Monday, August 24, 2015

Bigfoot 200: Council Bluff Aid Station

A couple of weekends ago my friend Belia and I loaded up her trusty SUV and headed south to volunteer at an aid station at a race called the Bigfoot 200. It is (was) a 200 mile endurance race-- on foot-- through the Cascade Mountains. It started on Mt. Saint Helens and ended in Randle, WA, in the shadow of Mt. Adams. For many pictures of the runners and the race, check out their photo album on the Bigfoot 200 Facebook page.

It wasn't until the last few months that I even heard of a 200 mile race. It was with complete shock that I let that information sink in. Two. Hundred. Miles. Even driving 200 miles is like, nah, I'm good. I'll stay here. That said, way back when I heard about this event I immediately knew I wanted to be a part of it. 

The drive to the aid station was about 4 1/2 hours from Seattle, close to two hours of that was slowly navigating over the gravel roads deeeeeeeep in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to the aid station. Council Bluff, the name of our aid station, was 127.8 miles in to the 200 mile race.

Tent city for the volunteers at the aid station (mine is the yellow one).

When we arrived at Council Bluff there were already volunteers on site who had been there since Friday. They had everything all set up and were hanging out and waiting for runners. Unfortunately it took a lot longer than we thought it would for runners to arrive, we didn't end up seeing our first until after 11:00 pm. It was so exciting to spot his headlamp emerging out of the darkness!

Welcome to Council Bluff!

All set up and ready for runners

My first working shift lasted until 4:00 am. Only a handful of runners come through that night, so it was fairly slow and mostly us volunteers were hanging out and drinking beer. Which of course was quite enjoyable, despite the strange animal sounds and gunshots we heard out in the forest!  

I hit my tent at 4 am and slept until just after 8 am. Snuggled in to a borrowed sleeping bag (despite my meticulous preparations, I forgot mine at home!) I just wanted to keep on snoozing, but that wasn't why I was there! I crawled out of my tent, checked in on the chipper volunteers who were up making breakfast for runners, and hung out while I ate.

This is what the runners saw as they approached the aid station.

This is the sign runners saw as they headed back out on the trail. 71 miles to go! 

Belia and I decided to make our way out for a quick run and check out the trails before our next shift. The short section of the race we explored was gorgeous. There was an incredible view of Mt. Adams and peek-a-boo views of both Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier. 

Belia on the trail.

Belia on the trail.

Back at the aid station it was time to jump back in to action. We were quite busy from noon until about 5-ish! There were up to six runners at a time taking a break, some with crew members and pacers with them. It was a hopping, and fun!, place to be!

It was wonderful to be able to take care of the runners. All of us volunteers took turns manning the propane stoves, preparing everything from canned soups to quesadillas, eggs, grilled cheese, and lunch meat sandwiches. There was also a buffet of goodies out on our table, like candy, chips, assorted drinks and fruit. We refilled many water bottles and handed over first aid supplies, baby wipes and sunscreen. The runners stayed anywhere from a couple of minutes to well over an hour, depending on what kind of break they needed. Our aid station was not an official sleeping station, but we did have a cot for the runners who needed a rest before they pushed on to the next aid station almost ten miles up the trail. I loved hearing our aid station captain, Ana, rouse sleeping runners with a "good morning sunshine!" 

View of Mt. Adams from Council Bluff.

The runners were all pretty much in great spirits. They were chatty and funny and so very appreciative of our efforts as volunteers. I wished there was more time to talk to each runner, to find out why in the world they were running this incredibly tough and remote 200 mile race!

While Belia and I packed up and left at 6:30 pm, the rest of the volunteers were at the aid station until the cut-off time on Monday morning. Such rockstars!

I hope I get a chance to help out again next year. It was truly a unique experience. 

Monday, August 03, 2015

Another Brain Dump Post

I think I'm melting. Seriously, NOT a fan of this heat in Seattle. Apparently we've been breaking heat records and all that makes me want to do is move somewhere much, much colder. Yukon, maybe? Are there trails to run there? 

It's been an interesting last week and half-ish. 

First! I am annoyed that Blogger isn't consistently sending me an email notification of the comments that are left on the ol' blog so that I can approve them (damn spam!). Sorry Stephanie! I appreciate your comments!

A bit ago I brought my girls up to the Talapus Creek trail and we met my friend Heather and her awesome kids for a short hike. It ended up going pretty much perfectly. Would say the only bad part was when we made it to Talapus Lake it got cold and started to rain! Didn't really expect that. Iris started getting crabby, but then began chatting with the other kids about Minecraft and all was well in her world. 

Chillin, literally, at Talapus Lake.

Last weekend my friend Belia and I headed out for a run at Grand Ridge. It's been a looong time since I have been out there and was excited to get back on the trails. Unfortunately I wasn't feeling great the night before and wasn't 100% sure of how my body would like the long run. Also? It was raining. POURING. Crazy town, as we have had so little rain this summer. We loved it, though it didn't stop for our 3+ hour run. The plan was to do 10 miles, I kind of wanted Belia to agree to bail at 8, but she was like, nah, we got this, so we kept going. I completely mis-calculated the mileage (it was an out, then a loop, then out some more, then straight back, plus my Garmin turned off roughly a mile in to the run). Anyways, we ended up doing closer to 12.5 miles. I ended up enjoying it, though, and we had a great run. One of the many mountain bikers we encountered (who were all very kind!) told us we were "gnar gnar" for being out there, and another cheered us one by telling us we were keeping a "great pace!" (it was like 14 min/miles at that point) so that was fun.

An open section of the trail, that's Tiger Mtn shrouded in clouds.

This past week was kind of tricky. My girls were both in camps, but they required 3 hours of total driving daily to get them to/from where they needed to be. Oof. But one good thing is each time I drove south of Seattle I had an absolutely magnificent view of Mount Rainier, which made my heart feel super happy. I thought about the adventure on the Wonderland Trail, I thought about the upcoming traverse of the Mother Mountain Loop.  

Then my little one got sick, the gross kind of sick, and was home with me Thursday and Friday. It was hot as balls on Thursday and Friday. My workouts were pretty miserable, but oh well. Such is life. That week I got in one great run on the pavement around my 'hood. Managed to gain over 700 feet of elevation in 6 miles by planning a route around a couple of big climbs. I hate speed work, but I love, love, love hills! 

Climbing my second hill. My first one took me to the bridge above.

So what's up next? This weekend I head down to volunteer at the Bigfoot 200 (yes, 200. A 200 mile race. On foot.) aid station. It is going to be crazy amounts of fun, despite the fact I will be (gasp) camping overnight there. Look for a fun post about that next week. 

Volunteer-related, I really, really, REALLY wanted to offer to be a pacer at the Cascade Crest 100 at the end of the month, but sadly, I just don't think I'm in solid enough shape to be a really strong pacer for 20 miles. I would call the shape I'm in "able to get it done", but no one needs their pacer to be a possible liability, you know? 

And lastly, for this random post, I have been selling a few things here and there on ebay recently. It's not quite as lucrative as I hoped it would be, but it's given me a small amount of spending money. All I am doing is selling random stuff I don't need anymore, so no money invested in the first place! Anyways, I have decided to use my meager earnings to buy things I need, and so far that has been 100% running related. So far that has meant a new Sawyer Mini water filter and bunch of Injinji socks! Woo hoo! Now I am keeping my eyes peeled for a running headlamp and a bigger running pack.