Monday, August 11, 2014

Dirty Girls: Volunteer

I almost feel guilty about volunteering at the Dirty Girls race.  The Mansfield Outdoor Centre is an 8 minute drive from my house.  When other volunteers are finished their shift, they have a 2 hour drive home.  This is significant because DG is a 12, 24 and 48 hour race.  Vollies are typically at the race site all day or all night.  A 2 hour drive after helping runners for 12 hours is tricky!

Being retired, I was able to give Diane (RD) and Henri (her beautiful assistant) more of my time.  I helped with course and race set-up on Thursday, had Friday off, then worked at the start/finish aid station on Friday and Saturday nights.  Probably of more importance from Diane and Henri's perspective, Lee Anne and I offer them a room to store race materials and a bed to sleep, up in Creemore.  I think a good night's sleep on Wednesday night, 8 minutes from the race is very key.  Diane and Henri don't get much sleep from Thursday evening to Sunday evening!

As mentioned above, DG has 3 races.  I like to think of them along the following lines:

12 hour:  Seriously disturbed humans
24 hour:  Do you really consider yourself to be human?  Why?
48 hour:  Avoid these people.  No, really - avert your eyes!

There comes a point in the 12 hour race where each and every one of the runners questions their sanity.  I hope.  Almost immediately following this "anti" epiphany is the realization that there are other people out there who look at the first 12 hours of running as the warm-up.  Working at the aid station, I could almost predict the point at which the 12 hour runners would look at me, stare for a few seconds, then exclaim "those 24 and 48 runners are totally whacked"!  Aside from being married to one of them, I couldn't agree more...

If we suspend sanity for an instant, purely in the cause of pursuing a logical conclusion, it could be argued that running 24 hours is simply a very great challenge.  People have done extraordinary things for a very long time, for various good reasons.  I once participated in a 12 hour dance-a-thon.  People drink alcohol for more than 24 hours.  Some of them live!  Running, although much harder than dancing or drinking, can be maintained for a very long time.  The 24 hour runners followed a fairly typical decay.  Most ran between 6 and 12 hours, then ran/walked for another 4 - 6 hours, then walked with a few running "breaks" until the 24 hours was complete.  None of this is overly strange, from an academic perspective.  But you might want to volunteer at a 24 hour race before you decide to run one yourself.  You will soon realize that the most bizarre things will happen to you!  You learn the best way to duct tape a broken orthotic.  You hear cute little comments like "I just threw up 3 times.  I'm feeling much better now, but will pass on the cold french fries".  Joe Cleary (okay, he was in the 48 hour race) was stung by a wasp.  His hand swelled impressively.  It looked like medical attention was a valid option.  Joe is 73, but decided that continuing with his run was "reasonable"...  Really?

Running 48 hours is considered lunacy, even in ultra circles.  I consider myself to be an ultra runner, although I have not yet been able to train for "true" ultra distances (50 miles or more), but even if I was completely healthy, in top shape and had no injuries, going for a run that started at sun-up, progressed until sundown, then continued through another sun-up, then another sundown, and finally another sun-up?  Nope.  Not going to happen!  The neat thing about a 48 hour race is perspective.  It makes a 24 hour race seem normal.  I mean, you only see the sun go down once.  How hard can it be?  I know, leaning towards certifiable.

Working at an aid station is a lot of fun.  You are the only person not experiencing extreme pain.  You are coherent (assuming the wine is moderated) and all you need to do is provide the runners with SOMETHING that appeals to them.  This can be tricky, but after working at an aid station for a few races, it becomes easier.  Is the runner sweating?  No?  Push the cold fries dipped in salt.  The runner looks good, but wants a change of menu?  Suggest some soup or a grilled cheese.  Runners tend to rely on gels, or a special mixture in their handheld bottle.  This is important as they need to find what works for them hour after hour.  But all runners eventually tire of the same old thing.  That's when a volunteer can make a big difference.  DG is a LONG race on an 8K loop.  You see the same runners about every 90 minutes.  Yes, it is a fairly tough course!  You start to anticipate what they would want.  I try to instill humour into the equation.  Come on Kim!  Only 45 hours to go - time to pick up the pace!  Just a note:  Runners either laugh at your joke, or they kill you...

Well, Lee Anne and I just found out that we are in the Can Lake 50.  We were quite far down the waiting list, but are now in the race!  Lee Anne is running the 50M and I will tackle the 50K.  I don't know much about the race, aside from it takes place mostly on pavement, and the RD Egils Robs is very competent and accommodating.  So we are off to Rochester NY on October 11.  Looks like I am only running 25K at Run for the Toad!


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