Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ultra volunteering, tri spectating

A couple of weeks ago I volunteered at the Twilight Ultra Challenge organised by the Running Guild.

If you remember this was on my list of 2014 Things To Do. I'd never volunteered at a race before, but I picked Running Guild because I LOVE their small community-focused events - those events are really well-organised, by runners for runners, and they really do know what runners need. At Twilight, most of the volunteers were high school kids who needed to get community service hours, but quite a number were runners themselves.

So, I signed up back in January, and we got our briefing packets through email. I was assigned to the 'special needs table' - if you're not familiar with ultras, those that come in the form of multiple laps typically have a spot where you can drop off stuff you might need over the course of the race, but that you don't want to carry with you. People stash food, extra gels, a spare shirt, phone chargers, and in the case of one runner, an entire set of shower stuff so she could take a shower and change mid-run! (It worked - she ran 100km...) Another runner had a pack of cigarettes and would go for a smoke every lap or two (!...) . Another one chatted on the phone with a series of friends overseas nearly the whole time.

For the first hour or two we were super busy just taking in people's drop bags and labelling them with masking tape and marker pens (should just get sticky labels next year - save on masking tape).

At 7pm the runners were off! The race course consisted of a 10km loop, with a main aid station in the middle and one at each end. Race format was as many 10km loops as you could run in 16 hours (!!!).

We spent another half hour arranging the special needs bags by runner bib number. For the first couple of hours, as people came in, we directed them to their bags; by about 11pm most people had a pretty good idea of where their stuff was. I feel like I could have been redirected to labour-intensive stations that really did need more volunteers, like the food station (they were kept busy boiling hot water for coffee, cooking hotdogs, slicing watermelon, and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches all night).

At 1am I took a tiny nap because we weren't needed that much, then alternated between directing people to their bags and handing out gummi bears and biscuits. At 4am I took a slightly longer nap (it was supposed to be half an hour but it inadvertently turned into an hour and a half, oops).

Runners sprawled all over the place - about 3am
And then, sunrise!

As the morning wore on, the special needs table team took turns manning the spray bottle to spritz runners with ice cold water - by about 8am, they really, really needed it.

Photo credit - Dave of PictureArt
Finally, at 11am, the ultra was over. The eventual winner ran 145km. In 16 hours. Let's just say that's faster than my long-run pace.

The medals are the size of your face, just in case you need bragging rights.

A few of the volunteers. Photo credit - Ben Swee (race director!)
I don't feel any urge to do an ultra in the near future, but if I did, it would be with these guys. And would I volunteer for another Running Guild race again? You betcha.

Gold Coast training log, week 6 - April 7 to 13 

Monday - 6km to gym, yoga

Tuesday - 16x400 leaving every 2:30 - this was a tolerance set, so 400s at moderate pace, about 2:00.

Wednesday - a true rest day

Thursday - AM: tempo - 1.2km warmup, 7km at 6:00/km, 2km cooldown. PM - 5km easy with coworkers after work near the office, chatting all the way.

Friday - 'GRIT strength' class at the gym -- half an hour of high intensity interval strength workout that is way tougher than it sounds + 1.2km cooldown. All I can say about this one is, burpees are the exercise from hell and no one should ever do them. It's Sunday night and I'm still sore.

Saturday - 10.3km to and around the Botanic Gardens

Sunday - 25km from downtown to Changi Beach for more tri spectating. Once you get on that Changi park connector, you really have to commit because it's the middle of nowhere and there is no turning back. I ran a little bit longer than expected because I suck at estimating distances - I'd thought it was 21k from downtown to my destination. Also, one of my water stops was simply not open at 8.30am when I got there, so I arrived at the end point ABSOLUTELY STARVING and Shirlene had to feed me a Snickers bar to stop me from tipping over.

Shirlene and I are rapidly becoming Super Tri Spectators. This morning we chalked up some more tri spectating points by cheering our heads off at the Metasprint sprint-distance tri at Changi Beach Park. Her husband and his friend were racing each other - I mean, they were racing, but the actual race doesn't matter as long as Eugene beats Aylwin. Or vice versa. You know. Boys.

Total: 64.5km + yoga + GRIT + tri spectating


  1. Good for you for volunteering at an ultra! I volunteered once at a food table for a 6 & 12 hour event -- it was relentless! I found it *almost* as exhausting as running for 6 hours.

    1. Exactly! The food table folks always have it toughest, I think. People come in nonstop. Fortunately the food team was the biggest so they could do it in shifts.