Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Volunteering for an Ultra - Ice Age Style

I have been accepted to volunteer at the Ice Age 50-Mile Trail Run in May, and I couldn't be more excited.  Okay, okay, they probably take all the help they can get; I won't delude myself.  But, at least, I did have the honor of being the first person to volunteer my services.  That's something, isn't it?

When Distance Dude told me that he was signing up for the 2012 50-miler as a tune up for another loftier goal a few weeks later, I had mixed feelings.  Last year while he was running this same race - on his second 50-mile journey of self-discovery - I ran the inaugural Half Marathon at the same event.  This was my first trail race ever, and it was the toughest event I had ever done to date.  I was at the tail end of a week of illness (outlined here), and I probably really shouldn't have been running.  And, the course was no walk in the park.  The half marathon followed the area's Nordic ski loop, and it was hilly.  Not take-smaller-steps, pick-up-your-feet hilly, it was stop-running-and-walk hilly.  (There weren't too many people running those hills.)  It was also hands-down the prettiest race I had ever done in my life up to that point.  (Pikes Peak now holds that honor in my heart.)

After last year's event, which took me over three hours to finish, I swore I'd be back the following year to avenge myself.  That, and I had visions of starting a racing streak as I had never done an inaugural event before.  Well, life got in the way - this time in a good way.  During a fit of post-marathon euphoria this past October, I signed up for the Kalamazoo Marathon, which is held the week before the Ice Age.  While saddened a bit by the thought of missing out, I decided I could still participate - this time as a volunteer.  So, I signed up.

Where will I be on race day? Well, I just received my race day assignment, and I am very excited.  I will be working at aid station 2 from about 5:30 a.m. until whenever they don't need me anymore.

AS2 is the blue tent behind the start sign.
Aid station 2 is located right at the start/finish line.  As the course loops through here a few times, I will have a good chance to see and help out 50-milers, 50Kers, and Half Marathoners alike.  Part of my excitement for working at AS2 (aside from the fact that it is not out in the middle of woods, so there will be potties nearby) is that I remember this aid station so fondly from 2011.  When I ran my half marathon race, I felt so crappy as we came through the start/finish area at the midway point, that I must have spent close to 10 minutes hanging out here before dragging myself away and heading out on loop two of my torture.

Long view of the packet pick-up building.
Drop bags.  If I were a runner, I would have NEON fuscia.  
Food tent for after the race.  Hidden behind the picnic table
is a fire pit.  Very warming on a cool spring afternoon.
Parking lot.  Check out the trees!
Access road to the trail.
I can't wait to get out there and volunteer.  I really love trail running.  In fact, I prefer it to road running, and I want to get more involved with the trail events as my running evolves.  Plus, while I don't know if I would ever get it into my head to try an ultra, I acknowledge that I am the teensiest bit intrigued by the idea.  Volunteering will be a good way to experience an ultra first-hand - without actually running one.  Then maybe I can lay that foolish notion to rest.

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