Day Fifteen- Final Day
Day 15, the final day of the challenge…
The last 14 days had been amazing. Some huge ups and lots of downs, not just on hills! It was a surreal feeling waking up knowing I’d be finished by the afternoon. I was so close to seeing family and celebrating.
Not having to think about packing the tent, panniers, sorting food, clothes, servicing the bike, charging camera and phone, map planning and knowing I’d be in a hotel bed was a strange thought. It was an exciting to wake up knowing I could wear different clothes too…
I had no coffee or food left so headed around Cowichan Lake to find somewhere for breakfast. The only place open was Tim Hortons, my first time sampling nearly a pint of creamy coffee and some kind of muffin thing. It did the job; I needed caffeine every morning to wake my legs up.
As I hadn’t made it to Port Renfrew the day before, I knew the journey into Victoria would be around 70 miles. With that in mind, I wanted to find a route with some off-road elements to make it more challenging than just taking the highway. I found a route called the Cowichan Valley Trail, which is along an old railway line that was no longer there.
The rain came down like it knew it was my last day. The trail began and I was the only person on it, flying along, fuelled by Tim’s coffee and excited about seeing my family. It was a great ride along there, lots of bridges and trestles. The trail was very narrow, a little like riding a deactivated logging road but without so much wildlife. A few deer, a few horses in fields to the sides and eventually a person walking their dog.
I’d heard about the Kinsol Trestle on the island, an old wooden railway bridge that spanned a huge river. I didn’t realise this trail came to it and spent a few minutes enjoying the fantastic view down into the valley. It was strange being so close to busy populated areas again, impressive manmade structures which were rare up in the north and wild parts of the island. The bridges I was used to were just concrete slabs with no barriers on them and far narrower. Not really designed for cyclists or pedestrians in mind!
After the Kinsol Trestle the route joined up with a road around Shawnigan Lake. I suddenly found myself in a cycling event. Hundreds of cyclists were riding for MS, all sorts of ages, abilities and so on. It was great to see more people on bikes; I didn’t see many at all during my 2 weeks away. I did what most cyclists do when they see another person riding ahead of them, speed up to catch them!
The route suggested I go down the Malahat highway to get to Victoria. I really didn’t fancy that, it would be an anticlimax and dangerous. I’d had enough of highways and decided to go via Mill Bay and onto the short ferry ride across to Brentwood Bay where I could join up with more trails into Victoria.
I couldn’t take in how busy things were getting, how many cars there were, people, perfect tarmac roads! I’d been used to seeing sporadic villages and places at the end of my rides with nothing in-between. Seeing houses and people everywhere was strange at first. The lack of logging traffic was also a new experience!
Once I got off the ferry I joined up the Saanich Interurban trail, a gravel path adjacent to the road. I was bombing along, the sooner I got to Victoria, the sooner the celebrations could begin! I was getting really excited about seeing my family, completing the ride and taking it all in.
The trail into Victoria was pretty straightforward, hardly any climbs. I was on a mission and was flying along. I had to message my girlfriend and family to say I was way ahead of schedule.
The trail joined the latter part of the famous Gallopping Goose Trail, the one I was due to come in on from Sooke if I’d done the Port Renfrew route. It was packed with cyclists, dog walkers, Sunday strollers and as urban as you could get.
I started to see familiar street names and roofs of landmark buildings, I knew things were getting close!
I stopped at the side of the road near some restaurants and bars on the water’s edge before I joined Government Street into the inner harbor. I wanted to have a moment to reflect upon the previous 15 days, what I’d seen and that I was about to complete the challenge. 14 months of planning, endless sleepless nights worrying about things going wrong, wildlife, getting injured, not being able to complete the ride. But here I was, less than a mile from the finish line at the Inner Harbour in Victoria. It was surreal to say the least. I was almost reluctant to finish. I had been so used to being on my own, seeing nobody for a whole day, completely in the wild for large parts and at the mercy of the elements.
I had to make key decisions every day about routes, what to eat, how far to push myself, where to camp; it was going to be back to reality now and it seemed strange being so close to the finish, having a short moment to take in my new surroundings. But the excitement of seeing my girlfriend and family became overwhelming. I had raced to get here; I couldn’t wait to get showered, eat some decent food, not having to worry about what happened next.
I dropped down a few gears as I set off trying to take in the city, which I had visited several times over the years. The inner harbor came into sight, the Empress Hotel and some familiar faces!
I’d done it! The challenge was completed, I’d ridden around Vancouver Island solo and unsupported. I totaled 1,325 miles (2132km) and climbed 66,000ft (20,166m) in 15 days. My planned route had changed daily, everyday had new challenges, problems, successes, highs, lows and it was over. I’d reached £14,000 in fundraising for Big C and around $2,000 for BC Cancer Foundation. Plus I had broken a world record (once I get it confirmed by Guinness). I really can’t thank everyone enough for such generous donations. If I didn’t have such great charities and cause to raise money for, there’s no way I’d have completed this.
It felt amazing. All the support I’d received over the last 15 days has been brilliant. Reading everyone’s comments has really spurred me on when I needed it most. I’ve met so many fantastic people along the way. People with cancer, people who have friends and relatives with cancer. People who’ve lost friends and family with cancer. Everyone has thanked me for what I was doing, but to me it was a drop in the ocean in comparison to what they have gone through. If I had a year to do an epic expedition to raise even more money, I would do it. My job isn’t done yet, no way Pedro.
I still have a long way to go with fundraising. There are still several challenges to complete this year including the London 100 and Tough Mudder. I also have tons of photos and footage filmed while I was on the challenge, I hope that people can see the kind of terrain, challenges and environment I had to do the ride on and can put it into context. That will hopefully generate more donations.
I had to haul 30kg around with me up and down potholed logging roads, deactivated roads with wildlife capable of seriously injuring me. Gigantic logging trucks, cars and RV drivers nearly wiped me out. I got very little sleep and was riding for over 10 hours most days, sometimes 12 hours. The weather was a huge issue for most of the trip. I was soaked and freezing some days, overheating in record-breaking temperatures the next. There were several moments when I was really scared having seen bears, a cougar and heard things right next to me in the trees.
Most of the time I was eating dehydrated expedition foods, quick and easy snacks from garages and whatever I could get my hands on. On the last day, I noticed something orange in the bottom of one of my water bottles. There was something living in there, some kind of alien slime! I hadn’t noticed it because I normally used zero tabs electrolyte drink in that bottle which was red. I have no idea how long I’d been drinking that stuff, no harm done but not pleasant at all!
I never expected the challenge to be easy, it was far harder than I ever expected. Some days I really, really struggled to get going and could so easily have thrown the towel in. But I only needed read some stories about cancer I’d taken with me and think about the way it was affected people I know, that was enough to keep me pushing on.
Sorry it’s taken a while to put this up. I’ve spent the last few days catching up with family and having a break. I’ve lost a lot of weight and have been eating like a man possessed! I look back on where I was this time last week, 2 weeks ago and really miss the adventure. I’ll post up videos and more photos in the coming weeks, please feel free to share them.
Once again, thank you for all your donations and encouragement, please keep donations coming in. I will put up a page of everyone I’d like to thank soon too. I am already thinking about another challenge…