Monday, July 27, 2015

Bittersweet Feelings: RW24 2015

The end of another amazing RW24
photo by Kelly Detweiler
It's been a bit over 36 hours since I crossed the finish line for RW24 for the last time as a team member. There are so many mixed emotions running through my body right now I'm not sure where to begin this post.  My love for this event, what it stands for, all the team members I've gotten to ride with, the co-garage team, the organizers and the volunteers has grown exponentially over the past five years.  This year, there were times I kept thinking "this will be the last time I...." and tears almost came to my eyes.  You see I am planning on volunteering as much as I can next year instead of riding--it's the least I can do to give back to the event which has given me so much.  There is a chance I'll ride solo the following year, but there's also a good shot I'll just end this on a high note and move on.

This year, for me, was all about team dynamics and just observing.  Almost as soon as last year's event ended, I began thinking about the team for this year.  Who would really appreciate the quirkiness of an event like this?  Who would find pleasure in pushing themselves while smiling?  Who could hold down bucket fulls of cheap beer, espresso, whiskey and junk food without falling into some crazy food/liquor induced coma? My team choice wasn't hard and I think it was set in stone sometime in February.  Sometimes, however, things come up and one of the team members from last year had to pull ten days prior.  I thought long and hard about just keeping that spot unfilled--heck, we rode with five members the first year and I didn't want to just put anyone in to fill the spot.  There was one person, though, who stood out in my mind for the perfect replacement.  He's a part of my regular riding crew and sort of fell into that group in a serendipitous way, so it only seemed ideal to have him join us--especially since he was considering riding out to just watch anyway. Honestly, it couldn't have worked out better.  We were now a well blended team of three vets and three newbies.  Put us in the same homebase with team Riverwestfalia (our gracious hosts, MKE area residents and a couple Madison friends) and I won't lie, there was some magic going on from the moment we got out of the car.

Practice lap before the main show
photo by John Mcneill

Our welcoming message on Chambers and Pierce

Much to two of my team mates dismay, we walked...yes, walked, to get our packets at Club 99 and eat dinner kindly donated by the Riverwest Co-op.  Sometimes I forget what seeing the event (pre-ride and all) was like my first time.  For me, this seemed like walking from my home in Madison down to the corner store--with lots of reunions along the way.  For two of the newbies it must have seemed a bit like an adult circus.  Little did they know.....

Gathering up for announcements

Dan, one of the owners of the garage we crash at and the best host ever!

One of my favorite parts of this event are the announcements prior to the start.  I know that sounds crazy, but to get to see and listen to the organizers really hits that gushy spot in me.  There is no way any of us could imagine what really goes into an event like this, and to see them up on the porch, reminding us each year in a different tone "this is not a race", makes me smile from ear to ear.  Each one of the eleven organizers has sacrificed so much--family, down time, blood, sweat and tears.  They will never take credit for their work--always deferring to the community and volunteers--and yet I'm guessing most of us know that if it wasn't for them, this could NEVER happen.  So in these 15 minutes before the ride, I have to fight the urge to yell "THANK YOU" at the top of my lungs.

As in past posts about this event, I won't go into every boring detail.  We rode, we drank, we ate, we laughed our asses off, and we made really good zombies.  Here are some of the memories still flashing through my brain:

-Seeing a couple with their baby--all dressed as lions (there was a lion somewhere loose in MKE so this seemed to be a theme) hide in the tall grasses on the Booth switchbacks.

-The mandala painted on Pierce just a couple blocks north of our home base.

-Getting to see Robert before he started his 24 hour volunteer stint at checkpoint 2 (he comes in from California to do this).

-Walking into Club 99 to pick up our packet and t-shirts and having the volunteers say "Oh, we've been discussing you and were wondering who had your team name."

-Watching a woman crochet a penny farthing on a chain link fence.

-Having friends from Madison and MKE, who were not racing, come hang out at the garage and drink a few beers with us.

Late night visit from Angus who came by to chill between laps

-Seeing the smiles on the newbie's faces when they found their niche and favorite route to the checkpoints.

-Taking hose showers after my laps--yep, that felt amazing!

-Watching a friend mix Gatorade and Southern Comfort know, to keep electrolytes up.

-Doing espresso shots and whiskey shots back to back and not dying from it (each year I play a bit of Russian roulette with this).

-Watching the two guys on my team, who I knew would be competitive even though they said "I'm not competitive", check our standings every hour or so on the leader board.

This was used for our "spreadsheet"

-Watching one of the team mates--again, one who "isn't competitive"--make a "spreadsheet"of all the bonus checkpoints in the first hour.

-Seeing Paul Reardon from Blue Steel Bicycles
get to not only wrench at checkpoint one but also mark manifests.

Paul Reardon on the right, working with organizer Steve Whitlow
-Riding full or partial laps with friends I only get to see a couple times during the year.

-Watching Beth, who won the female solo category, pound out lap after lap and never seem to tire.

-Seeing the creative names of teams.  Blisters of Mercy being my favorite this year.

-Stuffing myself silly with two friends at breakfast just after seeing another friend dance with Wendy, the organizer, to Eye of the Tiger.  I'm not sure which was better.

John and Wendy just ended their "Eye of the Tiger dance"
-Going with a team mate while he lost his tattoo virginity and watching another friend press his sweaty body up against the glass while we were inside.

Steve losing his tattoo virginity

-Seeing my new skull valve stem lights (a gift from a teammate) blink a brilliant blue all night long.

-Hearing Prince thump through the speakers at checkpoint 3 just when I thought I was going to fall asleep.

-And finally, the victory lap with both teams.  I think I looked upset in a some of the pictures taken during that lap when really I was just overly emotional.  I get that way when I have to say goodbye.

Victory Lap with both teams!
photo by Harald 

Jacob doing the Booth switchbacks on the victory lap
To all of the people who donated even one minute of their time to this event, I say "thank you".  This event has changed my life for the better in so many ways.  See y'all next year when I'll be volunteering!

Pre dawn and we're turning into zombies
John took the haircut checkpoint for us!
Pickle handups!

One of the many great bands on the course
Dan and Kelly making the "beers for volunteers" run

1 comment:

  1. If you think riding for 24 hours is fun, wait until you get a load of volunteering!