“Wow, where do I start … what an amazing adventure.”
Local fitness trainer and extreme athlete Wanetta Beil is back home from her big, fat road trip — an epic 70-day bike ride across Canada that tested her and her crews’ resolve, and gave them a new appreciation for what they have here on the rock.
Wanetta, 38, only had 10 days break all told, and spent 60 days in the saddle seeing this great big country of ours.
“It’s huge … it’s awesome,” the fun-loving fiercely dedicated personal trainer confirmed when asked about her close encounter with this expansive country of ours.
Wanetta did the entire trip eating only raw vegan food.
Beyond the whole ‘go big or go home’ element which is a common theme in Wanetta’s growing list of outrageous athletic accomplishments, the ride was also to raise awareness about the benefits of raw vegan, and also in memory of her mom Belinda who she lost 15 years ago to cancer.
Wanetta and her support crew — niece Tayla Beal, and good friend Liz Forrest — drove and prepared all the meals. Her longtime riding partner Brad Holmes from Nanaimo left with the team, but had to pull the pin in Ontario and return home because of personal reasons.
The four of them shipped off out of Nanaimo July 18 and got back two weeks ago.
Dig a bit deeper about their journey and Wanetta recalls that afternoon in Thunder Bay when their lead truck, the one they were sleeping in, was totalled.
“It was T-boned while I was in the passenger side,” she said, and confirmed she suffered some whiplash and nerve damage.
“I had no feeling in three toes and in my fingers on my right hand were completely numb.
Wanetta said she took a few days off in Thunder Bay; “to lick my wounds and to see if I could even continue on. I was beat up pretty bad (but) that was where Terry Fox’s famous run came to an end, and I just thought if Terry Fox can run across Canada with one leg and Cancer, I can cycle across with a little whiplash and numbness.
“Plus I had so much riding on it; I had my sponsors depending on me to complete it, and more importantly I had a hundred people that I haven’t met yet depending on me as well.”
Wanetta is also a motivational speaker for Excellence Seminars International and made a deal with ESI that if she completed the ride they would sponsor 100 people for their Pursuit of Excellence course, an intensive and proven four day personal development course Wanetta said, “is life-changing.”
“That was huge motivation for me; for a hundred people in our community that don’t have the resources to be able to take this course, I am so stoked for that.”
A week after the accident they bought a van and continued on.
“We saw so much. I think my favourite province was Quebec. It was beautiful and the people were so friendly. Newfoundland was probably the friendliest province,” she chuckled. “I couldn’t even stop on the side of the road to pee without people stopping to ask if I needed help.”
The worst conditions were in Saskatchewan.
“Oh my gawd, and the headwinds were terrible, actually 13 of the 14 days pedalling across Ontario we battled headwinds and rain.
“We had horrible weather. Our whole trip was not very good weather at all.”
What may have been a bit of foreshadowing came in Crowsnest Pass in week two when she had to ride through two days of snow and hail.
Tayla did quite a bit of cycling as well, she rode between 25 and 50 km a day.
“She lost in total 30 pounds on the trip all raw vegan and she got rid of her eczema
“The people were fantastic, from one coast to the other, I mean we’re so fortunate to live in such a wonderful country. I never once felt unsafe, people welcomed us into their homes …
Ever consider coming home? we asked.
“Every day,” she conceded. “I missed home, but it wasn’t a consideration. When I start something I always finish it.”
The trip started in Coombs and came to and end on the shores of Cape Spear, Newfoundland, the most Eastern part of North America, just outside of St. John’s.
Wanetta’s husband Grai Beal, the other half of One on One Fitness out of Coombs, met up with her in Saskatchewan for a few days but wasn’t able to be there at the end.
She sold the van she bought in Newfoundland and the three flew back home.
“What was really monumental for me was my mother’s death 15 years ago of colon cancer and I haven’t been home since we buried her. I got to go visit her grave; it was 15 years ago we lost her, so I was really exited to get back to my home town … I did this trip for her too, just to educate people about health.”
Wanetta was born in Weyburn and raised in the small prairie town of Ceylon which was settled by Swedish homesteaders back in the day.
“Totally humbling,” she said of the trip, “and the toughest part was being away from Grai the whole time.”
Not surprisingly, “there is nothing I feel I cant handle now because we had so many obstacles. There was one day in Nova Scotia the winds were so bad, about 45 km side winds, that it knocked Tayla right off her bike and sent her tumbling into traffic.
“It was so scary,” said Wanetta, “I looked back and saw her fall off and I yelled at her the traffic came to a screeching halt … that was really scary. She suffered a concussion, and she was pretty banged up.”
Understandably it took Tayla quite a few days to get back in the saddle as it were, but she did.
Wanetta’s longest day on the bike was 212 kms, from North Bay to Pembroke in Ontario.
Surprisingly she had only two flat tires along the way, though the frame of her 27 speed Cannondale Road Bike was dinged up from the accident “but it was still rideable.”
“Canada’s beautiful, but I still think Oceanside is the most beautiful of all the paces in Canada — this is where I want to live.”
Fittingly the end of her journey came a short hop from Mile Zero and the Terry Fox monument.