Volunteering at Fish Rock 2019
I signed up with a friend to help with Aid Station 1 at the Bike Monkey Fish Rock 2019 race. This was my first time doing something like this and I didn’t know what to expect. It turned out to be a lot of fun except for the weather. The race is about 72 miles and runs from the high school in Boonville, over Mountain View Road, down Highway 1 to Fish Rock Road, over Fish Rock and then back down Highway 128 to just before the Anderson Valley Brewing Company. It includes 9,670 feet of elevation gain.
We started at around 8am at the high school in Boonville; the parking lot was full of lots of fancy bicycles and their super thin, mostly male riders. The “car” of choice seems to be a large, extra tall van - often a Mercedes, but also other manufacturers, such as Dodge and Ford. Our group consisted of myself, my friend Art, a man named Karl who hailed from Brentwood, Nick from the coast who is active with the local club there and an employee of Bike Monkey whose name I have failed to remember. Karl owns one of the large vans I mention so we piled all the supplies (pop-up shelter, food, water, tables and so forth) in to it and added Art and I. Nick rode with the Bike Monkey guy and met us out there.
We set up at Mariah Vineyards, about 16 miles out from Boonville on Mountain View Road. The owners had graciously allowed us to use their driveway and surrounds to set up. Our ride up was not without a little excitement -
The snow was mainly near the top at the Hanes Ranch and while it was sticking, it was slushy and mostly on the uphill side. However, it was cold! Around 35 degrees. Brrrr.
We set up and then started waiting. And waiting. Finally, someone showed up to tell us that the start had been delayed by 45 minutes due to the snow. We had expected to see the first riders around 11am. In fact, we did see a few riders at that time -
These first riders were folks who weren’t actually racing but just doing the ride and they had left early, not waiting for the official start. These included these two -
The first official riders arrived close to noon and they did not stop. They were a group of four and they zoomed on past. After them a few riders started to trickle in and most did stop. The first 16 miles of the race includes half of the elevation gain for the race and many riders stopped to fill their water bottles. We had water and a special hydration drink provided by one of the sponsors, plus gels and bars and other snacks. These included peanut butter and jelly cut into quarters, chips, nuts, peanut M&M’s, NutterButter cookies and two types of jerky. Outside of our tent there was also a tent set up by The Bike Peddler with mechanics and they did a brisk business helping riders with various issues - derailleurs, flats, etc.
I happened to be taking a short film of some of the first riders who did not stop. As they passed, one of them tossed his empty water bottle to us. We all got a laugh out of that but a little while later another rider asked if we had a cup and he ended up taking the (cleaned) water bottle, so that worked out really well. Here is that short video:
The next hour or so was fairly busy. I stood out by the road, cheering on riders and “hawking” our wares. This seemed to encourage riders to stop and fuel up. I also became the “human bike rack” for a few riders. I’d offer and some would accept; I’d tell them that was as close to one of those bikes as I was ever likely to get. It was fun and made me feel a part of the experience. However, I was very glad not to be out riding in the terrible cold rain.
This terrible weather was tough on the event and the riders. There were apparently about 350 sign ups but only 240 riders took to the roads. I’m not sure how many did not end up finishing, but we ended up taking four riders back to Boonville with us when we took down the aid station at around 1pm or so. These riders were just too cold to finish and they were truly suffering. Here are a couple more shots of our team, inside the tent and inside looking out at the racers:
It was a fun experience and one I think I’d do again, but I think I would check the weather before I signed up. Being out in the cold all day, basically standing around, was exhausting in itself and it seemed like hours before I felt warm again. We got back to Boonville just before 2:30pm and I had to rush to meet some clients for a showing (they at least had friends in the race, so understood why I was a bit late) and then headed home around 4:00pm to feed my horses in the rain. It was close to 5pm before I was inside in dry clothes and near the fire.