Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Beaverhead 55K - Volunteers Worth Their Weights in Gold

I want to write a race report when I get a moment, but I wanted to take the time out for a story from Saturday from the Beaverhead Endurance Runs 55K race in Salmon, Idaho.

The 10 miles leading up to the Janke Lake Aid Station at mile 23.5 were pretty miserable. A sometimes trail, talus crossings, overgrown sections of sage bushes and pasture grass with lots of rocks. Lots of big climbs.
Talus crossing

Then a long while of cold steady run with strong cold winds (as soon as the rain started, I put on my rain shell jacket, my gloves, and pulled my buff over my ears under my running hat).
"I love cold rain!" Keep smiling and fake it 'til you make it!!

I tried to keep my mood up, remembering how remarkable the place was that I was running. I spent miles 10 to 23 using a mantra I created during that section: "Suffering is a little easier when you're somewhere this beautiful."
Headed up the pile of rocks

So when I came into the Janke Lake aid station about 9 hours into the race, I was feeling pretty worn down. I was not sure if I could do the next section (long scree field, climbing to the highest point on the course which was above 10,000 feet, and a drop down of 3000 feet in two miles) which was scaring me. The volunteer met me 20 feet out from the aid station in a field at the top of a big climb and asked how I was doing.
The aid station was at the top of this long, yet very nontechnical (thankfully for half a second) hill
I had been assessing my needs for this aid station for a while and had a plan. I said, "I'm cold. I'm tired. I'm a little sleepy because I think the altitude is starting to get to me. I'm scared that I'm about to spend 4 hours doing what's supposed to be the hardest part of the course. I need to sit and take the time here to eat and drink and get my head right." 

They sat me down in a camp chair. I said, "I just need to get really psyched up about what I'm about to do next." 

They didn't judge. They didn't fret that I was considering dropping, because I really wasn't. Two guys immediately put my legs into a sleeping bag and had me put on one of their jackets.

They made me up a bowl of potato chips, pretzels, and M&Ms, and got me some Pepsi. And then we went through all the things I knew but needed to hear again.

I've made this cutoff? "Yeah by 2 hours!"
And it's the LAST cutoff? "Yes, now just take your time and finish."
And what time is it? "4:30. You can get the scree field done before nightfall!"
"See that mountain over there? You're just climbing that. That's the scree field." Of course I can't see the scree, and hey, that mountain doesn't look so bad.
Brilliantly done, volunteer!

Then, we saw two lightning strikes in the distance. Bring on the next freakout. I was worried about getting hypothermia out there. But I was also worried about lightning strikes while being on the scree field. You're completely exposed, and they had covered this in the trail briefing. First, a volunteer assured me the path of those storms and clouds have been passing to the north of the mountain I was headed to. Then, a female volunteer walked me through how to handle lightning again: "Get down on the slope side of the scree some. Get off the top. Squat down low with just your feet touching the ground. Cross your arms and put your elbows on your knees so the current runs through the most direct path."

Nothing like a lightning strike briefing to make you feel better. LOL
Dark clouds ahead

As I sat and ate and chatted, I finally said, "See? I'm starting to feel better." I was smiling and laughing again, and my attitude was much improved.

Towards the end of the 12 minutes or so I spent there, the older gentleman asked me if when I was ready to go, could he take me this 10 feet out of the way to look off the cliff so he could show me Montana. Way to help get someone psyched back up!

We got the sleeping bag off me, the volunteer's jacket off me, and strapped back on my pack with their help because my gloved hands were tired and having trouble with the straps. Then, the volunteer walked me over to the cliff and pointed out Janke Lake and we looked out on the whole state of Montana. It was really really cool. He said, "How about we take your picture?"
Yep. I look COLD. That gusting cold wind would tear right through you.
Another volunteer was concerned that I was saying I was still cold. This was really worrying me. He ran off and returned with two hand warmers he had just started. We wanted to warm up my core so we put one in my compression shorts on my tummy and one in my sports bra below my armpit. Thankfully, the sun would start to come out shortly after that, and it would warm up again.
Getting a little happier now
I thanked them so much and headed out. I owe them a lot. I ended up spending 4 hours and 40 minutes on the next extremely scary 4.5 miles avoiding falling off cliffs or seriously injuring myself, thanks to my complete lack of grace and balance.

More on my race when I have time, but I had to share this. If you ever volunteer in an ultra, please realize that these little gestures help runners immensely!

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