Wenger’s rocky ride of a lifetime

Biker pedals onward after doctor’s visit to finish the Rocky Mountain 1200

Shawn Wenger pauses for a photo on her Rocky Mountain 1200 journey.

Shawn Wenger pauses for a photo on her Rocky Mountain 1200 journey.

Kamloops This Week

I’ve seen plenty of finish lines.

Sometimes, there are lots of people.

Sometimes, there is no one and I flop into the back of my car and sigh before I get in and drive home.

Sometimes, I cry.

Either way, I am satisfied to have finished and accomplished the goal I set out to achieve.

On Thursday, July 26, after almost 79 hours on the road, including 24 hours in the rain, cycling 1,200 kilometres with a total of eight hours of sleep, I found the most satisfying finish line ever at the conclusion of the Rocky Mountain 1,200, a B.C. Randonneurs’ event.

Adding to the satisfaction was the fact I thought I was going to have to quit within 70 kilometres of home.

We left Kamloops on July 23 at 4 a.m. in the pouring rain with a group of people who chose to ride the distance in 84 hours or less.

It was like riding through a car wash as we headed up through Clearwater, Blue River and Valemount.

On the way to Jasper, darkness fell and so did the temperature.

Many riders chose to call an end to the insanity.

We arrived in Jasper at 11:30 p.m. and shivered our way into dry clothes and a warm bed for three hours of sleep.

On July 24, we were on the road at 4 a.m. once again – and again it was raining.

We headed down the Icefield Parkway through Beauty Creek and Saskatchewan River Crossing.

The final climb to Bow Summit before descending to Lake Louise was a killer.

Arriving in Lake Louise at 6:30 p.m., we did a very quick transition so we could do the descent into Field in the daylight.

This is when I started worrying about my husband.

He was feeling light-headed and out of sorts and he does not like descending, so the long dark drop over the new bridge to the Kicking Horse Rest Area and the shoulderless descent into Golden were harrowing and dangerous.

It was a relief to crawl into bed again at about 11 p.m. Three o’clock in the morning comes early and again we were on the road at 4 a.m., heading for Revelstoke over the Rogers Pass.

Suddenly, it was more than 30 C and we went from six layers down to one.

The worst parts were the tunnels, with so much debris on the shoulders and the roar of the trucks passing by.

With nerves on edge, I had my first cry at the top.

After an enjoyable descent to Revelstoke, we headed off to Sicamous.

I watched the mileage signs tick down as we got closer to Kamloops and I knew the last 200 kilometres would be the most challenging because we weren’t just heading straight back.

At Sicamous, we turned toward Armstrong and were seriously losing our enthusiasm, so we stopped for ice cream.

I was starting to worry about my right Achilles tendon, nagging at me since before Lake Louise, where we had taped it for the first time.

At Rogers Pass, we added a tensor wrap.

Between Armstrong and Salmon Arm, we added another tensor in an attempt to immobilize it and keep the knife-blade pain from searing into my ankle.

Cycling form was going out the window as I tried to pedal mostly with the left leg and we limped into Salmon Arm, made a quick change and headed for Falkland.

As darkness fell, so did my spirits.

The pain got worse and I looked for a foot position that would not make me scream with each revolution.

Of course, with all this shifting back and forth, saddle sores started to form with a vengeance, but the Achilles lightning bolts took priority.

When we broke out onto the highway outside Falkland, I was in so much pain.

A group of men who had been riding with us off and on caught up to us again and offered more tape to wrap from my toe to my ankle in another attempt to immobilize my ankle.

Off they went and I once again began limping … right heel down … left leg power.

For some crazy reason, it seemed like keeping the injured heel down was making it better but, in the end, that was putting way too much pressure on the tendon.

Finally, just outside Falkland, my resolve broke.

I pulled over and told Chris he had to finish without me – I was pulling the pin.

We called for our support to come and get me.

My amazing in-laws were on the way.

As I slid out of the truck in Westwold, I was greeted by a carload of four amazing women who had come to hug and cry and tell me I was a winner even without getting to the finish.

Once inside the hospital, the nurse removed all the layers of wrapping, remarking someone had good intentions.

Much of the pain subsided once the wraps were removed.

My foot and ankle had swelled up under the wraps and I felt immediate relief.

The Achilles was still inflamed and angry, and rather than being scolded by the doctor as I had expected, I was rewarded when I asked the question, “Can I go back and finish the ride?”

I just wanted assurance I would not rupture the tendon.

He was amazing.

He explained how I should tape it and told me to ride in without using the injured leg as much as possible.

By this time, my friends had all gone home and I stood on the corner of Columbia and Third streets waiting for my in-laws to come and pick me up and deliver me back to the same spot where I thought it was all over.

Thankfully, the rules allow riders to leave the course as long as they come back to that same spot and finish within the time cut-offs.

I rode into Falkland in the beautiful misty morning sunshine and waved at my support vehicle as it stopped once in a while to make sure I was moving forward relatively pain-free.

In Westwold, I once again met up with my husband, who had been my constant companion for this epic event.

Originally, I’d told him to ride on without me and finish, but he decided to wait and ride in with me.

I can’t imagine not having him there as we rode the last 50 kilometres to Kamloops.

As we rode easily along, we chatted about what we would do differently if we ever did this again.

Would we ever do this again?

Unlikely, but never say never.

Finally, we were back on the road, taking the final exit toward downtown and the Kamloops Curling Club – where the finish line was located.

As I rounded the corner, I saw my son and his two friends running along the sidewalk screaming.

I saw my parents and the four ladies who had come out to support me the night before, along with two other wonderful friends who also do ultra-distance events.

I couldn’t help crying.

But, this time, instead of being tears of disappointment and frustration, they were completely tears of joy.

In the space of 10 hours, I had gone from thinking I was finished after 1,130 kilometres, with only 70 kilometres left to riding to the finish.

Just more than half of the 114 riders finished the event due to the terrible weather that plagued us in the beginning.

Now, I am enjoying a little piece of retirement.

I am recovering, basking and smiling a lot.

I cry whenever I describe it to people.

I don’t know what’s next.

Nothing for now – this will be pretty hard to top.


– Shawn Wenger is a BCRPA-registered personal trainer and weight-training and group-fitness instructor. She runs Fitness For Mortals. E-mail fitnessformortals@gmail.com for information.