Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sweep Patrol

"The best argument against democracy is a 5 minute conversation with an average voter" - Winston Churchill

This weekend, there was a unique event for these parts - a 3-day stage race that comprised running three trail races at Ruffner Mountain (16 miles), Red Mountain (15 miles), and Oak Mountain (20 miles) for a total of 51 miles. Not sure how you rate this. Certainly not an ultra, and not even a recognized marathon on any of those days, but it seems the Race Director, David Tosch, has taken the roughest trails from each of these systems and said "Have at it boys and gals. See ya on the other side". Better have your recovery plan pretty firmly in place for this one guys.

Just a few short years ago, I would have jumped or flew to do this one. I love this kind of stuff...slow, difficult, unique, and hard to explain to anybody (other than other runners) what it's all about. I just can't handle all the stuff I used to do when I was young (late 50's...good grief!!!), so I have to be very selective in the "races" and I can do, and more importantly, recover from. A couple of weeks ago, I did a tough trail marathon up at Ruffner, and I knew that this would put me on the cusps of that recovery envelope, and it did. My legs are still asking me what the heck that was all about. I try to tell them to just be quiet and man-up, but they're still taking their own sweet time feeling run-worthy.

So, me and my buddy Moha, who also got beaten up by the Ruffner monster, decided to give RD David a call and tell him we had some spare time and would he like a couple of volunteers. It took him about 2 nanoseconds to say "What race director doesn't want volunteers?". He asked if we could sweep the course after the last runner and pick up all markings. Sure, sounds like fun, we would be giving back, plus we'd get our run in instead of freezing our butts off at an aid station. 

Usually, during the week, I'm on the road before 5am, and on weekends, it's 5:30 -6:30, but this morning, the race didn't begin till 8. We toyed around with the idea of going out there and doing some early miles, maybe even doing the first 7.5 mile loop and then sweeping up the second loop. Well, we woke up to a cold, windy morning morphed into coffee at McDonalds, a trip for a deposit at the bank, and a side-stop at the bakery to pick up some fresh baked pita bread (Mmmmm). We got to the race site about 9:40 and were told there were still about 7-8 runners on their first loop. Of course, I wanted to go start picking up the course markings - after all, these guys had been around the course once. Surely, they're not so oxygen deprived that they can't remember all the twists and turns around the rocks and trees of Red mountain! That got quickly voted down, so me & Moha went out and did 3.5 miles on non-race trails. When we got back, we were cleared to do our job.

We set a goal to try to catch the last runner, who had probably a 25-30 minute lead on us. Ha, that was a good one. We should've set a goal to catch the first runner - had about the same chance. Before we knew it, we were going up long rocky trails, and although there was little chance you could go wrong, David was going to make sure and put these little construction flags much more than needed along the course. In addition, his "few signs" turned into about 25 "race in progress", or "this way" signs. Our 2 reusable shopping bags quickly filled up and got pretty heavy. Near the end, I felt like a pack mule going over the Donner Pass. As we passed the 7.5 mile point on my watch, I realized we were getting into Horton Miles territory - in other words "about 7.5 miles". Now, I have to be honest, my VERY dodgy Nike+ watch never did connect with any of the many GPS satellites above us, so the 9.9 miles my foot pod registered for the (7.5 mile) loop is probably not near exact, but let's just concede that David needs a new Garmin for Christmas. As we went up ANOTHER HILL, I remarked to Moha, "Brother, we can' t be lost, as usual, because we're still picking up flags!". Finally, we made it back to start/finish line, our goal shattered as the last finisher was probably home and showered. The difference is that I was going to go home and not worry about another trail adventure for another week, while he had to worry about tomorrow's race - he shouldn't have gone so fast!

We all need to volunteer sometimes - you just don't realize what goes into putting on a race - like putting out a million construction flags. When we do a race, there is lot we expect for spending our money, but by volunteering, you tend not to be so harsh with your criticism. But, out of all the ways you can volunteer, today was great...a day in the woods with my good buddy, helping out a friend, getting in a run in, and realize that I can still move up, down, but most importantly, forward.

I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"


Running said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Running said...

Al, the Stage Race was great. You were right in that is was difficult and at times slow due to the high number of hills. It ended up being a bit over 52 miles. I would do it again though. Thanks for being a volunteer.

Bill Woody

AL said...

Bill - thanks for your comment. You have been running great. The tougher the course, the better the stories, and the sweeter the memories. keep running strong - AL