Saturday, March 20, 2010

Volunteering at the Diablo Trails Race

Today was another Brazen Racing event, this one at the very challenging Mt. Diablo State Park. I chose to volunteer at this event (I get a free future race, so it wasn't all just from the goodness of my heart), and ended up assigned to the last aid station for the 50K (31.1 miles) course.

Weird Haired Mom and Needs Cool Name (parents of the grandchildren) both ran the 5K course. I met them at the starting area fairly early. WHM is holding their new attack mutt Dove. Dogs were not allowed in the state park (the starting line was actually in a county park), so they left her in their car for the hour or so it took them to do the race.

At about this time Mas (not his real name) from Brazen saw me and asked if I had a car - they needed to have some 50K maps delivered quickly to one of the early aid stations, so I grabbed them and this was the last I saw of these three. (I did also see Uidualc, Coach Luap, and Coach Werdna - none of these are real names - briefly as I was heading to my car. Uidualc and Luap walked the half marathon course and Werdna walked the 10K course.)

This was the aid station that I delivered the maps to (I managed to get there before the first runners did).

I then drove to where I guessed the aid station I was working at was going to be set up. Since this station was 28.1 miles into the race, we did not need to have it set up all that early. (As it turned out, the first runner got there about four and a half hours after the race started.)

These were the three main aid station people, and they were very good at it. From right to left, they are Eizus, Mit, and Evad. They are all ridiculously fit and do 50K runs like this for training for what they really like to do - 100 mile runs. They were volunteering at this race to meet a requirement for entrance to a 100 mile race in June out of Lake Tahoe. They were excellent at handling the runner's needs as they came through, and were great at making them laugh and feel good about being so close to the end.

This is the view coming up the hill towards the aid station that the runners would have to take. It was (mostly) the last hill they would face. It was great to be able to tell them that.

For most of the day we had at least one and up to three sheriffs on site. We also had four search and rescue volunteers and a radio guy that kept tabs of which runners had crossed which checkpoints. They really did not want to lose anybody in this event.

A scary moment was when a report came in that a half marathon runner had just had a heart attack at one of the other aid stations. This is one of the sheriffs heading over there. (They brought in a helicopter, but the guy said he would be fine with the normal ambulance - apparently he has had health issues and this wasn't his first heart attack. I was relieved to find it wasn't any of the guys I knew out there.)

And here we all are waiting for our first customer. It was a beautiful day with hazy sunshine and a perfect temperature.

The buffet. There was quite a spread of food for the runners (and bored station workers). The thing that surprised me was how popular the Coke was (it was the only thing we ran out of) - apparently runners like it because of the caffeine and sugar, although they generally like it flat. We also went through lots of water, electrolyte drink, and ice.

Those are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and the sign that every one of the runners really liked. Especially when we added that it was all downhill from here.

Finally at 12:30 our first runner arrived. He didn't even seem tired and was really enjoying himself. The next runner showed up 14 minutes later. That was a cool thing about this station - we never had more than three runners at a time. This made my job, taking pictures, much easier.

This is an example of the number of support people we had with us. It was really impressive.

There were two different people tracking the runners on these charts. (There were 64 runners in the 50K event.) They really took this seriously - nobody wanted a runner to be unaccounted for.

I have many pictures of the various runners passing through, but I liked this one with the colorful gators (the things around his ankles to keep pebbles and such from getting in his shoes) and especially the smiley face drawn on his left calf.

The funniest story was of a woman that had signed up for the half marathon (13.1 miles) who's boyfriend had signed up for the 50K. The 50K people had to be there by 6:30 to catch a bus to their starting line. He talked her into going ahead and doing the 50K too, since otherwise she would have to just sit and wait for her 9 AM start time. He never told how far 50K is, and like most Americans, she had no idea it was 31.1 miles (her longest previous run was 14 miles). Amazingly, she was in great shape and was handling it well. The boyfriend probably had some explaining to do later though.

And then we had the last runner come through (along with two "sweepers" - runners who make sure there is nobody behind them and who collect all the trail marking ribbons, which this woman has fashioned into a hula skirt).

And that's about it. We all got a mild sunburn, but nobody seemed to mind. According to WHM, even the 5K course ended up crossing three formidable creeks (twice actually, out and back). Werdna said he counted 29 crossings on his 10K. There was some mud as well, but nothing like we have seen previously.

Working with these ultra marathoners has made me decide that I would really like to be able to do hill-infested 50K events like this. (There is a 10 hour cutoff. I could probably manage the distance, but no way could I do it in 10 hours.) So I am going to make a concerted effort to get to this point during this summer.

Which means I probably should not have enjoyed as much of the "aid" as I should have.

That's it - move along...


mrs. Notthat said...

I bet you were great to have at the station! Sounds like lots of fun!!

homey said...

I have no doubt you could easily finish a 50k with the raw talent you already have in under 10 hours. Glad to hear you're hooked!

notthatlucas said...

You are both too kind! That 50K had a LOT of elevation change - it would have been very challenging just finishing now. Also, I just saw that the Wildcat half has a four hour limit. I think I'll wait until I see the elevation maps before committing.

DAK said...

Didn't you hurt yourself awhile back? Are you OK now, enough to even THINK of one of these ultras? Also, have you lost your mind completely?

briteblackness said...,-122.246246+to:Stage+Rd&geocode=FanuOwIdfpq3-A%3B%3BFfBwOAIdxJS0-A&hl=en&mra=dpe&mrcr=0&mrsp=1&sz=11&via=1&sll=37.40671,-122.259293&sspn=0.425981,0.891953&ie=UTF8&ll=37.252313,-122.380271&spn=0.013339,0.027874&z=16

just to show how far 31.1 mils the trip to the Pescadero grocery is only 34.6 from your front door

notthatlucas said...

DAK - I cracked a rib a few weeks ago. It's gotten a lot better (didn't hurt at all for today's 12 mile hike). As far as the mind thing, probably.

BriteBlackness - But their bread would be worth it and a great reward!