Race Volunteering

We had a lot of fun stuffing race packages last night and handing them out today for the upcoming local St. Patrick’s Day race.

I really enjoy racing but I am starting to also enjoy the coordinating and volunteering for races.

Sure there is a lot of time to put into meetings, setting up, and tearing down, but seeing so many people benefit from your contributions makes it worthwhile.
One of the deals when we signed up for the organizing committee was that we couldn’t race on race day because there was so much other work to do. The organizing isn’t really that much work if you have a great organised race director like we have. She is a veteran at these things.

This year, not only do I not get to run it, but I have double booked myself and now I can’t even volunteer on race day. I put all this effort in and all I will get out of it is seeing the smiles on the photos of the finishers.

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This one armed mannequin may look like one of the volunteers but most of us wear out hats straight

But I’ll get pictures. And the photos are always great especially with the costume contest. Hopefully I will remember to post some of the best ones here next week.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day this weekend. Have a great run. Wear green.

In a Race Long Ago – #TBT

I was just looking back at the pictures of my first race 11 years ago. It was the Vancouver Marathon. No, I didn’t start with a 5k or 10k. I went straight to a marathon. Looking back, I don’t know what was in me to commit to this or any race, except that it was a challenge from my brother. And you don’t turn down those kind of challenges.

My first taste of racing and marathoning was after training mostly outdoors in northern Canada through the winter. I drove 1200 km south to Vancouver to race in May in the drizzle and miserableness that is typical of coastal locales. Totally different than the sunny but frigid training conditions. A definite shock to the system.

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That’s nervous energy behind that smile at my first start line
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Cold, wet, rainy race day

Of course I wore all the wrong clothes. Went out too fast. And wasn’t prepared to make quick decisions at the aid stations. And every couple miles vowed never to do this again.

But I finished and I was very proud of my 3:36 finish.

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“Dad, even my medal was bigger than yours”

One of the lasting memories is doing that last mile saying “Just get this over with. I NEVER have to do this again.” Well that “never” didn’t last more than a couple years.

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The arrow is wrong. I’m the other guy.
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My biggest fans climbing on my aching legs at my high quality recovery meal right after the race.

Eating the wrong recovery food. Yeah, that’s one lesson I learned that day.

And also, don’t drive 500km right after the race. It’s very difficult to extricate yourself from a vehicle after having just run a marathon.

Oh well, live and learn.

Passing, Getting Passed, and Busting a Gut

I was pretty happy with how the race started out. I knew from past winter trail races that if you started in the middle of the pack you tended to stay there because of the lack of opportunities to pass. On Saturdays 8 km race I started out hard, even passing a bunch of people in the first hundred meters by running off the trail in the ankle deep snow. I was totally out of breath by 200m but it paid off. I was in a good position just behind the fastest runners but not stuck in the pack.

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The pack starts out pretty thick

Other fast runners stuck further back had less opportunity to pass and so I didn’t have to contend with them. But I knew they would slowly try to catch up so I kept up the speed as best I could.

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Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and go in the deep snow to pass. It's tough slogging.

After regaining by breath a little I eventually passed a few others on the downhill who had started out too hard. Then the line of runners started to string out.

At the 2 km mark I had a chance to look behind me and felt relieved to see the line behind me quite strung out already with no one on too close on my tail.

At 4 km I was pushing to stay with the bright yellow toque in front of me. At 5 km the yellow toque passed a dull grey jacket. But I couldn’t keep up with the yellow toque. He slowly sped ahead but not quite out of sight.

At 6 km to my horror behind me I saw the one guy that I always think I can beat but almost never do – a 16 year old lanky boy who doesn’t seem to ever be out of breath. He quickly passed the line of people behind me and sat on my tail for a long time. Then I got a surge and passed the dull grey jacket and glimpsed the yellow toque again, getting my hopes up. But the young snirp (nearly one third my age) behind me was breathing down my neck and then passed me and sped ahead. I couldn’t keep up to him. For the last 500m both the yellow toque and the young guy were within striking distance but just not quite. My tank (morale, ego, and lungs) was empty by then. So unfortunately I finished behind them. But almost no one else passed me for the entire race.

That big sprint at the beginning was worth it. I got 17th out of perhaps 60 people in the 8 km race. There was probably another 15 people in the 2 minutes behind me meaning I was lucky I didn’t get stuck behind someone at the beginning. It was a much better result than recent previous results.

I will admit that those small races have a lot more drama and excitement than big ones. This is especially true if the races are a series and most of the same competition show up every time.

Racing in the Depths of Winter

Racing in the depths of winter is not for the faint of heart. You need stuff, you need other crazy people to race, and you need guts.

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You Need Stuff:

  • Gloves – you head out the door with thin gloves but pack thick ones just in case. At the start line you wish you had not left the thick ones in the car. At the 1 km mark you can’t feel your fingers. Good thing you don’t need fingers to run. After bunching your fingers up inside your gloves at the 5 km mark the feeling starts coming back. At the 7 km mark you have removed the gloves and are carrying them. The crowd (ok, there’s no crowd except for maybe five frozen spouses) thinks you’re crazy for running with exposed skin. Good thing these races tend to be short – our local winter running series are about 8 km.
  • Toque – you know “toque” – that knitted cap your grandmother gave you last Christmas. Usually the toque is too warm but with no toque you are sure to get frozen ears. Toque on – Toque off – Toque on – Toque off. Craziness ensues.
  • Thermo layer – Need a thermo layer for both your top half and your bottom half. Bonus if the thermo layer has odour reducing qualities (definite necessity if you don’t want to be washing every single run).
  • Parka (just for the start line). A wind resistant winter running jacket underneath.
  • Socks – 2 pairs. Depending on how high the snow is and how long your tights are you are probably going to need longer socks than you thought.
  • Shoes – not just your cool summer shoes. If these aren’t semi-air tight and hopefully water / melted snow tight you’ll have wet feet. And wet feet are cold. Cold feet are not fun.
  • Face mask – to keep that nose and chin from getting numb. Face masks end up being about the grossest things hanging around a winter runners racing stuff. Just think frozen saliva, sweat and snot. Yup, never borrow another runner’s face mask.
  • Tech – NOPE – Don’t even bother with a phone / camera ¬†/ GPS watch – The battery will freeze up on you and you will just be frustrated. Plus your gloves are likely not touch-friendly.

You Need Other Crazy People to Race

  • Sometimes other crazy runner people are the hardest people to find in the depths of winter. Most runners are either curled up on the couch for a few months, or are on a treadmill. But crazy people are drawn to each other, I’m sure. The few that there are seem to all show up at these crazy events.¬†Great place to find winter running partners after the race.

You Need Guts

  • Runners have guts.

Oh and don’t forget hot chocolate. You always need something to help warm up after.

Don’t let winter scare you off. Just be prepared.