Ice Age 50 is one of those races that can break your heart or make your soul rejoice. It holds my first DNF and my half trail PR. This year I decided to run WI marathon and rest the week before going to the Grand Canyon. It also meant I could volunteer for Ice Age! Generally speaking I was ok with this. Run, volunteer, run, volunteer; except I got hit really hard with the fear of missing out. I quickly remembered many of my friends were running and this year it wasn’t really my race. DamYeti would be fast approaching and I was bound and determined to stick to my plan. I asked to volunteer the whole day.
I awoke at 4:30 in the morning to drive to Nordic to start with packet pick up. I can’t think of a better way to say hi to everyone and wish them a great race. The pick up system worked really well this year. One race at a time, 50 miles first, then 50k after 50 started, then the half after the 50k. Shirt, buff, bib, bag, pins and sticker. Next please! And occasionally a stop for a hug or a drink of coffee.
When I was done I had enough time to run to the General Store for some breakfast and grab some lunch to take with (I wasn’t running so no reason to touch the aid station food unless helping). A breakfast burrito and ham sandwich sounded delicious and soon enough I headed to Emma Carlin Aid Station where I’d stay til the end of the day. There were about 8 of us there prepping; making Heed and PB&J, slicing and dicing fruit fast like trail ninjas. We expected our first runner at 11:30. Pretty close to 12:15 the aid station captain and I started to go look for runners. At best we also got a good run/hike. These trail are home and welcoming. This particular segment is one of my favorites.
About 10 minutes after we got back crew started to gather and the first male came through. Then 2nd and 3rd. It quickly turned into the best bartending jobs I have ever had. Knowing that runners had less than 10 miles to go, it became our job to get them fed and back out there to finish. Some were in and out, some lingered, some needed encouragement, and some needed tough love.
The hours passed and I get nervous about cut off times. Ultimately, I wanted everyone who came through to make it. Cheering for a stranger and wanting them to succeed is one of the best parts of this sport. We each have our individual race but we are in it together. Our hard cutoff time was 3:40pm. The closer to that time we started to move the water and food closer. Less steps, easier access. This way they could get back out there. We took care gnarly feet, sore knees, tight backs and upset stomachs. Every time someone went back out, my heart was happy. The closer to the cutoff there was a variance of attitude. A few didn’t make it,a few quit, few got cut off. It’s amazing to see people take flight when they realize they have time. The fight and determination comes back out. Later that day I watched so many of them finish strong. Our last lady who came in knew she didn’t make it and was extremely happy and grateful for her miles for the day.
I love to race. I know what it means to have a volunteer tell me I look great (even if they are lying to me). I certainly want that for others. Some of my favorite races need help from time to time; I’ll be happy to donate my time. The directors do this for the love of the run and most likely have full time jobs outside of this. I want others to succeed so the race succeeds; this way I get to run it again.
“You saved my race” is the biggest complement received. It means I/we volunteers did our job. I also love to see the dynamics of crew and their runner. Are they in tune? How fast can they get their runner out? Almost every runner is happy to see a friend or a loved one. It makes it easier when we have what they forgot or didn’t think to bring. A gap closed and a race continued. These are little thrills that make it seem easier to keep going. Quality time spent giving back to the community that I love so much is never wasted.
However, next year I run. I can’t wait to thank a volunteer.