Have you ever considered cycling around the lake using your arms to pedal? Sounds difficult, doesn’t it? Well this year at the 5th Annual Loop around the Lake, a very dedicated athlete will be participating in the half marathon distance doing exactly that.
It’s called handcycling and Nolan Wiebe has been enjoying the benefits of this sport since he was 10 years old.
Born with spina-bifida, Wiebe is confined to his wheel chair most of the time; nevertheless he is a natural athlete and has always been interested in sports. He is competitive by nature and stays active by cycling an average of 30-40 kilometers at least three times a week.
With three 10km races under his belt and a second place finish already this year, Wiebe is looking most forward to competing in his first ever half marathon in Chestermere this weekend. His personal goal is to cross the finish line in 1 hour and 15 minutes.
With so much time spent training, he is obviously physically able to complete such a distance however due to rules & restrictions in many Canadian races where handcycles are often prohibited, he is usually limited to the 10Km division.
While doing research on the internet about upcoming Calgary area races he came upon Chestermere’s Loop Around the Lake.
“I called (Bernie Maillet) the race organizer to ask if hand cyclists were allowed in the half marathon and his response was…’Absolutely’,” said Wiebe.
Maillet then offered to meet Wiebe in Chestermere to cycle the entire course together in order to identify any possible hazards or impediments that may hinder his race. In the end, the course proved to be handcycle safe. “I had no problems, the course is great” said Wiebe.
When asked about the decision to allow a handcyclist to join the race, Maillet, a 27 time Ironman finisher replied “Everybody has a goal which I believe is extremely important and if I can be a part of helping Nolan to achieve his goal of a half marathon then that is awesome and I am happy to be involved.”
Because the young athlete will go much faster than most runners – he will start five minutes earlier than the rest of the half marathon pack so that the other participants so not delay his ability to move quickly.
Maillet has also arranged for a volunteer lead cyclist to travel with Wiebe for safety and to ensure he stays on route. One way a handcycle differs from a conventional racing chair is that it cannot do sharp turns therefore the lead cyclists job will also be to inform Wiebe of any upcoming turns as he will need approximately 100 feet to prepare for corners.
The mechanics of a hand cycle is more similar to traditional cycling rather than running. Wiebe’s handcycle has 27 gears and three high performance wheels. The machine is propelled by a hand crank comparable to the pedals of a bike, which Wiebe will power with his arms. This specialized bike’s cost upward of $3000.00.
Due to a heart defect, Wiebe cannot work out in a gym or lift his arms above his head. Cycling therefore is an excellent option for him and others who have similar disabilities.
According to the Handcycling Club of Canada’s website “Handcycling brings the benefits of cycling to those who may not have the use of their legs, but nevertheless would value being active and engaged in the sport of cycling.”
Handcycling continues to grow in popularity, and the 2004 it was included in the Paralympics for the first time.
During the winter months, Wiebe stays active by playing another increasingly popular sport called sledge hockey which is a fast, physical and competitive game integrating nearly the same rules as regular hockey, but is played on a specially designed sled or bucket instead of skates.
The Loop around the Lake is a fundraiser with the proceeds benefitting the Chestermere Public Library. The 5th Annual event will take place on Sunday, September 15 with a ½ marathon, 11.2km, 5km and a children’s fun 1km run. All these events begin and end at the Chestermere Recreational Centre.
For more information and registration details visit their website at HYPERLINK “http://www.looparoundthelake.com” www.looparoundthelake.com or stop in at the library this week if you are interested in volunteering to help make this event a success.