Tuesday, April 24, 2012

when running isn't an option

so there's a crazy run that takes place in a bunch of different places all over the country called the ragnar relay.  folks form teams of six and take turns running a handful of legs over a period of 24 hours (on average) and cover 200ish miles.  nutty, huh?  not something i could ever see doing - each runner does about 30+ miles during that timeframe, and i would be dead on my feet.  no way, no how.

however, i was more than happy to answer a call for help to volunteer on behalf of team sparkle.  each team has to provide three volunteers to work the various shifts all along the course to get the exchange stations set up and running smoothly.  and when team sparkle sweetened the deal and dangled $125 in store credit in exchange for taking a 5-hour shift - well, 1. i CAN be bought and 2. if it isn't a race i'm interested in actually running, i figured it'd be fun to volunteer and be on the other side for once.

so when i got the green light to sign up, i made sure to get to the computer bright and early when the shifts opened up.  the soCA run started in huntington beach, meandered up through anaheim to corona, and took a leisurely turn south to end on coronado island.  i wanted to get something as close to home as possible, and was happy to find one in anaheim on friday morning from 5 to 10.  am, that is.  i asked the hub to take the bean to school and got my sparkle skirt ready to go.

i dragged my tired ass up out of bed at the incredibly ungodly hour of 3:45, got myself ready, made a nice big cup of iced coffee, and headed out the door.  i was assigned to exchange #6, which was located at yorba regional park.  it was so dark when i pulled up that i ended up going in about half a dozen circles before i finally found the entrance to the place.  i was so early that even the race staff hadn't arrived yet.

i got to chatting with the other volunteers as they straggled in, and everyone was really friendly even that early in the morning.  when the u-haul truck arrived with all the gear, we cheered and headed out to get to work.

the two staffers who hopped out of the truck seemed a little overwhelmed at their task, despite their reassurances that they'd done this many times over.  the truck was filled to the brim with cones and gates and boxes and all sorts of stuff, which mostly had to be unloaded before we could get to the tents and chairs and things that we had to set up.  with cases upon cases of sports drinks and water bottles to unload, we formed a human chain to get it all out of there and in the right spot.


apparently, next to the start line, our exchange was one of the biggest ones of the entire route.  lucky us!


it almost seemed like there wasn't enough to do and an overabundance of volunteers, because we spent a lot of time standing around before we had actual work to do.  i pitched in as much as i could, though, and pretty soon we had everything in place.



when it came time to dole out responsibilities, i hung back and skipped over the duties i wasn't really interested in (water table, calling out the team numbers as their runners began to arrive, checking safety gear, handing out flags).  i wanted to work the check-in table, so i was the first to raise my hand when they announced that particular job.  this was where i was stationed for the last three hours of my shift.



after i went back to the car to get my folding chair and my coffee, i eyeballed the hundreds of goody bags behind me and decided to check 'em out.  hey, i wanted to see what kind of stuff they were gonna get.


we decided that it wasn't really so much a "goody bag" but more of a "tool kit" with some stuff that the teams would likely be pretty grateful to have, like a can of anti-chafing spray:


some fuel:


the all-important roll of TP:


there was other stuff in there too, like coupons and other promotional flyers for running-related gear.  each team would receive one bag, along with a copy of the "ragmag," which provided all of the details about the route and each leg of the run.


they also received an envelope with their team bibs, parking pass, and safety pins.


after i checked out the goody bag for us volunteers, i got bored.


and i was sad to realize that i'd lost one of my pompoms.


as the sun started to burn through the cloud cover, the vans began arriving.  because we were at a major exchange, we were expecting a total of about 1,200 vans over the course of about 12 hours.  that's a whole lot of people.




when i'd registered online to sign up for a shift, i noticed another volunteer's name on team sparkle who looked familiar.  and sure enough, it was one of the girls i knew from the orange county nest board.  she'd signed up for the same shift as me, and we worked at the check-in table together decked out in our sparkle skirts.  and our official "race crew" tech tees.


and look - a whole team of runners in matching sparkle skirts!


once the teams started arriving, the time just flew by.  and before i knew it, my shift had come to an end.


i wandered across the field to check out the sponsors who were handing out free samples.  i didn't take any, of course, since all that stuff was for the actual runners.  i was most amused at the presence of krispy kreme, handing out boxes containing a dozen of their scrumptious donuts:


and starbucks was there too, handing out both brewed and instant flavored coffee.


plus some energy bars and drinks.



i went over to cheer on the runners who trickled in one by one:



and watched a team doing a warm-up dance.


when i finally drove out of there and headed towards the freeway, i spotted some of the runners on their way to the exchange.  i rolled down the windows and cheered loudly, but i don't think they heard me.


despite the fact that i'd had to roll outta bed really freaking early, drive for half an hour, and do a bunch of heavy lifting and crap, i had a really good time.  i enjoyed working with the other volunteers, setting up the exchange, and interacting with the runners.  i've already decided that if the opportunity is available to me next year...well, i won't even need the added enticement of free sparkle skirts to sign up.

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