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Coast2Coast - My First 300
by Melissa Haynes

What it is about randonneuring…you go on a populaire and inevitably some seasoned veteran will say to you; “if you can do 100, you can do 200”. So you try and succeed but say; “that’s my limit”. Then, of course, someone will say, “if you can do 200, you can do 300”. Well, I resisted that crazy kind of logic for at least 3 randonneur seasons. Maybe it was the three surgeries in 16 months, but some crazy gene got a hold of me, and I decided to try…

Of course, it helped that in Steve Mahovlic, I have a very supportive partner who suggested that he drive “support” and meet me at the controls. It also helped that he recruited Mike Croy, super randonnuer several times over and just a general really nice, encouraging guy to help mentor me through it.

So, my resolve wavered several times the week before; weather forecast looked ominous; iron levels were low and strength not where I wanted to be. But I figure it’s now or never so I signed up on rando pony.

The day started out as what I would call a “Tak Tanabe” day. Takao Tanabe is a BC artist who my Mom met at Banff school of fine arts in the 40s or 50s. He paints these enormous canvases of very atmospheric west coast scenes. You can actually feel the moisture in the air when you look at one of his canvases. It was that kind of day; clouds shrouding the mountains, wetness everywhere. As long as it didn’t get too wet, though, I thought we’d be okay.

Steve had told me the Coast to Coast ride was an amazing ride. It starts at Chemainus, winding through Cedar and Yellowpoint, up to Cowichan Lake then over the the pass and down to Port Renfrew. The route retraces itself back to Cowichan Lake then takes the old Lake Cowichan highway through Duncan then on through Cobble Hill, Cowichan Bay and back to Chemainus. Steve thought it would suit my style of riding; I prefer long gradual hills, which this route promised, to ones that go up and down all day long.

If you’ve never done this route before, I would highly recommend it. Going through Cedar and Yellowpoint is like going through “the land that time forgot” though, strangely, we were stopped by police who were questioning people about a murder that had occurred the previous week. But it is beautiful and pastoral. However, the highlight of the trip must have been going riding the route from Lake Cowichan to Port Renfrew both ways. The road has been recently paved but save a few trucks and logging trucks, you pretty much have it to yourself. By the time we reached the ascent to the pass, we were riding in a group of six, the two Erics, the two Daves, Mike and I. Apparently, this doesn’t happen often in randonneur rides and we stayed together until around the 220km mark. It was nice. I must say I was totally overwhelmed by the scenery; lovely vistas from the summit and just trees and bush (well, minus a few clear cuts) everywhere you looked. Went over plenty of one lane bridges over streams and rivers and had some nice descents though the switchbacks were a bit foreboding, especially climbing them on the return ride. Dave managed to spot a black bear on the side of the road and Steve saw another bear and several Elk so that was a treat.

Coming back through Cobble Hill is also nice and the roads were pretty quiet by this time. A few climbs which were taxing the now weary legs but the scenery again was worth it. My favourite spot in this part of the ride, though, was riding Richards Trail, a six kilometer road that we reached just at dusk. Again, it feels you are in another world, a gentle rolling country road through basically pasture and farmland. I was totally in my happy place by now.

So, all I can say, is what a great introduction to a 300km brevet. Mike was amazing at keeping me calm and making sure I was okay. Graham organized a fantastic ride and recruited Jim and Phillip as volunteers who were there to greet us at “the Coastal Café” in Port Renfrew (outstanding food there, by the way). And, of course, Steve was there the whole time for emotional support and really believed I could do this. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So, this is my fifth brevet I’ve done and though I have enjoyed the others, this one is a stand out. If I had known a 300km brevet would be like this, I would have signed up much earlier. But that’s it, I’ll never do a 400…….


Go to: Eau de Hell Stories
Go to: 300 km Results
Go to: 300 km Photos


May 22, 2013