Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Englewood 600K: A Volunteer's Perspective

Past and present NJ Rando RBAs: Leroy and Laurent

What a great weekend for a hilly 600K romp through New York's gorgeous Catskill Mountains! Easy for me to say, of course, since I wasn't one of the participants, but the riders I spoke with at the Phoenecia controle on this weekend's Englewood 600K seemed to be fully enjoying the camaraderie, the route and the fine weather. I'm ashamed to admit that this was my first ever stint as a brevet volunteer. I could make up all kids of excuses, but it really comes down to the fact that with time constraints I'd always just rather be riding. Luckily, others have sacrificed their time over the years to make all of the brevets I've completed possible.

NJ Rando's Katie R. got in touch a few months ago to ask if I'd be able to help staff one of the controle's on the Englewood 600K route which swings rather close to my house and I was more than happy to confirm that I'd love to do something to begin to repay the many favors that NJ Rando has done for me over the years. Great news arrived last week when Katie confirmed that my shift would begin at 11:00 am at the Phoenicia controle located 40 miles from my front door. This meant that I would be able to volunteer AND get a great 80-mile training ride in (my longest one-day mileage total since the accident) AND catch up with some friends along the way.

The day started for me with a glorious ride to Phoenicia over low traffic roads that skirt the Ashokan reservoir as they enter the Catskills Park. I arrived at the controle at about 10:45 am to find that the lead group had just left the Rhinebeck controle roughly 40 miles away. It looked like I was to have a little time on my hands. Soon after I arrived at the Momma's Boy Cafe and settled into a shaded Adirondack chair, I was approached by Leroy V., the NJ Rando RBA, who drove up after checking riders in at the start to spend some time along the route. While I had packed the Jonathan Franzen novel I'm reading into my Detours bag, I much preferred chatting about rando life past and present with this four-time PBP ancien, whose first trip to the Catskill mountains from his native NJ by bike took place in the early 1940s when he was a mere 15-years old. As the father of a 15-year old, I'm not quite sure what his folks were thinking.

The first pair of riders who arrived just before 1:00 pm looked fit and full of steam as they took advantage of a little shade and ice cream. They stretched their planned 10-minute stop into 25-minutes, but did not seem bothered by the extension.  The next two groups to come in followed close behind and displayed a similar level of energy at the 1/3 mark on this hilly course. Several more riders came through after a short while and soon there was just one final pair bringing up the rear. Several of the riders in the day's event had come from great distance to participate in what was billed as a hilly tune-up for PBP.  Illinois, Canada and Florida were all represented. Sadly, one of the riders from Florida, who needed this event to qualify for PBP, arrived at the controle with his bike in the back of a farmer's pick-up truck, the victim to some nasty full-body cramping.  His partner, though, was fresh and full of energy as she pedaled off into the high Catskills after restocking her celery supply, fixing her light mount and applying some fresh sunscreen. All told, 18 riders in and 17 riders out.

I began my journey home at 5:30 pm after enjoying a day filled with conversation and merriment. The return trip was even more pleasant than the ride up as I took full advantage of a small tail wind, the sun on my shoulders and a slight decent all the way home. While I'm disappointed not to have been among the riders fin-tuning their fitness for PBP, I'm glad to have been a part of their excitement and to have been able to ride 80 miles with a smile on my face. Next up: the Ride the River Valley century on July 17.

A few minutes of shade and refreshment

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