Of all the Christmas surprises possible for Chris Bruckner, being named a Guinness World Record Holder for fastest cycle across Canada was easily among the greatest.
Having beaten the previous record by only two hours and 24 minutes, numb from head to toe, Bruckner said it took every ounce of determination to make it across the finish line.
“I started off in great shape. The first five days were relatively easy,” he said. “But the event is more or less like dying a slow death. I remember getting pretty tired by the time I got to Winnipeg. Then Thunder Bay is pretty much the half-way point and was pretty demoralizing. I was pretty much done, knowing that I had another 3,000 kilometres to go and another week or so. I had a nice healthy lead around Thunder Bay and then started slowly-but-surely giving it back. It wasn’t until I started to get into Halifax that I thought it was actually going to happen.
“I rode all night on the 13th day to finish just in the nick of time. It was close, a lot closer than I would have liked. But I persevered.
“I give a lot of the credit to my supports, who kept me awake, especially the last day, and helped me get the job done.”
To beat the record, Bruckner had to bike from Vancouver City Hall to Halifax City Hall — a 5,747 kilometre trip. He did it in 13 days 3 hours 49 minutes, pushing into Halifax on July 13, 2019.
Accomplishing such a feat took guile, great fitness and a whole lot of logistics. Bruckner had two aides following him along his journey in a rented recreational vehicle, allowing him to avoid the hassle of booking hotel rooms or finding places to eat and giving him a sanctuary to recharge after his stints of cycling along the highway.
“It’s really about managing time,” said Bruckner. “Our game-plan was to ride for four-hour blocks, five times over the course of a 24-hour period with 15 minute breaks in-between. Obviously, I wasn’t able to stick with that, especially the second week where I had to take longer rests.
“If you can keep on and maximize your time over a 24-hour span, your power really shouldn’t matter. If you put in the time, the miles will come. And that’s easier said than done, because your whole body hurts.
“I started suffering from nerve damage that started from day one. I couldn’t feel anything. At one point I was basically riding around on flat tires and one of my supports checked it and could squeeze it right to the rim. I got so tired I would just coast down a hill and slow down — I’d forget that I have to pedal the bike to move forward. Towards the end, I had to get the guys to dress me because I couldn’t work my hands properly to do up zippers and such.”
Having a massage therapist on hand was a potential game-saver, noted Bruckner, who added his phone was destroyed during a rain storm, leaving him with no back-up GPS and forcing the team to rely on checkpoints to stay in sync.
After making the trip, the long wait to verify the achievement with Guinness’ stringent guidelines began, which only wrapped up on Dec. 29 when he was informed he was the new world record holder.
“To be fair, it took me 10 months to submit it,” he said. “My biggest fear was going through the data and missing evidence. Having put together a pretty good performance to be denied the world record would have been pretty crushing.
“So it took me awhile to submit it, and once I did Guinness wasn’t aware of it for whatever reason until I got in contact with them and I finally got hold of a real person this past November.”
Using his journey as a fundraiser, Bruckner also was able to raise $5,000 for the Canadian Mental Health Association, a cause dear to his heart.
Bruckner said it was important to support mental health organizations because it is an issue that can affect anyone.
“As a first responder, a lot of our members see a lot of horrific things,” he said. “It’s by no means an easy job. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder wasn’t always at the forefront in our profession. Mental Health is an illness like any other and it’s important to nip it in the bud early.
“If you are suffering, for whatever reason, come out and talk about it. Talk to your friends, talk to your family. It’s important to be open because for the longest time Mental Health has been stigmatized. It’s more important now than ever because of Covid-19 times. We’re social beings and it’s tough to be isolated and away from friends and family, especially over the holidays.”
Now fully recovered, Bruckner said he had his eyes set on other major cycling adventures, though he wasn’t sure how soon he would be able to get to them with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic limiting the opportunities to move around the planet.
One item still on his bucket list is a trans-Africa trip, from the Mediterranean to the South African coast.
In the interim, has started a cycling group in Inuvik to attract like-minded athletes. Already six-bikers strong, the gang is hoping to make biking a more common activity in Inuvik all year around.
“I just started it before Christmas,” he said. “I know it’s not the best time of year to start a cycling club, but hopefully we’ll grow in numbers.”
He said the best way to get involved in with the club would be to locate him or the Inuvik Cycling Club on Facebook, or alternatively the phone app Strava.