A Big weekend – best and much hyped though I would not able to compact and let the world know how great it was.
I forgot how I got into this but many months ago I responded to a call for volunteering at the Worlds End Ultra.
Likely it was because my friend was also volunteering in it, I decided to do it. I might have written something about this back then if I care to go back and check.
I was so looking forward to it and it was everything as hoped. Worlds End 100k was challenging course. Though I was not running it, I felt the intensity. I felt I walk in the field where the very best compete – the real deal of ultra marathons.
I signed up for sweeping duty at the fifth stage, with a hard cutoff (from mile 35 to 50). There were four other sweepers before me though their cutoffs were not as strictly enforced as mine section. No one could enter my section once I started my sweep. I felt pretty important. I had the night portion from 5 pm to 9 pm, with 9 as the cutoff. They warned me that last year, they couldn’t close the race until everyone was out and they were there till 1:30 – 2 in the morning. They made sure I understand that I should get everyone through that section as quickly as possible (and we were at the most remote place on the course).
My primary concern…no I had several worries but first was that I was not able to run fast enough. Even though that is impossible but I was afraid there wouldn’t be anyone for me to sweep if I am too slow because these people were strong runners! Second that what if I injured myself on the course and they would have to send a rescue team looking for me instead. On the same vein, what if I got lost! I was afraid I would make a fool myself. Lastly, what if someone got hurt and I was not able to help them. It wouldn’t be wholely my responsibility but still I had a part in getting aid to the person and his/her safety is my responsibility.
Me being too slow was out of the question. Still like in any races, you wouldn’t know until you do it. I had that butterfly in my stomach feeling before and during my run.
I got to the course couple hours before my shift. It took me some time to flag down the volunteering coordinator, Tom. He was all over the place and I had no idea how he looked. Luckily I hooked up with my friend and he got me to checked out one of the radio/cell phones for key volunteers to be used for this race. I felt like a VIP carrying one. With that I got a hold of Tom. Tom was one responsible getting me to the right place on the course. It was far away from the start and finish.
I got to the assigned station with Tom around 4:30. My start time was 5 pm. We saw two ladies leaving the station when we pulled in. I had to wait for exact time to start the sweep. However, no other runners showed up after the two ladies left (anyone showing up after 5 pm would be cut).
So I started my shift. The first couple miles were all to myself. I was running on pace, actually a bit early. I know I was fast. The course was challenging. I immediately had about 1000 ft drop, like running along an edge of a clift. I didn’t really run but tried to get down to the bottom of the ravine as quickly as possible. It was fun and nerve whacking. This is the real deal, the kind of race I always wanted to do! Though it was not my race, I felt the excitement to be on the course.
The afternoon was hot. The trail became smooth. There were rocks and stuff and crossings, but nothing too difficult for my fresh pair of legs. I did roll my ankle and F*, I continued on.
Then came a big climb. Later I found out it might have been one of the hardest climbs. Midway through I caught up with the two ladies. I think I was like 5 minutes ahead of pace.
Though I knew those two ladies were in trouble for going this slow since they had half hour ahead of me, but still enough time for me to able to catch them. I didn’t actually expect to catch them until like 8-10 miles later, but I caught them like on 2nd mile in.
So I had a job to do. The runner, Gaby was pretty much tired but she was moving. Her pacer, Karen, was doing all she could. I didn’t have to do much to get them moving. As long as they were moving, my job is done. They were moving on pace.
I got to say, we stayed on pace until the next Aid Station #8, Dry Run. As we near the station, I picked up another runner. He was in much worse shape. He didn’t speak much, together, we pushed into the station. Gaby arrived first.
Dry Run station wasn’t going to close until 7pm. As me and the guy I picked up came in Gaby left the station with her pacer. As I said, the guy runner (forgot his name) was not doing great. He asked me if I was going to cut him. I said, no, he had to decide himself. If he felt he could continue, I wouldn’t stop him. I don’t think he even went to the food table but instead took a seat. He had stomach trouble.
People at the aid station tried to help him as much as possible. There was another guy and his pacer too just dropped at the station (that was before I arrived). I announced to the station that I was the course sweeper for the section and I am the last person. They got busy then to pack up. Look how much power I had. Hehe. I was busy eating all the food they had left!
The guy that did not do well, rested for maybe 10-15 minutes and decided to call it quit. The station captain then said I could continue on to sweep the next part.
I am happy I got to run again and Gaby at this time had maybe a 15-20 minutes head start and I love chasing. I was wondering how long before I would catch up to her and her pacer again.
I did catch up and we continued on pushing toward to the next part, which was about 4 miles away. We had a good chat going. Gaby was still upbeat though her chances of finishing was slipping fast. We were no longer on pace. Time was slipping. Her pace was slipping. I did not try to rush her. She had her pacer who would know how best to help her.
Aid Station #9 was unstaffed and it was just water only. We didn’t stop. I think we were like 15 mins late by then (a mile slower). After that section, I picked up another runner and her pacer. I was not able to get her name but she was not a happy camper. I felt she was mad at me for catching up to her. Gaby quickly passed her. But I had to follow the slower runner since it was my job to stay with the last person. She told me she already decided not to continue the race and so would take her time to get to next station. I said, same, my only concern was that everyone keeps on moving and no one gets hurt. I don’t want to have to call in a rescue squad since that would mean I would remain on the course with the injured runner for a long time.
We were probably 4 miles from Aid Station #10. We had two tough climbs and two also tough descends.
I thought Gaby was long gone but she and pacer missed a turn. So they came back and we found them at the tricky turn. Gaby was able to save me from getting lost there! They brought along an even slower runner who also missed the turnoff.
I was happy that I got a job to do. I stayed with this new runner, David, the rest of the ladies hurried passed. Comparing to David, the ladies were like flying. I was a bit sad that they were gone but I didn’t mind staying with David since it was my job.
David was in even worse shape than any runners I came across. We had about 3 more miles to go by then.
David was walking every few steps and had to bend over to breath. He was not injured but was totally worn. I felt sorry. I stayed with him and let him rest as long as he wanted. He was very cooperative. He would move without me prompting. I know he was doing his best. I love having him as companion. I think we were moving like a mile an hour. Time quickly passed. 9 pm came and gone – the cutoff. By then it was meaningless. Then 10 pm.
David was kind. I tried to chat with him and he responded to everything. He did a full Ironman before, so physically he was strong. This though was his first 100k on a very hard course and on a hot weekend. His desire was strong, but the day just sapped his energy. He did improved after I met him, and was moving better and took less breaks.
We kept pressing on to the Aid Station. There I reunited with Gaby and others. The Station captain scared me saying there was a runner still out there and they joked I should go back out on the trail to look for the dude. I took it seriously though at the time and was like a WTH moment for me. I wouldn’t cry but hell it would be whole night out there searching for this missing guy.
We thought of different scenarios where I could miss the guy. We crossed a road couple times and ran along a road, so likely he flagged down a car and left the course. Or he might have taken a wrong turn like Gaby did, and that I passed him. Gaby said she saw a bearded guy, but I never came across a bearded runner. It got me all worry that on my first sweeping duty and I lost a guy!
Anyway, they had someone to drive me back to the finish. I turned in my radio (was totally useless since I had no signal in my part of the course). There they told me they found the guy. He had a medical emergency earlier and had taken him off the course, so he was accounted for. It was not my fault that I supposingly missed him on my section.
What a relief for me. I spent the rest of the weekend there, camping as well running part of the course after the race was done. It was a fulfilling personal time. I could write several entries just on the camping and the run I did. The sweeping duty is done.
I hope to run the 50k there next year. 100k I probably can do it, but seeing so many strong runners being dropped, it gives me a pause on attempt 100k without fully know what I will be getting into. So 50k first is the thing to do to get my feet wet.