Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Other Side of the Aid Station Table

If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else. 
~Booker T. Washington

I have run quite a few races and am always grateful for the volunteers. I hope over the years I have been able to express that gratitude, through my huffing and puffing. It then only seems right that I return the good deed.

Last year I volunteered for a short period of time at the Javelina Jundred hosted by Aravaipa Running, one of the best running event hosts ever.. I loved it so much that I vowed to do it again and stay as long as possible. This year I took my two teenagers with me and we had a great time.

The Javelina Jundred is a 100 mile endurance trail run held in McDowell Mountain Park, just east of Phoenix, Arizona.  This year it was held November 12th through the 13th. The Javelina Jundred is always held on the weekend of the full moon closet to Halloween. It is a great big party with racers dressing up in costume and the handmade awards reminiscent of Dia de los Muertos. 

Volunteers arrive on Thursday to set up and are there through clean up on Sunday. The kids and I arrived Friday just in time for dinner and our first shift. We actually followed the PF Chang’s catering truck into the park. The main aid station, Javelina Headquarters, slash food tent, was well organized. I helped set up this tent last year and this year the improved organization was stellar. They brought out shelves, a portable sink and cleaning station, a refrigerator, and a stove! Yes a stove and fridge out on the desert.

We served the hungry runners white and brown rice with cashew chicken and for the vegans a veggie rice noodle dish. It smelled wonderful and by the number of people who came through the line two and three times, it must have tasted great too. For dessert there were two flavors of cake, cranberry cookies, and brownie bites. The volunteers can have dinner but I was so full from lunch that I only had a small piece of cake.

After dinner the kids and I retired to our truck to sleep. We had a 3:30 AM wakeup call for our next shift at the pack pickup table, for those runners arriving at the last minute.

If you have run a race you know that most people do not sleep well the night before. The anticipation, nerves, excitement, fear of missing the alarm, all conspires to a restless night; this was no different for me. I woke several times throughout the night. Around 2 AM people started arriving, either volunteers or runners that drove in. I finally gave up and rolled out of my sleeping bag at 3:15 AM, went to the restroom, brushed my teeth, and washed my face.

The kids and I, along with another volunteer hung out at the table and checked in runners until 6 AM when the runners were on their way! 

Now the kids and I had a long time until our next shift at 11 PM that night. So, my son went back to get a little more sleep, daughter to read, and I grabbed homework. A few hours later we decided to go into Fountain Hills, the closest town, and get a bite to eat and some much needed coffee. There is always coffee at Javelina Headquarters, but I needed it in large quantities and with liquid creamer… note to self, next year bring my cream.

We ventured in and found a great little bagel shop called JD’sBagel Cafe. I missed the cafe part and was prepared for just bagels, but it is really a deli. They have pasta salads, breakfast foods, wraps, as well as bagels and coffee. The service was great and I enjoyed my wrap and coffee.

After brunch we went back out to the camp site and just hung out. I did more homework and helped some runners as they came through the aid station. At about 3 PM I decided that I should try to take a nap. I crawled into the back of our truck and curled up with my blankie. The kids were in the front of the truck and we all eventually slipped off into dream land. I awoke to darkening skies and the need to go to the restroom. After I returned, I tried to sleep some more, knowing it was going to be a long night, but to no avail.

The kids and I got up and headed over to the Headquarters, grabbed some pizza, and checked out the leaders’ board. It was really neat to see the runners and the different laps they had completed. The race is run on a looping trail; runners do six laps of 15.4 miles, alternating direction on each completed lap, and then a shorter lap of 9 miles; so the race actually ends up being 101.4 miles total. While we were eating dinner, Hal Koerner crossed the finish line, to win, and set a new course record of 13:47:46; that is 8.16 miles per hour; 101.4 miles in less than 14 hours!!!

At 10:45 PM we could not stand it anymore and manned our stations. We were once again at the food tent and what a spread there was! Not only did they have the standard fare of gels, PB&J sandwiches, Gatorade, and water; they also had noodle soup, veggie soup, hamburgers, Nutella sandwiches, two other kinds of electrolyte drinks, and various assortments of snacks. This is my kind of event!

The kids and I, along with a few other volunteers were on duty from 11 PM Saturday night until 7 AM Sunday morning. During that time we encouraged runners as they came in, refilled bottles and hydration packs, escorted to medical if needed, filled cups with soup, made straight broth and anything else that they needed. We hooted and hollered, clapped and whistled. The next thing we knew it was getting light out. 

I could not believe that I had made it through the night without falling asleep. I was so energized from the runners and the other volunteers that I think I could have stayed and continued working. However, we had to get home so we could nap and then get homework and scholarship applications done. The only thing I would change for next year is to get a shift in the middle of the day somewhere. I felt useless and the time dragged on forever… or maybe I’ll go for a hike.

After very little sleep two nights before and 32 hours awake, the kids and I made it home, and my bed never felt so good. I felt a little guilty as my head hit the pillow, knowing there were still runners and volunteers out there.

If you ever get a chance to volunteer for a race do it. 
If you get the chance to volunteer for an ultra-race DO IT! 
Everyone is amazing and inspiring, nice and so very appreciative.

I am only one, but I am one. 
I cannot do everything, but I can do something. 
And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do. 
~Edward Everett Hale

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing experience! That's so awesome that you volunteered for that. I've been a race volunteer twice handing out water at marathons, but I imagine volunteering at a 100 mile race is pretty crazy. Good for you!