Saturday, November 29, 2014

Trans Iowa V11: On Volunteers Part 2

Trans Iowa's first volunteers were Dave & Linda Kerkove. That's Dave on the right.
Last weekend I wrote on the situation this year concerning the volunteers for Trans Iowa V11. The aftermath of that was mostly positive, but I also received several responses from the volunteers I have who- for the sake of brevity- "get it". You know who you are and what I mean by "getting it". Anyway, I wanted to publicly thank you all, first off, and say that last week's rant on the use of volunteering as a gateway to riding a Trans Iowa, (and not really just to volunteer in a genuine sense), was not at all aimed at you folks. I think maybe some of the responses I was getting were, in part, defenses of those particular individuals intentions, and I wasn't intending that anyone should feel compelled to do that. I apologize for anything that smacked of that.

Now I want to do a bit of bragging on my past volunteers. I know lots of events have great volunteers, but Trans Iowa seems to gather some of the most selfless, kind, considerate, encouraging, and intelligent volunteers I have known of or seen at any event. This has only been getting better every year that Trans Iowa has been in existence. From the very get-go, when our only volunteers were Dave and Linda Kerkove, we have had great success with our volunteer corps. Some memories that jump out at me concerning volunteers.....

Checkpoint volunteers for T.I.V3
  • T.I.V3: The first time I had a "corp" of volunteers was for T.I.V3. These guys were so good and in a way, they helped calm me down, relax, and let go of one of my main worries going into that first time "solo" production of a Trans Iowa. I just remember being so amazed and impressed with this group. 
  • T.I.V4: Some of the previous year's members were on this group, but we had another checkpoint as well that year, so I was a bit concerned. Once again though, my worries were unfounded. Of particular note here was Steve Fuller showing up with a lap top and running results on a spread sheet program, (I think), which was kind of shocking to me! 
  • T.I.V5: Now we had three checkpoints! I remember going to CP#2 in Traer, and not seeing anyone there yet. Being a bit overly concerned, I called the two fellas that were supposed to be there and they cheerfully informed me that they were down at the pizza joint and would be there promptly. I saw them arrive on bicycles and of course, they did an awesome job. Scott Ronken and....cannot recall right now. (Was it Ken?) Somebody help me out here. Also- this was the T.I. where Matt Maxwell rode over from Ames Iowa to LeGrand Iowa just to volunteer and then afterward turned his bike Westward and rode back home!
  • T.I.V6: The ill-fated, rain shortened event was run well again by volunteers. I remember especially the hoops we jumped through going back and forth on the phone with Paul Jacobson. (Thanks for your patience, Paul!) But what many do not know is that CP#3 was manned by Paul Buchanan and his wife, I believe, and of course, no one got there. We called Paul and he graciously came to the arranged ending at the North English Malt Shoppe and not only that, he drove some of the wet riders back to Grinnell, then drove in the torrential rain all the way back to Waterloo. Talk about yer selfless volunteers!
  • T.I.V7: The volunteers impress again, and even on Easter weekend! The thing I am most grateful for here is the selfless volunteering I saw done by Craig Cooper of Bikes To You, Rob Versteegh, and other riders that had dropped out but stuck around to assist after the fact. None of these folks were prearranged for and they just jumped in where needed to give an assist. It wasn't the last time this type of thing would happen. 
  • T.I.V8: Remember the almost luxurious CP#2 set up by Wally & George? The main memory for me here is the work that Jeremy Fry and Matt Gersib did to run the "secret checkpoint" that year. MG's way-beyond-the-call-of-duty looking for an errant Charlie Farrow was a true lifesaver from my standpoint. I'll never forget that, Brother!
  • T.I.V9: This was another "lifesaver", but this time it was Bent Irish who, when finding out that we may be short of cues, arranged to have some of the other volunteers fan out in the small village of Ira to see if we could get copies made. Mind you- this was early on a Saturday morning in a village of maybe 100 people! I believe Chad Quigley was involved in this as well, but we did get copies and we had no issues. Just a great example of how the volunteers for T.I. are self-starters and can think on the ground for the event's best interest. 
  • T.I.V10: How about Jeremy Fry, his friend Matt, and Scott Redd hanging out in gale force winds all afternoon in the middle of nowhere? Or consider the Slender Fungus, who sent up a crew to man the unexpected re-route in an unbelievable lightning storm with sideways rain. No riders got crossed up, and they manned that post until 4am for me. 
Let's not forget the barn, Trans Iowa's finish line the last couple years. RV brings a crew to assist with that. That's him in the red coat. (Image by Wally Kilburg)

So, I hope you can see that Trans Iowa lives or dies by its volunteers. Without them, the event doesn't get run. Many times- really folks, I cannot stress this enough- the help comes undirected at all by me. I know a lot of you think I am all on top of everything, but face the facts folks- the Trans Iowa volunteer corps over the years has been mostly undirected and uncontrolled by me. I give them a minimal set of tools and instructions and these smart folks just rise above my short comings and essentially make the event what it is.

So, I thank them, of course, but I sincerely hope that you all do the same. Profusely. Without ending.



Unknown said...

Hey, once a year I get to spend a weekend around nothing but the best people - some best friends, and I make new best friends every year. And I'm a part of a bicycling event that I consider to be one of the great challenges left. I'm glad I can help and I'm proud to know those that compete and have competed. That last week of April is always the highlight of my year. Thanks to everyone involved for being part of it.

Michael Jones said...

I guess I'll pipe up here since I missed the first post on volunteers. I volunteered for TI v.10 as soon as the event had filled up and it was clear that my procrastination had cost me a chance at a spot. My thought process at the time (aside from General relief of NOT having to suffer for 340 miles, ha ha!) was that I'd already committed to the time and expense of the event, so why not go and help out so that those who did get in would be well supported. I also recall that it meant foregoing a weekend of training as I had both the Alexander and the Dirty Kanza on the horizon.

At the same time however, in the back of my mind, I was sizing up the event the way a kid sizes up a roller coaster before riding it by walking around it, observing the experiences of those brave enough to jump on it, and mentally mapping out the big drops. I think I'm safe in saying that there were plenty of other CP1 volunteers at v.10 who had similar feelings. So while the exemption was not chief among my motivations to volunteer, I felt in a way that by doing so I was getting my ticket punched. I recall a FaceBook post immediately following v.10 where I made tentative mention of my "exemption coin". Knowing full well that based upon the way v.10 panned out with its rain and non-stop wind, that I was not entirely sold on the idea.

Having a cap on exemption slots for prior volunteers makes sense now more than ever given that these exemptions have become currency in their own right. True, for v.11, these exemptions amounted to only three people, myself included. But for the future, what number of redeemed exemptions would cause a noticeable level of increased burden on the event's organizer(s) and change the nature of the event appreciably? The timing of this announcement allows v.11 volunteers the opportunity to weigh their motivations properly. Most will come through I suspect, while some will fall away. And while experience shows that few of those who do volunteer will actually toe the starting line, I suspect that given the caliber of riders volunteering for v.11, that experience might get thrown out the window.

Guitar Ted said...

@Michael Jones: I appreciate your comments. Here's my response to your question near themiddle of your third paragraph...

It would change the event appreciably by pushing out people who never will ride a Trans Iowa but want the experience of giving back to cycling, or just to hang out in the atmosphere T.I. engenders. (See Wally's response above as an example)It would push out those who have attempted and finished a Trans Iowa or two that want to "give back" and who have never had the opportunity to volunteer before. (I can think of four off the top of my head from this year's list without looking.)

So three it is. That's historically been the most in a year that have ever done the "redeeming of the volunteering coin" and it leaves room for all the others to be a part of a Trans Iowa.

With the event capped off in terms of size and the limitations I have that keep it this way, I have to draw many lines due to pressure from demand to get in. This is just one of those lines.

bicycletorch said...

Just for the record, it was indeed Ken Yokanovich I helped out in Traer during T.I.V3. Sorry again to raise your stress level. I know you don't need any more of that during the weekend. We really enjoyed the event from that perspective. I think riders make some of the best volunteers, knowing what the riders are feeling when coming in. Except I am sure I will never know what it is like to whistle care-free exiting a convenience store after racing 250 miles or so like a certain Joe Meiser.