J. Kathleen Thompson is met by a wall of paradox when she hits the open road.
The long-distance cyclist loves the freedom, but dislikes the tedium.
Seeing the same skyline for 60-plus kilometres will do that to a person.
The part time West End resident will see a lot of skyline over the coming months, as she cycles 6,000 kilometres from English Bay to Newfoundland in the name of cancer research.
Each pedal will be done with her late sister, Sheila Rae Trautman, in mind. Trautman died of ovarian cancer last November at the age of 59.
“She was a tremendous supporter of people, and she demonstrated those kinds of values that are spurring me on — to shoot for the best and to hang in there when the going gets tough,” Thompson told the Courier.
Running May 14 to Aug. 1, Thompson’s trek isn’t her first rodeo — she’s done lengthy jaunts throughout Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Last year, she rode Central Asia’s Pamir Highway, a 1,400-kilometre adventure, which included 4,000-metre ascents.
Sixty-two-years-old at the time she rode the Pamir, it was Thompson’s first long-distance haul in more than three decades. Hell on earth is a good way to describe certain stretches of the ride, which included long patches of isolation over unforgiving terrain that rendered her bike useless.
Looking back with a cup-half-full perspective, Thompson gleaned some pearls of wisdom when the going got tough.
“It brought an incredible amount of joy and self-confidence,” Thompson said. “You do discover that part of yourself that makes you feel capable of doing it and that is very empowering.”
This trip will be far longer in duration, but much easier on the body. And Thompson, who splits her time between Vancouver and Christina Lake, will have her partner riding along in a van full of creature comforts such as pillows and other camping supplies.
“This is nothing compared to the Pamir,” Thompson said. “Here, I’m going to be on a local highway, I’ll be able to sleep comfortably at night and I’ll have the support of my partner.”
A retired teacher, Thompson aims to put in 100 kilometres a day in a straight b-line to the Maritimes. She ends Day 1 in Mission and will dip her toes in the Atlantic Ocean on Aug 1.
In between all of that, Thompson will stop at community centres and libraries to talk about her sister, and the need for more funding and awareness for those living with ovarian cancer. Thompson’s also a travel writer, so there will be travel talks bookended in there, too.
“I like to think that I’m doing this as a service for something else,” she said.
Thompson’s travels will be documented online at facebook.com/OvarianCancerRide.
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