Monday, June 30, 2014

Behind the scenes and a and a heart felt thank you!

It seems that every week my inbox is inundated with emails seeking people to help volunteer with races. I do my best about forwarding those emails to my friends who live in the area where we will be racing, or I tag them in JR's cute little Facebook photos where he is begging for some help, or I shoot a text out to a friend or two who might be able to help out. But this past weekend, I took a much different approach to helping him out. I met him Friday night in Tomlinson Run State Park to camp and help him with trail cleanup on Saturday. He had already been there since Tuesday night and he had put over 20 hours in in the previous 3 days by himself.

So I arrived late in the evening just in time to see him headed out for dinner and he pointed me in the direction of his campsite.  I found another site just around the corner from him and set up my tent, then headed over to his site to relax and wait on him. I had a pretty busy week at work, including a stressful wait on the announcement of who was getting the promotion to Location Manager for our Wall terminal (which I was ultimately rewarded with) and it was nice just to sit there in the dark and listen to all the sounds that nature had to share.  Even the kids playing a few sites down the road was enjoyable to my ears. JR finally showed up and we spend the next few hours BSing around the fire until we headed off to our tents.

630 the next morning I was up and I was hungry. Knowing JR was not a morning person, I headed off in search of breakfast. The breakfast trailer hadn't opened up in the campground yet because the park had
been without power since March and it had only recently been turned back on. I need a few provisions from Walmart, so I made a 15 minute drive to Calcutta, OH and bought what I needed as well as some hot breakfast sandwiches. When I returned to camp around 830, JR was already preparing for the trail, so I gave him the coffee I had bought for him and we set off down the road to put things in shape. I was to set poles and tape off the course at the top Poe Trail and direct them through the campground's outdoor "restaurant" area and back over to the other side of Poe Trail for the fun descent. Since the trailer wasn't open yet, we could set this up and we had time to build a short piece of trail through the woods rather than down the driveway. While I did that, JR started his 8 hour day of weedeating as he set off down the Poe Trail descent. He had left a long stretch of the Bigfoot Trail
untouched (and extremely overgrown) so that was the next project to tackle. He continued to weed eat while I walked the trail ahead of him marking the course with arrows and removing unnecessary/unwanted obstacles, including two stumps that were right in the middle of the path. The first of which came out without any problems. However the second stump was a different story. I had carried a 5 pound mattock for the purpose of digging a 6" stump that had literally been left smack dab in the middle of the trail years ago. I dug out around the base of it to access the roots and set to work choping them with the axelike side of it. After about 10 good whacks, as I sent the mattock home on the 11th, I felt the handle give, the head break free, and then the handle slapped me in the shin. I carried that mattock for 45 minutes only to have it fail after 30 seconds of work. Ugh. I picked up the pieces, and headed back down the trail. I filled JR in with the details and continued on to the truck. I drove around the the far end of Bigfoot and started back in to finish my job, this time equipped with a 15# chainsaw. This time I won!

Around 3 PM, we finally finished the trail around the lake and headed for Maple Trail. A couple of locals had started weed eating the trail but had to cut things short because one of them scratched their cornea and headed for the local express care. Again, I hung arrows and JR ran the weed eater.  (I would have offered to take over that tedious job, but knowing JR's OCD, I knew I would just be wasting my breath). When I finished ahead of him, I went ahead and marked the road with arrows and headed up Beech Trail with the pruners and arrow to mark. Finally, around 6 PM, JR called it quits and we headed back to camp to head out on an easy spin around the course. We caught Mike Janeiro finishing up his test run of the loop, and he agreed to go ride with us on our loop. 

The first couple miles were fast and fun. Then we hit the climb on Maple and it started hurting. By the time I started the climb up Beech, I could feel the walls closing in on me and started sensing, for lack of a better
Medium Deluxe Pizza from local restaurant Roma's on Rt 8.
Just a short drive from the park entrance and worth the trip.
description, what I call Color Bugs. (When I am suffering, my vision starts to blur and I get the sensation that there are all these colorful little flies, like a gnat, that fly around in my peripheral vision. It distracts me because continuously turn my head to follow them, but they just move further out of my line of sight.) It was somewhere along this time as I was pushing my bike up the smallest grade that I hadn't eaten since 730 and was going to bonk on a 7 mile ride. I had failed to grab any food (it was only going to be 7 miles) and I only had water which didn't really help but provide me with something to instantly sweat right back out in the 84 degree muggy heat. I bailed on the last climb (up Poe Trail) and instead opted for the paved road up to the campground. I almost blacked out in the shower and was still suffering from the color bugs as we headed off to dinner. When my pizza was placed in front of me, I didn't know whether I should finally cry or smile, so I just preceded to eat like I hadn't eaten before. I ate the entire thing in a few short minutes then sat around the campfire where I ended up eating a tube of Pringles, a half a package of sugar cookies, 2 packs of peanut butter crackers, 2 donuts, and 4 quarts of Gatorade. Finally, as I went to bed, I started to get my energy back.

I share this story, not because I want to toot my own horn, but rather to sing the praises of JR Petsko.  I have never met a person who was more willing to give up their own time and spend their own money to make our local mountain biking trails what they are. And YES, I recognize that he also scratches out his
living from promoting race events, but those of us who have tried to keep up with him when he is doing trail maintenance knows he puts far more time and effort into our local trails than he could ever expect to make from promoting the races. I know how hard I worked helping him on Saturday and I don't even want to begin to think about how tired and sore he must have been after 5 days of hard labor. And I know that not everyone who rides a mountain bike, also races, but anyone who has ever had the pleasure of riding the trails in the weeks following one of JR's events knows what I am talking about when I say he is probably the single best thing to happen to our sport in this area in a long time. So the next time you get an email from him begging for your help, don't just automatically send it to the deleted file because you plan on riding
somewhere else that day. Whether you're a mountain biker who thinks roadies are stuck up snobs or roadie who thinks mountain bikers are a bunch of thrill seeking yahoos, PLEASE consider helping out as a volunteer for events that you cant or wont participate, or bring your significant other to act as a volunteer on your behalf. If we each do this for one race a year, "our" local
race scene will continue for many years to come. But if we all expect someone else to step up instead, we will eventually be faced with cancelled races because while JR is a man of many talents, he cant be at every corner and we need someone there to look out for OUR SAFETY as we are racing on public roads.  God forbid, but if he ever has to quit promoting races in lieu of a "real" job, we are all going to suffer.  I've said it for years... I'd rather spend 3 hours helping him set up or clean up after a local race than to have to drive 7 hours round trip to a MABRA race... I still gain 4 hours and 30 gallons of fuel that I would have lost traveling to another race.

JR.. from the bottom of my heart I thank you for all that you have done for me, my friends, and the cycling community as a whole. Your generosity of your time and your resources is appreciated and I want you to know that my life, and the lives of so many other local cyclists, is better because of what you do.  PLEASE, don't hesitate to ask for help from me or turn me away when I can repay the favor.  We are all indebted to you and to Gina for allowing you the freedom to pursue such a financially unrewarding career. Thank you, thank you, thank you! And of course, Thank You!