Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Ride From the Other Side

For the first time this past Saturday, I volunteered on a ride instead of just showing up to one - the Summer 100k, this time around called The Sound and the Fury. Rather than handing my bottle to a (sometimes anonymous, I must admit) volunteer for a water refill, I was juggling others' bottles refilling them. As opposed to handing off my brevet card, proud to have made it this far in the ride, I was checking my watch and scribbling down the time and my initials.

It's actually quite a good feeling to give back to Seattle Rando, which is made up of many volunteers. Seattle Randonneurs hold some of the biggest brevets in the nation, and we probably have more volunteers than any other club as well.

While randonneuring is of course "unsupported long distance riding", the rules stipulate that you can receive outside assistance at controls. This opens up the opportunity for one or more volunteers to drive or ride to a control location, either to hand out water/snacks, sign brevet cards, or both.

Pedaled down to South Park, riding in jeans which I rarely do these days. Construction downtown meant for a confusing path on sidewalks, and I realized I should have taken 12th down to Jackson, and just skipped it altogether. Oh well, I made it down to South Park eventually, though a little later than planned. Lucky for me, I wasn't running the show, Robert was taking the reigns along with Chris G. and Emily.

At the start on the Duwamish River in South Park, lots of SIR blue in sight:

Chris and Emily were taking on what looked to be a confusing process: signing in riders. An extra form if you're not a SIR member, different process if you are but not registered, etc. They made quick work of it, and I was glad not to have to deal with it.

What started as a small group of people soon grew to 60+, and soon before 9 AM Robert was preparing to give his first "pre-ride speech." It's when you get to joke about how easy the route ahead will be, and remind everyone to have fun out there. I didn't get to hear it since John W. and I left a few minutes before to get to the first control, only eight or nine miles into the ride. (The route needed a control early on, lest anyone wanted to skip the great hills Robert found!)

We set up shop, and were joined by Vincent M., an experienced rando even though last year was his first year too. He's ridden more kilometers than I can shake a Zefal Hpx at. And he's got smiles for days, which must make for a nice greeting to the control.

Before too long a small group of riders showed up, already split from the main pack even on the mostly flat terrain leading up to it. But not too long after them a big wave of 30 or so riders came up us at once, breaking into three lines so each of us could sign cards at the same time. (When a group of riders show up they all get the same time, if I recall the rules correctly)

We waited until a few minutes after the control closing time, not sure of the exact count of riders on the course or how many we'd seen. We left the control and headed down to Dash Point, the halfway point of the ride and our next assignment.

On the way down, we realized the SIR sign was forgotten at the last control. Lucky for us Vincent was nice enough to lend some supplies and a hand in fashioning a sign out of cardboard, a few small planks of wood, and some tape. John applied some marker and we had a new control sign - not to be deterred by the situation, we randonneurs figured out a fix and kept on truckin.

We quickly scooted down to Dash Point, and set up shop there. Two big jugs of water, a bunch of Payday bars (a rando favorite, must be the peanuts), chips, and Rice Crispy Treats. Though the control was about to open (there is actually a max average speed limit in a brevet, around 25 mph), nobody showed up for a good 15 or 20 minutes.

A few of the speedy riders came through first, of course looking fresh and in great spirits. Reactions to the question "so ya like those hills?" got varying responses throughout the day, and these riders seemed like they truly enjoyed them. Further on in the day some met the question with a wry smile, others a laugh or a shake of the head.

It was great to see all of the different bikes ridden on this ride. This one was really interesting, the "top tube/down tube" part were made of some kind of horizontal lattice - just when you thought you'd seen all the bikes, even the folders. It goes to show that randonneuring really is a big tent!

More riders taking a short break on a hot day. The Payday bars and water went quick, we made a lot of trips to the nearby convenience store to resupply.

The riders had been split up by the hills by this point, as is always the case on our rides. Even so, they come in waves, grouping together based on friendships but sometimes just plain pace.

A few riders came in 10 or so minutes before control closing time, but lucky for us (I'd hate to break the news) nobody came in too late. We waited until about 10 minutes after the closing time just to see if anyone was coming through and could use some more water anyway. At that point they might as well continue, even if they wouldn't get the little medal at the end.

Here's a great shot of the finish at Loretta's in downtown South Park. This just might be the only time there will be cigarette smoking at the finish of a populaire..
Thanks to John W. for taking these pictures - more posted on flickr.

We sat around and heard tales of the day and caught up with old and new friends. Robert was around back, welcoming riders at the final end point. He did a great job setting up the route, and figuring out all the crazy logistics.

Unfortunately the ride didn't go off without a hitch though; one rider was hit by a car, only a few miles from the finish. He was luckily OK from what I heard, but his (new) bike had been apparently totalled. Every organizer's nightmare would be for a rider to get injured while on the ride, but of course there's nothing you can do to prevent it.

After it was all said and done, I got home but realized that I never saw a few of the late-arrivers at the end, even though we left Loretta's probably 30 minutes after the control time was expired. So I checked with Robert and got the name of one guy who was missing, and he gave me the name of two others who's status was unknown. After a few calls they were all accounted for, all healthy but admitting they'd just ran out of time.

I was relieved to hear that everyone made it to the finish, so we could finally rest. Though at that point Robert was just beginning to dive into what sounds like a swirl of paperwork around preparing the results. Thanks, Robert! You and the rest of the volunteers did a great job in putting this together. And if we ever organize a brevet, maybe they'll really let us pile on the hills?

Robert wrote a great account of the ride, and all that went into it, here. Mark Thomas took some great shots along the route, which can be found in his flickr set. (This one in particular is great, I love the walking riders! Granted I think that was the 16% section)

While I was initially jealous of the riders getting to do such a great ride on a beautiful day, I'm glad I volunteered. I think every rando should do it at least once, and see what it's like from the other side of the water bottle. Thanks to everyone for coming out, and I'm really looking forward to the upcoming 200k!

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