This summer, 25-year-old Katie Hooper went on a 7,550 km journey of self discovery.
The local lifeguard participated in the 2011 Tour Du Canada, a 10-week cycle tour across Canada from Vancouver, B.C. to the Avalon peninsula, in Newfoundland.
“You’re on a bike anywhere between eight and 12 hours a day by yourself just thinking, and I really enjoyed it because of that,” she said.
“I was able to reflect on a lot of things in my life.”
Just as impressive as the feat itself is the fact that until three months before the tour began, Hooper had participated in spin classes but had not ridden a bicycle since she was eight years old.
“I had a really bad accident,” she explained.
A well-rounded athlete, Hooper was doing fourth-year research at university last year when she learned about the Tour Du Canada, and decided it was something she wanted to do. She purchased a bike in March 2011 and began her training.
“I didn’t get a lot of opportunities on my bike on the road … I was looking for biking groups but I didn’t come across too many available groups to bike with,” she said.
A co-worker introduced Hooper to Nanaimo Rides Again, a cycling team which participates in the annual Ride to Conquer Cancer, a 240-km ride from Vancouver to Seattle.
In addition to training with the team, Hooper participated in fundraising required for the Ride to Conquer Cancer, which took place June 18-19.
“When I got back from that, it was a couple days of packing and then I took off for my ride across Canada,” she said.
Hooper and the 37 other riders participating in the Tour Du Canada experienced a barrage of terrain, traffic and every weather imaginable.
They began cycling between 6 and 8 a.m. every day and slept, for the most part, in campsites along the way.
“It’s overwhelming because you’re meeting 37 new people with different personalities and different cycling backgrounds and you don’t know how or if you’re going to fit in,” Hooper said.
Hooper said the most intimidating part of the journey was the interaction she faced with cars on the road.
“Being on the side of the road with no shoulder and it’s foggy and it’s raining and it’s a two-lane highway and you’ve got semi [trucks] going 110 km/h right past you.”
A downhill mishap in Ontario put a temporary halt on Hooper’s journey, as she had to hitch a ride to the next stop and get her bike repaired to be able to finish the Tour.
“Once I was dropped off on to the side of the road in Sault Ste. Marie, I dragged my bike a few blocks down the road to find a hotel I could stay at for three days until my tour caught up with me,” she said.
Having biked across Canada, Hooper said she may like to try similar rides in other countries in the future.
In the meantime, she has her sights on participating in next year’s Ride to Conquer Cancer.
“I would like to encourage people to try experiencing things they don’t feel they’re capable of doing because as a non-cyclist I was able to complete this and by reaching beyond what you’re capable of, you’ll surprise yourself.”