Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cheers

Last Sunday, I spent hours standing in the middle of a road, constantly pointing east as I told one rider after another to stay in the left lane for the upcoming portion of the bike leg in the Gold Nugget Triathlon. Like most volunteers, I also spent a lot of time playing cheerleader to passing riders as they came by again after their turnaround.

Once upon a time, I thought it felt phony to cheer for a passing stranger in an amateur event, but when I started doing an occasional race or mass public ride, I learned how beneficial a few words from a stranger could be.

When I first started getting seriously into cycling years ago, I rode my first (and only) charity ride: the 50-mile course in El Tour de Tucson. Fairly late in the ride, I found myself alone while bridging to new group. Pedaling down a two-lane highway through the desert on the outskirts of town, I came across a pickup parked on the shoulder. Three or four people were partying in the bed of the truck—lawn chairs, cooler, the whole bit—as they waited for a friend or relative to pass by. When they saw me coming, they erupted into cheering and yelling that continued as I rolled by and waved to say thanks. I felt re-energized for miles.

Last year, I again found myself alone and suffering, riding through the middle of nowhere in a cold rain, deep into a century race and far, far behind the real racers who were probably already eating hot food and changing into dry clothes. Then I came across a man solemnly standing by the road, soaked to the bone, playing bagpipes. It was beautiful.

He could have gone home after the bulk of riders had passed. He could have been warm and dry, and sipping a well-earned martini. Instead, he was out there playing for every last suffering fool who was death-marching up that hill. I think he had the wisdom and compassion to know that we needed his music far more than the leaders ever would.

It felt good to pay a little back by encouraging Gold Nugget riders last weekend, and to get tired but happy smiles in return.

I only wish I knew how to play bagpipes.

8 comments:

BSR said...

I know what you mean. Had a similar experience during the first Trek 100 ride (early 90s I think). Back then instead of a loop, it was Madison to Milwaukee. It had been a rainy, miserable day and I was just drying out, but was severely bonking with about 5 miles to go. The last rest station had still only had fruit, yogurt & granola bars, instead of what everybody wanted: brats & beer.

We rounded a corner and there was this last monster hill. After some vocal cursing of whoever planned the route, we started puffing up that hill. Lots of people were completely drained and were walking up.

I made it about half-way where there was a level spot -- entrance to a hospital parking lot. I was just starting to think the walking thing was looking much better than grinding up the rest of the way, when I caught sight of a gaggle of high-school cheerleaders that someone (probably the same cruel route-planner) had posted there. As each rider came into view, they would start jumping around and cheering.

Apparently there was still some testosterone left in my system. No way was I going to get off my bike and walk in front of those girls! I popped up one gear and began climbing again....made it to the top.

Goes to show what a little proper motivation can do!

Oddly enough a female rider I was talking to at the post-ride party said she had no problem walking right past the cheerleading squad. Now if they'd had a few Chippendales stationed there....

Twerp said...

I've been annonymously reading your blog for quiet some time now, but after your last post I just had to write and say THANK YOU! I was one of those panting strangers that you cheered on, and it truly did help me keep going. The support from volunteers like you is what makes the nugget so special. I hope to return the favor some time - even if that means sacrificing a few brewskis in the back of a pickup on a lonely part of the road. Sorry, I don't play bagpipes eiter. : )

SiouxGeonz said...

Amen!

SiouxGeonz said...

YOu could sing or dance, of course...

Tim said...

Twerp, you are very welcome. It was a good crowd of athletes out there. I hope I can do it again next year. Maybe in a pickup. With beer.

Well, OK, probably not with the truck and beer. Then I'd be accused of showing up just to ogle tri chicks.

daveIT said...

I did that a couple years ago. I really enjoyed seeing and encouraging all the kids.

Amber said...

I said thanks before, but I'll say it again. People like you are what got me through the tri with a smile on my face.

Though I am not sorry that I missed you personally yelling at me, because I know you would've been yelling "Amber! Stop Drafting!" Yep didn't miss that part. :) Though you would've looked silly if I was the only one around, so it could've worked in my favor.

Tim said...

Actually, it would have been way funnier if there had been no one else around, because my real goal was to crack you up and slow you down by a couple of seconds!