a sadistic glint in is eye replied, "Yeah, and he is waiting behind those trees to ambush us." Funny, I thought. The dog is hiding on my left and Manfred is riding on my right. Guess who gets eaten? As we approached his hiding spot I became more alert. We got closer, but no dog. Maybe he wasn't going to ambush us after all, I fantasized…. He struck! Holy sheet he was big!!! Territorial snarls exploded from his jaws. Dang, I thought, this dog makes Spielberg's Kogo look like a malnourished Chihuahuas. Hills, headwinds, or nothing! Only goodness and mercy will follow, but I'm getting the hell out of here! Manfred and I rocketed forward, escaping by the thickness of our spandex.

We reached the Coquihalla. More hills, long steep hills. Dark thoughts about the ride organizers crept into my mind. Relief, some flat spots. We saw a black bear sitting behind the wildlife fence. He watched us for a moment before he fled into the bushes. We continued our crawl towards the toll booth.

Finally we reached the toll booth. The long climb had done little to warm us. It was cold, very cold. Later we heard that the riders who had ridden straight through had encountered falling snow during the night. We went into the restroom. Inside was a warming room. I attempted to enter it, but the door seemed stuck. I pushed harder. It opened. There, huddled on the floor, lovingly caressing the electric heater, sat a Josh, a new member of the BC Randonneur's. "Are you alright," I asked? "I'm fine," he replied, "just need a little more time to warm up." We left him sitting in his comfortable repose. We returned to our bikes for the trek to Hope.

Dang, it was cold. But we needed to climb a little more to the summit. We passed the summit and began the descent. A few kilometers later we pulled into the concession stand. We ate an egg/baconneur special, drank some tepid coffee, and chatted with a truck driver before heading down the highway. DANG IT WAS COLD! It was so cold my shivering made the bike shake as we flew down the highway. I hit some washboard pavement inside the snow tunnel. My bike started to shimmy. The shimmying became worse; it felt like the bike wanted to throw me. I once read you should clamp your knees onto the top tube in such an event. I slammed my knees around the top tube, almost crushing the metal tubing. It works! The shimmy stopped immediately. Whew!

We reached Hope, exhausted and cold. We ate a minimalist meal at the White Spot and headed to Mission. Bob joined us for the remainder of the 600. There were still some headwinds, but it wasn't too cold. My shoulders ached and my butt was sore. (Never do a 600 on a new Brooks saddle.) We soldiered on. Just after Agassiz I asked Bob how he was feeling. He looked at me, expressionless, and said, "I've been doing the death march since Hope." Shadden freude…. I felt good, I wasn't the only one suffering.

Woodside! Even with the granny gear, 6.5 kph to 7 kph is a slog. Strangely, the dogs didn't bark. They had barked when we had been going in the opposite direction, but now they were silent. Where were they? Were they watching us in silent respect of our struggles.

We reached Tim Horton's in Mission, had our control cards signed, ate some soup, and drank chocolate milk. Josh pulled in 15 minutes later. He looked fully recovered. He spoke enthusiastically about being a randonneur and how much he had learned in the last few rides (e.g., know your limits). We said goodbye to Josh and headed for the final control. Ten minutes later Josh flew by at an incredible speed. We chuckled. Bonner and Fraser may find themselves trying to keep up with some-else for a change.

The winds were calm and it was warm. We felt rejuvenated and picked up our pace. Shortly, or not so shortly, after 7:00 p.m. we arrived at the Knight and Day. Goodness and mercy had followed, we had completed the Spring 600.

Go to Merritt Loop 600: Results & Photos


June 26, 2008