With my right foot still being gimpy (until recently - ran 1 minute intervals at a 12 minute per mile pace for 20 minutes! YAY to recovery!!!!), I've been doing more volunteering at races lately. Last month, it was the Balanced Athlete/Road Runner Sports 10k for the Nike Human Race. This past Saturday, it was the Baker Lake 50k all the way up in Concrete, WA. I wanted to check out the area, but I also wanted to be of some use instead of just some dork hanging around. So I threw my hat in as a volunteer. Good way of giving back to the running community and getting some more good running mojo to heal me up!
Now, with the story of Baker Lake. It was ran by Dave Dutton and his wife Jeanette since 2002. This course was totally dug by everyone who ran it. Rolling single-track hills along a big gorgeous lake, who wouldn't want to take that on as a challenge? (Although due to a recent problem with a bridge in the area, the course was modified - but harder than ever.) Well, the Duttons moved across the state and the ultrarunning community was going to lose a race that has had a good following unless someone else could have taken on the responsibility as Race Director. The reigns would be passed onto the awesome that is Shawn McTaggert. I consider myself to be good friends with Shawn and after working with her during the North Bend-2-Vantage run, I figured she could have some use for me for the race. A few email exchanges and I was committed.
A weird Friday night made for about 3 hours of sleep the following morning. In a mild scramble, I left the house at 3:30am to make the long 126 mile drive and get there by 6am to help get things ready.
Things that I'm always suprised at:
- Radio stations play absolute crap at that hour. The DJ's might as well give me a bottle of Nyquil and a Roofie with the way the music bored my brain.
- There is atleast one jackhole who wants to ride your butt on the road, even though all the lanes are clear of traffic. This is where having a car that can release an oil slick or a bunch of tacks on the ground behind you would come in handy.
In under 90 minutes, I made it to the last Starbucks in the area in Burlington, WA. I politely held up a 1 quart vacuum-sealed thermos and said, "Skinny Vanilla Latte, please." (Note: 1 quart is close to 2 Venti's). I got an extra Skinny Vanilla Latte and drove on. The rest of the drive was eerie. The last big town is Sedro Wooley, WA. Once you leave the city limits, there is nothing but trees and road. If you run out of gas at this point, you're so screwed. Cell service also is gone once you get off of the main drag and start heading towards Baker Lake for the 13 mile drive. If you want to disappear without anyone possibly communicating with you or finding you, that's the place to do it.
After fighting off another butt-riding jackhole, I encountered my buddy Stan Nakashima who was trying to get to the race site too. We both finally found the place in the darkness and it looked like things were already getting ready. There, I saw tc* and King Arthur (along with his kids and dogs - what a superdad!) who have already helped get somethings ready. Check-In/Post-Race Tent Up? Check. Goodie Bags and various swag accounted for? Check. T-Shirts? Check. Race Bibs? Check. Check-In list? Uh-oh...well, that's okay, Shawn has them. Hmmm...where's Shawn? Up marking the course. Okay, well the race isn't going to start for another hour.
Then people started asking about checking in. Okay, looks like the natives are getting restless. tc* elects to have me find Shawn. I drive along the course to find her. This is my only chance at seeing some of the course and the view that you get from the Baker Lake Dam is pretty wild. If the rest of the course was anything like that, I'll definately have to run this next year.
I find Shawn less than two miles from the start and do what I do best - nag. Well, nagging by proxy - with me being the proxy. She finishes up and we both head back to the start. We start checking in the early starters and eventually get a good working flow down. Totally organized and we eventually check in everyone...well, almost. Totally didn't know one of our sweepers was registered. Oops! But that's fine, since I was able to get her finishing time down at the end.
The early starters were set to go and I break out the airhorn. I think I broke a few eardrums in the process. :-) This wasn't going to be the last time either since I did a repeat of the airhorn for the regular starters too! (Sadly, this was also going to be nearing the end of the airhorn's life too. It ran out of toots after the first set of finishers came across.)
After all the runners were gone, I realized I made a few boo-boos in my plans. Since none of the runners were going to come back to the finish anytime soon, this left ALOT of downtime, nearly 4 hours worth. I should have brought a book, my guitar, or my Nintendo DS. Just something to pass the time. I did my best to keep busy by checking and re-checking everything for the race. Idle hands are the devil's workshop after all. I should have also brought food with me. Shawn's mom was supposed to be coming with Subway sandwiches for the post-race festivities and all I had in my stomach was Starbucks Latte's. I needed food!
Then Shawn's mommy came with the food, YAY!!! She had her own issues with that herself (mixed up the stores that had the food order), but who cares? She made it before my stomach was going to devour the local wildlife (there were deer!) and those subs were delicious!
We were nearing the 4th hour of the race and knew that someone was going to finish soon based on finishing times from previous years. We needed to somehow get word on when some of the runners were coming down. Thankfully, Shawn had walkie talkies. What does she pick for her codename? Secret Squirrel. What did I end up choosing? Well, thanks to Robert Lopez (aka Stevie Ray, aka McLovin, aka Maniac #111, aka Public Enemy #111) and the incident at White River, I end up being Minudo. So Secret Squirrel took one walkie talkie with her and I stayed at the finish line, waiting to make sure those things worked. Not perfect, but good enough.
Shawn came back down and we got confirmation! One runner was heading to the finish! One of our resident fasties, James Varner. I decide to take on the task of marking down finishing times. I did it before for the Nike Human Race 10k, but this would be the time where I could actually jot the data down.
James then came screaming in, breaking the tape in 4:03 and winning a Baker Bear (a cute teddybear for the first place male & females in the open, masters, and senior divisions.) James left a pretty huge gap between him and the next guy who came in at 4:21. The guy who came in 3rd I was seriously impressed with in that it was his first ultra! Our local Skagit Runner resident, Terry Sentinella, who has been doing his damnest to get a Baker Bear finally got one as the first male Master runner - YAY Terry!
Being the official timekeeper, I've noticed that it is easy to keep track of the front of the pack and the back of the pack. It's the guys in the middle you lose track of without help. I had Shawn give me the bib number order that crossed the finish line while I continued to mark down just the time. I knew that I would be able to catch up if we worked that way. As more runners flowed into the finish, we had gotten down our own flow in marking time and getting results up. Well, until one dude had his insane girlfriend sprint in with him, crossing the finish line and messing up my count. This is one of the reasons why bandits aren't allowed in race courses and dedicated pacers for races like Western States make the pacer go a different route so they don't get counted as a regular runner. So I did what anyone in power would do. I totally dicked him and gave him the slower time his girlfriend came in at! His fault, not mine. I am Minudo! Master of Time! Muhahahhahahaha!!!
I continued to time more folks and did my best to accomidate those that really really really wanted to know their finishing times. I now understand why some timekeepers get surly when you ask them, "What was my time?". If they're busy watching a finish line and you ask them to look up your time while they're working, they could miss someone coming across and they'd be the ones yelled at by the runner who didn't get accurately recorded. Thankfully, no blow-ups occurred like that.
As we were winding down and folks were leaving, it started to rain. We had about 25 runners out there trying to get to the finish. My eagerness was waiting for our golden couple. Michelle and Eric Barnes came to do the race to celebrate their 25th Anniversary and what would be more appropriate than to have Eric carry Michelle over the finish line like a groom would a bride over the threshold? Well, I made that decree and sure enough, Eric picked Michelle up and carried her across the finish. A great photo op and a good thing too. I blackmailed them with the idea that I wasn't going to record their finishing times unless they did that. Hee hee! I am Minudo the TimeLord! I make people do things to have an official finishing time! Muhahhahahhaha!!!
A few more runners and finally our sweepers came across to close out the race. Only two DNF's!
Was the long drive, lack of sleep, caffeine-fueled, mildly cranky, multiple bug bites, 11-hour day worth it? You bet it was! There is something about the relief and thrill of crossing that finish line that goes across a person's face. When you're the runner, you feel tired and somewhat elated. When you're the observer, you can see it in motion. Sometimes, that is often the better view. Plus, the smiles on everyone's faces made volunteering worth all the trouble. It was a fun race and I was glad to be apart of it.
Although, there was alot of itchiness in me to wanting to run! I'll get my chance soon enough!
To everyone who was there participating: I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
To my fellow cohorts who worked the race: See note above. :-)