Thursday, July 21, 2011

In Memoriam

On the last weekend of this month, SIR will put on two brevets, back-to-back starting in Tumwater, Washington.  SIR relies on members to organize these events and last winter I raised my hand when Mark Thomas, club president asked for volunteers. I’ll do a little organizing but there is a whole bevy of volunteers who work together to make these events more than just some chicken scratch on the calendar.

These two rides are particularly meaningful for a number of reasons;

• First, they are the last ACP certified events the club will put on before the next running of Paris Brest Paris.
• Second, they are back to back, meaning that riders will roll out at 6:00am on July 30th for 300Km of fun in the (hopefully) sun and then get up the next morning to ride again, this time a 200Km brevet.
• Third, this mini-camp originated in 2003 when a few newish and wildly enthusiastic local randonneurs volunteered to put on just such rides making this the third quadrennial running, possibly a club tradition.
• Finally, in 2007 another newish and enthusiastic randonneur, Steve Hameister suffered a heart attack and died while riding the 300K event.

It was hot on the day, I was riding at the back of the pack, suffering stomach distress, Finding little to eat or drink that would stay down or offer relief, I had resorted mostly to cold ice tea, preferably unsweetened. Fortunately the Adna store had some on hand so I bought two bottles of Lipton’s, and went outside to marvel at the glorious view of Mt St Helens to the east. From the store if you turn and look to the south west you get a good view of the next punishing climb, Cooks Hill road. As I turned to look in that direction I noticed an emergency services vehicle, lights flashing in the bright sunshine near the top of the hill. I had a twinge of foreboding and remember thinking “I hope that is not for one of our riders.” The scene was cleared long before I got there, and there were no indications of what the nature of the aid call might have been. I rode on, the clock was ticking and there were still lots of miles and more hills to tackle before I would finish.

The next morning, one of the ride organizers announced that Steve had died of a heart attack the day before on Cooks Hill road. At 600am, the body and mind are both weakened by lots of riding and not much sleep in the previous 24 hours. This kind of news can be devastating. I was probably no more troubled by the news than any of the other riders but still it hit me hard, I think it was so for all of us. Not because Steve was a long standing club member, or luminary in the world of randonneuring, but because he was one of us; a weekend worrier who had found a comfortable, if challenging home in the randonneuring community.

There was no ’reason’ that Steve was taken on that day instead of me, or any of the other riders. Like me, and the rest of the riders who rolled out that morning, Steve had no idea that he was at any particularly risk of heart attack. He certainly was not planning to die of a heart attack. In that I suspect he was just like me, and probably everyone else who started that ride.

Whether or not randonneuring is officially an ‘endurance sport’, it can be very taxing; many think it is as much a psychological as a physical challenge. No matter how fit a person is, or how easily they try to ride these brevets, there will almost always be a point during the ride when the heart is stressed.

Up until this year the PBP organizers have required riders to present evidence of a physical exam by a doctor that demonstrates the riders’ fitness for the event. Like many others I treated this as just another paper work exercise. I complied and produced a note from my Doctor stating that, in his opinion there was no medical reason I should not participate in the event. Now that the requirement has been dropped I wonder how many riders will even think of seeking a medical opinion about their fitness for the event.  We're all randos right?  Fit and ready, and like Steve, probably none are planning to have a heart attack.

Before we send the riders out on the 300K event on July 30th I will make some pre-ride announcements; I will remind them that they are required to observe all traffic laws and rules, I will remind them to be courteous and respectful in the little grocery stores and mini-marts they patronize along the route. I will also let them know that this ride is dedicated to the memory of Steve Hameister, a Randonneur not unlike them, who didn’t even know he had a problem but died of a heart attack on this very even four years ago. I’ll suggest that if they think they don’t have any heart problems, and are not planning to have a heart attack Like Steve, perhaps they should consider a visit to a doctor before they head to Paris.

And I will dedicate this ride to the memory of my friend Steve.

Steve Hameister 1954-2007


  1. I rode with Steve the last 100k of the OrRando Grab Bag 300k, a few weeks before that. It was a long out-and=back section, and we stopped at a Subways at the turnaround for some food. I heard him say that he needed to take something for his heartburn, before we headed out. When I got home, I asked my wife - who always complains about reflux and heartburn - "Have you heard of someone taking nitroglycerin for heartburn?" She said, "It's not for heartburn, it's for heart disease." Life is full of risks, and I believe that Steve knew that he ran more risks than most in rando riding. But that did not let him stop it from doing what he enjoyed doing. For that reason, he was a hero and an inspiration for me.

  2. Well put, @Dr. Codfish. I wish everyone well on what sounds like a remarkable event. Back-to-back 300/200 sounds like a great deal of fun. I'd like to see if we can import that idea over here on the right coast. I'll be thinking of you and all of the other SIR brothers and sisters as I ride in the NYC200K on July 31. Now, back to the TdF TT. . .