Monday, 9 September 2013


I've only gone and bloody done it....

I rode solo and unsupported across Canada from Vancouver (British Columbia) to Halifax (Nova Scotia), travelling 7074 km in 61 days and raising over £11,000 for cancer research and support, Holy cow. 

Week 9 Salmon Beach to Shubenacadie

Or how I learned to love New Brunswick. Kinda. After the glory days of the gaspe peninsula, I crossed over the border to NB in blazing sunshine to be greeted by a group of line dancing pensioners. My belly was full of the enormous farewell ice cream Yan bought me as a leaving gift (yes I shared it with Wilson), the mornings hangover was a distant memory and l was feeling particularly enthusiastic about entering a new province. I cruised along for a while then set up camp for the night by the sea. So far so good. But then overnight the cycling gods got together, decided I'd been having way too much fun recently and sent me some terrible weather to wipe that smug grin off my face. 

First they tried wind. Pah, I rode across the prairies, tis but a mild breeze. Try harder guys. So then they added rain. A lot of rain. So much rain I had to keep pulling over because I couldn't see the road. That's ok though I'm British, standard summer bank holiday weather innit. Plus I hadn't showered in a few (ok 3) days, and the downpour got rid of most of the flies on my tail. I'm sort of joking there. Sort of. Anyways, so this being the east coast, the Timmy Ho's density is pretty good. It appears that when Maritimers aren't eating crab, they're drinking coffee.Towns that don't even have stoplights have a Tim Hortons, so clearly I was forced to seek refuge amongst the locals, and the errrr donuts. Ahem. However, being A) on a bike, B) a girl, and C) foreign makes you stand out somewhat, which combined with D) the daytime population of rural Tim Hortons being composed of 90% retired elderly gents, I was lucky if I got more than a slurp of coffee before the questions started. Once they discovered I could speak French, I was a goner, all hope of a peaceful 5 minutes was abandoned and I started turning down offers of (crab) dinners with sons, grandsons and sometimes even the old dudes themselves. But it was all in good fun and these were some of the nicest and most genuine people I'd met across the whole trip. I started to realise that maybe they don't get so many visitors round there when the old boys club in the Timmy's a couple towns ahead were expecting me and had their cameras ready to capture my arrival. I'm a pretty big deal in New Brunswick dontcha know. 

The rain did not let up so I struggled on, and ended up sleeping in a super 80s games arcade after a campsite lady took pity on my pathetically sodden state. I got up at 2am to disconnect the power after the Street Fighter II machine went off and for a brief sleepy second I thought raccoons had learned how to talk. 

I awoke the next day to more rain, but at least I started dry. It was all about the little victories in No Funswick. I met a lovely group of ladies in Miramichi who renewed my slightly dampened enthusiasm (haha geddit? I made a funny) and also made a super generous donation to the fundraising pot. The rain finally eased off as I pulled into Shediac, home of the worlds largest lobster and possibly my favourite side of the road "sculpture" to date. The monsoon continued for the next couple of days as I crossed the border into Nova Scotia, by which point, after a sustained and heroic effort, my rainproof jacket finally gave up. Sigh. I got super cold super quickly despite many layers and started to get slightly concerned about how I'd survive the night if this continued.... right on cue a Timmys appeared on the horizon. Aaaaah. As I dripped onto the floor, I began to contemplate how many donuts I'd have to buy in order to spend the night in there. One an hour? Two? Which was when I met Joe. We chatted about the usual stuff, he gave me some advice on the local roads then told me the weather forecast. Not good. So this complete stranger then goes "if I asked you to stay at my house with my wife and I would you come?". Hmmm. My motto is that it's easier to spot a good egg than a bad apple, and my first impressions are usually pretty spot on. I liked this guy, so I said yes. We packed my bike into the back of his truck and off we went into the woods down a single track road. Eek I hope I called this one right. I had, and I spent a lovely evening with Joe and Rachelle on the beautiful Caribou Island being thoroughly spoilt. What a welcome to the final province of the trip!

Salmon Beach to Sunrise - 147 km
Sunrise to Shediac - 135 km
Shediac to Pugwash - 111 km
Pugwash to Pictou via Caribou Island - 86 km
Pictou to Shubenacadie - 91 km

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Shit long distance cyclists say

Or maybe just me, but whatever. Sharing's caring.

1. My ass hurts 
2. I'm hungry 
3. My ass hurts and I'm hungry
4. Is there a Tim Hortons near here? 
5. Il y a un Tim Hortons pres d'ici?
6. Is that a bear? No.
7. Shit, that is a bear. 
8. Is it free?
9. Hey man. Share the road. Or not. Asshole.
10. Do my thighs look big in this?

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Week 8 Saint Felicite to Salmon Beach (754 km)

This weeks update is beamed to you live from Tim Hortons in Miramichi, New Brunswick. It's currently raining sideways so I'm sheltering here until it gets a little nicer out there. Or until they run out of donuts, whichever comes first. 

So this weeks big decision was to Gaspe or not to Gaspe. Hmmm. The Gaspe Peninsula is a remote part of eastern Quebec, and supposedly one of the top ten cycling destinations in Canada. However, the weather was starting to turn and I'm all too aware that at some point I need to come home and face the music (finish that phd, get a job, behave like a grown up, etc etc). This little diversion would add an extra 700 km to my route and take around a week to complete. I sat on a bench at the crossroads weighing my options. Consulting my little book from Jen, the next quote said this: 

"Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less travelled by." - Robert Frost

Well that seemed pretty clear. I had the wind at my back and the sun on my face.  Decision made, while there's money in the bank, ride on. Jens fault really.

I didn't regret it, the road stayed close to the sea, winding through little fishing villages in the shadow of the Appalachian Mountains. Pretty cool. I was invited to spent my first night in Gaspe in the loft of a barn, which turned out to be a luxury penthouse by my standards. The next day though those mountains become more than a shadow. Way more. These were some of the steepest grades I've climbed on this trip, and I think the gasping peninsula is probably a more appropriate name. These were back to back climbs of 15% minimum. I wasn't sure if my chain or my knees were going to give up first. As I struggled up towards the top of the steepest summit, an car slowed down beside me. It was an old French man who shadowed me all the way to the top, honking and shouting "ALLEZ ALLEZ, ON Y VA!!" until I got to the top and collapsed in a sweaty puddle. Then started on the next one. Ooof. As I got around the headland, the hills gave way to blasting wind and the locals developed an accent so incomprehensible I could no longer tell whether they were speaking in English or French. I finally hit some easier ground on the south side of the peninsula, in the form of a Tim Hortons where had my first donut in 3 days. I told you it was tough going. As I was leaving I ran into Yan and Wilson the dog, who were touring the peninsula together by bike and trailer. They were good company, so I spent my last days in Quebec with these two, culminating in far too many pints of stout in a microbrewery which lead to camping in the pub car park. Winning.

Saint Felicite to Mont Saint Pierre - 119 km
Mont Sant Pierre to L'Anse a Valleau - 110 km
L'Anse a Valleau to Saint George a Malbaie - 118 km
Saint George to Saint Godefroi - 128 km
Saint Godefroi to Saint Omer - 92 km
Saint Omer to Charlo - 87 km
Charlo to Salmon Beach - 99 km

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Week 7 Clarence Creek to Saint-Felicite (830 km)

Bonjour tout le monde, je suis au Quebec! Whilst I've been franglais-ing my way along for the last week or so, I won't put you guys through it. Ok so this week I went around Montreal and through Quebec City, both places I've been to before and didn't really fancy hanging out in again with Dawreen. So I'm gonna skip over them and tell you about my favourite bits. There was a super nice stretch of riding between the two cities along the north side of the Saint Lawrence River, which combined with some hot humid weather meant early starts and afternoon siestas in leafy parks and "Halte Velo" along the roadsides. Usually with a baguette and some stinky cheese. When in Rome... The province as a whole is very bike friendly, with the best road surfaces and shoulders I've seen for this whole trip. I also had some of the strongest tailwinds so far, definitely owed after the horrific prairie crosswinds...30 km/h and barely pedalling... best kind of riding! I took the ferry across the river at Quebec City, still in crazy humid weather. I had just about managed to get my tent up that evening when a huge storm rolled in across the river and battered my tent in all directions until at least 2 am. Whilst I remained waterproof, I was not animal proof. I woke up to hear something snuffling in my food bag under the tent fly. Of all the animals I've encountered in this trip, I hate raccoons the most. They are crafty, not scared of you in the slightest and worst of all have little animal thumbs which gives them the power to get into pretty much anything, no matter how tightly closed you think it is. And they hang out in gangs, like delinquent teenagers on the local rec and wake you up at night with screeching hooting noises, which translate as "HEY YOU GUYS I found a defenceless cyclist and this one has peanut butter, lets make her stay awake till dawn defending it against our relentless attacks". Or something like that. I hate raccoons. Anyways, yelling at them doesn't work and throwing things works for a while until they realise you can't hurt them. The only thing I've found that really gets rid of them is to stay absolutely still, let them get really close, then let them have it with the deet. I have an industrial sized aerosol can of OFF just for this purpose. Muhaha who's laughing now stripy face. Anyways, the snuffling. Bloody raccoons again I thought, right I've got the can in my tent, just have to quietly open the zip then the first one to show its face gets it: when engaging raccoons in battle, you have to strike hard and fast and show no mercy. Hold on, there's just one? Thats weird, maybe it lost its gang in the storm. It's kinda small too..... wait that's not a raccoon it's a baby skunk!! Soooo cute!! Aww you lost your mamma in the storm?? Poor little guy. Wait, skunk. Skunk. SKUNK IN TENT!! GETRIDOFITBEFOREITGOESOFF. Ahhh the great outdoors, gotta love it. 

EDIT: don't worry animal lovers, deet in the face has no lasting effects, I've sprayed it at myself enough times

Clarence Creek to Saint Jerome - 119 km
Saint Jerome to Louiseville - 122 km
Louiseville to Deschambault-Grondine - 96 km
Deschambault-Grondine to Montmagny - 138 km
Montmagny to Saint-Andre - 106 km
Saint-Andre to Saint-Fabien - 102 km
Saint-Fabien to Saint-Felicite - 147 km

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Week 6 (part 2) Espanola to Clarence Creek

So this time both bench and wifi are supplied by the tourist information centre in Deschambault-Grondine, who have also thoughtfully forgotten to supply any "NO CAMPING" signs and left the wifi on after they closed up....I'll let you draw your own conclusions about where i'll be sleeping this evening. Merci beaucoup mes amies. 

So from the name of the town I guess you already know I'm fiiiiinally in Quebec, after what feels like 3 months in Ontario (actually only 17 days of riding). Phew, it's a big old place that Onterrible. But having covered bits of most of it I'm not going to be able to call it that anymore. Despite having mercilessly mocked its bugginess, dampness, yokelness and general inferiority in comparison to BC; and despite the best efforts of some rather vicious Giant Hogweed, I actually quite liked (some) of it. There, I said it. Eastern Ontario had some of my favourite stretches of road to date: tree-covered rolling (but not excessive) hills, lilypad-covered lakes and some really lovely little towns. After clearing the (overrated) Great Lakes, the whole eastern area along the trans canada highway was totally awesome. Ottawa is the capital of Canada and a city I'd never visited before and now it might just be my favourite. Its less soulless than Toronto, less pretentious than Montreal and more Canadian than Vancouver... I liked it so much I spent the whole day there exploring. The people I met in EO were pretty cool too, but that's been the case for most of this trip and cannot therefore be attributed to their Ontario-ness, eastern or otherwise. I met fireman Jamie by the river in Pembroke - thanks for the donation, the beers, the breakfast and for reinforcing that donuts are not a valid food group... He must have loaned me some fireman luck too as the next day (whilst lost on the way to Ottawa) I met the lovely Amelia and the fire department of Carlton County. They were also fundraising for cancer research and absolutely insisted that I hung out and ate pizza with them. Who am I to argue with so many half naked muscly men. Ahem. Aaanyways I eventually tore myself away and ended up crashing in Don and Carolyn's back garden.., complete with homemade veggie lasagne for tea and my own private beach view... Shout out to Gordon and Lesley in Ottawa - thanks for the route advice and the donation! My last night in Ontario was in Clarence Creek, where Eric the campsite owner refused to let me pay for a pitch and brought me all the cold Pepsi I could drink. I think I'll be coming back here. 

Toronto to Sudbury - overnight train
Sudbury to Espanola - hitched with Roy back to where I left the trans-can to go south
Espanola to Corbeil - min. 134 km (forgot to reattach bike comp after train)
Corbeil to Deux Rivières - 90 km
Deux Rivières to Pembroke - 121 km
Pembroke to Constance Bay - 119 km
Constance Bay to Clarence Creek - 115 km

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Week 6 (part 1) Bruce Mines to Toronto (287 km)

I know what you're thinking... 2 posts in one day?? Well first of all let me assure you I had a donut break in the middle (maple ripple, 7/10) and also this only covers the couple of days before I stopped for a little rest. Don't get used to it, normal services will be resumed shortly as I'm back on the road tonight.

My first rest days! Its been 36 days of riding, 5 provinces and 4270 km since I left Vancouver. Phew! Some of the other riders I've met take a rest day every week or so, but that hasn't really appealed to me so far. First of all, I'm on a tight budget, and getting off your bike usually means spending cash. Second, as my mileage isn't crazy, most days I usually arrive at my destination by mid afternoon, so plenty of daylight left for exploring. Thirdly, I just haven't felt that tired until quite recently, so for me a good four days off to catch with long lost friends seemed to make the most sense. At Espanola, I diverted from my trans-can route to ride down through Manitoulin, catching a ferry to Tobermory, where Malcolm (Mikes dad) was waiting to collect me and drive me and Dawreen (my bike) back to his house for the night. In my book of quotes, T.S. Eliot says "The journey not the arrival matters". Perhaps his arrivals needed more beer and garlic bread, because after a day of rain and headwinds, my arrival in Southampton was pretty much the best thing ever. Huge thanks to Malcolm and Wendy for looking after me so well. Super nice to see you both again.

The next day Mike and I drove to his place in Cambridge, a good 2 hours away, and spent the next 24 hours in a catching up whirlwind of beers, dogs, guns and lawnmowers, which is pretty much how I'd always thought his life would turn out. Hahah. Joik. My old UEA friend Elle and her BF Jake picked me up and carried me away to Toronto (another hour in the car) for some serious beach lounging, hot tub dipping and burger scoffing, which brings to where I am now, sat on a balcony overlooking Lake Ontario and writing this. Tonight I catch a train back up north to resume the trans-can mission feeling recharged, refreshed and a good two stone heavier than when I arrived. Perfect.

Bruce Mines to Espanola - 177 km
Espanola to Southampton - 110 km
Southampton to Cambridge
Cambridge to Toronto

Week 5 Savanne River to Bruce Mines (917 km)

AKA around the top of Lake Superior and part of Lake Huron for those unfamiliar with the geography of northern Ontario (that's pretty much everyone then, including approximately 65% of northern Ontarians who looked at me blankly when I asked where the nearest gas station was). If you're struggling to find it on a map, its the area marked "HERE BE BEARS AND BUGS". Got it? Good.

Ok, so this weeks update of last weeks activities is kindly sponsored by Elle and Jake, and comes with extra spelling mistakes as I'm writing it on their MacBook (I'M A PC WHY U NO CAN HAZ RIGHT CLICK??!) and also because my left hand, affectionately renamed "the claw" has reduced functionality and is now apparently only good for braking and gesturing at trucker drivers that come too close.

In Thunder Bay, I went to pay my respects to Terry Fox, a Canadian hero relatively unknown outside of this particular part of North America. Putting it briefly, he was the son of Tim Horton and Celine Dion who rode a moose across... ok ok ok ok no I'm kidding please don't kill me Canada. Terry Fox was a young man who lost a leg to cancer, but regardless decided to run across Canada from east to west raising money for cancer research during the 1980s. He covered over 5000 km before being forced to quit just outside of Thunder Bay due to a recurrence of cancer that killed him just nine months later. He was 22. His image is iconic, and anyone spending any extended period of time in this country will eventually catch a glimpse of him on TV: dated 80s clips showing this man with an artificial leg and a mop of curly 1980s footballer hair running in raggedy hop shuffle step during his Marathon of Hope. Despite the appalling weather and several signs insisting that cycling was absolutely totally definitely not allowed on that bit of road, I went to see his memorial statue on a hill overlooking Thunder Bay. It was humbling, inspiring and motivating and totally worth the absolute soaking I got minutes after arriving. High five Terry, high five.

On a cheerier note the rain passed and I arrived in Nipigon in the middle of the annual blueberry festival, where for one weekend the entire town dresses as blueberries, sings songs about blueberries, and eats a lot of blueberry pie. Amazing. Things got even more amazing when I rolled into Schreiber (definitely better than Terrace Bay) and had the good fortune to meet the awesome Catherine who invited me to spend the night in her backyard. That alone would have been supercool, but I was also invited for dinner, introduced to her lovely mum Rosemary and step dad Sam, and the extremely handsome Harley the dog. Swoon. These guys took me on a tour of the local beaches and waterfalls, let me sleep in their summerhouse, stuffed me full of breakfast and sent me on my way laden down with homemade goodies and many other treats. You guys!! So nice. Come visit anytime!

The rest of the week was super rainy/foggy/rainy until I left Lake Superior, when the weather lifted and I was able to see the large numbers of bears at the side of the road which before I had no doubt been riding past completely oblivious. The attractiveness of solo wilderness camping is negatively correlated with increasing bear density, which resulted in what I like to call urban camping - AKA sleeping in the nice display sheds Home Depot have outside the front of their stores. Rainproof, windproof, bearproof and handily located near the highway at the edge of a town near you.

Savanne River to Thunder Bay - 138 km
Thunder Bay to Nipigon - 108 km
Nipigon to Schreiber - 101 km
Schreiber to White Lake - 151 km
White Lake to Wawa - 126 km
Wawa to Montreal River - 110 km
Montreal River to Bruce Mines - 183 km

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Week 4 Virden to Savanne River (893 km)

So now that I've consumed my second donut of the day I feel like I contain sufficient calories to update this thing. Wifi this time is courtesy of Tim Hortons, purveyor of good coffee, cheap food and open 24hrs. AKA a sight for sore eyes (and bottoms) especially for the cold and soggy cyclist. I'll talk more about my love for St Timothy of Horton another time I'm sure, but right now I guess I'd better get on with this before my battery goes. 

So, I started and ended this week with 2 different companions. The first was Joe, who I picked up in Virden and left just outside Winnipeg. I'd like to say it's because he couldn't keep up with my blistering pace, but actually he was taking some days off to hang out with a friend. This was the first time I'd riden with anyone else, and it was kinda weird at first, but we had similar riding styles so it worked pretty well. It was especially nice to have some company during some   hideous weather on the Manitoba border - having someone else struggling up hills through sideways rain makes it better somehow. More motivating I guess. Especially for Joe as I told him I'd buy us all the beer and pizza we could eat when we got to that nights destination, knowing full well it was a one horse town with a (probably closed) gas station at best, if we were lucky. Haha. Sorry Joe, but it got you up that hill eh. Teehee. After parting with Joe I met the lovely Rebecca in a laundromat. I was shivering in my pjs waiting for my clothes to dry, and she took pity on my sorry state and invited me over to her RV for dinner with her husband Mark and Bozo the cockatiel.... we had cocktails and fresh vegetables and it was amazing!!

The wind eased off a little as I got into Ontario, and the people got even nicer, if that's possible. I met the awesome Struthers-Ward family in a rest area, who insisted I joined them for lunch and gave me a super kind donation too. Awesome!! The following day I met my second cycling buddy of the week. Sydney was lurking behind a bin at the side of the road, doing a pretty good bear impression. Fortunately I spotted her bike and realised she probably wasn't going to try to eat me. We rode together for a couple of pleasant days, sharing a similar philosophy of braking for coffee/pie/donuts/beer as frequently as possible. Winner. We parted after Savanne River but I'm sure I'll see her down the road somewhere.

Anyways, I'd better get back on the road before I eat donut #3. Good job these shorts are lycra. 

ps. the best thing about having a buddy is that I actually get to be in some of my photos....

Virden to Sidney - 142 km
Sidney to St Francois Xavier - 117 km
SFX to Richer - 102 km
Richer to West Hawk Lake - 103 km
WHL to Crystal Lake - 145 km
Crystal Lake to Ignace - 157 km
Ignace to Savanne River - 127 km

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Week 3 Bow Island to Virden (857 km)

AKA Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Three provinces in week, although you couldn't tell it from the scenery. Apparently I've been through prairie, grasslands, plains and farmlands. Which as far as I can tell are all different words for flat and windy.There's a definite difference in people though as you go further east. In Alberta a lone foreigner on a bicycle doesn't even turn heads - just another one of those outdoorsy BC loons who took a wrong turn in the mountains and wondered over the border. In Saskatchewan, if you're not in a truck or tractor you're pretty much invisible. In Manitoba however, it was like I rode into town naked on the back of a three headed dragon. You're doing what?? On a what?? WHY?? BUT YOU'RE A GIRL?? Which is kinda funny because Virden, Manitoba is where I finally ran into some other cycling weirdos, when we all randomly ended up at the same tiny campsite. I was the first to arrive, followed by Joe shortly after. He's also going west to east, and had been tailing me for a couple days before finally catching up. Despite the popularity of this route, since leaving BC cyclists have been few and far between, particularly tourers. We were just chatting about how neither of us had seen many other riders, when cyclist number 3 arrived. Steve is heading north to Alaska from Montreal, and was equally surprised to see us. Clearly there was only one way to celebrate impromptu cycling club: to the liquor store! Which consequently resulted in Steve taking a "rest day", whilst Joe and I did hungover battle with a headwind straight to the nearest Tim Hortons for coffee, donuts and paracetamol. I ended up riding with Joe through some horrifically bad weather until Winnipeg, where he stayed to hang out with a friend whilst I pushed on. Pretty sure I'll be seeing him down the road though, we'll be keeping in touch to make sure we meet for a few shandies further east. 

Bow Island to Medicine Hat - 69 km
Medicine Hat to Eagle Valley - 93 km
Eagle Valley to Swift Current - 134 km
Swift Current to Besant - 149 km
Besant to White City - 126 km
White City to Broadview - 143 km
Broadview to Virden - 143 km

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Week 2 Christina Lake to Bow Island (747 km)

This weeks update is brought to you courtesy of the Manitoba tourist board, who may also be responsible for the sweet tailwind that's blown me across the border from Saskatchewan. Great job guys.

This post is a little late for a few reasons: there is essentially no internet in Saskatchewan; I wasn't sure what to talk about and my iPhone magically deleted this post the first time I wrote it and annoyed the hell out of me. Gah. 

Anyways, onto this weeks update. I have no desire for this blog to become one of those self congratulatory, obnoxious things along the lines of "look how far/fast I rode, I'm so amazing". Blurghh. Nor do I want to write about the mundane ins and outs of life on the road. No one aside from mum and gran actually cares all that much about what I had for breakfast and the last time I brushed my teeth (half a donut and about 2 hours ago). So what to write about. Hohum. Well, before I left for this trip my BFF Jen gave me a beautiful diary with some hand picked travel quotes written inside, and so far they've been strangely fitting. This week Ranulph Fiennes said "There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.". He's clearly never been to the Canadian prairies. Since coming down from the BC mountains I've experienced baking heat, gale force winds, thunder, lightening, hail and most recently, fog. But just as varied as the weather conditions are the awesome people of all types and ages that I've met along the way. I could bang on for ages about the kindness and generosity of these people that have alternately given food, shelter and alcohol (or sometimes a combination of all three) to a random grubby foreigner, but I'll keep it to a brief list of honourable mentions. There was the elderly German man in Salmo who I shared luke warm beers (him), squashed peanuts (me) and  bear horror stories with (both of us). There were Charlie and Judy in Creston who took me into their trailer and gave me wine and popcorn and sent me on my way with a giant bag of chocolate biscuits, all because their kids once cycled across Canada. There were Bass and Treble the labradoodles and their ma and pa (so sorry I forgot your names) who fed me fresh watermelon and donated to my charities. There were Cody and Maureen who let me crash their romantic weekend and share their beers and their campfire. And last but not least there was the Thacker family (Roxy, Roger, Kassie and stormin Norman the dog) who took me into their trailer, saving me from a huge storm and a mosquito plague, and giving me my first home cooked meal since Vancouver (on a plate and everything!!). All of you people are heroes.

Christina Lake to Salmo - 115 km
Salmo to Creston - 59 km
Creston to Cranbrook - 137 km
Cranbrook to Fernie - 96 km
Fernie to Pincher Creek - 122 km
Pincher Creek to Coalhurst - 95 km
Coslhurst to Bow Island - 123 km

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Week 1: Vancouver to Christina Lake (571 km)

Ok so this is my first post typed on a dirty  iPhone coming to you live from a washroom power socket via dodgy campsite wifi. There will be typos, iffy grammar and interruptions whenever someone wants to use the sink. But apparently I've been slow on the updates and you people want to know how things  are going, and more specifically whether I've got blisters in rude places (negative, owing mostly to liberal applications of Vaseline from the industrial sized tub I packed in order to defeat the dreaded chafe). 

First things first: it's been 6 days since I left Vancouver and since then I've been up and down at least 7 mountains, been bitten by numerous winged beasts (I'd like to call them something else but my mum is reading) and got the weirdest tan, sorry, burn lines known to man. But most importantly I've covered 571 km to my current camp at Christina Lake.  My top speed was 60.4 km/h and my longest haul was 171 km from Manning Park to Osooyoos. But these are just numbers and mean nothing really. 

They say the hardest steps on any journey are the ones out of your front door. That is particularly true when trying to exit a basement with a fully loaded tourer slightly hungover at 6 am. But I prevailed and after the obligatory photos I  waved goodbye to Auntie Liz and wobbled off to meet Greg who escorted me out of Vancouver. Before I left I thought it would be neat to dip my wheel in the Pacific, and do the same in the Atlantic in a couple of months. If I thought getting the bike out of the basement was hard dragging it back up Kits beach was even harder. But again we managed it between us with a lot of grunting. Greg left me about 15 km outside of Vancouver and that was it. Go time!  

Since then a ton of stuff has happened, too much to bang on about here. So I'll just include the best bits and tell you the rest when I get home mmmkay? Good. At a place called Mission I stopped at the visitors info centre to get some campsite advice but mostly to take advantage of their air con. The ladies in there were super sweet and super helpful and we spent a while chatting about the what's, why's and wherefore's of my trip. This old guy on a bike turns up and comes bursting through the door yelling something about cycle lanes and how the signposts suck. Turns out he's called Wally and he's the neighbour of one of the ladies who work at the centre. We chit chat about bikes for a bit, then the ladies tell him what I'm doing and why. This guy comes up and shakes my hand then gives me the biggest hug ever, like a bear hug properly lifts me off my feet. He apologises for being sweaty, tells me "atta girl you show em" shakes my hand again then jumps back on his bike to ride a round trip to the next town Harrison Mills a good 30 km away. Apparently he does this nearly everyday and has done for years. One of those super fit old men that will go on forever. Only after he's gone his neighbour takes me aside and says Wally is dying from leukaemia and has months to live. Hence the bear hug. Now everyday the first few km of my ride I cycle for Wally. 

Vancouver to Lake Errock - 115 km
Lake Errock to Hope - 56 km
Hope to Mule Deer (Manning Park) - 79 km
Mule Deer to Osoyoos - 171 km
Osoyoos to Midway - 77 km
Midway to Christina Lake - 73

Mileage is currently limited by the next populated area where I can camp, as I'm in grizzly country and don't fancy tenting alone. Plus I have implemented a 2 mountain daily limit for the sake of my poor old knees. 

Friday, 28 June 2013

On the 2nd of January I posted a list of things to achieve in 2013. At the time it seemed an insurmountable challenge and it's true there have been moments when I never thought I'd even come close to crossing off half of the stuff I'd written. Well, I figured 6 months later and 2.5 days before I leave for Trans-Can 2013 its time for a well overdue update...

2013 is shaping up to be a pretty big one. This year I will.........(drum roll please):

 1. Present my work at ASLO conference, New Orleans  
Smashed it, had a great time - no idea what I was so stressed about.

2. Finish my thesis 
Errrr sort-of, lets call it 85% done. You can't polish a turd, but you can roll that shit in glitter. AKA formatting and a discussion await my return (apparently BRB.... is not an acceptable way to conclude a thesis). 

3. Become Dr Owen
HAHAHAHA. Believe that when it happens.

4. Run the London Marathon
BOO-YA! 4 hours 48 minutes and I did not walk a single step. I retained all my toenails and learnt how to use a she-pee. Possibly the proudest I have ever been of myself. The running, not the peeing standing up.  

5. Cycle across Canada
Ohgodohgodohgodohgod I need to start packing.

6. Emigrate
On hold. See number 2. 

7. Turn 30
Delayed indefinitely. 

8. Lose all dignity during the Polar Bear Plunge
Coming soon. 

9. Raise £10,000 for cancer research and support
When I started all this, my plan was to try to raise at least £5,000 before I set off across Canada. I never ever dreamed I would get this far so quickly. Aim high, whats the worst that can happen. 

Saturday, 8 June 2013

This is on The Mall, with Buckingham Palace in the background, and about 90 seconds from the finish line.  I think I look surprisingly good!!

Thursday, 6 June 2013


In 25 days I'll be flying out to Vancouver to start the second leg of my triathlon... TRANS-CANADA 2013! As I'm sure you can imagine preparing for this trip whilst finishing my PhD is keeping me pretty busy (understatement of the year), but I will be updating this blog and charting my progress across Canada as and when I find an internet connection. In the meantime, I'll post a few more marathon photos to keep you entertained... 

Monday, 15 April 2013

Bungay Half Marathon

On Sunday, I did my last big run pre-marathon, a 13-miler I'd signed up for a while ago. I figured it would do me good to have one last run through of my kit, my eating preps, my stretching etc. I'd heard it was hilly, but I've been quite enjoying climbs at the moment, it suits my slow plodding pace, and more importantly it doesn't hurt my knees like the downhills do. It gives you something to focus on, and kills a mile pretty quickly. It was a beautiful day, and I have to admit I was feeling a little cocky waiting at the start - after all a couple of weeks ago I'd breezed around 13 miles in less than 2 hours. This was just a formality before I picked up my medal and headed home. WRONG. It was absolutely killer. The first 6 miles were steep climb after steep climb, made even harder by dodging all the cheaters walkers that kept stopping dead in my path (seriously guys, the first hill?! you're not even sweating!). By mile 6 I was the hottest I can remember being in a long time, and completely out of water. That's when I realised that this run was going to suck pretty hard. But hey ho, I'm not in it to win it, I just had to finish. I sucked up my pride and stopped (!!!!!) to fill up my water bottle. I hated doing it, but it needed to be done. I saw so many other people dropping with cramp from dehydration, that it was worth the hit on my time. The last 3 miles or so were along winding country roads - extra boring, nothing to look at, no spectators, and no shade. I think the only thing that kept me going was my refusal to be beaten by the 50 yr old that had been grunting at my right shoulder since the last water station. I even managed to sprint (ok run a bit faster) for the last 0.5. And then I got some free crisps, a banana, and nice little lie down in a field. Oh and my medal. It was about 10 minutes later I discovered the extra large blister on my foot, and the sunburn on my shoulders, back and thighs. Yes thighs, its not like they see daylight that often. Incidentally I came 354 out 442, completing in 2hrs 17, or 10:32 minute miles. Whilst I was aiming for closer to 2 hrs, that's not so bad - bang on what I need to achieve for my marathon pace, and would see me finishing within my goal of 4 hrs 30. I'll take that.

So what did I learn from this:

  1. Wear suncream. Ginger runners melt in hot weather
  2. Its ok to stop if you really have to
  3. I look terrible when running. What kind of sicko photographs runners for a living? 
  4. Lucozade is probably better than water in hot weather
  5. After training in snow/ice/more snow/snowy ice/sleet I will struggle if it hits 17C on marathon day
  6. I can run faster than a 50 yr old man
  7. Even when you feel like everything is going wrong and you can't possibly make it, you can. And you're probably faster than you thought. 

I have no idea why I got a blister. I've never had one before, and I've worn that sock/shoe combo a million times. i can only attribute it to the heat and hope it heals in time for Sunday. 

Theres a little write up of the half marathon here, for anyone that's interested. I'll also post a picture of my sweaty running face and angry red thighs on here if I get to £9,000 before marathon day... you can donate here

Friday, 5 April 2013


"I used to run to get to where I was going, but I never thought it would take me anywhere."

-Forrest Gump 

Just over two weeks until marathon day, and nearly 6 months since I started training and fundraising. I'm not going to lie, it's been tough. There have been injuries, tantrums, ice baths, horizontal rain, more ice baths and crusty nipples. I'm not going to even mention the time I threw up on my own shoes. Between finishing my PhD and running 100+ miles a month I don't have a lot of time for anything more interesting than sleeping and eating, and occasionally waking up to eat some more.

My social life is non-existent, and when i do catch up with friends the conversation centres around running: how much my knees/hips/ass/foot hurts, or the even more exciting topic of how to make protein shakes taste less revolting. I've bullied my poor boyfriend into running a half marathon with me, and my housemate fetches me hot water bottles and blankets when my legs ache so much I can't face the stairs. Even the dog doesn't want to run with me anymore (20 miles? Nah I think I'll just hang out here in my nice warm basket thanks).

I'm going to describe these last two months of peak training as my "moanapause", typified by the predominant emotions "hangry" (panicky grumpy moodiness which occurs pretty much whenever I haven't eaten for 20 minutes) and "mardy" (epic sulks generally triggered by things I have no control over such as the weather, pedestrians who refuse to share the pavement, or my shoelace coming undone).

I'd like to say a sincerely massive thank you to everyone that's tolerated my grumpy face over this period of near constant whinging (Sarah Wake, Jen Walke, Kath Mortimer, Mike Godard, Mum and Dad). The worst is over, and normal service will be resumed shortly. See you at the finish line guys, the drinks are on me.

But I hope they and you agree its all been worth it. Just by dedicating a few hours a week to running, I have already raised enough to start making a difference to people with far greater problems than achy muscles and the occasional blister.

Together we have raised £7310.18 for Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support. In less than 6 months. That's £44.30 per day since October 21st. 

And that makes every single second of running worth it.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Rock a Hula fundraiser!

Back for one extra special night of fundraising! If you're in London come on down and say hi! All profits from this night will be added to my fundraising total and go straight to Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support. Do you need a better excuse to party?!

Rock a Hula REVIVAL!

Sat 2nd March - 8pm until late

"Standout 1950s night" - the Times
"One of the biggest parties we've seen" - Timeout

Rock n roll, hula hooping and swing dancing return to Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes for a rare revival in Spring 2013! In 2009, something very special happened at Bloomsbury. Rock a Hula arrived: a wave of 1950s hula hoops, showgirls, rockabilly bands, hair parlours and Hawaiian beach photo booths! Over the next 2 years, thousands of people came to hula, learn to swing dance and get their vintage wriggle on, in a hands-on, un-pretentious, chaotic cavalcade of good times! Not being ones to end on a downer, Rock a Hula last hit the Lanes in December 2011, hung up our hoops, and decided to take a l'il break.

But in Spring 2013 - we're BACK for one night only: to raise a load of money for a very good cause - in aid of Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support: all profit will go to these charities.

Join us for a very special event presenting rare vinyl DJs El Nino and Lady Kamikaze, live hula hoop show from Miss Constance Irkles, special guest live band, vintage hair styling from Pretty Me Vintage and much, much more!

Advance tickets just £5 (£7 door) available now at

Thursday, 14 February 2013


After what seems like months (19 days) of "taking it easy", I'm finally running again, thanks to the awesome people at Norwich Osteopathic Clinic. Not only did they fix my foot, they tolerated my internet self-diagnosis (I was right btw - smug face); they listened to my increasingly panicked training fears; they ignored the excessive quantities of fluff between my toes, and they talked me into signing up for the Black Dog Half Marathon (more about that later). HEROES. I can't recommend them highly enough. So, now I'm smiling again, I thought I'd share my good mood with you, my dedicated blog readers. AKA my Gran, and someone in Germany that stops by for a read most days (guten Abend!).  In the form of this. Lolz

*BTW = by the way
*Lolz = laughing out loudz

UPDATE: I have just been informed that in fact, this is a more accurate representation:

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The importance of being idle

I run an ever increasing amount of mileage, divided into 3 weeknight chunks, and a longer run on Sundays. I cycle to work pretty much everyday, and jam in some cross training whenever I find a spare evening. Ironically, the more you do, the harder it is to say hey, take a day off, let your body recover. Seriously, i know it sounds insane but it really is tough. However, sometimes you've just got to do it.

I ran just over 12 miles on Sunday, and 31 miles in total that week, through some of the worst conditions since training started. Over the last week or so, we have had more snow than I've seen in a long time, and it's made running a little difficult to say the least. But I've managed to struggle through with no real problems, until now....

I woke up yesterday with horrible shooting pain down the outside of the bottom of my left foot. My first reaction was hooray, it's not my knees, and my second was to get on google and commence with some self-diagnosis. I have it narrowed down to pereoneal insertional tendonitis - it's ok when I don't put weight on it, but walking is super painful, and running is out of the question. Internet wisdom prescribes the usual rest-ice-elevation-pray it gets better cycle, which is what I've spent most of today doing, in addition to some hardcore anti-inflammatories. It's caused by overloading of a tendon that runs down the outside of the leg and into the foot, and was probably triggered when I fell over on some ice on Sunday, combined with running on uneven ground. I'm going to stay off it as much as possible, with no running for as long as it takes to feel better - tendons are notoriously hard to heal due to their minimal blood supply - I'm hoping to be back at it by the weekend, fingers crossed.

UPDATE: still no improvement, so I'm booked in with the foot doctor Friday to see what I can do to speed this up. In the meantime I've been trying to keep up some kind of fitness by terrorising the UEA pool through a combination of  high speed frustration laps whilst wearing a badly fitting borrowed bikini. It's not pretty but it makes me feel less useless.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

by Christopher McDougall

This book was recommended to me by a very good friend of mine, who incidentally smashed his way around his first marathon last year (I’m coming for your time Michael...), and I finally got a copy of my very own for Christmas this year. However I have to admit that initially it did not interest me in the slightest. After all, I am a connoisseur of quality literature: essentially if it isn’t by Cormac McCarthy, or it doesn’t have cowboys in it, I'm really not that interested. And as Canucks have dubious taste in most things, I figured why should books be any different (joke, that was a JOKE before you all start). But like a running pimp, he kept pushing it, and eventually I cracked – flicking through a few pages one night whilst he was yakking on the phone. Fast forward three days and one conversation about how occasionally, just occasionally, I might not always be right; and I'd read the whole thing cover to cover, and thoroughly enjoyed it. McDougall manages to convey what it is that got me into running in the first place: how it nice its feels to bound along a pavement, the pleasure of reaching the top of a hill, and the sheer happy exhaustion only achievable (for me) at the end of a good run. So I guess if you want an insight into why I do what I do, and how it feels, explained in words more eloquently arranged than those hastily typed into this blog, give it a go. But I warn you, there are no cowboys.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Happy New Year!!

2013 is shaping up to be a pretty big one. This year I will.........(drum roll please):

1. Present my work at ASLO conference, New Orleans 
2. Finish my thesis 
3. Become Dr Owen
4. Run the London Marathon
5. Cycle across Canada
6. Emigrate
7. Turn 30
8. Lose all dignity during the Polar Bear Plunge
9. Raise £10,000 for cancer research and support

A wiser person than me once said, "y’know, if your dreams don’t scare you, that means they’re not big enough". Well I’m absolutely s******g myself right now, so I guess that means I’m on the right track.

Happy New Year everyone. Let's smash it.