On Saturday I helped out with the Quadzilla bike race: a 400 mile ride from Ithaca, NY circumnavigating all the finger lakes which riders need to complete in 40 hours. Tough? Nah, as Mark Frank the organizer says: “Anyone can do 400 miles at 10 mph.” Right. Sure.
I was stationed at the Geneseo rest stop together with Bonnie. This was the half way point. Riders came here by way of Letchworth Park, continued on from here to Canandaigua and then to the sleep stop in Auburn. Our duties? Basically try to do whatever we could to make life a little more comfortable for the riders.
To paint the picture: The race started at 5am Saturday morning in Ithaca. We set up our stop at 5:30pm and saw the first two riders roll in just after 6pm. They were already 13 hours underway with still 210 miles to go having done already many of our favorite hard climbs like Gannett, Coffee Hill, Groveland and many more. From our stop to Auburn – roughly 80 miles – were mainly rolling hills with then the hard and steep stuff on the 140 mil stretch back to Ithaca. This weekend there was a hard southernly wind and many of the riders suffered it badly.
Dennis and Henrik were the first to come through our stop. Dennis’ wife Sherrie (sp?) was crewing for him. She was uncertain if Dennis would want to switch to his night bike or wait till Canandaigua. Should she get it out of the car and ready? But if he didn’t want it it would be trouble for nothing. But I said if you don’t then you’ll see he’ll want it. So she got it all ready for him before he got there and yes, he did want to switch bikes. Dennis was not looking good, a bit dehydrated. Henrik looked like he was just on a quick ride before breakfast. That difference would impress me during the night: some looked disheveled after 200 miles (I certainly would) and others like they’re just on their way to Starbucks for the morning coffee.
Dennis was going for the course record. I hope he made it! But as of my writing this, results have not come through yet. Fingers crossed!!
Two hours after this duo Marcel came through. A soft-spoken introvert French-Canadian from Quebec. He appeared in great shape. I saw him many hours later at 3am at the sleep stop at Auburn where he had showered, changed clothing and got ready to depart for the next stretch. The sleep stop is a bit of a misnomer I got the impression. I think most riders stop there relatively briefly, certainly not long enough for any good nap time.
Just after Marcel left, Michelle rolled in. She had back problems and getting off the bicycle was a bit of an operation. But after some time in one of our folding chairs she was giggling away again and I have developed the theory that if Michelle is giggling then all is well. While Michelle was at our stop three more cyclists arrived giving Michelle company to ride with.
Around 10:30pm if I remember correctly Mark biked into the park where our rest stop was, our beloved organizer!! He hadn’t done much riding this year and wasn’t sure beforehand how far he would get but he made it halfway! He looked tired though, happily sinking down in a chair. I gave him the Monster soda can from our cooler. When I picked up the supplies for our stop from Mark on Thursday evening I noticed there were many cola and s-up cans but only one Monster making me think this one was for him. Karen, Mark’s wife, arrived with the pickup truck a little later. Bonnie and I were sure that Mark would stay here, not ride on. But after some wife and husband talk Mark summoned his steed and bravely rode on into the night towards Canandaigua.
During the course of the evening, our stop was officially open till midnight, a couple of riders were dropped off by Karen who had to abandon the race. When the last cyclist came through in Geneseo a little logistical juggling took place. We had to pack up all the stuff (folding tables, remaining supplies etc) in Bonnie’s car and mine, then see how to get three cyclists plus bikes to Canadaigua and eventually to Auburn. Karen took two in the pick up truck meaning one had to ride in the open back. I took the third, Makoto-san from Michigan. He and I chatted for a little bit but he quickly fell asleep and I listened to my Grateful Dead playlist while driving.
The Canandaigua stop was right on the lake. Bonnie and I thought our stop was windy. Peanuts compared to here. This stop was without any shelter and the wind was blustering in straight over the water. “Ohh, it calmed down,” shrugged Judy. This stop featured hot food (pasta, potatoes, burgers). How she managed to cook in the midst of that windy onslaught I have no idea. Driving the 35 miles to Canandaigua goes a little quicker than cycling it meaning I got to meet again some of the cyclists that came through the Geneseo stop and see how everybody was holding up a windy 35 miles later.
Here we waited for Marcia. The mystery person. Beforehand by means of Mark’s email and while operating our stop Bonnie and I had heard many great things of Marcia, the crew chief and the person who can be in many places at once (I just watched Frank Herbert’s Dune again). But we never met or saw her. Maybe she does not exist… You know, these long-distance cyclists, who knows what happens with their minds…? But there she was. Cheerful, organized and patient. Do not forget that she got up at 3am too just like the riders and had been driving back and forth between the stops. Amazing. She had just picked up Mark who did had to abandon just before Canandaigua. Two hundred and twenty miles, a great achievement!
Marcia gathered two more riders who had abandoned, my passenger was still napping in my car, and we went off to Auburn. Bringing them to Auburn (instead of back to Ithaca) gave them a chance to shover, rest more and then have the ability to ride back to Ithaca still completing most of the distance of the race. From Auburn it was back home to Webster for me where I arrived at 5am.
I am very happy that I volunteered to help out. It was an incredible experience to see these boys and gals attempt and succeed in this race. To receive and assist the riders as they came through Geneseo after already at least 13 hours and for some 20 hours of hard effort was very rewarding. And I learned from them with regards to my own cycling: I need to drink more, try to eat real food (a proper sandwich) during breaks, use the Endurolyte pills that sit in my cupboard.
All of the participants impressed me:
- Dennis for his quiet determination
- Henrik fresh as a shiny apple after 200 miles
- Leslie, the most cheerful cyclist I’ve ever met
- George in his rush to keep going and ignore his stomach problems
- Michelle deserving the giggle award
- Renato bubbling over with adrenaline just wanting to talk, talk
- Mark F. who seems to look younger the more tired he gets. What secret is hiding here?
- Mark S. carefully taking in bits of food and slowly, slowly warming up to our conversation
- Craig from Pennsylvania who I teased about not riding here from there
- Tim and Jeff who knew each other from magazine articles and now met for the first time?
- Makoto-san who calmly, quietly endured the hours until we got him back to Auburn
- And also Marcel (I wish a spoke better French), Glen, Jud, Chester, and I fear I am forgetting someone for which I apologize.
I took some pictures which you can find in the gallery.