Lost Elephant- Women Rule!

On July 22, 58 bikepackers set out on the Lost Elephant, a self-supported race starting in Cranbook, British Columbia. The race includes two route options, the 520km Jumbo and the 316km Dumbo, both of which form a loop in the Kootenay region on the Western slope of the Rocky Mountains. The challenging route includes high mountain passes, rugged hike-a-bikes, and beautiful trails.

But what we’re most excited about at the Town Bicycle is how many women showed up and absolutely crushed this race. Four out of the top five finishers (including the top two) of the Jumbo route are women, with Meaghan Hackinen with the overall win, Zoé Chauderlot in second place, Alex Burk in fourth overall (third woman), and Julia Halawa in fifth overall (fourth woman).

We invited the women who participated in the Lost Elephant to share about their races- from the winner to the lanterne rouge, and what they shared makes us excited for the future of women’s participation in bikepacking. It’s clear that the community around the Lost Elephant is fostering a growing bikepacking scene that makes women feel welcome. Keep reading to learn about how they prepared for their race, highs and lows, and how they celebrated at the finish line.

Photo by Jocelyn De La Rosa

Lisa Barnes

How did you prepare for the Lost Elephant? What made you decide to do the race?

I am a Lost Elephant Resident and have the privilege of living in this gorgeous part of the province. I have signed up at started for four of the last five years (broken bones resulted in one missed year) so it’s kind of a tradition for me I suppose. Preparation for this fifth attempt at finding the elephant was pretty natural as I ride a lot to begin with and already had a few adventures under my belt for the season (BC Epic, a few weekenders in the rain, some gravel races… )

Did you have any goals going into the race?

To complete the race is always the goal…. I scratched the last two years due to poor health in 2022 and smoke in 2023 so I REALLY wanted to finish this one.

What bike were you riding? Is there any other gear you’d like to highlight?

I have the worlds greatest mechanic on my side. When I got into this back in 20whatever we decided to build a bike capable of handling our rugged off road terrain with a bit of comfort. We ordered a Surly Karate Monkey frame and built it up with some solid basics…. Each year comes a new addition or upgrade; we’ve added a squishy fork a few years ago, this year we changed from 27.5”+ tires to 2.2” 29ers. It was neat to see the variety of bikes at the startline… from Full Suspension to skinny tire gravel machines. I would say my Monkey is comfortably in between with a heavy emphasis on comfort… she’s a full figured gal who’s sturdy and reliable and in it for the adventure – just like me haha.

What was a high point of your race? Did you have a favorite section or experience along the route?

The descent on Blackfoot/Quinn Creek was absofreakinglutely amazing. Starting the 30ish km climb in the fresh morning air and seeing nothing but nature while I pedaled up up up was also a treat. Meeting other riders and getting to know them a bit along the route is also part of the allure of these kinds of rides. Turns out the bikepacking community is full of loveable like minded weirdos (at least in the mid pack where I was…can’t speak for the super weirdos at the pointy end as I only saw them for the first ten or so minutes of the ride). And please note, I use the term weirdo with love and kindness….

Did you experience any lows or challenges during your race? What was that like and how did you get through it?

I enjoy the company of others and being a bit of a cheerleader. These rides have always been about company and camaraderie for me. It works out really well as when I am going through a low point, my pals can help me outta it and then I can return the favour later. I would say my low point was in the heat and wondering if I could continue climbing in the exposed sun to make it to our planned camp spot at 165kms. We took a long break to cool off and eat and I think the body thought it was done for the day and was NOT thrilled when I got back on the bike to pedal up again. Maryn was my cheerleader to get me over that hump with a few jokes and her mere presence out in the middle of nowhere. I find bikepacking is more of a mental exercise than a physical challenge and I enjoy the comfort of having someone that can help pull you out of the negative headspace when it starts happening.

Did you learn anything during your race that you’d like to share?

Into the second day I found myself riding solo for the final 50ish kms. It was my first time riding alone and finishing alone. I can’t say I would be interested in doing the whole thing solo- but I did learn that I enjoy finding my own pace and rhythm. I would like to explore this kind of solo meditative riding a bit more. However, it is kinda lame that there’s no one around to hear my stupid jokes and obnoxious singing. Cuz some of my best stuff comes out after ten hours in the saddle in the blistering heat.

What did it feel like to get to the finish line? How did you celebrate?

I was so happy, proud, elated, and hot AF. My husband was at the finish line with pizza, cold water and cold beer- it was magical. One of my favourite small humans (Isla, the daughter of one of the Lost Elephant organizers) was also there with a big smile and high five. She had excitedly told me at the pre-race briefing that she is going to ride the Elephant with her dad when she is 14…. I can’t wait to be at the startline with her in a few years. THEN I hear Meghan Hackinen isn’t too far behind me as the first JUMBO finisher! I got to cheer her across the finish line and get my photo with such an inspiring rider.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your race?

Looking back on when I first started the Lost Elephant I was one of a few women at the start line. Strong, inspiring, adventurous Kootenay Gals who supported me getting into bikepacking. It is astonishing the growth that has happened in the last three years and the representation of female athletes in both the Dumbo and the Jumbo courses. I think last year saw the first female Jumbo racer and this year three of the top for finishers of the Jumbo route were female. It’s so inspiring to see young gals like Isla have role models like Meaghan and me to look up to. Also, the fact that I could consider myself a role model is rather astonishing. I can’t wait to see how the sport continues to develop and have women dominate the podium.

Alex Burk

How did you prepare for the Lost Elephant? What made you decide to do the race?

In May 2023, my partner and I went on a bikepacking adventure starting in Athens, Greece and ending in Dubrovnik, Croatia. We travelled through Albania, Montenegro, and Bosnia & Herzegovina as well, and largely tent camped along our journey. This trip had me saying “wow, today is the best day ever…. every day is the best day when biking”, which is when I realized that bikepacking is all I ever really needed in my life to feel clarity and ease.  At the beginning of the trip, we were the ultimate tourists and biked an average of 80km per day. By the end of the trip, we realized that we love the grind and pushed harder and longer every day, fitting in 135+km days with well over 1,000 meters of elevation gain each day. When the trip ended and we were reflecting on how good we felt during those long grinds, we decided that we should try out a bikepacking race to really see if we were tough enough to bikepack for big pushes on our home turf. The Lost Elephant seemed like the perfect adventure- close to home, loads of gravel and mountain biking terrain, and endless hours of biking which is all we really craved. Since we already had bikepacking setups for the race, we prepared by doing long mountain biking days on our loaded Trek 1120’s. I also spent loads of time on my trainer after work whenever I couldn’t head out to the mountains, and did many “Tour de Calgary” Rides on my gravel bike to gain at least 250-300km per week of riding, paired with strength and mobility training to keep the legs fresh. 

Did you have any goals going into the race?

When registering for the race, I had initially signed up for the Dumbo. After a lot of deliberation, I decided that life is short and that I might as well send it and try out the Jumbo instead. I was feeling athletically very strong and injury free, so I thought there was no harm in trying. Despite this seemingly confident attitude I decided to set a relatively reserved goal for myself and wanted to finish in 2 days and 6 hours. Being a 25-year-old female, I made this goal thinking that if I finish, I could be the youngest female to ever finish the Jumbo with this result. With this goal in mind, I was still skeptical that I could even finish the race, because I had heard there was going to be scorching heat, insanely rugged terrain, and loads of smoke from forest fires. 

What bike were you riding? Is there any other gear you’d like to highlight?

I was riding a Trek 1120 with a generic handlebar bag, a framebag, and a single drybag strapped to a courier rack on the back of my bike. I used a Hammerhead Karoo 2 GPS, and realized the night before the race that the route had failed to properly load because it can only process a maximum of 500km per route… This was a major problem for the 519km race I was supposed to start in 6 hours. I ended up bypassing this issue by deleting the first ten waypoints and riding with the pack until I could use the uploaded route. Lesson learned: Double check the capacity of your GPS before committing to using it! As for overnight gear, I only packed a bivy sack and a thin down jacket to get cozy in the dirt on the side of the road. 

What was a high point of your race? Did you have a favorite section or experience along the route?

The high point for me was coming over the largest mountain pass of the race. My GPS was acting up during the big ascent, so I made a few wrong turns that cost me a lot of energy and I was coming down from mild heat exhaustion while battling a lot of mind demons that were telling me to give up and turn around. At that point I hadn’t really eaten much either because the heat from the day made my body reject food, so I was running on low mental and physical fuel. Near the top of the ascent there was some really steep, 20% grade climbs that had me re-evaluating my situation every 20 minutes. At one point I was pushing my bike up what seemed to be a scramble trail and I kept thinking that there is no way this can be part of the race. The trail kept getting smaller and steeper and the ominous nighttime was lurking closer and closer… then as I was entering another mental cycle of “give-up and tap-out”, the trail started to trend downhill. Despite all of this sounding pretty gnarly, it was my favourite experience of the race because I overcame the desire to quit countless times and I learnt a lot about myself and my ability to recognize discomfort and push through it for an extended time. I rode the technical mountain biking descent trail in fading light and tried my best to maintain focus. Once I popped out of the trees, twilight had arrived, and I was greeted with the most spectacular view of the valley, and fields upon fields of wildflowers. This was a moment when I realized that my life experiences are a privilege, and that no matter how brutal the terrain is, there is nothing else in that moment I honestly would rather being doing- riding my bike into the night through phantasmagoria. 

Did you experience any lows or challenges during your race? What was that like and how did you get through it?

I don’t want to go into all of the lows and challenges during the race because there were many dark thoughts, aches and pains, and kind of scary moments that I don’t want to entirely overshadow how stoked I am about the entire experience. I will list a few though: From being very scared of bears while riding to Nipika after midnight on trails that hardly seemed to exist at all, riding very exposed single track at 3 a.m., dealing with insane 35-40 degree Celsius heat, losing my voice yelling for bears all throughout the race when I was by myself, losing feeling in my hands, coping with insane saddle-sores for the last 100km, having visual and auditory hallucinations in the dark, to mentally checking out way too early with 90km remaining thinking that I was in the home stretch. These are some of the spooky moments of my Lost Elephant experience that made me dig deeper than I ever have before. I got through all of these moments because I genuinely love riding my bike and entering a state of tending to pure physiological demands (eat, drink, rest) more than anything. I could manipulate my mind during all of those challenging moments by reminding myself to zoom-out and look around at the scenery. This made me realize that I am experiencing the backcountry in a really unique way and that I am so lucky to have a body that can take me to such unreal places. 

Did you learn anything during your race that you’d like to share?

I learnt that a Shimano SLX drivetrain is INSANELY durable. It started to sound problematic at approximately 250km and by the 400km mark it sounded like bolts in a blender. Somehow it still shifted, and my bike kept rolling. This all could have been avoided if I had packed chain lube… 

What did it feel like to get to the finish line? How did you celebrate?

Getting to the finish line was an incredibly emotional experience. I broke down crying (very few actual tears happened though because of dehydration) 100-meters from the finish line when I saw my partner standing in the street and cheering for me. Before I saw him, I honestly was in denial that the race was over and had definitely convinced myself that I somehow rode to Lethbridge or somewhere very far off route and that I would have many more hours of riding ahead of me. I celebrated by immediately peeling my wrecked butt and hands off my bike and collapsing into my partners arms while he simultaneously showed me a display of all my favourite foods and drinks (mango juice, chocolate milk, Sweet Chili Heat Doritos, raspberries). I celebrated by sitting in a bath that night in a nearby hotel and rehydrating copiously. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your race?

Overall, I came in 4th place and was the 3rd finishing female, with a time of 1 day 21 hours and 7 minutes. This is a really significant result not just for myself, but for women in bikepacking- 4 out of the top 5 athletes were female in the Jumbo race. I am so proud to be a part of this ludicrous event and can’t wait for the race next year! 

Zoé Chauderlot

How did you prepare for the Lost Elephant? What made you decide to do the race?

I bikepacked to the start on the Western Wildlands Route from Salt Lake City. I had planned 3 weeks of touring, a couple of rest days, then race and go home. Touring then racing is a fun combo for a summer adventure.

Did you have any goals going into the race?

For a while I had been trying to find a balance in between racing at my fullest to seek how strong I can be, and saving myself from being consumed by it. Racing can burn you, physically and mentally. After last summer I chose to not make the sacrifices I would need to make to be my best. I want riding bikes to be fun. I didn’t ride in winter. I never have trained formally. I want to be a bikepacker, first and foremost. Racing is an added challenge, not a lifestyle.

Last year I had won the AR500, the LE’s neighbouring race. I was at my best physical shape ever at that time. I knew it had been noticed by some and I was expected to be a tough competitor. I had barely ridden in 12 months. I broke my wrist 2 months prior. I didn’t know what my body was capable of. I went in with three days of food, just in case I couldn’t pull it off. I couldn’t be there to compete against other people. I didn’t want to, and I didn’t feel I had enough to do it anyways. I simply liked to have a special occasion to ride hard for fun. My uncompetitiveness lifted so much weight off my shoulders. I was in a great mood the day before. 

What bike were you riding? 

I ride a 2013 Kona Raijin hardtail. I had ridden 2500km to the start. I dropped my extra touring gear and got a new BB and tire at North Star Co. The transmission was worn, my derailleur slightly bent, but once again, it felt good to just ride the bike as it was. 

Did you experience any lows or challenges during your race? What was that like and how did you get through it?

I had a stomach bug the day before the race. Not the best condition to show up at a race start. It messed up my hydration. After 24 hours I decided to scratch and went back to sleep at dawn. I thought it was the stomach flu, before realising in the late morning that it was the dehydration. I had a horrible second day struggling to rehydrate. It was painful. I was counting the hours. I finally felt good again at dusk. 

What did it feel like to get to the finish line? How did you celebrate?

I had been following four tyre tracks the whole afternoon. I got to the finish line at midnight. I was expecting to be fifth. Nobody but Nick’s (3rd place) girlfriend was there, waiting for him. She told me I was second. I chuckled. I did not expect that. I called my partner, went back to Melanie’s home, ate pasta and slept. I was just glad to be done and drink water. 

Did you learn anything during your race that you’d like to share?

The best thing I learned was how good it was to not have expectations. To not look at the other riders. To not put pressure upon myself to perform. Not having service for 30 hours, not knowing where everybody was was great. I’m not as competitive as I thought I was. I can outdo myself just doing my thing. 

The second thing I learned is that it is totally worth it to bring talc on hot days for sweaty feet.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your race?

I finished alone and went home but ended up the second day bringing a few people to Melanie’s arrival (Lanterne Rouge finish!). Melanie had hosted me for a few days in Cranbrook and I was glad to be there to see her finish, let alone randomly bringing a minicrowd to cheer as she rode in. I’m always amazed how supportive the bikepacking community is of each other. I make friends every time I race.

Taryn Davis

How did you prepare for the Lost Elephant? What made you decide to do the race?

The Lost Elephant takes place in the Kootenays which is such a special place to ride- beautiful, rugged and remote. This type of terrain draws me in. I didn’t prepare much as I injured my meniscus a few months out from race day. Three weeks from the Grand Depart, I finally got back on my bike and implemented a couch to 300 km program… in which my longest ride was less than 4 hours. Oops.  

Photo by Taryn Davis

Did you have any goals going into the race?

My pre-race goal was to adjust expectations! Completing the 500 km Jumbo route was no longer an option so I adjusted my expectations and became excited about the 300 km Dumbo route. My only goal was to finish (or scratch) with my knee feeling healthy. I didn’t want to do any long-term damage to my meniscus. 

What bike were you riding? Is there any other gear you’d like to highlight?

I rode my new WZRD hardtail. A bikepacker’s dream bike. Having had so little time on the bike before race day, I was very happy with how comfortable it was to ride over 300 kilometres. I carried my 35mm film camera in my hydration pack. A race wouldn’t be the same without photo stops! 

Photo by Taryn Davis

What was a high point of your race? Did you have a favorite section or experience along the route?

My high point in the race was making it through the heat of the day to sunset. My GPS computer registered 42 degrees Celsius! I previously scratched from an ultra due to heat exhaustion. This time I listened to my body and took the necessary breaks I needed to keep my body temperature down and stay hydrated. It felt great to know I learned from a previous “failure”. 

Photo by Taryn Davis


Did you experience any lows or challenges during your race? What was that like and how did you get through it?

A low point for me was waking up from my 90 minute nap, frozen and nauseous. I knew I didn’t have enough layers to sit still so I descended through the dark, singing to the bears- slowly so I didn’t get too cold. I knew my spirits (and hopefully nausea) would lift as the sun came up, and they did. 

Did you learn anything during your race that you’d like to share?

Don’t ditch any gear the night before! I foolishly ditched my leg warmers at the recommendation of friends. Comforts may weigh more, but they are certainly worth it. Especially in the mountains where temperatures fluctuate and you can find yourself in precarious situations. 

Photo by Taryn Davis

What did it feel like to get to the finish line? How did you celebrate?

It felt amazing to finish, with my knee still feeling good, knowing I raced my own race – photos included. I celebrated with friends, having four late meals: a large burrito, a burrito bowl, a chicken sandwich and a cup of noodles. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your race?

So many rad females on course! It’s so special and empowering to have a sizable number of women in races like these which are typically dominated by men. 

Photo by Taryn Davis

Angela Etheridge

How did you prepare for the Lost Elephant? 

It felt like I was packing for three days! As I was committed to do the Jumbo I was very concerned about the lack of resupply so I put a lot of thought and time into food and packing said food.  It turned out I should have put more time into heat training as the 45 degrees I rode in around Columbia Lake did me right in and I scratched at the end of the first day. 

What made you decide to do the race? 

I live in Fernie, B.C. which is only an hour away from Cranbrook so it was a bit of a given.  I also did the Lost Elephant last year (but finished the Dumbo). 

Did you have any goals going into the race? 

I just wanted to finish the Jumbo, which I knew was going to be tough with the course, my lack of training and lingering injuries.

What bike were you riding? Is there any other gear you’d like to highlight? 

I was riding a Liv Devote with 50cc Ramblers.  Because I’m on a small frame, I have found the Tailfin rack to be a game changer and would recommend to anyone on a small frame having a hard time packing.

What was a high point of your race? Did you have a favorite section or experience along the route? 

My high point was the whole first day until around 3 pm when it went over 40 degrees.  I was feeling good until the scorching temps came on. 

Did you experience any lows or challenges during your race? What was that like and how did you get through it? 

Yes, the heat.  I decided not to get through it and ride another day!

Did you learn anything during your race that you’d like to share? 

Even though it hurts to scratch, I learned that I don’t enjoy biking in hot weather and I am content with my decision to not carry on. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your race? 

This is a really fun and supportive community.  This event in particular is very welcoming to all types of riders and even though I’m painting a not-so-rosey picture here, if you want to try this kind of thing do it!  Even if it doesn’t work out the way you planned, you will meet some new people, have some laughs and maybe push yourself more than you thought was possible.  And no one cares or judges you if you don’t finish.

Meaghan Hackinen

How did you prepare for the Lost Elephant? What made you decide to do the race?

The Lost Elephant’s reputation as a rough and rugged BC bikepacking race is what drew me out. At just over 320 miles for the Jumbo and within a six-hour drive from my home in the Okanagan, the logistics around the event seemed relatively simple: pack my rig and mentally prepare for a weekend of extremes. After twelve days across fourteen countries on the 2022 Transcontinental, this year I’ve oriented myself more towards shorter efforts with less prep work where I can really go hard, and still recover within a week or so. The Lost Elephant Jumbo fit this event criteria, plus the East Kootenays are a wild and beautiful place that I’d so far primarily explored from the seat of my road bike or vehicle.

To prepare for this event, I interspersed big gravel days in the Okanagan, where I live, with short intense interval sessions on my indoor trainer—though admittedly, I find it hard to stick with indoor training when summer is in full swing. I reviewed the Ride with GPS file and plotted out how I’d handle my resupply (there was only one) as well as where the hike-a-bikes and major passes were situated. Knowing that, in addition to climbing over 30,000 feet I’d also be carrying my bike over precarious terrain, I opted for an ultra-light setup with no seatpost bag for ease of transportation. I also brought my bike in for a full tune-up and tire change, since I didn’t think the 44mm gravel tires that I had on would be sufficient for the chunky gravel descents (turns out, I was right).

Did you have any goals going into the race?

Since 2019, I’ve had a goal of competing at the pointy end and this time was no different. I was excited to see so many other women on the roster, as well other strong riders from the region. Due to the huge variety of riding surfaces and my lack of knowledge about the region, I didn’t have a specific finishing time in mind, only that I wanted to keep stop time low and keep rolling until my wheels brought me back to Cranbrook. 

What bike were you riding? Is there any other gear you’d like to highlight?

I used a 2018 Salsa Cutthroat Force (named Amelia) with Light Bicycle wheels, a dynamo-powered kLite to help me right through the night, and a Redshift Sports Shockstop Suspension stem to ease out the bumps. I equipped my bike with Apidura Backcountry series bags (including a 3 L frame pack hydration bladder) but instead of a seatpost bag, I zip-tied a water bottle holder to my stem and stuffed my SOL bivvy in there.

Did you experience any lows or challenges during your race? What was that like and how did you get through it?

Despite being warned of the unexpected, I’ll admit that I didn’t quite realize that I’d be shouldering my bike for most of the 2,300-foot climb over Tegart Pass. About a third of the way up, I succumbed to the heat of the afternoon and laid down in a creek bed, cursing my own stupidity and willing my internal temperature to drop down to something manageable again. That’s how the fellow Okanagan bikepacker Jocelyn De La Rosa found me a few minutes later. It took all of two seconds for the delight in seeing his friendly, familiar face to replace my woeful thoughts, and within minutes we were trekking up the mountain together, laughing over the ridiculousness of it all as we took in the sights and smells of the woods. Despite being the first two riders in the field, we took our time on the climb: stopping to cool down as necessary and not pushing the pace. In addition to buddying up, I think lowering my expectations for myself and easing off the gas really helped me get through this challenging section without going into the red a second time.

What was a high point of your race? Did you have a favorite section or experience along the route?

My highlight was descending into the Kootenay River area after the aforementioned hike-a-bike up Tegart Pass (plus a little more hiking on the descent, since I’m an insufficiently-skilled bike handler to navigate narrow trail and technical terrain). When the route finally became rideable again, it swept down a fast gravel forest service road through meadows of brilliant fuchsia fireweed with sweeping panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. I wish I could name some of them, but it was all too brief. All I could do was breathe in and be fully present.

Did you learn anything during your race that you’d like to share?

While not trying to glamourize sleep deprivation, with a series of “sprint distance” events this year, I feel like I’ve become my own test subject in the matter. While setting the new FKT on the Log Driver’s Waltz course in June, I rested for only ten minutes during my 43 hour, 33 minutes ride. I know that sounds like an awful thing for a person to willingly put themselves through, but in truth, I felt great 95% of the time! Based on the shorter distance of the Lost Elephant, I fully expected to ride through the night this time around as well. However, despite Jocelyn’s welcome company, I barely made it past sunset before my eyelids started drooping. 

Part of this has to do with the mental and physical demands of a more technically challenging course. I also think it correlates with a higher level of fatigue going into the race. In contrast to the Log Driver’s Waltz FKT attempt where I’d managed eight or more hours of sleep the week prior, I was bogged down with work and hovering somewhere below six hours, with last-minute gear adjustments, anxiety, and nerves keeping me up most of the night directly prior.

In the future, I will do more to protect my rest leading into events where I know my energy will be severely depleted, and adjust my own expectations for how long I can ride without sleep. I’m grateful that, through a series of short catnaps, I managed to balance rest with speed, and that I carried the bivvy to enable sleep at higher elevation and colder temperatures. The fact that the route was so remote and infrequently-traveled meant that I could just pull over to nap undisturbed pretty much anywhere was also a huge bonus.

What did it feel like to get to the finish line? How did you celebrate?

The route finishes on the flowy Chief Isadore Trail, which “tends to produce smiles on the faces of those with any energy left to spare,” according to the website. In my case, that’s exactly what it did; I was elated to be on the home stretch, tires in the dirt (not the loose, chunky rock that I’d become so accustomed to over the preceding day and a half), and rolling toward sunset. I celebrated with a perfectly paired Elephant Run IPA handed to me by a friend of my mom’s who surprised me at the finish line, among others.

I never expect anyone to be there when I reach the finish line, so it’s always a joy when there’s someone else to share the experience with. Solo or among others, I live for that moment when you cross the line and transition from the event being present to past tense; that glorious, liminal space when the two versions exist side by side, and, in a state of utter and complete exhaustion, you can recount the race as if you’re still in it, but with the assurance of knowing you don’t have to wake up tomorrow and call upon your legs to do the whole thing over again. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your race?

Riding for extended periods with others is something I haven’t done in bikepack racing since I was first finding my footing in 2017-18. In general, I’m pretty happy pedaling alone, and using this time for deeper reflection. Going through the night with Jocelyn after he found me on the verge of heatstroke in a creek was an unusual occurrence for me. I enjoyed the camaraderie, and the opportunity to get to know someone better in a condensed time frame, without the obtrusions of things like cell phones. While I’m sure, once I pulled myself from the creek bed on Tegert Pass, I would have managed solo, I doubt I would have as much fun. Unfortunately, Jocelyn broke his handlebars around White River, 226 miles in. While this solved my internal debate about where we should cross the line together or go for a sprint finish, I was sad to see him unable to complete his ride. I’m sure he’ll be back for more Lost Elephant shenanigans in 2024.

Julia Halwa

What made you decide to do the Lost Elephant?

I signed up for the LE in 2021 and 2022 but due to wildfires and getting very sick days before the race, I had to back out the night before on both occasions. I had quite a bit of energy built up for 2023 so pretty much nothing was stopping me from at the very least, starting this race.

Did you have any goals going into the race?

My goal was to do it under 55 hours, I ended up only sleeping for 20 minutes and finished the route in 46 hours.

What bike were you riding? Is there any other gear you’d like to highlight? 

My trusty Panorama Cycles Anticosti gravel bike. My favourite piece of gear is my safety donut handmade by Taryn Davis (IG: @safety.donut)

What was a high point of your race? Did you have a favorite section or experience along the route? 

Night riding! It feels like an alternate universe riding throughout the night. Since the days were extremely hot, the only time I stopped for short breaks was during those high temperatures. My favourite section was pushing over Tegart Pass in the middle of the night on day 1.

Did you experience any lows or challenges during your race? What was that like and how did you get through it? 

My biggest challenge of the race was the heat. Stopping at every creek crossing to dunk my head/jersey, and fill bottles with cold water was necessary to keep the body temperature down. I kept a very positive mindset and knew it would eventually cool off as the sun went down.

Did you learn anything during your race you would like to share?

Our bodies are capable of a lot more than we think. These types of distances require a lot of mental strength and its usually our mindsets that will quit before our bodies do. Another important point is to remember most of us do this for fun. Take photos! Physical or mental ones, and enjoy the ride. There are so many beautiful landscapes and moments we forget about once the race is over. Documenting moments (good or bad) are always a good reminder what we are capable of.

What did it feel like to cross the finish line?

I was exhausted but in a pretty good mindset. I had a short cry on the Chief Isadore singletrack trail in the last 50km. I called my sister who was waiting at the finish line and kept her on the line just to keep my mental state in a good place. I finished at 4am Monday morning and my sister and brother-in-law had bacon and eggs and many hugs waiting for me, it was the perfect way to finish.

How did you celebrate?

After sleeping all day Monday, I sat in the hot tub on Tuesday morning eating ice cream for breakfast at 7am.

Melanie Loseth

How did you prepare for the Lost Elephant? What made you decide to do the race?  

I didn’t purposefully prepare for the Lost Elephant Ultra because I had earlier on decided not to participate. I rode the BC Epic in June which turned out to be my preparation and what helped to change my mind about entering in the Lost Elephant. I felt fit and energized to ride it; and I really wanted to participate because of the women that I knew who would be riding.

Did you have any goals going into the race?

My goal going into it was to finish and if possible to be a little faster than last year. 

What bike were you riding? Is there any other gear you’d like to highlight?

I ride a fatbike. The Rocky Mountain Suz-q which is heavy, but stable and comfortable when it’s loaded. I use panniers and a bar harness bag system. My husband made me a beautiful waterproof frame bag that I really like. My front bar/harness system and bag is by Baryak which is super sturdy and the bag is lightweight and waterproof. Joe and Tina from Baryak have been super supportive.

What was a high point of your race? Did you have a favorite section or experience along the route?

There were so many highlights for me that it’s hard to choose just one. Riding with others near the beginning, a conversation and help along the way from one rider, guys with refreshing snacks, having another rider at the first place I camped, a cheerleading couple who were waiting far along the route to cheer everyone on and again near the end and a chance meeting with my son and family with a quick hello and “you’re doing great!” The joy at seeing a quad-rider coming towards me on a lonely road with a pack of hounds running along; knowing who it was and stopping for a short break with rider and excited hounds. I liked the whole route (except the hike-a-bike was too much for me and my heavy little elephant). The route felt remote and close to home at the same time. Familiar.

Did you experience any lows or challenges during your race? What was that like and how did you get through it?

The big climb was difficult mentally because it was so slow for me. I felt discouraged by how slowly I was moving and I had to do a lot of self-talk to keep going forward in the heat. I really wanted to lie down in the shade for the rest of the day. But instead I would look ahead to the next shaded spot and ride/push to there promising myself a short break. Then promising myself a longer break at each 5km point because it was a long uphill. (20km).

Did you learn anything during your race that you’d like to share?

I learned that knowing that people were cheering me on and watching my dot helped a lot with keeping up my spirits.  I mostly rode alone because of my slow speed so I had to do a lot of positive self-talk when it was hard; and thinking about people watching and cheering me on felt supportive and less alone. 

What did it feel like to get to the finish line? How did you celebrate?

The last 15km is a slight uphill, more exposed than I thought and then I had a strong headwind near the end. At the finish I knew at least one person would be waiting for me so I dug into my reserves to be cheerful and not heat-angry when I saw her. Little did I know that a large group would be there and as I rode up they cheered and my spirits and heart soared! What a finish just because of this reception! The women riders gathered for a photo and I resisted because they were all showered and fresh, and I wasn’t and I felt out of place until one of the women said, “this is your finish; we’re all here for you, come on.” So I did. Then we sat around in the shade enjoying refreshing beverages and snacks while sharing experiences. I finished last in the Dumbo by hours and hours with a smile on my face at the sight of old and new friends. It was the perfect end and I felt proud of the many strong, amazing women who participated in this event.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your race?

The Lost Elephant Ultra is a wonderful event and I’m thankful I got to be part of such a great group of riders. 

Moe Nadeau

How did you prepare for the Lost Elephant? What made you decide to do the race?

I rode my bike everywhere to commute. I also rode mountain bikes a ton. I honestly had never gone that distance before and didn’t even purchase my gravel bike until a couple of weeks before. All of my previous bikepacking had been mountain bike focused, which is way less about going far and more about finding fun singletrack. But every year, I like to sign up for some type of event and often it’s something I’ve never done before (half marathons, off-road triathlons, etc.). I found this event near my hometown and thought I have to try it! I never thought about how challenging it would be. I only thought about how amazing it would feel to complete it. 

Photo provided by Moe Nadeau

Did you have any goals going into the race?

My goal was to finish the race and have fun doing it. At the time (in 2020), no woman had ever completed the Jumbo route and I really wanted to highlight that ladies can absolutely be out there crushing it.

What bike were you riding? Is there any other gear you’d like to highlight?

I rode a Surly Krampus. For anyone thinking about buying yet another bike, those steel babies are such a good option. They are affordable and durable. Sure they are a bit heavier than some of the other bikes out there, but I love my Krampus! 

What was a high point of your race? Did you have a favorite section or experience along the route?

After making it to the top of Wildhorse Pass. It was such a huge accomplishment to finally make it up such a big hike-a-bike. The cruise down felt so good!! Also, in 2020 we had a free ice cream ticket at 2 Scoop Steve’s in Yahk. It was so fun to eat ice cream with a bunch of other riders before heading out. 

Photo provided by Moe Nadeau

Did you experience any lows or challenges during your race? What was that like and how did you get through it?

OH YES. Bikepack racing and bikepacking in general is where I experience my highest highs and lowest lows. It always amazes me to see how the mind reacts on these rides. The 2020 route had a section without a trail that required you to pull your bike through the densest Alder bushes. It was heinous. It was the final day and the hottest day and I was running out of water. To get through it, I had to remind myself that I was a badass and had overcome so many obstacles before and this was going to be one of those things I laughed about later. Sometimes when I do big challenges like these races or extended bike trips, It’s all about the next step or the next pedal. I find focusing on that really helps pass the time and before you know it the tears have dried and you’ve made it through. 

Photo provided by Moe Nadeau

Did you learn anything during your race that you’d like to share?

Keep momentum. If you need breaks, take short breaks but keep going as much as you can. If I sat down for too long I found it really hard to get back up. I also learned that your body is truly capable of anything. We are all so powerful and connecting the mind to our muscles is so rewarding.

What did it feel like to get to the finish line? How did you celebrate?

It felt incredible. This was the first bikepacking race I had ever done. I was non-stop tears and I was so happy to accomplish this. I felt powerful and strong. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your race?

For me, bikepacking serves as an opportunity to really connect back with my body. I feel the most empowered when I ride these races or do long trips because I am making choices for myself and trusting my gut. I find it really easy to forget about how in tune I am with my body and bikepacking brings me back to that. It grounds me and I feel connected to the land in a really special way. This race empowered me to do more local races and eventually bike the Great Divide with my partner last Fall into Mexico. Completing this race opened up a whole side of my strength and power I really didn’t know existed. I am so grateful to Nathan and the others that were on the route and continue to make it so much fun. 

Photo provided by Moe Nadeau

Anne St. Clair

How did you prepare for the Lost Elephant?

I tried to ride as regularly as life would allow, and I prioritized a couple weekend bikepacking trips to work the kinks out.

What made you decide to do the race?

A few reasons! First, it is an incredible landscape to ride a bike. Second, I love a good grassroots “non-event.” And finally, I love how the organizers change the route each year and maintain diversity in the riding. One of the reasons I love bikepacking is to appreciate the full range of two-wheeled experiences, and The Lost Elephant is so good at featuring that range.

What bike were you riding?

I have a Why Cycles S7 that I can’t say enough good things about.

Photo provided by Anne St. Clair

Did you experience any lows or challenges during your race? What was that like and how did you get through it?

The year that I participated included a heinous hike-a-bike section. It was one of my most hateful bikepacking experiences that now makes me laugh and brings the Lost Elephant nearer and dearer to my heart.

Did you learn anything during your race that you’d like to share?

My greatest source of satisfaction in doing these events comes from matching my riding to the conditions, which can include full days or nights at race pace but can also include avoiding the afternoon heat with multiple dunks in the Wild Horse River, checking out Findlay Falls, and detouring to Wasa Lake for an entire afternoon of swimming, napping, and ice cream sandwiches before riding the last section to Cranbrook in the evening and early morning. I wouldn’t classify my ride as a race by any stretch, and I hope to share that a race mentality and a Spot Tracker isn’t required to take part in these adventures with the community.

Photo provided by Anne St. Clair

What did it feel like to get to the finish line? How did you celebrate?

I felt both happy and sad! I dumped a gallon jug of water over my head in the parking lot, changed clothes, and rallied home in time for a meeting, which felt like the ultimate victory. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your race?

I’m looking forward to coming back for another round!

Photo provided by Anne St. Clair

Christine Warren

How did you prepare for the Lost Elephant? What made you decide to do the race? 

I’d say I prepared by riding some longer gravel rides leading up to the race. 2x100ish km a week in addition to other fun mountain bike rides. I operate well with longer distance in mind. This is my third time riding the Lost Elephant Dumbo 317km. First time with my girlfriends 2021, second with my boyfriend Mat 2022, but I DNF’d in Fernie. I had an accident and broke my arm. I had to work really hard after surgery and a frozen shoulder to even be able to participate again this year. And this year myself and Mat would seek Vengeance and complete the Dumbo in 24 hrs. That we did. I believe our time was 18hr 19mins total time and ride time was 16hr 44mins. 

What bike were you riding? Is there any other gear you’d like to highlight?

My bike is a Santa Cruz Highball. I didn’t pack much of anything other than food and hydration stuff. It was so hot we didn’t need to worry about rain gear and our plan was no stopping so left all the camp gear at home.

What was a high point of your race? Did you have a favorite section or experience along the route?

So many highlights. The whole course is beautiful. Seeing friends planted along the route cheering us one was pretty amazing. As well as reaching Bull river by dusk and seeing the sun set knowing we weren’t to far from home.   

Did you experience any lows or challenges during your race? What was that like and how did you get through it?

I definitely had a few lows. My hips started acting up around 150km. Slowing me down and playing mental games with slowing my partner down and thinking about quitting. But I stopped a few times and stretched them out and would be good to go again for a while. I told my brain were are not stopping so let’s figure something out.

Did you learn anything during your race that you’d like to share?

I did learn that we are a lot stronger than we give ourselves credit for. You CAN do it if you put your mind to it.

What did it feel like to get to the finish line? How did you celebrate?

The finish line was amazing. We were greeted by a friend who rode the last 5km in with us. He had high fives, smiles and a cold can of coke waiting for us.

Lori Wik

How did you prepare for the Lost Elephant? What made you decide to do the race?

I prepared to do this race by riding with friends year round. I had bikepacked a couple of times with my husband before and enjoyed it. As I was getting ready to do this ride, I made a goal to do at least one 80-100km ride a week from late April onwards. (I didn’t always get the distance in, but I tried!) It helps that I have a group of crazy bike friends who have a lot more experience with this kind of riding and they were more than happy to let me tag along and get really tired trying to keep up with them.

I initially decided to do the ride because my husband and our crazy bike friends had done it a few times before. As they all started to improve, I realized that I didn’t want to be left out and I started to do a lot more riding, then I wanted to see if I could actually do this race myself.

Photo provided by Lori Wik

Did you have any goals going into the race?

I really wanted to do it within two days, but was also just hoping to be able to complete the race, no matter how long it took!

What bike were you riding? Is there any other gear you’d like to highlight?

I was riding my Salsa Timberjack (her name is Marguerite, but “Muddy Marge” to her friends). My best gear that I brought was my Sawyer Squeeze water filter, so handy!

Photo provided by Lori Wik

What was a high point of your race? Did you have a favorite section or experience along the route?

The high point was when we were on the home stretch and I felt really good, I had an excellent rhythm going, it was in the cool of the evening, I felt good and I knew that I was going to make it and meet my goal. My favorite section was coming down the Quinn watershed, it was a long and fun downhill after a long uphill, and we crossed several small creeks which was so much fun. There is nothing like riding full speed through a creek on a hot day. There was also a short section of narrow trail through a patch of these weird weeds that were taller than me which kept hitting my handlebars and flapping all over the place. This (for some reason) struck me as absolutely hilarious as well.

Photo provided by Lori Wik

Did you experience any lows or challenges during your race? What was that like and how did you get through it?

The heat was really hard in the middle of the day and the 40k section of soft gravel with a headwind down the bull river during the heat of the day was mentally challenging. It was just uncomfortable. To manage, I focussed on smaller goals (how do you eat an elephant? one bite at a time!) like the next turn off and planned to celebrate when we reached a specific km goal that day. I also sing out loud or in my head while biking, usually annoying songs (just ask any of my riding buddies, although most of them will usually just join in the song).

Did you learn anything during your race that you’d like to share?

I learned that I do best with liquid calories (i.e. electrolyte replacement with 350 calories in most of my water bottles). I get frustrated with eating so constantly with biking and that was a real challenge for me with the training I was doing in the spring. The electrolyte replacer I had contained 325 calories per bottle of water and I found that this was a fantastic approach for me to keep me going for long days, especially in the heat. I also learned that I did not need quite as much “stuff” as I had packed.

Photo provided by Lori Wik

What did it feel like to get to the finish line? How did you celebrate?

It felt amazing! I was so proud of myself! As this was the first time I have ever done anything like this, I couldn’t believe that I had done it! (I actually looked at my husband (riding buddy) and asked “what just happened?!?”) We celebrated by having our daughters pick us up at the finish line and getting McDonalds drive thru fries on the way home.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your race?

At this point, I still can’t believe that I did it, but I loved it. I tell people that it was 90% awesome and 10% really hard and I am looking forward to doing it again next year (and trying to improve on things for next time).

Photo provided by Lori Wik

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4 responses to “Lost Elephant- Women Rule!”

  1. Thank you Katie for pulling this wonderful piece together!!! It is fantastic to hear from such a wide spectrum of women riders of the Lost Elephant. I must say I am envious of where the Lost Elephant has managed to get in terms of the number of women taking on the challenge. This year in the Log Driver’s Waltz we only had 7 women on the line although we had more than 60 riders for the grand depart. Despite our efforts, the number of women was the same as last year while the total number of riders doubled. It is a long term effort to increase diversity and we will continue our efforts to encourage women and other underrepresented groups to see themselves taking on a challenge of their own making in the Log Driver’s Waltz route. We are stoked that women currently hold the overall FKT (Meaghan Hackinen) and Single Speed FKT (Sarah Caylor) for the LDW and we had 2 women up in the top 10 in the grand depart but look forward to the day when we have lots more women on the trail riding for 2,3,4,5,6,7.8 days or more! Hearing stories of women riders of the Lost Elephant gives me hope.

  2. Thank you Katie for pulling this wonderful piece together! It is fantastic to hear from such a wide spectrum of women riders of the Lost Elephant. I must say I am envious of where the Lost Elephant has managed to get in terms of the number of women taking on the challenge. This year in the Log Driver’s Waltz we only had 7 women on the line although we had more than 60 riders for the grand depart. Despite our efforts, the number of women was the same as last year while the total number of riders doubled. It is a long term effort to increase diversity and we will continue our efforts to encourage women and other underrepresented groups to see themselves taking on a challenge of their own making in the Log Driver’s Waltz route. We are stoked that women currently hold the overall FKT (Meaghan Hackinen) and Single Speed FKT (Sarah Caylor) for the LDW and we had 2 women up in the top 10 in the grand depart but look forward to the day when we have lots more women on the trail riding for 2,3,4,5,6,7.8 days or more! Hearing stories of women riders of the Lost Elephant gives me hope.

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