Sunday, December 12, 2010

Over the Hill and Through the Woods

Doug and the girls and I volunteered at the Pine Mountain 40 mile trail run last weekend. Doug has run the Twisted Ankle Marathon, but that is the closest that we have come to an ultra marathon. To save the trouble of linking, I'll just tell you that an ultra marathon is any running race in which the distance is longer than 26.2 miles. Doug and I have been interested in the ultra-running for a while and who wouldn't rather run on trails than on the road?

So, anyway, we signed up to volunteer for fun and to get a window into the action. Doug may be ready to run an ultra in the next year or so, but it will be a while yet for me to build the mileage. Volunteering was great fun despite the frigid temperatures. The race was held at the F.D. Roosevelt State Park, which is basically a mountain plopped down in the middle of the piedmont near Callaway Gardens and the Little White House. The mountain is hilly and the trail is what they call "single track," which means that there is only room to run single file. And there are rocks, lots of rocks, on the trail and they are covered with leaves, which meant that the race was very challenging.

Here is a photo of the girls on the trail. Notice how you can't really see a trail? You navigate by keeping the blue blazes on the trees on one side of you.

We arrived at the site to find a happy band of volunteers and a very organized set-up. Victor, aid-station director extraordinaire, had lugged three coolers of water, a table and 2 bins of food down the trail about 1/4 mile from the parking lot to the Fox Den location. There was a lot of talk amongst the regulars about how Sally would want to see the aid station. Here is a photo of the famous Sally (who was really darn fast, by the way) and the delightfully tidy and organized aid station.

Here is our happy band, from the left: the guy who runs 100 mile races, Amanda, me, Doug, the guy who was both volunteer and sweeper, and Amanda's husband?

And again, with Victor on the left. Not only was Victor super-organized and seemingly tireless, he had a really nice camera and took photos of all of the runners and got their email addresses to send them race photos. He sent all of the good photos included in this post. The grainy ones are from my phone.

The guy who runs 100 mile races was a trail veteran who started running ultras after he finished running a marathon in all 50 states. He told me all about ultras and was a cool guy. He left us right at closing time because he had to give a guy whose knee was tweaked a ride back to the finish.

So, here we are in action. Doug would grab the runners' water-bottles or camelbaks and fill them while he explained how many miles they had to go and that this was the last chance for calories though there was water a couple of miles down the road. Some of the runners were totally with it and hogged out of the food, while others were loopy and had trouble with conversation. Several runners were bloody from close encounters with the trail. You can see the 100 mile race guy in his chair on the right. He was taking down numbers of each runner and the time they came through. This is a safety measure to make sure that no runners got lost on the trail and that we didn't leave anyone out there when we closed the station.
Here are the girls enjoying a snack. They like to run down the trail and greet the runners and collect their water bottles to bring back to refill. When they got too cold, we put them in the car with a movie on the computer, which worked great. Then they returned to help out with the volunteering and run around like crazed monkeys. Notice that Annika is wearing her Brooks Ghost shoes too. Hee.

Victor put me to work making PB&Js, which is a good job for me, so I did that while I watched for numbers and called them out for 100 mile racing guy (across the trail) while Doug greeted runners and refilled waters with Victor.

It was really cool. We got to see all kinds of folks running in all shapes and sizes and levels of tuckered-out-ness. The guy who won was holding a 7:XX min/mile pace and looked as fresh as I would after 3 miles. He ran down the hill from the aid station like a deer. The two guys behind him were holding an under 8:00 min/mile pace, but they showed a bit more strain.
Some runners brought their own aid crews. Every few minutes some people would hike down the trail with a backpack and ask if their runner had come through. If not, they would hang out with us and bust out a buffet of food/drink from their backpacks and wait. One guy's girlfriend had a whole grocery store in his bag, but all he wanted was jerky. Beef jerky. There is apparently no "I-can-only-take-liquids-on-the-run" in an ultra. People were scarfing down the PB&Js faster than I could make them. This girl volunteered or ran last year (I can tell from her cool beanie) and she hung out with us for a while because she was early to meet her runner. She had on the Brooks Green Silence shoes. I've been lusting after these Green Silences but haven't been able to justify a purchase yet since I'm currently rotating through my four pairs of Brooks Glycerine 8s. But soon they will be mine. Yessss, they will be mine. In case you want some, I noticed that the Brooks site has a bunch of stuff available with free shipping. Whoo!

It was cool to see the different clothes and gear everyone brought. Lots of people had on these cool gaiters to keep the junk from getting into their shoes. They are called Dirty Girl Gaiters. Hee. As an aside, Ms. Dirty Girl looks like a heckuva lot ot fun and they have free shipping too. Score!
So, anyway, a good time was had by all and Doug and I both joined up with the G.U.T.S. crew for the year so we can aspire to trail greatness. : )

1 comment:

Georgia Triathlete said...

Very cool to read a report on Pine Mountain from the volunteer perspective. Since you joined GUTS, make a point of meeting Matthew Grund during one of their events or training runs. He & I work together and he's a serious ultra runner - he's running the Rocky Raccoon 100 in a couple of weeks.