Monday, April 8, 2013

Paying it Back

Ever wondered what a trail 50k in Western Oregon is like in April?

We've been experiencing some unseasonably warm and dry days here..until a few days before the Shotgun Trail Blast. Then things turned more typical- wet and wetter. I had the Shotgun Trail Blast on my radar but was unable to race it this year. Since I am still pretty new to trails and trail races, I thought I might volunteer this for fun anyway.
Racers at the start of the 50k- Different waves for each distance
 The course was looped - 5.2 mi X 6 for the 50k racers, X 3 for the 25kers. I was assigned to an aid station about 2 miles from the finish line (.25 if you are not racing).

When I went to relieve the first shift, I found 2 ladies standing on the muddy trail by the table, wearing soaking-wet sweatshirts. I can only assume they were there from 9am until I got there at 12. It had been raining non-stop.  They seemed glad to see me and quickly made their way back downhill.

For the next three hours I was water-girl, Gatorade-girl, gel dispenser, keeper-of-the-first-aid-box, and cheerleader. I loved it!

Under my rain coat, I wore 3 layers of shirts and stayed mostly warm by walking up and down a stretch of about 40 yards so I could see if anyone was coming. There weren't a load of racers in the combined 25-50k, so there were some longer stretches with no one coming through.  I passed the time filling cups, arranging gel packages and hiking my little track. I also timed myself at wall-sits against a fir tree several times. :)
Photos with permission from Long Run Picture Company

Whenever racers appeared I cheered and also asked to see how they were feeling. There were a few complaints about being "done" or "wet", but most were happy to keep moving through. The station was at a slippery downhill hair-pin turn, and I saw several racers almost bite it. Luckily there were no accidents, but as the race wore on, the mud got thicker and slicker.

The last racers came through at about 3:20pm. I packed up the folding table, garbage bag, first aid box, and made a short hike back to the finish line shelter. Some delicious, hot food catered by Qdoba, was waiting for me there (Or maybe it was for the racers, but there was enough for me too..).

A few things I took away from the experience:

  • It was surprising how many people wore regular trainers. It was muddy and trail shoes are the only way to go in those conditions. Mud just cakes onto regular trainers and makes them very heavy.
  • It didn't appear that anyone brought a change of clothes after the race, or for changing into during. I offered a shirt to a lady but she didn't take it. Perhaps it would have been wet in 5 minutes. I hate wearing a rain coat to run in, but I hate being cold more.
  • Nearly everyone coming through on the trail said "thank you" . This happens at other races I have volunteered, but I think the trail racers are especially thankful to see another body there for them - just in case.
  • The race company, eclectic edge, does a great job organizing their races. I enjoy volunteering, but they also offer a discount on future races for volunteers as an incentive- a nice gesture. There were loads of medals, awards and random prizes- and lots of wet, dirty but satisfied, finishers.
  • For sure, this was a challenging course. The first man might have passed me only once in my shift, but was running well and it still took him 4:38 for the 50K. The first female finished in 5:46, and she was definitely running. Trails just can't compare with road times.

I'll be heading back there once things dry out a bit, as there is a fantastic trail network at Shotgun Creek- (though beware of many roots and rocks). Hopefully I can slosh through the mud next April with a bib on, but after this weekend, I'll know what to expect!



24 comments:

  1. Very cool! It is always a nice break for me to volunteer at a race. I enjoy seeing the other side of things and focusing on others. Good for you! :)

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  2. What a neat experience! Very nice of you to volunteer. I can't believe most didn't bring a change of clothes. Odd.

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  3. Sounds fun, I want to volunteer at a race soon too.

    Love that you were doing wall sits against a tree, LOL!

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  4. What an experience to have! I've never run trails before but this sounds hard...wet and hard. No change of clothes? That's my favorite part after a cold or wet run!!

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    1. I was kind of surprised about that. There was a fire going in the shelter fire place though. I think I might have put a dry bag along the course somewhere since it was looped.

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  5. That's so cool that you volunteered and now have an inside edge as to what to expect next year. I'm not sure I could run in the rain for that long...we just don't get those sort of rains out here. Watch, it'll happen at my next long race, I just jinxed it :). I'm glad you had a good time, and got some yummy (hot) food after!

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  6. Volunteering at a trail run would definitely make me want to go run one myself! Can't wait to hear about your experience when you get out there, Raina! The times are always so much slower, there are little to no spectators and the vibe is supposed to be so much different than a road race. Sounds so interesting and I would love to do it myself one day, too.

    I'm sure they loved seeing you out there supporting them!!

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  7. Awesome that you had a chance to volunteer. Volunteering at races always motivates me for my next run & race. I should definitely do some 50k volunteer work (rather than regular races) so I can get an idea of what I'm in for during my first one in August!

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  8. Thank you for volunteering!! I am a very strong beleiver that we should give back to our sport. The triathlon team I am on, it is required that we volunteer at least once in the season.

    In 2014, I am considering giving trail races a chance, from what I have read and heard, it is a much more laid back atmosphere than road races and triathlons.

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  9. Thank you for being a volunteer, sounds like a great experience! I always try to say thank you to the volunteers at races, and even to the guy picking up the trash around the trail at the Lake on my long run last weekend! I hope youre back out there SOON!

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  10. Nice work on volunteering, Raina! I need to volunteer some. It's good to get a different perspective of the race. I did Shotgun Creek 25K the year it wasn't muddy at all. I think it's time I tried it in this kind of weather. :) I also like how you hiked up and down and did tree sits!

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  11. I need to volunteer more because it is fun. I have volunteered at smaller races, but never for an ultra. I think runners make the best volunteers. :-)

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  12. Volunteering always whets my appetite to race! Good for you sticking it out in the rain to help the runners. :^)

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  13. Great work volunteering, I am sure all the trail runners appreciated it greatly. I have made a point my last few races to really say thanks to people helping out. You have a whole new appreciation for it after being on both ends. I don't volunteer as much as I'd like, or as much as I should (mainly because I am usually racing), but I love doing it. I have already emailed some races to try and help out this year in between all of mine. A few things volunteering has taught me:
    1)Volunteers are crucial
    2)It makes me want to race more, nothing more motivational than watching every single runner go by you!
    3)Every person out there needs support No matter how fast or slow you're going, everyone should get the same amount.

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  14. Sounds like a great experience and a nice way to give something back. I hate being cold and wet too and usually opt for an extra layer.

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  15. Trail running's a different beast, isn't it?! Volunteers are always appreciated and it can be quite fun-even if it's wet and cold! Good work, sister!

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  16. I reckon helping/spectating was the preferable option that day. Good that you were able to get in a bit of cross-training while helping out. Yes, if I was running a lap course ultra I'd have 3 spare sets of clothes/shoes to change in to! BTW, there's a word missing (or something) from the 2nd sentence, 2nd paragraph.

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    1. Dang it!!!! I wish I had you proof read it first! Ha!! At least I can edit it now. Stupid spell check.
      You win 100 points for finding a mistake and pointing it out today. Keep track of your own points!

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  17. That sounds like fun even though it was wet! Good on you for volunteering Raina, it sounds like you did a great job. Volunteers are such a vital part of a race and I always try to thank them even if I am nearly breathless! I'd love to volunteer one day too.

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  18. I'm so glad you got to volunteer. If you love races, it's an awesome experience from any standpoint, isn't it? Sounds like awful conditions, though!

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  19. Rainy races are the worst I think. Great job to those runners and you for toughing it out. If I wasn't racing I would have definitely gone with a rain coat! Smart thinking

    I do love volunteering at races though. It's so much fun.

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  20. That's awesome that you volunteered. If there was a race nearby that I wasn't racing, I'd totally volunteer or spectate.

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  21. Wow, what a cool experience!! I've been wanting to volunteer at a race, but I've never even BEEN to a trail race. :) If I ever run one, I'm coming to you for tips!

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  22. What a beautiful experience. You are very kind to help the runners.
    As you I hate to run wearing a rain coat, it is uncomfortable.
    I don't have many trail experiences, I entered some races when I was member of the Navy Team.

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