Bikerpelli -- and cutting lots of watermelon
I've pulled up at hundreds of aid stations, grabbed some watermelon, filled a bottle, thanked the volunteers, and zipped along. I recently worked as a crew member on a trip called Bikerpelli. This trip guides ~100 riders from Fruita, CO to Moab, UT over the course of 150 miles of single and double track in three days.
The riders show up in everything from spandex and full face helmets, to t-shirts and baggies. Some riders have been training all year for this event, others have, and I'm not exaggerating, finished their longest ride ever the week prior -- clocking in 22 miles and a whopping 330 feet of elevation gain.
I was offered a position as the aid station manager for the two consecutive trips. I showed up unsure, but ready with facepaint and lots of aid-station-stoke to do what I could for these riders.
I quickly realized I was going to see and talk to 100 people everyday on a trip that many of them deemed the hardest thing they had ever done.
It took consistency, lots of encouragement, and as the day wore on, more and more creativity for how to get people back out there. Each aid station was a turning point where riders could choose to continue for the second half of the day or take the van to camp. At one point, I picked a BUNCH of cactus splinters out of someone's leg, then painted some encouraging words on his forearms, made sure he ate a whole pb&j even though he was quite uninterested in food, and sent him on his way.
I did something similar to this, perhaps without the cactus, 100 times a day for 8 days. I cut up 80 lbs of bananas, 18 watermelons, and served up 260,000 calories of peanut butter. We drove 40 ft moving vans on four wheel drive roads with 14 creek crossings, and worked from 6am to 10pm each day. (mostly play-work though -- because bikes and facepaint and huge red rocks everywhere!)
When I race, I’m aware of my own experience and maybe a glimpse of the people's around me. During Bikerpelli though, I heard a select part of 100 people's experiences. They came into the aid station with stories, dread, excitement, and bike drama. Often, it seems they needed someone to listen as much as they needed Sun Chips and pineapple. While I chopped fruit, I learned about wild bike fixes, lack of preparation, and even learned about a sport called burrow racing where you and your donkey trail run together for multiple days.
I quickly grew a lofty appreciation for aid-station volunteers as well as the people who work the logistics of events. I always knew it was a lot of work, but I hadn't ever been the person who made vats of coffee or coordinated loading and unloading 6000 lbs of duffel bags everyday in the remote backcountry (at least remote for a moving truck). It's a ton of work to get to Costco and buy insane amounts of food, then drive them across the state, and present them on colorful trays, ready for when riders make their way through the desert.
So, here's my huge thanks to organizers, coordinators, and supporters. The biking is simple in comparison. This is a pretty insane side of the sport and we pedalers certainly couldn't do really any of it without you. Thank you thank you thank you! And a huge thanks to my Bikerpelli family, I wouldn't have wanted to play/work in the desert with anyone else. Cheers to next year!