Many elite Bow Valley athletes complete remarkable feats of physical fitness at their absolute peak – physical specimens forged with supreme V02 max levels, high end cardio levels and resting heart rates that could put a Stampede bronco to shame.
However, others line up on the starting line with a different physical makeup.
Diabetes affects the bodies’ ability to recover, so a one-day event – no matter how gruelling – is manageable. Stephanie Wilkinson knows this all too well. She has Type 1 diabetes, as her body produces no insulin. While many might see this as a large obstacle, Wilkinson took it as a challenge, finishing an Ironman triathlon last year.
This year, Wilkinson strapped on an insulin pump and challenged the seven days of the B.C. Bike Race, testing herself against 50 kilometres a day of some of the world’s best technical single track.
“It was a new challenge for me. For the race, I reduced the amount of insulin, then increased it after. Recovery is hard (for people with Type 1 diabetes) so it was super important to stay on top of it.”
The event started in Nanaimo, B.C., before heading north to Campbell River, then Comox, then across the ferry to Powell River, Earls Cove, Sechelt and Langdale. The race finishes with two burly days in Squamish and Whistler.
More than 600 riders experienced the event, camping out and swapping stories of the day, talking about features and spills. There was the rider taken off on a spine board, and the Bow Valley cyclist who had his $8,000 bike stolen, had to race on one of the organizer’s bikes and suffered four flats on the final day.
But while all of the cyclists had their challenges, Wilkinson silently rose to her own challenge. Listening to tips from fellow Bow Valley rider Craig Bartlett, she finished strong and tackled many of the technical features.
Each day, after challenging courses where “everything is on steroids: roots, rocks and canopy,” Wilkinson would turn her pump back on and prepare for the next day, gathering tips from other riders and keeping her Trex Fuel EX8 bike in check.
“I’m more of a climber and cross-country rider than a B.C. descender,” Wilkinson said. “It was a good test for Bow Valley riders.”
Her favourite section came on Day 4, racing from Earls Cove to Sechelt.
“There was a lot of variety, climbing and fun cross-country,” Wilkinson said. “You’re out on the fire roads and under the canopy, and there were no epic descents.”
She stayed in touch with husband Ryan, who completed the course last year, but said the race was far different than her expectations.
“Here we’re used to starting on the single track. There the race starts on the road and it’s pure hammer. Once I figured out how to draft from another rider, I was good.”
The level of camaraderie was high on the trail, she said. The only time she suffered a flat, a fellow rider changed the tire for her.
The course also left her with a greater appreciation of the local trails.
“It builds an appreciation of what we have here,” Wilkinson said.
However, she’s now off to gain an appreciation for another landscape.
After two days of recovery, she left Canmore for Africa to climb Mount Kilamanjaro earlier this week.
Jay Balabas was one of eight riders from the Bicycle Café competing in the event. In his second year on the course, Balabas finished 40th in what was a strong Canmore field.
“It was amazing. There was tons of single track,” Balabas said.
He had an excellent ride, but found Squamish to be his favourite.
“Squamish is a favourite for me,” Balabas said. “But it’s about the trail quality. It’s epic day after epic day of awesome single track.”
There is a discernable difference between local trails and B.C. obviously, but Balabas said the locals received perspective with the race.
“The trails were wetter and rootier than we’re used to,” Balabas said. “But it makes you appreciate the calibre of trails we have here in our backyard.”
Riding his Santa Cruz Blur TRZ, he was happy with how his race went, noting Canmore performed admirably.
For full results, visit www.bcbikerace.com