Sunday, September 25, 2016

Volunteering at the Ultra Race of Champions

Ultra Race of Champions (UROC)
Volunteer at Confluence Aid Station
September 24, 2016

This past Saturday was UROC.  I had volunteered to be an aid station captain for one of the busier aid stations.  This aid station was at the Auburn Confluence, on No Hands Bridge. The race had a 25k, 50k, and 100k.  The 25k runners came to this aid station twice during the race and the 50k/100k runners came to the aid station three times.  The aid station started around 6 am until midnight.  I was there for most of that time so it was  LONG day for me.  I was completely worn out by the end of the day.  

But, I had a fun day hanging with many friends, mostly from my MRTT group!  

Ellie hanging with mommy for some of the morning.  A good little volunteer!
Here are my 10 most memorable moments of the day:

1.   I arrive at No Hands Bridge a little after 5:30 am.  The supplies were already delivered there so I'm just setting things up.  It's still dark out and no one else is there yet.  I hear some voices coming towards me from across the bridge.  I presume it's the other volunteers starting to arrive to help set up too.  Three guys smoking cigarettes approach and go walking by. They comment about my "camp" set up and continue onto the trail. Not at all who I was expecting to see. I didn't like smelling the cigarette smoke as being on the trails is one of the last places one expects to smell cigarette smoke.  

2.  My aid station didn't have some things but one of those things was s-caps.  Instead, I had a salt shaker!  Some runners asked for s-caps (a somewhat standard aid station item in ultras).  I did suggest to the race organizers to have s-caps (or something like that) at their next event.  Some runners did take some salt from the salt shaker but we definitely got odd looks about it.  

3.  One 25k runner came through the aid station the first time (mile 4.5 for him) and asked for Vaseline as things were already chaffing.  We didn't have any Vaseline or Bodyglide to give him and was concerned that he's already wanting such stuff so early in the race.

He returned later on his way to the finish. He was completely soaking wet (from head to toe).  What confused us is there's not exactly a place to soak himself between Cool and the Bridge unless he somehow went all the way down to the river (going down some narrow trails).   Also, he was SOOO wet that it was more than just dumping a bottle of water over your head.  His shirt and shorts and compression socks were soaked all the way through.  By then, we had gotten some Vaseline so told him we had it for him.  He grabbed a glob and not sure how he planned to put it on being so wet but we continued onto the finish.

4.  There were a lot of runners from foreign countries, which was neat to see.  They would ask how far the next aid station is or how far to the finish and we'd tell them in miles but they wanted to know in kilometers.  We had to convert some miles to km to answer them.  Funny how a race is a 50k/100k but the aid station signs are all in miles.  But, it was definitely appreciated when you finally figured out the distances in kilometers.    

5.  We met one runner from Egypt who was SO positive and nice to all the volunteers.  He was very appreciative every time he came through.  He would thank us and bless us for all being out there.  His positive energy was definitely memorable.  I remember when he came to us the last time.  I tell him just 4.5 miles to the finish.  Someone said to him "you're so close, you can taste it!"  He sticks his tongue out and says "yes I can!"  I just loved his wonderful energy!  And many runners were thankful to us volunteers but he was by far the one who expressed the most gratitude.  

6.  The first place female of the 100k (Camille Herron) came through the third time and drank a beer.  She apparently had three beers during the latter part of the race.  AMAZING!  We had also saw her first thing in the morning and she flew up the hill like it was nothing.  She just crushed it all day long!  All of us were in awe of her!  


7.  One pacer left with her runner towards Cool (mile 45ish of the 100k).  A little while later, she returned.  She said her runner was going so strong and that she didn't feel like pushing it so she told him to go on without her.  She kind of hung around the aid station for awhile waiting for her runner to loop back (it'd be mile 59ish when he returned) and she would pace him the last 4.5 miles to the finish.  I kind of saw her off and on throughout the evening.  

A LOT later, this runner comes in and it's dark out and he's obviously tired.  Vickie and I are tending to him and getting his pack refilled for him and getting him food/drinks.  He asks to sit for a moment.  We say okay and direct him to the chair we had out for runners.  I see someone (I know not a runner) is sitting on our chair and kind of say to get up (not sure who is in our chair).  I go up and see it's that pacer girl is asleep in the chair.  I nudge her to wake up and tell hir to get out of the chair as a runner wants to sit down.  She sleepily opens her eyes and looks up at the runner and says "he's my runner!"  OMG!!  What is up with this pacer?!

8.  We encountered some interesting drunk people in the late evening.

First, a little after sunset, a family walks by the aid station.  They walk towards the tables and lean over the food checking things out and saying "we're not part of this long is this walk..." (kind of being annoying).  We tell them it's a 100k RUN.  They smelled strongly of alcohol and had a small child with them.  They eventually meandered on towards the highway.  We hope they had someone sober to drive.

And later, when it was really late and dark out, we could look across the bridge and see the runner's headlamps coming down the switchback to the bridge.  Vickie and I thought we saw a headlamp coming across the bridge.  A moment later, the light disappeared but we could see there was a person on the bridge.  As we watched this person, believing him to be a runner, we saw him veer towards the side of the bridge.  We both worry he was getting way too close to the side of the bridge so I head across the bridge to see if he needed some help of some sort.  As I near the middle of the bridge, the person doesn't look to be a runner.  i get nervous as now, i'm coming up on some strangers.  A couple turns towards me and I find out they were motorcyclists who decided to stop and check out the bridge.  They also both smelled strongly of alcohol but are friendly enough. I walk back across the bridge to the aid station leaving them be.  

9.  The aid station had a cutoff of 11:25 p.m.  We started cleaning up and getting some things packed up.  We were expecting two more runners to come through.  We waited and waited and waited trying to see any headlamps appear.  As it got around midnight, I was concerned one runner (a friend) had not showed up yet as he had left Cool almost two hours ago.   He had no pacer but I know he knows these trails and was last seen to be doing fine (not struggling).  The other runner, I was less concerned about as i know when she left Cool and had a good pacer and crew.  After awhile of waiting, we finally see some headlamps heading our way and feel some relief.

We see the runner I am not so concerned about and her pacer along with the sweepers.  The sweepers tell me they didn't see another runner when they came in.  One sweeper said she was told to pull the runner as she's past the cutoff and handed me a phone to talk to one of the race organizers.  The runner and her pacer and crew begged me to let them continue to the finish.

But, i was less focused on that runner wanting to finish and the runner that was missing.  His wife was with us and obviously even more concerned now that the sweepers have come in and was not seen at all.  Where is he?

The one runner just hurried out of the aid station determined to get to the finish line.  I'm on the phone talking to the race.  They asked about the runner that should have been pulled.  I tell them she's on her way to the finish and she seems fine.  But, I am MORE concerned that we have a runner missing (and it's really late out and super dark and now, there are no more race markers out).

The clean up truck arrived to take away all the aid station supplies.  We ended up having to leave but I felt very anxious to end the day having a missing runner.

The runner was eventually found.  Not quite sure what happened but  he says he made a series of bonehead decisions.  He was okay other than a bruised ego.  I am grateful he was eventually found and okay but this definitely a good reminder that no matter how experienced a runner is (and this runner has a lengthy ultra running resume), things can just happen.  Races can go not as planned and runners can get lost.  We just need to be prepared to deal with such situations.

10.  Had a great day hanging out and chatting with many friends, some old and some new.  Many fun memories of us just hanging out, chatting, and laughing.  I love my running peeps!

Morning shift volunteers (missing Gary in the pic)
mid-shift volunteers  
evening shift volunteers
(missed getting a night pic of me & Vickie)
Thank you everyone who came out to help out!!!   Made for a fun day!!

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