Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Long bike journey for great cause

Ultra-marathoner seeks Guinness mark

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Arvid Loewen will be raising funds for a group in Africa that rescues children.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Arvid Loewen will be raising funds for a group in Africa that rescues children. Photo Store

Arvid Loewen is about to embark on perhaps the most gruelling physical challenge of his life, but the mental grind could prove to be even tougher.

The 57-year-old ultra-marathon cyclist, who holds the Guinness World Record for crossing Canada on two wheels in a little more than 13 days, is steeling himself to set a new standard for cycling 10,000 kilometres starting today.

He has mapped out a 27-km loop from Lockport to Hoddinott Road at Henderson Highway in East St. Paul. And in order to break the mark set by Gus Moonen from the Netherlands, he'll need to complete it 370 times in less than 22 days, 15 hours and 34 minutes.

Groundhog Day, anyone?

"I usually try to figure out a way to keep myself motivated. The mental determination that I will need in the middle days will be unbelievable. How do you stay on the bike when you can't see the end?" he said.

Unlike traditional races, where the clock only ticks when you're on the course, every second between starting and finishing in ultra-marathon cycling counts.

That means most of his eating will be done on his bike, where he expects to be for 19 to 20 hours a day. He'll need to sleep fast, too.

"I'm expecting to be able to get by on three hours of sleep per night for 21 days. The record is at 443 kilometres per day; I have do at least that or more," he said.

(It shouldn't surprise people to learn Loewen and his son, Paul, recently published a book entitled, When Quitting is Not an Option.)

During his record-setting attempt, Loewen will be aided by volunteer support teams, and they'll all be based out of a farmhouse just outside Lockport.

He doesn't spend a good chunk of his life in the saddle strictly for his health. He resigned from his job as vice-president of operations for Palliser Furniture eight years ago to dedicate himself to fundraising for Mully Children's Family, a street-children rescue mission in Kenya.

Since it was founded 25 years ago, it has rescued 10,000 children. (Loewen's promotional line for his record-breaking attempt is "10,000 kilometres, 10,000 reasons.")

He admits to having a soft spot for children. He and his wife, Ruth, have eight grandsons.

The Mully children aren't put up for adoption, but they are taken into a family environment and enrolled in school. Over the ensuing years, they are equipped with life skills and eventually sent back into their communities. Some have returned as medical doctors.

Loewen, who was born in Paraguay and moved to Winnipeg as a 13-year-old in 1970, has raised $3 million for the cause using ultra-marathon cycling as his platform. This time around, he hopes to raise $300,000. (Online donations can be made at grandpascan.com.)

He knows he's going to have to re-enter the rat race at some point, though. He cashed in his RRSPs after he quit his job and he's been living off savings and the support of friends who believe in the cause.

"I may be able to do this another year or five, until I have no more money to live. Then I have to go back to work, he said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 16, 2014 A2

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