Interview: Meaghan Hackinen, BC Epic 1000 Winner

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The BC Epic 1000, a 1000km gravel event across BC, has been won by Meaghan Hackinen in a new Fastest Known Time for a women, and the second fastest known time ever. Impressed? There’s more: the event started just as a ‘heatdome’ hit the area, pushing temperatures up to new records in the high 40s and causing a number of deaths in the area. As we write this, of the 72 riders that started, only six have finished, and 41 have scratched. Oh, and this was Meg’s first off-road ultra. And she stopped to take photographs. Even more impressed now?

Credit: Dave White

Here’s Meaghan’s take on the race, as posted on Instagram:

The @bcepic1000 – WOW! Just, wow. What a route; what a race! After a rough 2020 I was just happy to get out and ride. Yet I couldn’t ignore my competitive drive, and so despite this being my first mountain bike/non-road bike ultra, I went in with the goal of establishing a new women’s FKT (fastest known time). Early on in day one I found myself riding at the front of the pack, and on the climb out of Princeton just over 100km in I passed the lead rider. From then on I tried to stretch the gap, and see how fast I could get to the finish at Fernie. I knew that the previous two race winners had caught the first ferry from Balfour, so I rode most of the night to make the sailing.

I have so many wonderful memories: the views on top of Gray Creek Pass, the trestles at Myra at night. But the heat was absolutely brutal. Luckily, I had a few tricks up my sun sleeves: wearing light colours, buying bags of ice at gas stations to replenish my 3 litre hydration bag and ice socks, sporting a protective sun cap that covered my neck, and skinny dipping wherever I got the chance. While I still struggled – I didn’t pee more than a thimbleful on day one, and couldn’t stomach solid food for most of the race – my cooling strategy worked and I was able to keep my power up even during the long climbs in +40 Celsius temps.

I finished in 2 days / 19 hours / 19 minutes – earning me the overall race win, second fastest finishing time in Epic history, and knocked over a day off the women’s FKT. Night riding was a treat, but the final night from Elko was close to hell (those who have been there on the Epic know exactly what I’m talking about). To make matters worse, my navigation unit bounced off on a rough descent and I couldn’t find it in the dark. I was grateful to have the route maps on my phone on RidewithGPS. I’ll do a proper blog write up soon, but for now I just want to thank everyone for the support, encouragement, and tireless dotwatching. Special shout-out to Emanuela @okanaganbikeandski and Dalton for helping me dial in my tubeless setup, and just being incredible people. 

Meaghan Hackinen
Sadly, no ice cream.

Ice socks? And what is the deal with Elko? We asked Meaghan to tell us more:

Ice socks are cut up and knotted off pantyhose stuffed with a handful of ice, and then shoved down the back of your jersey. I used these at the 24 Hour World Time Trial Championships in Borrego Springs, California, and they helped me beat the heat in the hottest part of the day. Of course, I had a crew stuffing a fresh one down my jersey every lap (55 minutes), and on the Epic, I had to make my own at the infrequent gas stations I came across. But still, they really do help you keep cool: ice is nice and chilly on your back and as the sun melts the ice, the breeze comes in contact with your wet skin. It’s refreshing, and helps keep your core temperature down. I used these on the exposed climbs out of Princeton and Penticton on day one, and heading toward Paulson Summit from Grand Forks on day two.

Genius! Probably not something we need too often in the UK, but a great tip for anyone finding themselves somewhere too hot for comfort.

What tyres for melting into hot gravel?

I was in pretty rough shape when I reached Elko, and seemed to have forgotten all the warnings previous finishers had given me about how not to underestimate my time to the finish on the end bit. It was sometime close to midnight, which marked the point when I’d been up for 24 hours without sleep, and so my head was not quite right anymore. I figured that it would just be a bumpy doubletrack or something to the finish, but instead found all these crazy steep stony descents and climbs around Mount Broadwood that I ended up lugging my bike up and down in the dark. To make matters worse, after a wipeout shortly before Elko, my eTrex unit was knocked off, and I guess I didn’t secure it in place properly because on the first descent after the turnoff from the pavement it jumped off my bike again and I couldn’t find it. Luckily, I was able to navigate using the RidewithGPS maps on my cell phone. I went back the next day and found the eTrex half-hidden under a clump of grass. I had this ongoing internal conversation in my head with Lennard, the race director, where I cussed him out for making me trek through these awful roads in the dark. I was in a dark place, but it was also pretty funny, and I recognized that: I was alone and losing my mind, but I had done this all to myself by signing up. And what’s an adventure without a few bumps in the (literal) road? 

A good lesson there in having a backup option for finding your way – especially if you’re pushing the limits of exhaustion and operating with an addled brain. We wondered if Meaghan found she’d made any other good kit choices.

-What did you take that you didn’t need?
I unloaded my seatpost bag of most of my cold weather/rain gear on the eve of the race and swapped my puffy jacket for a puffy vest. I think I wore the vest once while waiting for the ferry – I didn’t need to, I just didn’t want to not use it at all. I did use it as a pillow when I snagged some sleep in a shelter at Myra Canyon on the first night.

-What did you want that you didn’t take?
Can I say cooling vest? No, I don’t think that’s a really practical item to bring on a self-supported adventure. I would have brought a second pair of shorts. I assumed I’d be fine with one pair, but with all the salt and sweat and grit, they got pretty nasty. I was able to wash them in the shower at my motel room in Fruitvale, but it would have been smart to replace some of the rain gear I took out with a second pair of shorts.

Having the right kit is important, but sometimes it’s all down to experience. We asked Meaghan if there was anything that set her up for success, though maybe you didn’t realise it until she tapped that resource:

I think all my prior experiences in the heat helped me make better decisions this time around, and not repeat past mistakes. Every summer, I come home from a few rides absolutely wrecked from the sun: sunburnt, bonking because I can’t stomach food, cramping, exhausted, and totally dehydrated. I knew that if I wanted to be a contender in a multi-day race, I had to avoid going into the red zone. I had to listen to my body, and take better care of myself so that I could stay out longer to put in big days (and nights).

Photo bombed by a dog!

Finally, we asked what’s next for Meaghan: ‘You’ve done boiling heat – IDITAROD next?! What plans have you got, if any?’

Noooooooooo – I’m afraid of the cold! Plus, strenuous exertion in frigid temperatures doesn’t agree with my lungs. I’m heading to Oregon to visit my partner and we’ll both be on the start line of the Oregon Timber Trail on July 10. I don’t exactly know what I’m getting into with this one, but it sounds like an incredible and challenging route: super remote and mostly singletrack. While I’ll be pushing myself, I won’t go all in like the Epic. I hope to ride the Oregon Outback Route while I’m there, and tour part of the Great Divide.

Not just any dog – this is Sadie.

Chapeau to Meaghan for an amazing ride, and all the best for the other riders still tackling the trail. We’re in no hurry to ride in such heat, but all these mentions of far off long distance trails is giving us itchy feet. Some ideas to add to the ‘one day…’ list maybe?

Check out our bike checks of the riders tackling this year’s BC Epic 1000:

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