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Lessons Learned at the Grape Escape
A (Riding) Volunteer's Insights
by Rob Scrimgeour

Every year Dave Macmurchie arranges for the BC Randonneurs to provide a group of volunteer guide riders for the Scotiabank MS Bike Cowichan Valley Grape Escape Century bike ride. He had also asked if I would take photographs. Since they were mainly looking for finish line photos and group photos, I figured riding would suit me better, and I volunteered for that.

As the day approached, I found out that I was expected to ride and take photos along the way, as best I could. So, as I prepped my bike I pulled out my huge seat bag and stuffed my camera in on top of my tools and tubes.

It was a great event. I found it to be very well organized, and everyone seemed to be friendly and having a good time. I would be more than happy to volunteer again for the event.

What follows is a list of mistakes that I made on the day. I'm not complaining, nor blaming anyone. I made these mistakes all on my own, and in every case I should know better. I'm sharing this in the hopes that everyone finds the humour in them.

Before I start I should point out that it was a very hot day. My Garmin said over 33 degrees average, and 38 degree maximum. I do think it reads high at times, but it was darn hot out.

So, in no particular order...

Mistake #1. I wore the wrong jersey.

I figured I'd wear my Randonneurs jersey, as I was volunteering through the club. I should have worn my climbers jersey. It is far cooler in the heat. I let vanity win out over practicality. I've done this before, and should know better. I paid the price.

Mistake #2. I locked my car keys in my trunk.

I arrived back after the ride ready to load up the car then relax and re-hydrate. I pulled out my house key from my pocket, looked at it for a second, and then thought, "Oh, Sh-t. Not again." (I did this a couple of years ago on a brevet. Kristy will remember.) BCAA came to my rescue both times, but it's a foolish mistake on my part.

Mistake #3. I left my headlights on all day.

I hadn't noticed until BCAA showed up. I drive with my headlights on all the time, and my car is supposed to turn them off automatically. It gets confused sometimes, but so rarely that I tend not to double check. Apparently I have a good battery, as it started just fine once I got into the car. Phew.

Mistake #4. I tried to take pictures and ride.

I don't think I'd ever really agreed to this, but after Dave mentioned that I was doing this, I figured I'd give it a try. Early on I pushed too hard to get ahead of riders so that I could stop and take photos. I paid for those efforts later in the day. Never again.

Mistake #5. I should have refilled my water at every stop.

At most stops I checked my liquid and topped up as I needed. However, the drinks got warm and later in the ride stopped cooling me off. A dump and refill at each stop would have helped tremendously, and I should know that.

Mistake #6. I put my volunteer sticker on my helmet.

I figured the sticker would sweat off anywhere else, so I put it front and centre on my helmet where everyone could see it. But I'm pretty sure that putting it there reduced the airflow through the helmet, which reduced the cooling of my head. It's hard to know for sure, but it was hot out and I needed all the cooling I could get.

Mistake #7. I didn't eat a good dinner the night before.

Life got in the way, and I made do with what I could late at night. I know better, and should have had a proper meal at a proper time. I'm pretty sure this has an affect on my endurance.

Mistake #8. I did a 61km all-out effort two nights prior.

It was a great ride. Super fast, and lots of fun. My fastest road ride ever. But by the end of the MS Century my legs were done, and part of that would have been lack of recovery. If it wasn't so hot, and if I hadn't pushed early on to take pictures, I'd probably have gotten away with it. But I didn't get away with it, and I should know not to do this so close to an event ride.

Mistake #9. I wore the wrong bibs for that ride two nights prior.

I wanted to be aero and fast to get a good time, so I wore my bibs that do that best. And it worked. However, I haven't worn them in too long, and the different chamois left me a bit more tender than I prefer. I could still feel it before the start of the MS ride. It didn't really affect how I did on the ride, but I sure could feel it in the evening after. And the next day. And the next day. I should know better.

Mistake #10. I ate real food at the lunch stop.

Most rides of this distance I only fuel with what I put in my drink, the high-carb bars I bring along, and maybe a cookie or snack. The lunch stop was great, but the small wrap was more than I should have eaten at the time, and it sat heavy in my stomach for a while. I don't know how much it sapped my energy to digest it, but enough that I could feel it.


Okay, so I hope you've had a few laughs from that. Here is what I did right, considering the heat...

In the cooler season I can ride 100k on less than two bottles, and sometimes just one. Today I had 2 bottles of half strength Ironman drink mix, 1-1/2 bottles of water, plus watermelon and oranges along the way. By about the 70k mark I didn't want to drink more of what I had as the liquid was just too hot.

With just over 20k left I diverted off-course by a block to go to the Cobble Hill store. I was too hot and I desperately needed to cool down. I bought bottles of Gatorade from the cooler.

With about 10k left to go I stopped at the PetroCan at Kilmalu and the highway. I'd almost finished all that Gatorade already, and was still too hot. I filled one bottle with the smoothie/slushie that they had in the store.

Yes, it was tough to squeeze out a slushie for a while, but the ice helped cool me. I drank it down as fast as I could but couldn't seem to give myself a brain freeze. Obviously I needed it. It was gone by the time I parked my bike at the school, 10k later.

The lesson I apparently know is to stop and get what I need, even if it slows me or takes me off course a bit.


After I got home from the ride, which means after re-hydtrating on site, after waiting for BCAA to show up and let me into my car, and re-hydrating more while driving home, I lay down on my bed to relax and write a report to Dave. In order not to get my bed's comforter dirty with dried sweat I lay down a big beach towel. This leads me to...

Mistake #11 - Washing the towel with my cycling clothes.

After emailing my report to Dave, I packed up my cycling clothes and the towel and washed them all together, and hit the shower. Sigh. You can probably figure out the mistake right there. A wonderful red Canadian maple leaf towel washing with my cycling gear.

Of course the colour transfered. My BC Randonneur jersey now had random
orange stains. A re-wash did nothing. Hand scrubbing with various detergents did nothing. Time to get serious. De-Solve-It orange oil based degreaser and
scrubbing took it out just fine. Then another re-wash to get that product out.

Everything looks fine again, but those clothes still have a bit of a citrus


Well, if you made it this far down this message you probably deserve a reward.

Even with my 11 mistakes, I still had a great day, and would volunteer again.

Thanks for asking me along, Dave.



July10, 2015