Sunday, October 4, 2009

Behind the Scenes with Volunteer George Winkert

Volunteer George Winkert sent this report on his EM1240k volunteer activities:

Thanks also for the final update on Mike Anderson. To be honest, I'm bummed. As I drove up from MD to help Friday night, I called Tom and he gave me my first assignment: head over to Mifflintown to pickup PaulD and then start sweeping towards Pine Grove. Other volunteers had put in many hours and needed some reinforcements. (I could tell. Steve was calling Bill and Mark, the "Donaldson brothers" over the phone!) ok. But, Paul needs pickup? "Can't be!", so I thought. Paul is as durable and determined as any. I'd witnessed him overcome amazing things in our club since I joined in 2006. I arrived at Mifflintown around 1:15am and there he was with an inflamed achilles. Done. And it reinforced the reality of the past couple days, that this was a brutal ride.

For Paul's sake I wished I could have overnight expressed him back to Pine Grove. Instead, he became my passenger/cargo as I swept from there to Selinsgrove. With my car GPS, and also route-programmed bike GPS, it was still not enough to avoid a few wrong turns in the intermitten drizzle. Like a well-trained randonneur, I always returned to the course where I departed, ignoring the car GPS talking short cuts. A couple times, Paul, dozing off, would speak (when I expected to hear snoring). "George, I think you missed the turn." I'm thinking, how does he know? He hasn't been here and is exhausted. Well, he was trained to look for the road markers which I had forgotten about! The markers were a great idea.

We passed 3 riders enroute to Selinsgrove. Didn't stop, but ID'd them as the Olsens and LarryG. Got to Denny's and there was HenkB, JimL, and AlbertK. The latter two were quickly prepping to leave, while Henk was ordering food. All were in good spirits. Soon the other 3 arrived ~3:30am and they too ordered food. I chatted with the Olsens for a bit, trying not to be a distraction, but they seemed pretty relaxed --- and I've always known BillO to, say, "enjoy dialogue" (a welcome asset to fellow riders in the middle of the night!). Having broken my collarbone last year, I finally got to hear BillO explain how he fell on the snow/ice last winter, broke his collarbone in 3 places, continued to work, and manipulated it back into place while sitting in a meeting at work. Gee, what a whimp I must be, when I took an ambulance ride after crashing. And now here BillO is, 9(?) months later attempting to complete his 5th 1200K this year alone!!!!!!!!!! Yikes, no wonder he's so calmly eating as the controle cutoff time approaches.

BillS was manning the controle. We checked the list and discovered that MikeA had not arrived. How so? Was he off course or sleeping somewhere as I carefully swept? PaulD had said MikA had left 30 miutes after he got to Mifflintown. So, where was he now!?! Hmmm.

At 0445, an hour after the Olsens left, BillS and I stood on the curb outside Denny's discussing strategy. MikeA had not shown up, and the controle closed in 2 minutes. What should we do? A moment later, a solitary headlight was seen approaching about 200 yards away. Amazing! Right at the buzzer. (I knew this "game" from narrowly making 2 controls on the PA1000K this year.) MikeA came down the main road instead of thru the mall parking lot. As such, he would have to cross 10ft of grassy median. He stopped. We waved. He looked confused and started to turn around. We yelled out, "Mike, over here, c'mon!". He dismounted, walked over the grass, remounted slowly, and coasted to the curb in front of us. He was more than confused. And it took awhile to register what we were telling him, that he literally just made the control. He said he thought he missed it by at least 1/2 hour. He had made some wrong turns on this segment.

As we got him off the bike and plopped down into a booth at Denny's, BillS and I exchanged looks. Without saying a word, we both knew that Mike was not in good shape. For Mike's safety, we would need some assurance before we thought he was ready to continue. He desperately needed sleep. He asked for a 20 minute power nap before anything else. Good. But first, we got him to tell us what food he would order. The Denny's waiter was great. He saw what we were trying to do, and had the food ready when Bill woke Mike up. I had already left to sweep towards Pine Grove. Bill called me around 0600. After about an hour, Mike had recovered and was doing better back on the road. But time-wise, he was still on the bubble.

When the sun came up, I took some snaps of the last 7 riders on the course. Climbing towards Good Spring, AlbertK yelled, "I'm dying, I'm dying" but with a big smile on his face.

Instead of cruising all the way to Pine Grove, I went back a good distance to check one last time on Mike. He was good. Needed to ride 58 miles in < 6hrs. I told him that after the climb, he had ~15 easy miles into the control.MikeA arrived at Pine Grove @ 1134, within 16 minutes of closing. Great. He was still in the game. I was happy for him. Helping him in Sellinsgrove was just one of those many opportunities we as volunteers get to make a difference. With drop bag in hand, and a dazed look (but not as bad when he arrived in Selinsgrove), I wished him bon courage as the elevator door shut. With much nicer weather, I thought he had a shot at finishing.

So, yes, I'm bummed to just hear that he fell a little short. But big kudos nonetheless. Everyone of these riders displayed remarkable courage and tenacity.

It was a pleasure to help out and meet many of you at the Pine Grove control center. Volunteers did a great job (especially if you read down this far). I'm sure you all have similar stories of timely help you gave to others. My pics:

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