When he set out on his bike from Whistler for Winnipeg on June 19, Jason Loutitt was open to the idea of carrying all the way on to the East Coast
That’s what the world-class ultrarunner ultimately did, reaching Halifax City Hall on July 11, blowing past his original turnaround point, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Manitoba’s capital, reaching the opposite side of the country in 21-and-a-half days. The journey covered nearly 6,000 kilometres.
“I’ve been very lucky not to have any big mechanical problems. I only had one flat tire and broke only one spoke,” he said from eastern Ontario, where he was taking a day off, on July 16. “I’ve had more things happen on one training ride going to Whistler.”
Louttit has also managed to avoid major injuries. He took a day off in Regina when he started to feel some nagging issues., but held up well the rest of the way.
“Sometimes I would stay in a cheap hotel if I needed to prioritize recovery, but sometimes I was camping on the side of the highway, so it’s been pretty adventurous. It’s been exciting to see new places,” he said.
During training, Louttit’s biggest days were the 260 kilometres covered during a round trip between Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood and Whistler. However, he managed to nearly double that some days on the flat prairies, racking up days of 400 or even 500 kilometres.
There have been challenges along the way, Loutitt said, as temperatures on roughly half the days have exceeded 30 C. However, his decade practising hot yoga has helped him weather the heat.
As a world-class ultrarunner, meanwhile, Loutitt can apply knowledge such as how to best approach his hydration and nutrition, consuming $50 to $60 worth of food a day.
“I’ve never eaten so much in my life,” he chuckled. “On my day off here, I feel like I could sleep for a week, but I can feel that part in me that is really excited to get on the road tomorrow.”
While most rides of this magnitude have some sort of support crew travelling alongside, Loutitt has been out there on his own, carrying a few vital supplies and stopping for food when necessary. In the midst of a 12-plus-hour day, grocery shopping is the last thing he wants to do, but it’s a necessary daily evil.
“It’s a real delicate balance between just getting enough food, knowing you’re going to be able to get some at the next gas station or grocery store, but not carrying too much weight with you,” he said.
Loutitt has had some family support along the way, as he had relatives meet him in Calgary and Regina, while he was staying with an aunt during his break in Ontario. As well, he has been grateful to bike shops that have helped him out with free tubes or tire changes along the way.
Loutitt said he has had plenty of time to think during the journey, including fending off past plagues such as meth addiction and homelessness, to press forth.
“I’ve had to chase those demons inside that question, ‘Is this even a good thing to do?’ and negative thinking patterns,” he said. “It’s a meditative experience.”
Another idea weighing on Loutitt’s mind was doing the ride during the COVID-19 pandemic, but reasoned that his fundraising and boosting of others is needed at this time. Loutitt has several missions for the challenge, as he is raising money for the Squamish Helping Hands Society’s Under One Roof program, while as a Métis man, he is hoping to give a boost to Indigenous rights and environmental awareness.
“I thought about it in terms of, ‘Often, during times of great trials, there are great opportunities,’ and this is a chance to inspire people that are stuck at home,” he said. “I’ve already got so much great feedback from that in terms of people either buying a bike or being really impressed by what I’ve been able to do.”
To support Loutitt’s Under One Roof initiative, check out https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/squamish-helping-hands-society/p2p/UnderOneRoof/.
He has also set up a separate GoFundMe to help cover some of his costs incurred along the way at https://www.gofundme.com/f/21eg6x7d1c?utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_na+share-sheet&pc_code=ot_co_dashboard_a&rcid=48a8197953254da6a0c144478402601f.
While he’s not riding with an official deadline, Loutitt is hoping to complete the east-to-west trip in 25 days.
“When I turned around and started coming back, it was my victory lap, so to speak,” he said. “There is quite a bit of a difference getting into some of the prevailing winds. My first day going into the wind, coming back from New Brunswick, was a little, not disconcerting or disheartening, but I felt so good the next day. I look forward to the challenge.”