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. 

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