Whether racing or volunteering, hard work is a given in these ultra events but having fun and lots of it, well that's up to you. I had an exceedingly great time at San Francisco One Day this weekend. Just an amazing, fun and at times, head shaking experience. There was carnage out there to be sure and unlike a regular trail run event where people fall apart along the way, scattered all over the course, here I got to see it mile after mile, loop after loop as they went round and round. They disintegrated slowly before my eyes. On the flip side however I got to see a lot of inspirational gutsy performances, the kind you hold on to and pull out when you need the motivation. I saw many a runner enter their dark place, fight through and emerge on the other side still running and fighting. Then there were runners like Ron Vertees, 71 years young, who looked good the entire event running steady and strong. On the other end of that age scale was 9-year old Trevor Craig who ran with Mom and Dad. All three were entered for the 12-hour event and they started and finished together. He finished the day with 10 hours and 27.2 miles and he wasn't the only kid out there.
I say it all the time and I'll state it again, here in Northern California we are so damned fortunate to have an organization like PCTR who offers so many trail races for racing and volunteering options. You only have to look at their calendar to see the depth of their events. While most of their events are 50k races with multiple options for shorter distances, they have a few big ones - San Francisco One Day is one of the big ones. As I mentioned in an earlier post it is a 12 and 24 hour run held in San Francisco's Crissy Field. The loop is 1.067 miles that offers amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay.
Relaxed and loose, Ray Sanchez and Jon Burg at the start.
When I got there at 6:45AM Saturday morning it wasn't cold at all. You just knew it was going to be a warm day. Even the wind was absent, the bay which is usually filled with sail boats, wind surfers and the like were noticeably absent. I helped out with parking before joining RD Wendell at the control tent. There was a lot of talking and socializing going on and I managed to get in on the fun as well. Like fellow volunteer Victoria said, it was like a party. Everything started off without a hitch. I had front and center seating with the privilege of starting the timer on the computer as RDs Wendell and Sarah sent the runners off. The first hours of the morning saw me printing the emails sent by family and friends to their respective runners. There was a live webcast of the event and folks could email their support to their runners. Fellow volunteer Jo Lynn sent emails of support to a runner she saw struggling during the day after she got home from volunteering. These emails were then taken by Tamara and either handed out to the runners or organized in folders. Runners had access to the folders each loop, food and drink on the right, emails on the left. These were very short messages and it's impossible not to inadvertently read some of them. They were funny and heart warming. For example, there was one email that was sent by the parents of one runner that simply said, "stop reading emails and run!".
Working with the ladies; Flora, Jo Lynn and Victoria.
Michael Popov relieved me at 1PM and I was free to socialize for a bit with the crews and spectators. Eventually I found my way to the aid station tent where I would spend the majority of my time for the rest of the event, only coming out to help update the leader and status boards and other misc. errands. The status boards were dry erase boards that had runners names and their times which were updated every hour. Each runner had a transponder attached to their ankle that kept track of their progress. At the control tent, Wendell would print the updates and we manually logged it in the boards so the runners would have a clue about their progress and standings.
Sarah and Tamara updating the status boards.
Many folks stopped by to say hello throughout the event; family, friends, fellow ultra-marathoners. My friend Cathy came by on her road bike decked out in her sharp Roaring Mouse race kit looking to see if we had any triathlon club members participating. Katy came by to bring her lunch and shared half her delicious sandwich with me. Good friend and ultra gal in training Samantha came down twice to satisfy her curiosity, once during the day and once again during the night. Gundy came down too after his long training run, liked us so much that he too came back a second time in the evening. I told him I wasn't going to his wedding in May because it's the same date as Massanutten Mountain Trails 100. I was kidding of course...um maybe, no, no I am.
The volunteers I got to work with were phenomenal. We laughed, cringed, got hot during the day and shivered at night. Saturday day was with volunteers; Jo Lynn, "Victoria, Tamara (had two daughters running in the race and made a mean pumpkin bread), Miki (brought three homemade pumpkin pies with homemade whipped cream), Michael and two ladies whose names I missed. Saturday evening and Sunday morning was with volunteers; Marika, Lauren, Suzanne, Leigh, Jochen, Steve, Jeff, Brian and Dan. Purposely saved for last but definitely not the least is volunteer extraordinaire Flora who was already there setting up on Saturday morning when I got there and was still there working when I left Sunday morning.
Ed Swanson:I have to puke.... Me:Okay but while you're doing that I'm going to remove your transponder ok, don't puke on me
At 9PM there was a flurry of activity as the 12-hour runners finished. Transponders needed to be collected and there was a lot of celebrating. There was an awards ceremony and everything while the 24-hour folks kept plugging away. The 24 hour lead was past 75 miles at this point, an impressive distance and we could only hope that he could keep up the good work. Fresh on my mind and others was last year when the leader burned through 100-miles in 15.5 hours only to drop several hours not too long after. I had the privilege of running with my friend Ed Swanson on his last mile. He started running ultra events this year with the goal of running 50-miles for his 50th birthday on January. He ran 52.3 on Saturday! He finished strong and was a shivering stiff pile of a human being after that, his wife kept asking for my assistance to help move him around. Nothing broken though, all good and well deserved pain. Congratulations Ed, you may have to shoot for something bigger on your birthday now.
Ed Swanson exuberant after his finish. The pain and stiffness hadn't set in yet, haha. It's wrong that I took so much pleasure seeing him suffer after the race but only because I've been there myself. Ok ok, I'll get help or run extra miles for penance.
It got very cold during the evening, the wind picked up and the fog rolled in brrr..... I had thoughts of pacing during the race but once it got cold I lost all motivation and huddled in the tent as close to the heater with the rest of the crew. Lauren and Suzanne were smarter, they took quick laps on the course to keep themselves warm. These were very dark hours for many of the runners. A bunch would end up dropping including the runner who led the first half of the race and the runner who was running third. More than one runner went hypothermic out there in the cold temperatures and we even took in some of them who needed to sit down and warm up by the heater. Somewhere around 3PM I passed out on my chair for an hour despite a tent full of people talking and working.
Introducing your Sunday morning cooks; Leigh, Flora and Lauren. Still going strong. Suzanne selling the hot goodies to the runners but not being very successful, thus the upside down smile. This didn't last long though when young gun runner Ron Vertees (71 years old!) took a nice big piece. Ron by the way would log in 69.4 miles.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to see the event finish. I mistakenly told my friend Jason that the event ended at 8AM and he scheduled a Sunday run with friends based on that info. He came by and I was out of there by 8:20AM. By then the winners were pretty much decided and the aid station was transformed into a breakfast kitchen with Lauren, Flora and Leigh cooking. Lauren made cheese Quesadillas with Bacon and Leigh cooked pancakes with a special homemade mix she brought from home. By 9AM I was already miles away at Mt. Tam, meeting up with friends for a short run. Before the weekend was up I was a runner again, no more cowering in layers in a dark corner of a tent and I ran with thoughts of "San Francisco One Day" swimming in my head. We sandbagged most of the way through only to beat it like crazy on the last 3-miles trying to drop each other on the way back, jumping over steps and rocks along the way. I can tell you I was above my comfort level. Smiling and grimacing with my heart in my throat beating at maximum. Good times but that's a tale for another day.
Can't forget da boyz. Throwing down ultra-marathoning gang signs is Jeff and Steve.
A special shout out to Luciano from Italy. You sent an email greeting to the RDs and volunteers that was printed and shared with us by Steve around...hmmm after 4AM I think. I know you only from this blog and our quick exchanges on your blog but the volunteers I was with at the aid station remember you. You are missed.
With Race Director Sarah Spelt-Doman. How many times have we posed exactly like this for a picture Sarah?:) I hope there are many more to come.
You can view the complete photoset here. Lots of smiles, studly looking runners, the male runners looked strong too and happy volunteers.