Eau de Hell 600K 2011

16 04 2011

Rando styling and smiling at 373km...

Martin Williams was organizing the Eau de Hell Week brevet series for the BC Randonneur Club out of lovely Chemainus BC. Having organized many [non-cycling] events in the past I know how much work they can be so I wanted to help out at some of the brevets this year. Clubs only work if people are willing to put effort into the organizing side of things as well as the participating side. Not having a clue what to do Martin was very generous with his time getting me pointed in the right direction and keeping me on track all night. I wasn’t as much help as someone who had more experience, but now that I have seen what’s supposed to happen I’ll be fully effective next time.

A welcome sight inside the lobby of the Best Western...

I showed up in Chemainus at 6pm on Thursday and left around n0on Friday with 2-3hrs of downtime sleeping in my truck. I’ve spent many nights awake in the military, climbing and at the odd rave, but I never fail to be amused with how bizarre things get when a bunch of sleep deprived folks get together in one spot trying to get something done. I won’t try and recall many names or events from my shift since frankly I’m a bit confused about what went down precisely! With 19 riders on the course things got spread out and we rarely had more than 4 folks in the control at any one time. That was a good thing as nobody including the staff was at 100% by 3am…=-)

I kept it simple and worked off a mental check list:

  1. sign control card [failure to do so could result in a DNF]
  2. keep an eye out for safety concerns [physical, mental & equipment]
  3. offer and facilitate food [riders should sit and rest as much as possible]
  4. be enthusiastic and supportive without affecting the rider’s game plan [ie don’t suggest getting a warm hotel room and sleeping if they want to push on]
  5. helping with any logistics of getting and out of the control efficiently

Taking a well deserved break...

The ride to that point had been very challenging with extremely high winds, heavy rains and cold temperatures. From what I could see it was the cold temperatures that were really taking their toll on the riders. A few came in looking hypothermic and I was freezing just spending 10-15mins in the parking lot of the hotel. We did our best to get warm food and a warm beverage into every rider. Some riders were using the hotel for a sleep stop so they had a hot shower, changed their clothes and got some sleep. Others just had some food and pushed on quickly – hardcore!

Two more brave riders roll out into the cold...

I was very impressed with the positive attitudes most of the riders were displaying. Considering the crazy conditions they took it all in stride and were having fun sharing in the adversity. A few riders had to DNF – mostly due to the wet/cold temperatures. As I am learning it’s one thing to ride wet through a 10 deg C night and to ride wet through a 0 deg C night. Eating, resting in a warm spot, and changing out of damp clothes were key ways to deal with the situation. Having a very comfortable well stocked control just past the halfway point was very important. Martin did a great job organizing the control so that everything we needed was on hand all night and the Best Western was very generous in providing such a nice space right by the front door of the hotel.

Food and drink...drink and food...

When I offered to help Martin told me that it would be a great opportunity to meet some nice folks and learn lots about randonneuring. He was right on both accounts. The riders were very nice to deal with given their heroic efforts – not a cranky person in the bunch. Clearly this was a select group of successful riders so I paid lots of attention to their bikes, what they wore, how they managed their time and what they did at the control. I definitely have a better appreciation for the challenges of longer brevets and what to keep an eye on. I’ll want to have a hotel room and spare clothes at the mid-point of a 600K. I’ll also do my best to get in as early as I can and then sleep until dawn. I think that would have the biggest bang for my buck in terms of time vs. energy/morale levels.

Martin and 1st place rider Ian F...

Martin deserves a big thank you for his extremely dedicated efforts without which Eau de Hell Week would not be possible. All the riders who these brevets are amazing athletes – great job guys & gals. Ian’s performance on what ened up being a 670K ride for him is hard to comprehend. He was close to the finish when he realized he had made an error and earned himself 70 bonus KMs – heart breaking. He could have thrown in the towel and asked for a lift to the end, but instead he got back to the route and finished it – still first by a wide margin. He rode 1500kms+ this week in 61hrs!

I had fun helping out on this ride and if I don’t ride the Van Isle 600K in May I’ll volunteer for that ride that Mike & Brynne Croy [my neighbours as I recently found out!] are organizing.


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7 responses

16 04 2011
Ryan Golbeck

Hi again!

Could I possibly get the first 3 in high res?

Thanks again!
-ryan

16 04 2011
Randobarf

Vik, those are great pictures! The Vancouver Island Eau de Hell Week week is so fun because it puts randonneurs at one with nature so early in the season. It’s a close personal relationship with the raindrops, the wind and the bracing evening temperatures. It’s my second-favorite rando-event next to the Fraser Canyon/Coquihalla Highway 600’s that start in Vancouver and it reminds me of a television commercial for Irish Spring deodorant soap because Vancouver Island smells so nice and it sometimes gives you a shower in the spring.

Re: Chilly Nights

The secret to staying warm during Eau de Hell week is booties, wool socks, wool cap, helmet cover, Gore-Tex overmitts and the judicious application of warm clothing without going overboard. The temperature can drop very suddenly at night, especially on the very pretty Eau de Hell Week 600 that crosses the mountains to Gold River (rerouted this year because of excess snow up there). Riding hard also helps to keep you warm at night, especially riding hard down the long hills.

Re: Stopping for a nap on a 600

I know some of the old people like to stop at a hotel halfway on a 600. I prefer to ride right thru. Night is the best time for cycling if you ask me. There’s no car traffic on Vancouver Island at night and sometimes the stars come out and it is awesome. The secret to riding a 600 through the night if you are feeling sleepyheaded is to drink a can of Beaver Buzz at about 2:00 am (and no, I am not sponsored by Beaver Buzz, although I wish I was).

I look forward to the 2012 Eau de Hell Week and the cosmic connection to the universe of weather that Eau de Hell Week bestows upon randonneurs lucky enough to attend.

16 04 2011
16 04 2011
thelazyrando

@RB – your logic is sound except I don’t think I would have the option. Sleeping a bit would make the ride possible….going straight through isn’t an option for a weak pathetic rider like me! I barely survived the volunteering on this 600K and I wasn’t there at the start or the end!

17 04 2011
Randobarf

“…weak, pathetic…” Ha, ha! Brevets do not favor The Incredible Hulk. Success at brevets is really about fine tuning your choice of equipment and clothing and finding out what food is best for you on brevets. Getting enough training in to improve your speed is nice but not necessary. Keeping your time at the controls to a minimum really helps. Being skinny helps a lot on the climbs as does a light bike and gear. Being able to bench press 250 lbs does not help at all.

600’s are my favorite brevets because 600’s are more about staying on the bike than riding fast and I am not fast. A 600 on a warm summer night can be magical. However, the truth is that most randonneurs do not ride brevets longer than 200 kilometers and it’s safe to say that the most favorite brevet of most randonneurs is the 200. So it’s not necessary to ride a 600 unless you feel like it. In fact, it seems like most randonneurs are turning 600’s into 2 (more palatable) 300’s by sleeping halfway. There are so many 200’s in Washington and British Columbia that a coastal randonneur can ride nothing but 200’s (or 300’s or whatever) all season long.

My other favorite thing is volunteering at brevets. I’ve forgotten every brevet I’ve ever done but the volunteering at controls always sticks in my mind and as your blog demonstrates volunteers can get some good pictures too!

17 04 2011
thelazyrando

@RB – my plan, such as it is, is to just ride a bunch of events and see what happens. I’m fine with just riding shorter events, but I would like to try a 400K this year and a 600K next year. It doesn’t bother me stopping for a rest break or sleep as long as it’s done within the rules and I get back to the finish within the time limits.

I feel no shame riding a LD ride in “old guy” style…LMAO…I’m pretty impressed that I’m doing the event in the first place – caring about the details is not on my radar at this point.

17 04 2011
thelazyrando

BTW – I dig the volunteering so for sure I’ll doing that again.

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