Donald Boothby, a Seattle randonneur, died of cancer this past week. I did not know Donald well, but he left such an impression on me during the 2006 edition of the Cascade 1200K, that I wanted to share the fond memories I have of him.
One of the best things about randonneuring is the people you have the chance to meet.
In 2006, I embarked on my first grand randonnee (on tandem with Felkerino), the Cascade 1200K. I’ll never forget that ride: the whole new experience of the 1200K distance; the heat; fellow riders from all parts of the country; and the incredible volunteer support provided by the Seattle International Randonneurs.
Among the volunteers on that ride was Donald Boothby, an avid randonneur and tandem rider. Donald, like many of the volunteers, followed the randonneurs through the 90-hour course and helped out by providing food and water along the way. Volunteering on a 1200K is an intense experience, as arduous as the ride itself, only you don’t get a medal at the end.
Donald provided the best encouragement to Felkerino and me. We rode most of the 1200K just inside the control limits, ultimately finishing in 89 hours. It was the hardest ride I had ever done, and with the uncharacterisctically hot temperatures, I wrestled with my doubts that Felkerino and I would officially complete the ride.
Every time I saw Donald, he said that we were doing great. “Wonderfully,” I remember him saying. “Winning the tandem division.” (We were the only tandem.) The way he spoke always reinstilled my confidence.
To combat the heat, Donald gave me a little toy fan that he said would really help me out in the stoker zone. I’m not sure it helped with the heat, but it made me laugh and kept me moving forward.
On the third night of Cascade, our rear wheel detensioned and our front tire flatted. That required us to install a new wheel which we had brought along “just in case,” as well as change our front tube. We decided to wait until the following morning to mess with the bike and instead, banked 90 minutes of sleep.
When we awoke on the final day, Donald had already put our tandem in his workstand and made us espresso while Ralph Nussbaum and Jeff Bauer went to work on our wheels. Quicker than quick, we were up and on the bike again, with Donald’s espresso running through our veins.
It’s remarkable how people’s belief in you and willingness to help can fuel your body and mind. In that moment, I knew Felkerino and I were going to successfully finish our ride.
Whenever I look back on Cascade, I remember how much the Seattle volunteers helped and encouraged us. I recall Donald Boothby’s thoughtfulness, his ever-positive spirit, and his belief in our tandem team.
Like I said, one of the best things about randonneuring is the people you get to meet. I feel so fortunate to have met Donald, and I’m sorry I won’t get to see him again.