Sunday…that would be last Sunday…was the third and final day of my little IMC prep camp. The plan was to ride all the major highlights of the bike course:Ally and I planned to start riding around Vaseaux Lake, just outside of Oliver. We would ride to Osoyoos, up Richter Pass, over the 7 rollers, perhaps cover the out and back between Keremeos and Cawston, then ride the final big climb up to Yellow Lake. About 100-120 km depending on what we decided on doing. Given that my longest ride to date had been about 2 hours I did not feel that riding the entire course would be a good idea. Even this plan would be about 5 hours, so that is a pretty big jump. To pull off a point to point ride we also needed to have a support vehicle. That’s where the boyfriend came in. He had volunteered to come out to the Okanagan that weekend to man our official Subaru SAG wagon. He’d drop us off, keep a cooler of drinks in the car along with snacks (candy, orange slices, fig newtons) and take our gear for us if need be, then pick us up whenever we were ready. He also doubled as official cameraman for the day. It wouldn’t have been possible to hit all of these major points on the ride without his help and it was much appreciated!
Unfortunately the weather was not fantastic. The temperatures had cooled off a bit to about 12C and there were threatening clouds in the sky. As we drove to our drop off point we passed groups of cyclists and they were all wearing a lot of clothing. Hopefully we wouldn’t be underdressed! I went out with shorts, a short sleeve t-shirt, a short sleeve jersey, arm warmers and a jacket. From Oliver to Osoyoos the road is fairly flat so it would serve as a good warm up for the hills to come.
It was hazy in the valley, and as we rode towards Oliver we realized why. An old hotel in downtown Oliver was on fire and most of Main Street was closed off as fire crews tried to save the buildings around it. After riding the detour around downtown we continued on to Osoyoos. The scenery was absolutely beautiful as we rode past vineyards and orchards. With it being spring everything was still so lovely and green. After about an hour we made it to Osoyoos where we met up with our SAG wagon to swap out bottles and I had a chance to go to the bathroom and ditch my jacket. From there the work started.
Almost as soon as we started climbing Richter Ally pulled ahead. She’s been cycling outside a lot already so I knew that would happen. Richter is about a 10K long climb where you gain about 370 meters in elevation. I plugged along, keeping my pace at that Sunday “ride all day” pace. I got passed, I passed people, I just kept moving. Part way up Richter there is a little flat spot and if you look to the left you can see Spotted Lake. Before I knew it, I was at the top of Richter. Really? Already?After that there was a long downhill into the Similkameen Valley. One place I definitely need to gain more confidence are on the downhills. What is the good in being able to climb up strongly if I am tentative on the down? It was probably best to play it safe on this day as there were large boulders in the shoulder that you had to be careful about. The view down into the valley was amazing as everything was such bright green. From there it was in to the 7 rollers. Some rollers are bigger than the others but I found them pretty fun. Not sure how I’ll feel about them on race day though! Here’s me zipping down a roller… From there it was in to Cawston for a bit of flat reprieve, although it was definitely windy out. All of a sudden, there was the turn off for the out and back. Ally was nowhere to be found and I figured she’d be waiting here. I texted her but no response. Honestly, I was hoping to meet up with her and call off riding the out and back. With no response I took off on the out figuring that I’d see her on the way back. There was no sign of her though. Although I was feeling great physically, but this point, being about 3 hours+ in I hit a mental low just from having spent so much of the last bit on my own. Sigh, I guess everyone has their points on the long rides, eh? Finally, luckily, we managed to find each other. By this point in time I was doubting my ability to ride up Yellow Lake and I debated calling it quits at Keremeos. But I didn’t come all this way to call it quits. We rode to Keremeos, I stopped in at a bathroom, I had some orange slices and got ready to ride again. It was only 18K from Keremeos to the top of Yellow Lake.
The clouds were nasty in the direction we were headed, it started drizzling on and off and it was windy. Angie had promised that there was a great place around Yellow Lake called Bear that had amazing cookies. We rode forward with the motto that we were “riding for cookies”! There are km markers on the shoulder of the rode, counting in 0.1K increments the way out of Keremeos. Only 18K, no problem…
We were climbing, but I was waiting for the real climb to start. By this point in time we had less than 10K left to go….when would it start? All of a sudden I had my answer. We turned a corner and you could see the road going up, up, up… People around us were flagging so we passed them. Must ride for cookies! Finally, we were at the top! We couldn’t quite stop right after a big hill climb though as it would have been bad for the legs! We dropped all of our gears and spun around the perimeter of the lake just to make sure our legs were flushed out. And then, we were done…109K of riding in just under 5 hours.
I truly felt great. I may have had a mental break in the middle of the ride, but physically I felt strong the entire time. And it was a great confidence booster to see these big points on the course and to know that I can tackle them. The IMC bike course is beautiful, but it is also tough and I think you have to play they day tactfully. The initial third of the ride is pretty flat, but you have to be careful and not go all out to make sure you save your legs for the big climbs. I’ve now seen the majority of the course with the exception of a section between OK Falls and Vaseaux Lake (all flat), and Yellow Lake back to Penticton (mostly downhill). That can be addressed at our TTL training camp in July though…
After our ride we went into Oliver for lunch, then went off to Tuc-el-Nuit Lake for one last open water swim. It was cold!!! And then that was it, our IMC prep camp was over and it would be back to Calgary on Monday. I can’t believe it has taken me a whole week to write up three days of activity in the Okanagan… This week has been busy though, so I promise to fill you in on it. Hope everyone had a great weekend!