Thursday, March 20, 2008

Volunteer Benefits

Several advantages result from doing the pre-ride of the annual Greg Cox Chili Feed 200km brevet.

The Pre-Ride:

Greg has been hosting the 200k since 2000, the year after our first PBP. Over the years certain traditions have developed around the ride. One key tradition has developed for the volunteers’ pre-ride, which I’ve done on and off since 2001. Greg arranges for nice weather for the pre-ride to reward his volunteers and arranges for cold, wet weather for the brevet to challenge and toughen the riders, to make their tall tales more epic, and to increase the joy they will find in the bowl of warm chili at the end. Greg thinks of everything!

Ten of us participated on the pre-ride. For most of the day, Ward Beebe rode off ahead and Narayan K. rode behind the main group. The rest of us – Greg, Peter McKay, Bill Dussler, Rick Haight, Bob Brudvik, Ralph & Carol Nussbaum on tandem, and I – rode more or less together all day. The “less” in the “more or less” was yours truly, but with some catching up at controls and hilltop regroups we stayed together and finished together. It’s always fun to ride with Greg, Peter, and Bill – the four of us have ridden together countless times since our first PBP season in 1999. We laugh at the same shared stories over and over again, like geezers on a porch, and remind ourselves of the shared pleasure we derive from cycling away the miles.

For me, the ride was a struggle, but a joyful one. My bum ankle tolerated the ride well. (I now have some customized insoles that appear to stabilize and correct the structural problem). My lack of conditioning showed on most hills. I learned also that I'm a little out of practice on the basic mechanics of riding distance, including keeping myself fueled. Readily willing to attribute sluggishness to my lack of training, I didn't recognize a bonk for what it was. On the way to Enumclaw, the light of recognition came on. One 350 calorie slug of Ensure later, I rallied to enjoy the long stretch up to Greenwater. I passed a couple of riders along the way and found the others finishing their control stop. With a quick turnaround, I was able to enjoy the long downhill in the company of the others. Another great day on the bike!


Ever since I first assisted on a brevet in my second year of riding, I have derived as much satisfaction from helping as I have from riding. Last weekend's 200km was no exception. At the start, Greg put me (along with Bob Brudvik and Allison Bailey) to work in the rain registering riders. No small task as about 100 riders showed up. Doing registration rewards with the chance to see old friends and meeting new riders. With the crowd, however, time to chat was scarce.

The first control is a mere 30km from the start at a small store. We expected a great degree of bunching of the riders and little need for the store's goodies, so Bob and I headed out to Brown's Point to sign cards. Noting the nasty weather and sipping hot coffee, we congratulated ourselves on the wisdom of doing the pre-ride. The first riders arrived quickly and the store opened late, so we were glad to have come out to keep things running smoothly for the riders.

After Brown's Point, we planned to hang out at the second control at the Black Diamond Bakery. With espresso and outrageously good pastries, the bakery is a bit of a cyclist Mecca. Although fairly confident that we would not catch the fastest riders, we assumed that we'd see most of the group there. We might have seen more, but without a cue sheet, I managed to get off course twice (on the same wrong road) along the way. In my defense, I should say that I was distracted by a large group of riders heading to the bakery along a different route.

Surrounded by cold wet riders eating great pastries, I succumbed to temptation, having blueberry turnover that was totally unjustified by any exertion but nonetheless delicious. Later came a chocolate chip cookie the size of a serving platter, but I shared that with several riders. (Really, I did). Bob and I had the chance to catch up with many riders as they refueled. After the last were in, we took two bedraggled DNFs back to Greg's house.

Chili Feed:

Best of all, doing the pre-ride allows us to spend all day at the Mary & Greg chili extravaganza. We arrived in time to help with preparations, so one might expect this to be under the previous heading about volunteering. However, my role here was charitably described by Mary Cox as "moral support."

Chris, Urs, and new randonneur Ian arrived before 2:30 and riders continued to show up for the next six hours. All were welcomed with cold drinks, hot chili, dry air, and friendly conversation. I overheard one soaking wet new rider in the garage on her phone telling a friend that "this was like the best day ever; they give you a map and a card to fill out; and then you ride all day." I had to agree - seeing a hundred happy randonneurs was like the best day ever.