125 runners. 60 volunteers. Ultrarunners are always highly appreciative of the aid stations and volunteers; on a long, hard race, for me at least, the tough parts are run aid station to aid station. I never realized the extent of the production involved to support me and all the others on our 50+ mile races through the mountains. Here, Kista Cook writes about her day volunteering for Old Goats, a tough, tough 50 miler through the Santa Ana Mountains.
Alarm goes off at 3 a.m. I pile all my gear in the driveway – large fitness bag packed with running gear, cold weather gear and rain gear, a soft cooler with water bottles and food, a folding chair, sleeping bag, and blanket. Donn O. rolls up at about 4:30 a.m., we load, and head to Blue Jay Campground located in Cleveland National Forest. Within a hour and a half the city lights are long gone and we’re deep in the woods on a windy road. Just like the city, we can’t find a place to park. The road is jammed packed with runners. Runners that have come out to run 50 miles on a course “even the downhill is up” – Old Goats 50. We’re here to volunteer.
I love the sound of slow rolling tires over gravel, car interior dings, doors and trunks shutting, and feet hustling to the starting line. We’re using our quiet forest pre dawn voices. Donn O. and I get to park close right by the white glowing tent with black boxes, towers and blinking things – HAM central.
Volunteers buzzed from table to vehicles to tents. Runners checked in, dropped drop bags, and fumbled with their race bibs. I said my hellos to some ultra family folks. L.T., Timing Commander, strung the sensors like holiday lights. Race Director Steve Harvey made announcements, and the goats were out of the pen.
Volunteer coordinator “Munz” dashed about orchestrating below-the-line and above-the-line crews. I got the low-down from Lorraine about the supplies accompanying us to our station. Organization makes me giddy! The 4×4 guys pulled in and one aid station at a time loaded up. Food and hydration containers, tables, pop-ups, drop bags, dogs, and bodies squished into vehicles. I stuffed my face with muffins and coffee: volunteer fuel.
My ride had goats glued to the hood. We off-loaded our gear at West Horse Thief, mile 44.5 of the 50 mile course. I had one volunteer mate to start – a German fellow and his dog, Lucky. We set up camp and I honestly thought I’d sit down, doodle and nap. Well, the first two happened but not for long. To our surprise, HAM operator Todd arrived and we felt like grown-ups. I ‘ve got the need-to-know thing and guess what? So do most runners. Thanks to HAM Todd, we knew every time a runner went through an aid station and could often estimate when they’d be coming through ours.
We spent most of the day on our feet prepping supplies and tending to runners. Not much food intake at mile 44.5, so we fed them encouragement. As the sun fell, we got word that the last runner was not going to make the cut-off and needed to be yanked off course at our station. This was bitter sweet because I knew the guy. I also wanted to be the one to do it because I wanted to protect him somehow. He was pissed – pissed at himself for not making the cut off. After he stomped about while we made room for him in one of the HAM vehicles he looked up and saw that it was me and smiled. I kept talking to him to keep his mind off of riding out instead of running out.
About 9 p.m., we were back at command central to see the last runner cross the finish line and fall into the arms of a small crowd of cheers and tears. Runners bellied up to the burger bar. Volunteers still hustling about. Donn O. and I headed back to the big city. Next morning, I awoke in pain and could barely get out of bed. Turns out I pulled a hip muscle while volunteering! I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, maybe I’d let the boys do the heavy lifting.
Approximately 60 volunteers.
Great outdoors = bathroom
Saw smallest drop bag ever. A small Ziploc bag with a gel and energy drink.
Saw largest item in drop bag. A gallon jug of water. Jug punctured and things got wet.