Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Most Awesome Volunteering Gig EVAH

So a few months back, the San Francisco Marathon ambassadors, of which I'm one of them, talked about the possibility of volunteering at the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run June 23-24. Most of them are local to San Francisco, so a drive to the Sacramento area is totally reasonable.

Don't know what Western States is? It's the Mecca of running for a lot of ultrarunners. You have to run SUPER fast in another 50 or 100 miler of adequate difficulty to get in automatically, and then you have to run one very fast to even qualify to gets into the lottery. And I think only like 10% of the lottery entries actually get a spot. Anyway, you have to be fast, you have to be lucky, and you have to be fast and lucky. Neither of which I am by the way.

From their website, 
"Western States if one of the oldest ultra trail events in the world and certainly one of the most challenging. The Run is conducted along the Western States Trail starting at Squaw Valley, California, and ending in Auburn, California, a total of 100 miles. The trail ascends from the Squaw Valley floor (elevation 6,200 feet) to Emigrant Pass (elevation 8,750 feet), a climb of 2,550 vertical feet in the first 4½ miles. From the pass, following the original trails used by the gold and silver miners of the 1850’s, runners travel west, climbing another 15,540 feet and descending 22,970 feet before reaching Auburn. Most of the trail passes through remote and rugged territory, accessible only to hikers, horses and helicopters.
The Run begins at 5:00 am on Saturday of the last full weekend in June at the west end of Squaw Valley. Runners must reach the finish line no later than 11:00 am the following day in order to be eligible for an award. Due to the remoteness and inaccessibility of the trail, the Western States Endurance Run differs substantially from other organized runs. Adequate mental and physical preparation are of utmost importance to each runner, for the mountains, although beautiful, are relentless in their challenge and unforgiving to the ill-prepared.
Approximately 1,500 dedicated volunteers help out at each Western States Endurance Run. They are truly the life-blood of the Run and will do everything possible to make your day a success. Many spend more hours out on the trail than do the runners themselves."
Well, Ambassador Peter helped coordinate the group and communicated with the race director to find out where the Ambassador group would volunteer.
The American River at the Cable Crossing location
And the location is freaking awesome. And I just had to do it. Yes, fly 1500 miles to volunteer at THE Western States at what the race director called the Apocalypse Now of Western States and what the race director thought was arguably the most exciting volunteer location - at the Cable Crossing, mile 80 of the course where runners cross the American River right below the Rucky Chucky Rapids.
I'll be at the Rucky Chuck location in the lower left.
From Greg Soderland, the Western States Race Director, describing the volunteer job:
"It's basically escorting the runners onto and off the cable on each side of the River. It's a night shift that runs from 4 p.m. on Sat. to 5 a.m. on Sunday. Would ask your volunteers to work either the whole shift or the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. shift. If they work the whole shift, they'll get nap breaks and a dinner break. Dinner is provided by the Cable Captain. We will make arrangements for everyone to rent a wetsuit if they don't have one since many will be standing in the river for a few hours (hip to knee deep at the most). There is no cost to rent the suit. Everyone receives a "Cable Guy" volunteer T-shirt when they arrive."
YES! I get to stand all night in a frigid river, in a wetsuit, to help tired runners at mile 80, across a river. Of course, it may also mean I'm making peanut butter sandwiches at that aid station for 13 hours instead, which will still be awesome because either way I'll be helping these demigod runners of ultrarunning.

Here's a video from the 2010 race of the Rucky Chuck location:

I'll get to swoon over the fastest runners - the gods of running. And my friend Josh who I ran with Saturday is running it, along with my coach Jeremy who is his pacer, so I will get to see both of them!

It'll be a hard weekend but so memorable. And that's why I can easily decide the plane ticket cost is worth it. Plus, helping through the night, I won't have to pay for a hotel room, LOL! I'll fly in midmorning Saturday, Peter's picking me up at the airport, off to Sacramento, work and laugh and help, then back to the airport for a Sunday afternoon flight. And I can NOT wait!


  1. A trip of a lifetime for a runner like you. Enjoy every minute and come back and tell us how it was!

  2. Yep, that is kind of a big deal! Enjoy!

  3. Very cool Libby. I grew up outside of Reno and have followed that race for years. I was just out there two months ago and the water levels around Tahoe look low. The crossing should be fun with our without rafts. I hope to run Robinson Flat to Michigan Bluff in July. Could not make it out to watch the WS race. Have a good time and give us a good report!!! Travis