Since the day he was born, Jacob Koomen has never been one to shy away from a challenge.
“My dad says ‘you’ll always be an adventurer.’ I’m not sure I can count how many times I got lost as a kid and my parents had to find me,” Koomen says.
Now at the age of 69, is preparing to tackle a long-time goal of his – a cycle trip across Canada.
“I’ve talked to people who have done it and everyone says it’s tough but well worth it and I thought, ‘before I turn 70, I have to do it,’” Koomen says. “My dad is going to be 98 and he said do it now because when you’re my age you can’t. He’s really excited about it.”
For Koomen, it’s no ordinary trip. He’ll be riding under the banner of the Ride2Survive – a single day 400-kilometre ride from Kelowna to Delta in support of cancer research. For the past five years, Koomen has cycled in the Ride2Survive
But always one to push himself, Koomen has decided to take it to the next level and ride across the country. All the proceeds will go to the Canadian Cancer Society, via the Ride2Survive, and Koomen will pay for his travel costs out of his own pocket. His wife, Jannie, will be his support system, following Koomen in the couple’s van and tiny trailer which will be their home away from home.
Koomen departs Campbell River on June 2 and intends to travel on average, 125 kilometres each day, weather dependent.
The trip in total is 7,500 kilometres if he cycles straight across the country, but he’s debating making a detour through the Maritimes which would potentially add another 500 clicks to his trip.
Either way, Koomen – who’s been a member of the River City Cycle Club since its inception in 2006 – says he’s raring to go. He’s done a couple of training rides out to Buckley Bay (128 kilometres) and to Roberts Lake.
“I’m ready now, my adrenaline is ready but I have to wait,” Koomen says. “Physically, it’s no problem but there’s always questions going through your head. When people say, ‘are you scared?’ I say, if you’re scared you better not do it. I could step out of my house and break my leg.”
Koomen says he’s heard from others who have made the journey that the hardest part of the trip is getting through northern Ontario because of the black flies and the mosquitoes. Strong winds and horseflies also pose potential threats through the Prairies.
But Koomen says that’s nothing compared to what the people he’s riding for are going through, or have battled through in the past.
“I’m doing it for the people who are dealing with cancer right now and hopefully with what I’m doing, there will be a cure for them,” he said.
Koomen is no stranger to the devastating effects of the disease.
His wife, Jannie, lost both her brother and his wife to cancer, and Koomen’s cousin succumbed to lung cancer a year and a half ago.
“This ride is not about me, it’s about the people I’m riding for,” he said.
Anyone who would like to donate to the Canadian Cancer Society, by way of Ride2Survive, or follow Koomen’s progress across Canada, can visit his blog at: cycle4cancer.wordpress.com