Monday, June 4, 2012

Volunteering @ Old Dominion 100 mile Cross Country Run 6/1-6/3

Another experience with a 100mile race under my belt and now the inspiration, motivation and anticipation of my first 100 mile run is building exponentially!

I agreed to volunteering this event prior to sleeping after my last 36hr haul when I volunteered at MMT 100miler... perhaps it was a lapse in judgement... nonetheless I planned everything else around it and made it into a weekend. And in hindsight- this was a great decision.

I made it a point to Visit my friend Liz in Berryville VA after literally having driven by her house on the way to/ from MMT. We didnt have much time together due to the logistics of my weekend and her work schedule but we got a very pleaseant 4ish mile run in through her town, and I got see the pool she gaurds/ teaches lessons at every summer. I started Friday feeling ridiculously ill, in fact worse than I remember feeling in a long time. My stomach ached in a whole new way, so instead of training I slept until I had to leave. So when I made it through this run without getting sick or feeling any worse, I was relieved.

After our run, I changed and tried to wash up as best I could since I knew it'd be a while till my next shower. And then I headed the 45mi or so down to Woodstock VA. During this drive T-storm #2 began (I had driven through one earlier in the day as well)... it was pouring as I pulled into the parking lot at Shenandoah County Fairgrounds.... I wasn't too surprised. It would make sense the rain would be at its hardest at the same moment I should be getting out of the car, so I hesitated about 5 minutes and then set out for the door into the main building.

Upon arrival, another runner volunteering for the weekend,  Charles was there to great me/ holding the door open. I found David and soon met Collin- who I'd agreed to being a safety runner for through the 75-87 mile portion of the course. In no time I'd met the RD Ray and his wife Kelly and another runner. The next couple hours of prep for the following day passed quickly with lots of talk about running. We all (4 total) headed to bed on the cement floor of the fairgrounds building around 9pm. (With the weather just starting to subside- tents didnt sound too fun.) I don't really know if I really fell asleep at any point, but I assumed the broken sleep was better than nothing, so I kept trying all night.

3am or so, I honestly didn't have the time on me, nor did I think knowing the time would help me in anyway we were up and at 'em. I was meeting runners I've met before and new ones I hadn't as I was watching the preparations for the long day ahead.

After a short prayer the runners were off circling around the fairgrounds as us spectators watched their headlamps bouncing around in the distance. They circled back around passing us, David was already upfront in the pack top 3 runners.

Charles and I took our time getting to the first aid station where we needed to bring Collin's race things for Chris- his crew driving from Atlanta overnight who was running a little behind and would meet us. We went for a 40min run snagging a short but pleasant 3.7mile-ish run. We hung out there for a bit and I met the female winner to-be's crew members, a group it was a pleasure running into over the course of the next 24+ hours. they were energetic throughout and in great spirits. (mentally noted for qualities I'd hope my crew would have when I eventually am in need of one.) Well... my energy didnt last long, we stopped back at the fairgrounds, and I pulled out my sleeping bag and curled up on the cement floor again and was OUT for a good hour. Then I read a bit as waited patiently for Charles to wake up from his nap.

We Drove up 81N to The Cedar Creek Battlefield visitor center and then followed a portion of the tour route before heading to McAllister's Deli (a sandwich chain I'd never heard of but that brought great excitement to Charles). We ate a good and fulfilling lunch (it was in fact a pretty great place, somewhere I would stop again) and then headed to Shenandoah National Park to get to the visitor center for yet another stamp to add to Charles' Passport of state parks. We were both low on energy and concerned for time since our aid station at mile 75 of the ongoing race back in Woodstock was opening at 2:30pm. So we spent a few minutes enjoying the views and the information at the visitor center. My attempt at the Appalacian Trail became a constant thought process as skimmed through national park trail maps and photo books-  a very long term goal of sorts.

We headed to Elizabeth's Furnace, the Aid station location, were we met Dave who was in charge of the aid station. I prepped all of my things to run since at this time, I had no idea when or what to expect. In no time it seemed, the first runner was coming through, jogging in some mildly apparent discomfort as slowed to walk as he approached gripping his stomach in complaint of nausea. He took minimal nutrition and his crew aided him and his safety runner had already been ready to go. And within only a couple of minutes Olivier (first time 100 mile runner) was off to fininsh and win the OD100. Not far behind was David looking mostly comfortable, except of course as usual astonishing everyone with the blood streaks down his shirt from each nipple. The other aid stations volunteers offered bandaids or vaseline or anything..... and as usual any aid was denied. Gatorade topped off and some coke downed and David was off as well working diligently to narrow the gap with Oliver and eventually finishing in second place. The third runner was also not far back and moved quickly through the aid station.

Groups of crew member came and went as runners came and went. It was a great experience seeing the runners each with there own formula for survival. Chris eventually arrived and let me know to be expecting Collin around 8/8:30pm which eased my nerves since I had better idea of how everything was going for Collin, and in terms of what I could do to be helpful while volunteering.

Collin did come in around 8:30pm looking much better than I'd been warned he may be after the crew members and Chris had seen him last around mile 65. After few mintutes- dosing with chococlate milk, lactaid, S-caps and what not we were onto the course, which as expected was mostly a hike. In a 100 mile race its much more likely you will make it to the finish if you learn to let the trails decide your next move. In other words.. if your running pace up a mountain isnt much faster than your hiking pace but it uses more energy... its probably not the best way to approach the course... if  running the steep techinical downhill risks breaking your ankle or other serious injury, then its probably not worth the risk.... each runner has to decide this for themselves based on their race and their training and how they feel in that moment. As a safety runner... my only job is to make sure my runner is, as stated "safe" which to me means mentally supported by companionship and physically supported by being able to see and hear another human moving at the pace they are... not racing them just being- keeping the subconcious focused on moving forward and distracting the conscious mind as much as possible away from the broken records of how fatigued or painful the runner may think they feel. The body can handle much much much more. So moving at 3.5 mph (estimated) uphill and 4-4.5mph downhill I was quite impressed that Collin was maintaining full conversation. I was more than certain he actually had enough to run most of this section, but he was be cautious which seemed to have been a good decision in the end.

 The temperature after sunset began to rapidly decline. As we reached the Veech east aid station I was thrilled to see a fire place. Spending a brief period here warming up, and fueling up we were off down the road for the last major (2nd to last) climb of the run. The climb up the hill was long and steady, I couldn't have imagined how different the climb would have felt if I'd had 83 miles on my legs already. These last 3 miles or so passed quickly for me, as the techincal trail cleared to a nice soft trail and into the Veech west aid station. I was freezing by this point, lost feeling in both hands and couple of toes (my normal), and lost focus when I saw Chris there to aid Collin and went in search of my bag with warmer clothing. Sadly, Charles had brought everything but that bag since I didn't even expect him to be at this aid station yet, I hadnt mentioned the bag, my mistake. So I found my car and headed back to elizabeth's furnace and as quickly as possible found my bag and put on my sweats. Thanking everyone and saying goodnight since Elizabeth's furnace was officially closed at 12am and it was now 12:20am.

Back at Veech West I cozied up around the fire with other crew ppl/ volunteers. Runners came through slowly shedding their safety runners- some joining us by the fire and others headed back to a place to sleep. Around 2 am One of the female runners parents (who were her crew) were beginning to get rather concerned. Another runner's wife was also starting to get antsy. I however was now warm, half sleepy and wanted to run, so I took off backtracking on the trail to see who or if i could see any runners on their way. I went a good mile up and found the female runner with her safety runner, cold but moving well. I never did find the other runner, but decided to head back down, at least I could share that she was on her way, and I was now quite warm and very excited as I nearly sprinted down the trail with my headlamp, just seeing how it was to be moving quickly on trail at night, an experiment of sorts (to which the results concluded I would be running this course next year- if all goes well). Back at the Aid station I remembered the constant talk of ticks, and since I now had sweats on instead my shorts I thought I should take a look.... Right ankle #1 tick... looking hungry (EWWW) got him off of me and tried to stay calm since I was around ppl, and becoming hysterical would just look on the inside of my pants was tick #2... and #3..... Interally I was freaking out (if one of these suckers gets me, I may never run again- was the only thought)... I double, triple and quadruple checked my pants, ankles and even inside my shoes for anything else... I found nothing but proceeded to check for the next 10 hours randomyl fearing I missed one that would crawl up my pants and find its way to some horrible locaiton where I wouldnt see or notice until it was too late. (Yes I have a bit of phobia).

Anyway I was tired, I decided it was now or never for the 30min drive back to the fairgrounds, so Off i went. I grabbed my sleeping bag and found the cement floor near one of the finishers, Dan. We talked for a long time, and then i attempted to sleep, failed we talked some more, another attempt was made- and it was breifly successful, totalling about 40min of rest. I just laid there trying to keep warm, and again Dan and I were talking again. It was time for coffee, this sleep thing is a waste of effort.

Im not really sure how the next few hours passed, there were many different ppl and faces and names exchanged, for which I remember 50% at least, and so many stories and experiences from the race.

Breakfast and awards were at 9am. So we all (with the exception of David btw who left right after his 100 mile race to get to Bel Air MD for his 17yr streak running a 5K) had a good meal and from 39th place (out 60 who signed up and 55 who started) up through 1st place we watched/ listened to the 100 miler champs who had successfully conquered their minds and had trained their bodies well enough to survive the challenge. For many at OD this was their first 100 mile run, and for many others is was one of many. The speaches from the runners were heartfelt and warm. It was a fantastic experience to be able to share with so many wonderful people.

And then the weekend went on.... but there wasn't really anything else about running.... so I'll end this tale here.

Great Big Thank You to David for the heads up to help out at OD100, to Collin for giving me an excuse to run some of the course/ and keeping me awake on the drive home, to Charles for taking me on the exploration of Northern VA State Parks adventure and running with me, and driving me (and the coffee :)), and to Dan for the Coffee and the company in the AM hours, and.....Dave for the Aid station, and Kelly, Ray, Kim.... the list is sort of endless, but I'm just grateful- so Thank you!

Heading to CT for Litchfield Hills Road Race next weekend 6/10/12. Should be a quicky :).

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