Before I begin this recap, let me start by saying that I have a whole new respect for Race Directors, Race Support/Volunteers and especially the Ragnar Relay Series.
For those of you that don't know, I got the opportunity to work behind the scenes on a relay event called the MC200; a 200 mile relay that goes from Madison, WI to Chicago, IL. (This has been an ongoing event for a few years now with a local Race Director who sold the event to Ragnar Relay beginning 2011. Ragnar provided support to this years event to get a crash course on the event details in preparation for the take over.) Christy and the Ragnar gang picked me up from the Madison airport late Wednesday night and after we went over plan of action for the next few days we hit the hay to prepare for the frenzy of course set up, take down and all the madness in between...
Thursday: We started out the day with an early morning 4 M run on a part of the course around exchange 3; through the quaint downtown area of Deerfield, WI and part of the Glacial Drumlin Bike Trail. Christy left us 1.5 M in so as another girl and I rounded out to the 2 M mark we decided to pick up the pace and negative split the run home. We ended up with a progressive run of: 9:40, 9:09, 8:31, 7:27 Woot! When we got back to the condo I popped an anti-inflammatory, rocked my recovery socks, cleaned up and we headed over to Madison to put together participant bags for packet pick-up and the Start Line. It was a long day but thankfully it was spent inside and with great company.
Friday: Race Day! I was up and at 'em at 6am and just before I walked out the door to head to the Start I got a call from Christy needing me to drive to Exchange 12 to pick up some items that the Course Set Up Team forgot to leave at the Start. Begin crazy, insane day.
Exchange 12 was down in Wales Community Park in Wales, WI. I put the coordinates into the GPS and me and my rental VW Beetle were on our way! When I reached the exchange point I ran into my first issue; the items I needed were zip tied into a porta potty and I was sans any kind of sharp device. I ended up stopping a truck leaving the park to ask for a pocket knife and got quite the questionable looks, they eventually obliged but I'm fairly certain they were thinking the whole situation was sketchy.
After I retrieved the items needed I headed back to Madison to drop off the items at the Start and there I finally got to meet my Daily Mile Running Frenemy, Jordan, in person. (Back Story of this to come) I wished him well and then was back in the bug headed to Exchange 6; Lake Mills, WI... or so I thought.
30± Miles off course later I end up on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. The GPS coordinates in the info packet I had were incorrect. FML. I called my contact at Exchange 6 to let him know I was off course and needed the location address to plug in. He had gone off course as well and had just arrived so thankfully at least one of us was there when the first runners came in... but unfortunately the P.A. system was in my car. It was shaping up to be a long day...
I finally arrived at Exchange 6 about 11 a.m. and settled in to do safety briefing for Van 2's. For the next few hours we put on a safety demonstration every 15-20 minutes as the day raged on and began to rival a typical day in Hades. At one point as I returned from the store to get us supplies I followed behind an ambulance that was picking up a runner who had suffered from Heat Exhaustion. After that we had to start reminding the teams to stay on top of hydration and nutrition since it was not an aided course and I was amazed at how ill prepared the runners were for the heat. If there's one thing living in Florida has taught me is to always be prepared for heat. I also got to run into to Jordan again as well as EZEthan from Rise of a Champion. Gotta love the blogger meet-ups mid event!
Sometime about 5pm I was sent to deliver lunch/dinner to the Exchange Volunteers from Exchange #7 thru to #24 in Racine, WI. As I followed the winding course from Exchange Point to Exchange Point I got to take in the sights of small towns across the Wisconsin area and let me tell you, they are serious about their Ham Radios and they love themselves an Old Style. Sometime about 1 a.m. I was finally relieved of my duties and told I could proceed to the hotel in Chicago. I arrived about 2 a.m. sweaty, covered in dirt and bug bites and exhausted. I quickly showered and then melted into my glorious hotel bed for approx 3 hours.
Saturday: Finish Line Duty. When I arrived at the Finish Line at Montrose Park it was 7:30 a.m. cold, overcast and windy. What a HUGE difference a few hours can make here in the Midwest. Within minutes I was covered in mud, soaking wet and covered in cuts and bruises from lugging all the equipment for set-up across the grassy knoll. So goes the next few hours as the wind picks up and the weather continues to loom above us threatening to unleash it's fury... and about 10 a.m. it did. All our set up efforts were soaked in seconds as the rain came down sideways into the tents. As the rain poured and the lightning began to strike the teams were stopped indefinitely at all check points as the Hammies put the entire course on Red Alert due to weather. The other Finish Line volunteers and myself took cover in the back of the supply U-Haul and made the event Medic tells us stories to keep us entertained as we dubbed ourselves The Boxcar Children.
About 12:15 pm the weather had subsided enough to safely allow teams to continue on and we Finish Line volunteers worked in a mad frenzy to recover the area in time for the runner's to arrive. At 1:30 pm the first team crossed the Finish Line and I began my long, tiresome and at times trying role as the Pizza "Giver-Outter." Pizza was continuously being delivered in 15-30 minute intervals but due to the course begin held up a lot of teams had caught up to each other and were finishing in huge waves. So huge that we went from having a stock pile of 100+ pizza's to zero. The next delivery of 40 was wiped out in 5 minutes flat. Then I had masses of runner's staring at me hungrily and at times angrily until the next delivery. By 7pm my patience was worn thin, my feet had been soaked for approx 11 hours straight and were starting to show signs of Trench Foot, I was so cold I couldn't stop shaking and was running on Redbull alone.Upon examining my feet the Medic made me take off my socks and put on garbage bags to warm them up a little. Note the giant bruise forming on my left leg.
By 8:30 pm the final team crossed the Finish Line and we began take down. I added a ton more cuts, bruises and mud to my already beat up exterior as the road cones/caution signs single handedly beat my @ss. By 11pm-ish we were finally done and on our way to warmth and food. Sitting around the table at T.G.I.Friday's we exchanged war stories of the past two days, ate as much food as we could and tried to remain conscious long enough to make it back to the hotel.
Back at the hotel I quickly showered while Christy tied up some loose ends for the following day, and when I got out I found her passed out cold across her bed and had to wake her up to get her into the shower. By this time it was well past 1 am and she had been up since 4 am Friday morning. She was a Rockstar out there on the course and I tell ya, she is going to do some amazing things to this course/event next year as Race Director!
All done and said, even when I was totally getting my @ss kicked, I had a blast working behind the scenes for this event. I personally have always thanked my race volunteers and support staff but after this weekend I have a deeper appreciation and an insider's knowledge on just what it takes to put on an event like this. I can not say this enough but one last time, THANK YOUR VOLUNTEERS/SUPPORT STAFF! Even better, take the time to find the Race Director and thank them too!
Thanks Christy for hooking me up with this spot on the support staff, it was a crazy insane experience but a total blast and I can't wait to see what you do with it next year!