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VanIsle 1200 - Kathy's Story
Ride dates: July 14-18, 2014
by Kathy Brouse

Thought I would try to capture some of the highlights of the Vanisle 1200 2014 before it slips out of short term memory. It is now six days post ride and I am holed up in the Coastal Kitchen Café in Port Renfrew, a rugged and remote fishing outpost on Vancouver Is west coast. I am here to hike the Juan de Fuca Trail, 47kms of rainforest from Sooke to Port Renfrew but this morning it is raining torrentially and I do not have my primo hiking gear – rainjacket, hiking boots and gators with me now to keep me dry and safe on this challenging trail.

The Vanisle 1200 was an adventure and a definite bucket list event for all randonneurs looking to combine the rugged natural beauty of snow-capped mountains, oceans and lakes with a 4 day cycling challenge. 47 riders started out from Victoria on Monday, July 14 at 3:00am, the forecast was hot and dry, constant hydrating conditions. We headed north over the Malahat, the first big climb just north of Victoria, towards Campbell River at 267kms, the central drop bag location. The second control at Graham Fishlock’s house in Cedar Point was such a pleasant surprise. Graham is a BC randonneur who participated in the inaugural Granite Anvil back in 2009. A small team of volunteers, including Graham and his wife, dished out a delicious healthy breakfast and it was so peaceful sitting on the grass in that beautiful place. I arrived there before noon and was soon back on the bike heading up the coast to Nanaimo, Qualicum Beach, Comox, finally arriving at Campbell River around 6:00pm. I refuelled, waited for a riding companion that I had not seen for awhile and finally decided to head out on my own to the Gold River control.

Now, some of you will know that I was concerned about doing this stretch of road on my own in the dark. It is very remote and there are no services other than at Strathcona Lodge, which was closed by the time I passed by there anyway. I thank Vaune Davis for sharing the pre-ride mental strategies she has found helpful over the years. As Vaune instructed I looked fear in the face, mentally rehearsing how to problem solve unexpected adverse circumstances such as mechanical issues, bears, etc. I arrived in Gold River at 12:30am having passed various members of the A-team riders who were not stopping at that control having turned around to return to Campbell River. Some said hi, some jingled a bell, some did not return my greeting.

The staff at Gold River were so welcoming and passed me a baggy with chicken wrap, yummy cake and fruit which I devoured before lying down. I set off from Gold River around 3:30am. The first light and the sun coming up over the mountains was so beautiful. Saw Henk, Brian B and Will, an Alberta rider, on this stretch and we pulled into Campbell River at the same time, around 9:00am. Did I mention yet that there was a heat wave in central and east Vancouver Is last week and by the end of day 2, 12 riders had dropped out of the ride? The heat was really brutal. One rider from California told me that the conditions were harder than cycling in Death Valley, what with the heat and the climbs! Got to Sayward Junction sometime around noon and melted on the bench at the gas station. Pushed on towards Woss, steadily climbing in the heat for 70kms and trailing Brian, Will, BC Colin and BC Gary all the way.

The Woss control was like a birthday party! The table was set with paper plates and napkins and we had sandwiches, chips and watermelon. There may have even been balloons but no party bags when we leftJ. The volunteers were great and even provided Will with a bucket of icewater to soak his tired feet, like a spa! For the next 5 hours to Port Hardy I cycled with the boys and that was fun, everybody pulling and drafting as we headed north. Unfortunately, probably due to sleep deprivation, I touched the back of Will’s wheel and cycled into the ditch just south of Port Hardy. I was all tangled up at the bottom of a rather steep ditch and I thought my Vanisle was over. Luckily, I suffered only bruising down my left side and my bike was OK. Yeah, my Vanisle was not over!! Arrived at the Port Hardy Inn around 11:00pm – horrible place, don’t ever stay there.

Day #3 began at 3:15am, three of us heading towards Port McNeill and then on to Woss for a delicious, huge breakfast. By that time we had met up again with BC randonneurs Gary and Colin and British Peter. Our group of 6 set off south to Sayward Junction and I had one of my best times on the Vanisle screaming down the hills into the control. I kept thinking, this is why I came to BC… whoopie!! Spent the third night in Courtney arriving around 9:00pm. Day #4 began at 3:00am and the highlight of that section was the sun coming up over the mountains and the herons at Qualicum Beach. Through Nanaimo and Duncan again, up and over the Malahat and back in Victoria at 4:23pm, 85hrs and 23 minutes later!!

It was a unique adventure and I enjoyed almost every part of it. The noisy ride on the shoulder along the main and only highway for 5 hours at the end of the ride was tedious but doable and I seemed to be the only person who did not mind the Malahat climb at the end. Perhaps because I was savouring the fact that this would be my last BC hill climb until my next visit made me happy just to be there grinding up that hill, descending and dodging the debris and construction on the way down.

Finally, let me say, that the BC and Victoria Is randonneurs are some of the nicest people on the planet: welcoming, friendly, generous. Thanks to Steve Mahovolic and his team of volunteers for hosting this remarkable event. The brunch on Friday morning was fun and great to see so many individuals acknowledged for their contributions and achievements. Thanks to Steve and Melissa for inviting me to stay at their house and making me feel so welcome. And thanks to all those colourful individuals I met on the ride – BC Colin and Gary, California Clyde and JT, Alberta Will and British Peter. Thanks to Ken Bonner for the thoughtful gift of chocolates and a card to wish me well and good luck on the ride. I have increased my international contacts of randonneur friends and comrades and look forward to meeting up again in the future….PBP next year!!

BTW: It is still raining torrentially. Good thing I downloaded 3 books on my Kobo reader!


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July 25, 2014