Monday, July 23, 2012

Volunteering at AC100 Ultramarathon

Photo by Stuart Fingerhut

Wow, what a crazy race! And my first race volunteer experience ever.

Ashley asked me if I wanted to volunteer with her a couple of months ago and we've been talking about it ever since. Last Friday, I couldn't believe it was time to finally head out there and spend the weekend helping runners as they got closer to the finish line.

Plan was to meet up with Ashley in Arcadia at her work so that I could transfer all the sodas I bought for the race. (13 2-liter bottles of coke and 2-13 packs of mountain dew and I think we used almost all of it!)
Everything seemed to be going well. I got there right at noon (and getting to places on time is an issue for me haha), we moved all the soda to her mom's truck that she was borrowing. And then when she goes to start the car, nothing. ?????!?!?! The car would not start. We were on hold with AAA for 20 minutes before they finally picked up and told us their servers were down and nobody would get to us for at least another hour and a half. It was 12:40 at this point and we needed to be at the gate to the trail at 1pm to meet up with the people who had keys or otherwise we would not be able to get up there!

After panicking for some time, we decided the best idea was to cram everything into my Xterra and head out. Ashley didn't think all the food supplies she had carefully and meticulously packed into the much bigger truck would fit into my smaller Xterra but there was no other choice. We moved everything to the other car and took off. By some miracle we made it there shortly after 1pm and met up with the HAM radio crew and the other 2 guys who were volunteering with us, Brian and Stuart.

The drive up there was INSANE. I happen to own a 4x4 but I never take it off-roading. I hate driving so really, unless I have to drive somewhere, my car usually sits nice and pretty in it's shaded parking spot. I asked Ashley to drive it because I did not want to be driving up the mountain, and there really was no way I would've driven up there without having a panic attack. Some spots were so sketchy that it felt like the could would just topple over and we'd be dead since there was nothing but air on the other side of the narrow trail. D: Beautiful views to run on but not for driving. Scary.

We all finally made it up safely to the Sam Merrill (mile 89.25) spot where we would be spending the weekend. We set up our aid station and decorated with lots of pink, balloons and lanterns, laid out all of the food (And there was not one thing Ashley didn't think of! Our station had probably the greatest variety I have ever seen!) And then there was a whole lot of waiting around until we saw our first runner at around 9pm. We had all changed into our nurse and surgical doctor (?) costumes because if you know Ashley and I, you'd know that we much rather do things like this is costume. The boys were good sports and wore the costumes she got for them. Thank goodness they were cool because I was afraid they were just going to look at us and be like "wtf?". We sat around drinking beer, listening to music, and chatting while we waited.

Between 9pm and midnight we only saw a handful of people and they were pretty spread out at the time. The leaders were in good spirits and really nice but they didn't really want to eat anything. During the rest of the night, the number of runners arriving at our aid station increased with the majority of them arriving in the morning once the sun was coming up. It got really busy at that time.
I cooked all of the warm food; bean and cheese burritos, quesadillas and grilled cheese sandwhiches. Once the sun came up, most people coming through wanted as much ice as they could have. All four of us were a frenzy of filling up water bottles and camebaks with ice and water, serving out coke, and cutting up watermelon for everybody.

Everybody was nice but you could tell they were exhausted after a full day of the hottest temperatures in the race's history (!) and a night of running in the dark with not much cooler temperatures. We tried to motivate them, feed them and hydrate them as well as we could and send them on their way. It's amazing what people can accomplish when they set their minds to do something. I still don't know if I'm mentally strong enough to embark on a 100-miler, nor do I have any desire really at this time. It just seems like pure misery to me. Especially this race. More than half of the runners DNF'd. I'm sure all of them are amazing athletes but those conditions were just BRUTAL this weekend. I was miserable just with the heat and sleeplessness and I wasn't even doing anything! I can't imagine being out there, and it's frankly not something I feel like testing myself against yet. Maybe someday but not right now.  

Overall, I learned a lot this weekend. And it was interesting to be on the other side. Great to see the determination on the athletes' faces that came through our aid station. Had a fun time and made new friends. Brian and Stuart were hilarious and such a huge help. Our sexy head nurse aid station leader Ashley was awesome as always and we actually got remarks from the male runners that they did not want to leave our awesome aid station. Haha.

After being awake for 31 hours when I was driving home yesterday afternoon slapping myself on the face to stay awake, I was super cranky and wishing I had stayed home in my air conditioned apartment snuggling with my doggy and my boyfriend. But today, I kind of miss being out there. If you ever have the time to volunteer at a race like this, totally go ahead and do it. It was crazy fun and inspirational.

1 comment:

  1. Those Ultra guys are amazing. Sounds like you had lots of fun.