Day 12: Golden to Lake Louise (85 km)
I’m so tired I could face plant into my couscous.
The only time in my life when I’ve been this tired was when my Mum and I went on a 24 mile walk. My mother, I should point out, is a hardcore walker. Whereas I am not. I think I did actually fall asleep into my dinner that night.
Today I cycled 85km up the infamous 10 Mile Hill and over Kicking Horse Pass. It was my fifth day in a row of cycling. As soon as I got back onto the highway and began the first steep ascent the leg burn kicked in. I began to wonder whether racing my own imaginary Giro d’Italia up a mountain pass, then only eating left overs and not stretching was perhaps a bit… Foolish.
I climbed. All day I climbed like a tortoise. I felt zapped of energy. The tank was empty (because some fool decided to only feed it two meals in 118km yesterday!) My muscles and joints ached.
And then I remembered how the tortoise won the race. Sometime last year I did a 100k women only bike challenge with my mother around the rolling (read: hilly) South Downs. I remember my mother overtaking pink gym bunnies half her age. Some had stopped and were pushing their bikes up, other pink bunnies were only pedalling just enough to save falling off backwards. And my mother pedalled past them…
The trick, I recall, was to slip into the lowest gear possible and then just keep pedalling. So somewhere in my exhaustion I remembered this. And thought “if my 58 year old mother can cycle up these hills then so can I.” And so I kept pedalling. I munched some more jelly beans. Thought about my mother and the pink gym bunnies. And somehow found the strength to tap away at about 7km up this Rocky Mountain pass.
I wanted to get to Field for lunch but by 2pm I had done 50km (7km short) and my tank needed desperate refilling. I stopped by the side of the road. There was nothing around except wilderness sliced in half by highway. I was apprehensive about lunching in the wild alone for fear of bears.
So as I hung out my tent to dry in the sun and spread my avocado I began to sing. I started with John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” (obviously) but soon ran out of lyrics. So I started Aretha Franklin’s “I will survive” which seemed equally suitable. My avocado was finished but my tent was not yet dry. So I used some precious battery on the iPad to listen to some tunes (namely “what a beautiful day” by the Levellers and “C-A-N-A-D-A” by Raffi.) And I sung. And I danced. And felt very happy and not so scared of bears.
I pedalled off happily only for the leg burn to hit within 1 minute up the relentless hill. When I arrived at Field I was accosted by a lonely cyclist who gave me his card and clearly wanted to chat. I did not. I wanted to cycle up the infamous 10 Mile hill before I collapsed.
Straight out of Field it was horrendously steep. Horrendously. Alongside the road was a river – a gushing fast-paced whitewater river that was beautiful to see but was also a cruel reminder of the gradient.
The rest of the day basically continued in this way. I felt weak. The hill went up.
Finally the mountain relented and I was freewheeling. The end was near. The most beautiful thing I saw all day was the sign “Lake Louise next exit”. I let out a yell.
Finally, finally I had arrived. For weeks I’ve been telling myself that if I can cycle to Lake Louise then I can cycle across Canada.
And now I know I will.
Ps. I actually left BC and entered Alberta today but I didn’t see a sign which was most disappointing.