by Karen Riddle
Huntsville State Park
February 3, 2007
It was a cool day in North Texas . . . wait a minute – it was downright cold and nasty when I left work Thursday to drive to Deborah’s. We were going to get a head start on setting up the Dam Road Aid Station Friday prior to Rocky Raccoon’s 100 and 50 milers. I had been following the weather all week and it seemed like cold was in the forecast, that’s all I knew. And there was a blustery wet rainy type snow all the way to Decatur. I was not a happy camper and I wasn’t even camping yet! If it had not been Deborah and all she has done for running and myself I would turned around and plead bad weather woes and canceled. But I was on my way and boy oh boy I didn’t even know what was to come!
Friday a.m. Deborah got an email from Henry Hobbs on the jeep road that we were to take to Dam Road. It was in the worst condition he had ever seen and impassable by anything but 4-wheel drive. So we contemplated removing what we couldn’t transport from the van, but it was packed so tight, we didn’t know what was what and decided to take it all and work it out later. She was working out the details all the way to the park. It could get real tricky and I was getting more miserable, with Deborah saying it could make a good story – I didn’t care about any story at the moment. I had signed up for the 50 miler, as one of my training runs for Umstead and changed my plans as I had told Deborah last year that I would work her aid station this year. So, it all sounds good at the time – run the 50, head to the aid station and work, but when the time comes, it’s not as glamorous as when the plans are being made, so I changed them and decided to devote most all my time to the aid station, with some time out to pace Tom Adair on his 2nd loop – yes – he’s over 60 and can have a pacer on any loop.
So, the weekend started out with me not too happy and it was looking worse with each passing moment and I was not re-adjusting my attitude at all. It’s sure a good thing Deborah was, or at least was fooling me! We got to the park and found out one of our volunteers had a 4-wheel drive truck and was willing to haul all our tents, sleeping bags, chairs, blankets, stove, running gear, night-time clothes, gas for the generator, generator, crock pots, and what-nots, which took about 5 truck loads, which also included water and drop bags. It was a nightmare, but we were so lucky to have Todd to assist, which was way beyond the duties he signed up for. So, Friday ended about 10:30 p.m. with a tired and cold crew that made many trips down a rutted, muddy, bouncy roller coaster ride of a road, only to crash in cold tents.
It was so cold my air mattresses deflated! And when my body sank to the cold, cold earth I just lay there and rested, slept about an hour to the unglorious sound of Deborah’s alarm going off at 4:30 a.m.! Up and at ‘em!!! We had chores ahead of us! Drop bags to organize and organize and organize. And spread out as far as we could get them, but with the little room we had, we couldn’t get them in numerical order – but later I could see that it wouldn’t have mattered – when the runners went through their bags, the bags were not all that organized anymore.
Fruit to cut, sandwiches to make, water to pour, Gatorade and Heed to make, cups to set out, get prepared! And the cold – imagine it so cold that when you missed the cup and spilt water on the table you did not even have to wipe off the table – just knock off the ice! Spilt water froze to ice before our very eyes! Amazing! And kind of scary to think this was the weather we would be in for another 30+ hours.
So, by the time the run started we were ready and waiting! Of course the first runners zoomed by with not so much as a breath, but it was exciting that the race had started and to see if Adonis – ooops – I mean the Naked Man or Jorge would win and if Jen would win the women’s 100. (The Naked Man did, and so did Jen)
So, skipping most of the regular stuff, it was a fast, wild, crazy day – never a let-up. We had people manning the hot food (later Sammy supplied lots of super food for the aid station in addition to the normal aid station fare), the cold food, the beverages, monitoring what we would need later, assisting runners and taking down runner’s times. I was tired and pouty and wanted my coffee, which we did end up finding and brewing, but I still got in some disagreements with some other volunteers. People misunderstand my questions sometimes and I can get real rough and gruff! I have that engineering background, am constantly analyzing things and questioning things and people take me wrong and it just darned ol’ pisses me off – but I’m talking about things going on with the other volunteers, not the runners! Sometimes I’m not that gentle, understanding helpful volunteer – so I remove myself from the situation til I get going on something else and forget the whole thing.
I had to get ready around 11:30-noon to be there when my runner came through around 12:30 and I sure was ready for it! I wanted to be out there on the course, wanted to see the course, feel the course and just needed that outlet. Also wanted to fully focus and help someone get through a 100 miler. Tom was there right on schedule and we were off to Farside. This is my least favorite part of the course but I didn’t want to tell Tom that. I actually despise this section because it’s not that hard, but it seems to take me forever to get through it. As it was, I think it took us almost two hours and that was not good as we wanted to be back at Dam around 5:30-6:00. I burned my tongue BAD at Farside on some soup and that was a learning experience to use when I got back to working the aid station. Tom was wonderful to run with and I sure hope I didn’t slow him down, as we didn’t get back to Dam until around 6:45, in the dark, glad I brought my headlamp. He changed and was back on his way to Farside and I went back to work, this time on the hot foods, which was a continuous non-ending task.
It was starting to get colder again and even though we had a heater if you didn’t move around you were numb. What can I say, it was just freezing, totally freezing out there, I think it got down to 26 degrees and I’m not sure if it wasn’t colder than that and it was a damp cold that penetrated though you. It had warmed up a bit during the day, which made for very pleasant running conditions then and only then!! Back at night the water froze in the cups, sort of a little glaze on top, so that when the runners grabbed the cup they sometimes got a little surprise ‘pop’ of ice in their face. This was the first race I have witnessed runners asking for hot water in their water bottles!
I’m getting confused about the time, but sometime during the dark-time (and I did go back in the tent for a nap between midnight and 4:30, which was mostly rest-time not sleep time, with everything on, sleeping bag, blankets, gloves and all). Anyway – there were lots of highlights in the wee hours. A son pacing his mother, a 15 yr. old, after Deborah and I were talking about how kids didn’t care if their parents finished a 100 miler – and here was this wonderful kid helping get his mother through a 100 miler – I sure do wish I got her name and I sure do hope she finished!!! Another highlight – Fred pacing a girl that earlier got so lost she came back to our aid station and was in total desperation, and Lynn Ballard – that man is on something good and I want some!!!! He was to pace Rochelle after Todd did his loop with her. Lynn Ballard – a smile never left his face – he had run to the aid station, helping so much at the aid station, was going to run back to the start and run the last loop with Rochelle! Bree – Rochelle’s friend, came out to the aid station to cheer on Rochelle, literally worked her butt off – and being the attractive young thing, the male runners just loved her! She did way more than she anticipated, with a smile on her face and worked for almost 24 hrs.!!!! And Todd – way over his head in work – his truck, hopefully is ‘better’ now as he got some sort of bad message about his 4-wheel drive on the way back.
So, the night went by and the runners went by and during the night and early a.m., most had pacers, so we fed and watered, coffeed, hot chocolated them all, along with cheers and good luck. Tom had dropped, others had dropped and we had no way of getting them back, so they hiked it back in on their own or with assistance from a volunteer. This was a rough aid station to do – you saw the runners twice on each loop, there was no easy way for vehicular access, it was too far for even a short-cut unless you had a car parked at Amy’s crossing, which not everyone did. If you wanted supplies, some were left at Amy’s crossing and volunteers hiked to get them and hiked back!
Wow! What an experience and yes, Deborah was right, lots of stories to tell! I couldn’t stop thinking that what I do for fun is actually maybe insane ? ! ? But I do like the idea of adults playing outside and in the dark – sort of a comforting though that I have really found something that I love to do and there are lots of others who share that passion. And, with all the issues we had, at just one aid station, just how the heck does Joe Prusaitis do it all? Especially right after Bandera?
The ride home was rough, with so little sleep and really not too safe. I OD’d on caffeine and made it – we still had to get to Deborah’s, unload my stuff from her van into my car, and then I had to trek another 2 ½ hrs. home. A bit scary.
Would I do it again? Of course! A wonderful way to pay back what others give – but – there is a stipulation! I need shift work – like a maximum 10-12 hr. shift. I’m too much dependant on my sleep to be a somewhat halfway pleasant individual and also to get myself safely home to do it all again!!!