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An Epic Start to Summer

Wednesday, July 6, 2016 in Staff
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How do you like to kick off summer?  Well, if you’re Facilities Manager Allan Knibbs you take part in a 1043 km bike race – just for fun.

The Epic 1000 is an off-road, unofficial, completely self-supported bikepacking ride/race.  There are no prizes, just the reward of seeing some of the province’s most spectacular scenery while taking on the epic challenge of biking across South Central BC.

As you can guess, this type of endurance race is not for the casual biker.  Allan grew up bike touring, having been introduced to it by his parents at a young age. Having his own young family now, he has continued the tradition and enjoys bike touring on roads and in the backcountry with his wife and kids.  Though he lives in Kimberley, you can find him biking to work at the Cranbrook main campus at least three days a week from early spring until the roads become too snowy and icy to continue.

Though bike touring is clearly in Allan’s blood, he had never taken part in a bikepacking race before.  He had always been interested in endurance races and couldn’t resist one that ended so close to home.  He was also intrigued by the opportunity to bike through the historical Kettle Valley.

Allan and the other racers started the race in Merrit and mostly followed the Trans Canada Trail all the way to Fernie.  Along the way they travelled through diverse terrain and ecosystems - a large portion of the trail is on decommissioned rail grades and includes trestles hundreds of feet high and multiple tunnels.

A typical day for Allan would see him grabbing a quick bite to eat at sunrise and then climbing on his bike to start his day by about 4:00 am.  Along the way, he would stop briefly in towns and gas stations to refuel – usually biking 50 to 60 km before stopping to eat and take a water break.  Though he refers to these times as “extended” water breaks – he really means about 15 minutes. With the idea that he was in a race always in mind, Allan wouldn’t even full dismount his bike. He would simply stand with his bike between his legs while he refueled.

Around 11 pm or midnight, Allan would finally stop biking for the day and spread his ground sheet and sleeping bag on a nearby piece of ground for a few fitful hours of sleep. Though one might think exhaustion would take over and he’d sleep deeply, Allan says that biking for such an extended period of time causes your adrenaline to continue pumping.  His body wanted to keep going – making it difficult to get much sleep at all.

If sleep deprivation wasn’t challenging enough, Allan also encountered a couple of days of very hot temperatures.  On his second to last day of racing, he travelled from Trail to Kimberley – over the Grey Creek Pass.  By the time he hit the Pass it was about 2:30 pm – so he climbed the 10% grade in the hottest part of the day.  That was his most physically difficult day.

The most mentally challenging portion of the route for Allan was by Elko in the Wigwam Flats area.  The region was very hot, dry and flat.  Being so close to the finish but yet having about 4 hours of riding left can wreak havoc on a rider’s mindset.  But Allan pedalled on.

There were plenty of bright moments along the route, too, though.  Typically a pretty solitary endeavour (Allan spent a solid two days entirely by himself), on the days that he did see other riders he was bolstered by the camaraderie that existed with his fellow-competitors.  In fact, some of the riders who reached the finish line before him stuck around cheer Allan on as he came in.  This group of bikers were able to bond over their shared experience of a grueling endurance race, even if they didn’t have the opportunity to spend much time together.

Anyone who is fortunate enough to be familiar with the landscape of BC knows also that Allan was able to see some beautiful scenery in a pretty unique way.  One day that really stood out to him was when he was riding out of Penticton and was able to watch the sunset over the lake and then waking up after a few hours sleep to watch the sunrise over Kelowna. 

In the end, Allan completed his 1043 km epic journey in 4 days, 10 hours and 30 minutes.  And if you’re wondering – yes, he’d do it again – though his next endurance race might be somewhere new where he’d see new scenery and have new experiences. He would encourage anyone who loves bike touring to consider an endurance race like this.  “It’s a great way to see the country and to challenge yourself mentally and physically,” he says.

I don’t know how many of us are up to that challenge – but I do know that amazing people like Allan are part of what makes us all feel small college proud! Congratulations on your epic feat, Allan!

(Photo: Allan at Fernie City Hall at the conclusion of the race)

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