Sunday, August 21, 2016

Pioneer Spirit 50 - Volunteering

Pioneer Spirit 50
August 20, 2016

I volunteered at the Pioneer Spirit 50.  I was the volunteer coordinator for the event.  Paulo, the RD, is a good friend of mine and I wanted to help out at his race.  And boy did I learn all the work it takes to put on an event.  Just coordinating the many volunteers was quite the task.  Lots of emails and messages back and forth to make sure we have enough people everywhere and people know where they need to go and what they need to do.  

The day was long but went mostly well.  I started by getting up at 4am to head to the race start (race started at 5am).  Then, I went to all the aid stations to make sure they were setting up and/or breaking down okay.  I went through each aid station throughout the day and made my way to the finish until we shut things down.  It was a long day but I had fun.  

All the volunteers were great.  I love seeing how people just step up to help out and many went above and beyond to deal with situations as needed.

Here are my top 10 memorable moments of the day:

1.  Watching the sunrise over Cool while waiting at the Knickerbocker Aid Station.  Just a nice reminder of why I love being out here.

2.   The guys dropped off the supplies at the No Hands Aid Station.  They drove off and I was setting things up.  After I had put up the tables, arranged the tent and set out some supplies, the State Park vehicle came driving up from across the bridge.  We had to move everything off to the side so the truck could get by.  Then, move everything back.  Luckily, the park ranger helped me move the stuff around.

Photo credit: Matt Brayton

3.   Gate 142 Aid Station was definitely one of the more festive aid stations.  They had a fun decorations and a lot of great food.  Maggie made amazing pineapple shakes (which I snagged some and it tasted amazing).  There were a lot of kids at this aid station making it fun.  Krista's son was really great in helping watch/play with my little Ellie.

4.  It was a HOT day and ALL the aid stations need a lot of ice badly.  I was getting texts and calls from all the different aid stations wanting more ice and water.  Racers were going through them fast.  MANY volunteers helped step up by going to the store to buy more ice and getting ice/water delivered to the aid stations.  No one wants to be the deliver of bad news to a parched runner by saying we're out of water and ice.  I think we weren't quite prepared for how fast people would go through ice but I was amazed as to many stepping up to make sure we got ice and water to the aid stations!

5.  While at Oregon Bar, a girl came down and sat in the chair.  She wanted to quit.  And I kept telling her to keep going to Rattlesnake Bar.  I told her the only way out of here is to wait for awhile to be driven out or to hike back up Cardiac.  The easiest way out of here is to keep going to the next aid station.  She did not seem convinced.  Another gal came down and I joked with her to take along the nearly-dropped runner.  Keep each other company.  The girl gave the other girl some encouragement.  And amazingly, she got out of the chair!!

6.  One of my sweepers who was supposed to sweep the last half with my friend Lisa completely flaked on me.  I didn't know who she was but had trusted her.  On the day of the event, she didn't show up and didn't even message me saying she couldn't make it so I didn't have time to plan ahead to get another sweeper.  It ended up being a problem because the one sweeper fell WAY behind staying with runners that had fallen well behind cutoff and after she got to the aid station where they were pulled, she had to keep running a long ways to catch up to the back (which she never did).  And unfortunately, due to some mis-communication, the aid stations shut down on her so she was struggling with no aid and was out there all alone.  I learned a lot about being pickier as to who will be sweepers and making clear to aid stations to wait for sweepers before shutting down.  And having more than one sweeper so if one has to stay behind with a slower runner, the other can keep going ahead.

7.  At Granite Bay, one runner collapsed from the heat of the day.  911 was called and many State Park rangers along with paramedics came to tend to her including giving her some oxygen.  After she was revived and released from the paramedics, without me catching her, she snuck out of the aid station to still make her way to the finish line.  Of course, that stressed me out as she's become a risk.  I remember hearing her husband tell the park ranger that she would not be driving home, he would.   The runner did make it to the finish (looking well, thankfully).  But because of the medical aid she received as well as having people physically carry her off the trail, she was not given an official finish.  

8.  The other tough situation we had to deal with was a runner and pacer coming into an aid station well after the cutoff.  We let some folks go on after the cutoff but they had come in after that.  The pacer was really mad when the volunteers were trying to pull the runner's bib.  She cussed everyone out.  She yelled at how this was bullshit and threatened to have no one come back and do this race next year.  And she ripped the bibs off and threw them on the ground that a volunteer had to pick up.  This really bothered me.  I have been a frustrated/tired/cranky runner in an ultra and have certainly cussed in frustration.  But, I don't think I've ever just cussed out the volunteers.  I will say the runner's behavior was okay.  She just seemed very tired from the day (understandably).  The pacer was the badly behaved person.  

9.  One runner, I saw at many aid stations from Rattlesnake to the finish.  He asked me for some tips in how much salt caps to take and I gave him some input and it was nice to see him reach the next aid station and eventually the finish.  He was very friendly and grateful to me and all the volunteers.  It's nice to feel that I've really helped out at least one particular runner and #187 was that runner for me.  

10.  Hanging out with my many friends at the aid stations!  I loved arriving at all the aid stations and seeing such great volunteers/friends at all of them doing what they could for the racers!

All in all, a good event.  I learned a few things to do better for the next event.  But, it was fun to be part of the production of a running event.  :) 

So many amazing volunteers for this event!

(PS Thank you to the many volunteers at Pioneer Spirit!)

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