Suzie Ketene admits she’s taking on a “crazy endeavour.”
The 42-year-old Halifax native is getting ready to land in Braganca, Portugal, next week with her 10-year-old mountain bike and little more than a global positioning system to participate in the nine-day, 1,150-kilometre Trans Portugal Garmin.
Ketene will traverse the southern European country from north to south by bike, following an unmarked track from Braganca to Sagres that climbs 24,500 metres and takes her through the Serra da Estrela mountain range to an altitude of 1,992 metres.
Hungry? Bring your own food. Flat tire? Broken chain? Shifting problems? Fix them yourself. And if you get lost? Good luck finding your way back.
“You’re on your own,” Ketene says. “There are no markers, there are no vehicles or helpers on the side of the road saying, ‘You went the wrong way, you have to go left.’
“Essentially, you find a way.”
Participants do receive food, lodging and mechanical assistance at the end of each day, but that’s it.
Ketene is a longtime mountain biker who won the Canada Cup series in 1998 and went on to place ninth at the world championship. But she has typically competed in one-day, cross-country-style events and has never attempted a multi-stage race such as the Trans Portugal.
When you throw in the fact former Vancouver Canucks star Trevor Linden is one of 65 competitors and five Canadians registered for the Trans Portugal, Ketene knows she’s facing a daunting challenge.
“When I think about it, I get nervous,” she admits. “I giggle and I go, ‘It’s a mind-over-matter thing.’ And anything we set our minds to, we can achieve.”
Ketene set her mind to the Trans Portugal as a way to raise money for charity. She hopes to raise $1 for every kilometre she bikes so she can donate $1,150 toward KidSport, which attempts to eliminate financial barriers that prevent children from participating in sport.
She says the kids will be in the back of her mind when she needs motivation to get through the gruelling event.
“It’s going to be the experience of a lifetime,” she says.
“I’m going to make the most of it.”