Some thoughts on RAIN 2014.
The 2014 version of the Ride Across Indiana (RAIN) started at 7 AM on Saturday, July 12, at Saint Mary of the Woods College with John Bassett fulfilling the starter role.
Actually the ride started over a year ago, with planning by the RAIN Committee of the Bloomington Bicycle Club. The date was set and various contracts and commitments were arranged with Saint Mary of the Woods and Earlham College and rest stops in between. Planning and executing RAIN is a huge undertaking of the BBC and involves many, many folks. A core group voluntarily did PRERAIN (Pre-Rain Ride) the preceding weekend in order to give full time to the event the next weekend. John Connell chairs the RAIN Committee and was everywhere at the finish line. Jen Miers and Keith Bobay handled registration, John Bassett was in charge of route mapping and marking, Mark Villanova organized the rest stops, and Tammy Berger handled all merchandise. Ron Brown handled electronic recording of finish times and producing the finisher list. I hope I’ve mentioned the main people who devoted many hours over the year to make this event happen. Many, many other friends and club members were on hand to staff registration and rest stops as well as the finish line. A good crew of volunteers helped stuff over 1200 registration packets a few days before the event. It could not have been done without everyone’s enthusiastic participation. A big THANK YOU to all who pitched in on Friday and Saturday, too. It is a particular challenge that the event covers such a wide area and is so far from home. Somehow it comes together and gets better every year.
Recent innovations that continue to work well include the gatorade and water dispensers, plenty of ice at the rest stops, and more salty snacks at the rest stops, too.
Many people cheer on riders, providing welcome encouragement when energy flags.
A few firsts for this year: maps were released electronically prior to the event and riders were not provided printed maps and cue sheets (riders really don’t need maps or cue sheets, the route is so well marked, some SAG drivers needed help, though), packet pick-up without having to sign a waiver (assuming it was done in advance on-line), baseball and cycling hats available for purchase, a Friday evening buffet meal available for purchase through SMWC, a new location for the finish line at Earlham (one block further west and less inviting to motor vehicles to “accidentally” turn in there; indeed a little behind the scenes pull by Earlham security folks got the highway people to declare the right lane closed to traffic in the block or so approaching the end! For the first time we used only an electronic system to record finish times without the backup of tear-off numbers. Another first (not noted before at least) was a welcome burger and brat concession at the student union near the finish line. For the first time those welcome showers at Earlham were cold! Still welcome, but people didn’t spend so long in the shower!
At each rest stop it is fun to see friends from the club working to help make things work so smoothly and to provide more encouragement. The traditional ices and cold drinks at the Dunreith, not to mention the mister, are always welcome afternoon sustenance and relief.
The fee for participating in RAIN is relatively modest by comparison with fees for other comparable cycling events and basically covers expenses. Popular merchandise items including custom jerseys, decals, and hats have allowed the club to make a decent profit, which primarily funds our important community grant program as well as a few club activities. The club reimburses out of pocket expenses, like mileage, to all volunteers.
This year’s number of registrations was similar to last year’s, but the number of finishers is vastly higher. This year we had cool, overcast skies, a little light rain midday, and something of a tail wind during much of the day. My own group finished about an hour sooner this year than last year and felt in much better condition at the end of the ride. The rain was always a worry (that it might get heavy), but in fact it was a plus, helping to cool things off. Who could ask for anything more?
This year’s ride also seemed a bit safer. Of course I only saw a small slice of the ride, but I witnessed no accidents of any sort involving cyclists or the aftermath of any, and few mechanical issues or even flat tires along the way. Riding did seem kind of crowded for a longer stretch up to the lunch stop and beyond. I was happy that for the last 30-40 miles our group got to ride in its own style and pace with only a few “outsiders” joining us, rather than in huge packs of 50 or more, which always seemed to have a few riders weaving in and out or speeding up and slowing down, etc. Almost everyone was friendly and courteous, though.
At the finish line riders are cheered on and congratulated, times are recorded, pictures taken, and a traditional RAIN medallion keychain
handed out. Official recording of times ends at the stated time of 9 PM, although often folks determinedly finish those last few miles even when they know they’ll miss the cut-off. As long as volunteers are there, and while supplies last, all finishers receive a medallion.
The RAIN Facebook group continues to grow and provides an outlet for many people to post pictures and comments, some during the actual event! Check it out for more perspective on this amazing event. Maybe you, too, have stories and pictures to share!
If you didn’t “ride RAIN” this year, you can start now to dream of doing it next year! And if that seems like torture to you, or if life intervenes with other priorities (how could that be?), then plan now to join the crucial RAIN volunteer corps! Planning is already underway.