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.
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:
- sign control card [failure to do so could result in a DNF]
- keep an eye out for safety concerns [physical, mental & equipment]
- offer and facilitate food [riders should sit and rest as much as possible]
- 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]
- helping with any logistics of getting and out of the control efficiently
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!
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.
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 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.