On longer brevets, riders tend to get pretty spread out. During the recent D.C. Randonneurs 400K, the first finisher arrived at 7:30 p.m., and the lanterne rouge ended its journey at 5:50 a.m. Other rider arrivals were interspersed throughout the evening. The 17 finishers spanned more than 10 hours (and one good night’s sleep) in their completion of the brevet.
Felkerino and I were able to make it out to a couple of the early controls and saw how the riders were beginning to shake out in terms of pace and placement in the field. That helped give us a visual of rider progress as the brevet unfolded.
A couple of the other things that really helped us as the miles added up and the hours passed were the tweets and Facebook updates we received from riders. Updates included information like:
- Location (Shippensburg, 90 miles to go);
- Temperature and weather (HEAT! Thunder!);
- Rider disposition (Tired. Hungry); and
- Whether people were alone or paired with other riders.
All tweets and Facebook updates were time-stamped. This information gave us a good sense of the field throughout the ride. These updates also allowed us to guesstimate the randonneurs’ arrival times, and plan our pizza orders accordingly.
Lots of people have mixed feelings or outright dislike social media applications like Twitter and Facebook. However, from the perspective of a ride organizer, it’s helpful to get periodic notes regarding rider progress.
I find Twitter to be particularly helpful in regard to tracking rider progress because:
- Unless a person protect his or her tweets, everyone can see them;
- It’s easy to track people by event;
- Tweets are quick and easy to send, and limited to 140 characters.
Facebook, while also helpful, is a little clunkier for rider tracking because:
- Usually, you have to be friends with the rider to access their updates; and
- Facebook is a less nimble application than Twitter (and takes forever to load on a mobile device). On the road, it’s better to have something fast. Tweet and go; don’t get mired in the distraction that is Facebook!
Nevertheless, both Facebook and Twitter proved beneficial during our recent foray into long-distance ride organizing. If you randonneur and have a smart phone, I recommend setting up a Twitter account and tweeting your progress on brevets.
Twitter and Facebook updates are helpful ways to apprise ride organizers, friends, and even fellow riders of your journey. It can be as easy as eating a Snicker’s bar (or an apple, if you prefer) with one hand and typing an update with the other. Easy, right?
And, most importantly, electronic updates let the ride organizers know when to order your hard-earned reward for finishing: pizza!