Back on the road again: a hiccup

by Raymond Parker on August 8, 2011

in Autobiography, Cycling, Health, Randonneuring

“And I can’t wait to get on the road again.
On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been.
Seein’ things that I may never see again” ~Willie Nelson

Over the winter of 2003-4, I began to disturb my wife’s sleep by routinely leaping out of bed and squirming around on the bedroom floor, emitting the kind of sounds she hadn’t heard since camping on the Serengeti.

“It’s just a bit of gas,” I’d reassure.

Amanda would have none of it. She’d just spent months nursing me back from the brink. She demanded medical intervention.

Evidently, gall bladder disease is commonly caused yo-yo dieting. Not that I’d ever yo-yoed. I’d never even yoed. There was, however, that precipitous 60 lb. weight loss through the summer and fall of 2003 (arrested just before the insertion of a feed tube).

I am not by any means recommending the radiation diet plan.

So there went my planned return to randonneuring, via the Vancouver Island Spring Series.

Nonetheless, despite the financial constraints incurred by the previous year’s travails, I scraped together $300 to rebuild my well-used Rocky Mountain Blizzard, converting it into a road bike of sorts and, when I felt well-enough, continued a modest training plan.

I’d survived cancer; I wasn’t about to let a few gall stones block the road.

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Tom hocking, NanPop, 2005

On March 27th, days before my scheduled cholecystectomy, I reacquainted myself with the Nanaimo Populaire–at least the 50km route, ridden in classic style under a deluge of rain.

I also became reacquainted with über randonneur Ken Bonner, who I hadn’t seen in a decade. Tom Hocking and I chatted with him around Departure and Hammond Bays, until he powered away up a long hill, hands by his side, all casual like.

On April 1st, I was admitted into Victoria General. Big joke!

I was released the next day, lighter by one bellicose organ and “drilled out” in several places. They say laparoscopic surgery is much less invasive than the old stem-to-stern dissection that used to be standard procedure. Still, I felt like I’d been kicked in the side by a mule on the Tour de Gall.

Obeying doctor’s orders, I stayed away from the bike—for a week. Then I climbed on the wind trainer, slowly building time in the saddle.

On May 2nd, I decided it was time to give the stitches a good test. I joined Stephen and Carol Hinde—who were riding their Greenspeed tandem trike—Mike Poplawski, Don Munro, and a couple of other Vancouver Island randonneurs for a tour of Saanich back roads.

I promised myself I’d accompany the group out to Mattick’s Farm, pause there for coffee, and cruise back on the flat Lochside/Galloping Goose trail system, a distance of about 40 kilometres.

The “just another 5k” rationale took me beyond that milepost. Stephen had plotted the route, so its 122 kilometre length included every hill on the peninsula. I felt fine. The bed rest had done wonders!

I joined Bonner’s Wednesday coffee ride at the end of the month, a weekly ritual that became the centre of my training week.

On May 30th, Amanda and I supported the Gold River 600, a new route devised by Hinde and Munro.

On June 2, an exchange of e-mails ratified plans for me to organize the scheduled late summer brevets on Vancouver Island.

Meanwhile, Poplawski’s June 12th Tour of Greater Victoria was my official reintroduction to the wacky world of randonneur cycling, now officiated in the province by BC Randonneurs. Back in the “old days,” the club existed under the umbrella of Cycling B.C. (history here).

My initial bit-chomping was tempered at Sooke (km 155) by PBP anciennes, including Karen Smith and Deirdre Arscott, who taught me that there were more important things than fast times, like the deep dish apple pie and ice cream at Mom’s Cafe.

Our bellies full, we carried the pie back over the steep humps of Humpback Road, returning to Victoria in an elapsed time of 10:44.

Tour of Greater Victoria, Patricia Bay

Photo: Mike Poplawski (click to enlarge)

Having essentially assumed the position of route coordinator for Vancouver Island, (made official at the October AGM), I set to work creating routes for the registered July 16 brevets—a 200 and a 300.

I felt the onus to fill Hinde’s big cleats. After all, he had a 20-year reputation of devising quality, if not always flat, routes. Accordingly, with 3,900 metres of climbing, my “Tsunami” 300 became the hilliest brevet in that distance category on the Island, eclipsing Hinde’s classic spring 300 route by about 400 metres. Of course, it fell to me to pre-ride it.

Tsunami 300 pre-riders: L-R Mike Poplawski, Raymond Parker, Jaye Haworth

(click to enlarge)

That was it for brevets on the Island calendar, but I could taste a SR medal. I consulted the Mainland schedule. There was a 400 on August 2.

The Mount Baker 400 began in Burnaby, B.C. and crossed the US border to wend the country roads of Washington State. Through green fields, redolent with liquid fertilizer, spraying in the morning sunlight, and the welcome shade of fragrant forests, the course took riders on its outward leg to Artist’s Point (elev. 1,554m), on the austere slopes of the great volcano.

To get there required a 50 kilometre climb on the Mount Baker Highway, culminating in a series of switchbacks that would merit “Category 1,” were they in the Tour de France.

From this control, we had only 235 kilometres to get back to Burnaby, which the small group I was riding with reached at 1:30am, the next morning.

Artist’s Point Control

(click to enlarge)

All I needed now was a 600 to achieve my goal. There was one on the Mainland calendar on August 20, organized by Michel Richard, a recent Tsunami survivor.

Before I could sign up, a nasty cold got in the way.

The Kootenays owns part of my heart. Therefore, it seemed fated that the last chance to earn Super Randonneur status in 2005 should be there. The Kootenay 600, organized by Gord Cook, began in Fruitvale, on September 3. That would give me plenty of time to recover.

This route followed the same direction my other qualifiers had taken: up. I was intimately familiar with the roads included on this mountainous ride, having ridden them before. I looked forward to seeing the Purcell Mountains, the streams and rivers cascading from their heights and the blue lakes that fill each valley bottom.

I booked a motel room, strategically located at kilometre 340, and made cost-sharing travel arrangements with Michel Richard, who was taking on the concurrent 1,000k.

A week before the event, I undertook a 120km test ride. My chest, I had to concede, was still the domain of viral invaders. I phoned Michel, and the motel in New Denver, to cancel.

Completing any randonnée, never mind a full series, is a never a sure thing. I was disappointed, yet when I looked at my logbook at the end of the year, my total distance stood at 8001 kilometres, eclipsing my 1993 personal best by 13 kilometres.

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