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Finishing the BC-12 Marsupial Style
Permanent #41, May 31, 2013
by Fred Rockwell

On April 6th, as I drove home from the Somewhat Familiar 200, I thought I had a BC-12 pin in the bag. The nasty winter weather was behind me and I had only one more monthly ride to go. I felt confident about finishing the Hills Are Alive 300 scheduled for April 20th, which would leave me lots of time and well conditioned to complete a twelfth monthly brevet sometime in May. Then, during the 300, I fell and injured my right arm.

I managed to complete the 300, but it soon became clear that my recovery was going to take awhile. Would I be ready for a 200 km ride before May was over? Bob Koen offered to take me on as a one-armed stoker so I could complete my BC-12 on a tandem, but we couldn’t get our schedules to mesh. I’d have to do this on my own.

When I finally got back on my bike in mid-May, I discovered that the middle chain ring was so worn that even moderate pressure on the pedals would cause the chain to skip across the tops of the teeth sometimes sending me lurching forward. This was unsafe and very painful to my recovering arm. My local bike shop ordered a new chain ring, chain and cassette right away and would do the repairs as soon as the parts arrived.

Having done no long rides for about 4 week, I knew completing a 200 before June would be a struggle; so, I looked for a day when at least the weather might be in my favour and decided to ride the Nanaimo Country Club route on May 31st starting in Nanaimo.

By May 30th the parts for my bike still hadn’t arrived. I’d have to use my old bike, which I hadn’t ridden since last August. It has no handlebar bag or map holder. Where would I keep my food and route sheet? The windproof jacket I would be wearing has a rear pocket, but it is impossible to reach into that pocket while riding. The solution? Randonneuring marsupial style! I’d stuff Clif Bars and other snacks down the front of my bib-tights along with my route sheet protected in a ziplock bag. I must have been an amusing sight leaving controls with odd bulges in the front of my bib-tights or trying to retrieve something that had slipped part way down my leg.

As I rode to the start, the sky was overcast and the roads were still wet from overnight showers - but not wet enough to create spray. Temperature was about 10 C and there was no wind. I found I could ride comfortably without the wrist splint I had been using for the past few weeks; so, it stayed in my rack pack all day, along with a wool jersey I decided to remove at the starting control.

I make it to the Ladysmith control (30 km) much faster than anticipated. I bought a large “cowboy cookie”, refilled my water bottles, visited the facilities and was back on the road 20 minutes ahead of schedule. The next leg was about 53 km to Mill Bay. As I pedalled along, the clouds started to clear. My arm was fine and riding my old bike didn’t seem to be causing me any grief. I continued to make good time.

Around the 80 km mark I went to check my route sheet and it was gone! It must have blown out of my tights when I sat up as I approached the stop sign and right turn at Kilamalu during a descent. I considered going back for it, but decided I knew the route well enough to press on without it. Plus I didn’t relish climbing the hill I’d just come down.

Arrived at Timmy’s in Mill Bay for a planned lunch stop, but the line-up at the counter was so long it extended out the door. This has happened to me before and I found the staff there very accommodating to a time-pressed cyclist. I went to the spot where customers pick up their orders and asked to have my control card signed, to have my water bottles filled and to buy a Pepsi. (I didn’t want to push my luck by ordering food.) Outside, I got ready for the next leg while drinking the Pepsi and eating a couple of peanut butter bunwiches I’d packed just in case there was a line a Timmy’s.

I left Mill Bay half an hour ahead of schedule and started the third and longest leg of this permanent. The route climbs to Shawnigan Lake, goes around the back and top of the lake, then descends, crosses the highway, travels through Cowichan Bay and Maple Bay and eventually reaches Chemainus. During fall and winter rides, I had experienced my first road side repair, battled exhaustion and been body-slammed by damp railroad tracks while travelling this section of the route. Ah, the memories!

On the way up to Shawnigan Lake, I started to get quite warm and my bike computer registered 22 C. So I stopped to take off my jacket. A few minutes later, the sky darkened, the air cooled and a few raindrops fell. I just got my jacket back on when the skies opened up for a brief, but heavy shower. There were a few more, less intense, showers as I went around the lake, but once I got back down to the highway, the roads and I started to dry out.

At some point my triceps and upper back muscles started to complain. During the six weeks since my injury, I’d done some intensity work outs on a spinning bike at the gym, but had been cautioned to avoid loading my elbow, where I had a small fracture of the radial head. Basically my upper body conditioning was shot. I kept changing my posture and hand positions to placate those muscles as much as possible, but they weren’t happy and they let me know it.

The Subway at Chemainus was a welcome sight. I rested a bit while devouring a 6 inch sub and a medium Barq’s root beer. I was back on the road again for the final 46 km, forty minutes ahead of schedule. At first I was feeling pretty peppy, but that only lasted an hour. After that, I started to fade. There was no way I’d have a 12 hour finish, but maybe 12:30. I just kept pedalling.

The final hill up Brechin from the ferry terminal wasn’t too bad. I was going to make it. I would get the BC-12. As I approached a stop sign at the final turn, I clicked my right foot out of the SPD pedal and prepared to stop, but the bike leaned to the LEFT! I narrowly averted a fall. The truck driver who witnessed the whole thing and I exchanged smiles – mine sheepish, his amused. A mere hundred meters later I rolled into the final control and, just outside the door, my brain got a little befuddled and I stopped with both feet clipped in. Down I went. Some young guy came running out, “Hey, man, are you all right? Did you run into that post?”

“No, I’m fine. Just tired.”

I got up, leaned my bike against the wall and wearily went inside to register a final time of 12:28. That’s BC-12 the hard way. Then again, is there an easy way?

+ + +

After a few days of recovery, I am already dreaming of my next challenge – the Highwood Classic 300 in Alberta on September 7. The organizers may have to pick a different route because the Tour of Alberta riders will be using some of the same roads that day, but there should be a 300 km brevet somewhere in Alberta on the 7th and I plan to be ready for it.


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June 7, 2013