Monday, July 2, 2012

MUCing about in the (mostly) foggy Headlands

You would think that I would have gotten my fill of volunteering at a trail race after last weekend's WS100 fun, but that wasn't the case at all. I knew I couldn't run the 50K or 50M distance of the Inside Trail Racing's inaugural Marin Ultra Challenge, so I decided to volunteer.

I was asked to take pictures at the finish line. The finish line was at Rodeo Beach - not exactly tough duty.

The view from halfway up the hill the runners would be coming down. The finish line is near that white awning you can almost see on the left-center.
Yes, it was foggy, damp, windy, and cold most of the day, but still - my job was to stand at a beach and take pictures of runners finishing their race. Such a deal!

There were always surfers out on the waves.
The fog lifted for a bit, then came back, pretended to go away a bit later, then came back for good. When it was gone, the view was glorious.

This is the hill the runners zig-zag down as they finish their race. If you look REALLY carefully you can see the first runner (in a yellow shirt and white hat) just starting down the hill.

And there he is finishing. Between this point (about 10:40 AM) and the end (about 8:10 PM), 124 runners would pass by, each finishing a VERY challenging 50K or 50M course. I took a LOT of pictures, and there were many great moments - following is a sampling of some of them. (There will be a link to more pictures at the end of this post.)

For two years now, I've worked at the Last Chance aid station for the Western States 100. One of the main organizers is Anil (not her real name). I've only seen her in that role, so it was a bit of a surprise to see her in the role of a tough and fast trail runner. Wow!

One of the cool things was how much fun the volunteers were having. (The fresh pizzas that kept showing up sporadically throughout the day helped.) This is Mas (not his real name either) who was one of a group that showed up early to verify the course was still marked (the course was marked by several other volunteers on Friday - there have been instances in the past where vandals have removed ribbons before a race), then hung around just for fun. He wandered around the course taking pictures and directing traffic and generally just keeping things fun and moving.

Another fun moment was this little girl. Her and her mother showed up at about 1:15 to wait for her dad to finish his race. He had projected a 1:30 finish time, but this course was making everyone run a longer time than normal, so I didn't expect to see him for quite a while. And I was right - he didn't show up until 1:32. The little girl was so thrilled that she grabbed him and immediately directed him the wrong way.

Another fun moment was just a bit later when Htenaj (not her…you know) came in and was escorted to the finish line by one of her sons, Hsoj. I'm a sucker for this sort of thing!

And from the completely opposite end of the spectrum, there was this. The two guys laying on the road to the left thought it would be funny to pretend to have fallen asleep while waiting for their squeezes to finish. I loved it - great plan! Except the women didn't even notice them and ran right by. (Note to self: Runners at the end of a race are not always the most observant.)

The woman on the left stood with me for most of the day, helping to direct runners to the finish chute and to enthusiastically cheer them in, all while waiting for her son to finish the 50M race (he's the one on the right).

The funny thing was that, as we talked, it turned out that she was working at the Devil's Thumb aid station last Saturday - the aid station immediately following Last Chance. So we spent a lot of time swapping tales and comparing notes.

Easily the most amazing thing I saw all day was this race within a race - Yval (in red) started down the hill a bit behind Yhcrats (really, in green). Then she smelled the pizza and started flying. Seriously moving fast. When she blew by Yhcrats, he removed his hydration belt, tossed it to the side, then tried to catch her.

That didn't happen - she chicked him by five seconds. What made this amazing is that both of these runners, who didn't know each other but likely had seen each other on and off throughout the day, had gone 50 miles, with over 10,000 feet of elevation gain, and yet still had the energy to, on the spur of the moment, sprint to the finish line. I really love trail runners!

All good things come to an end, and in the damp fog with darkness threatening to set in, the last runner came in (ironically wearing number "1").

It was a long day - officially I was only supposed to be there from 9-2, but there were too many people I wanted to see finish, and one thing led to another, and next thing I knew I was watching raccoons and skunks scouting the area for leftover pizza as we loaded the truck.

Is it fun volunteering? A lot! Is it hard? There were slow periods - we had a lot of time between runners at times, and the wind would get cold. But we'd go browse the buffet, talk with a few finishers, and then a runner would be spotted coming down the hill.

The race went very well - everyone I talked to had great things to say about it, from the well marked trails with their challenging hills to the well stocked aid stations.

Hopefully next year I won't be volunteering here though - I want to run it. (And because I volunteered, I get a free race! Although I'll likely use it LONG before then.)

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures with snarky comments here. You can see all of my pictures from the day (and download any you want) here, on the Inside Trails Picasa site.


Anonymous said...

Ha ha. I sure enjoyed the Lavi beating the other guy at the finish. She was sprinting like she was running 100 meters ! Thanks agian for being there! (daigo)

Starchy said...

By "the other guy," you must mean me. Lavy was awesome. I didn't stand a chance.

mary ann said...

fun stuff and good photos!

notthatlucas said...

Yay Starchy! You were too funny in your pursuit (I hope you looked at the pictures of the event) - thanks for adding that bit of fun to this! (I was the one that brought you your discarded hydration belt - I SO wish I had gotten a picture of that moment; it was a classic!)