Friday, October 14, 2016

Volunteering at Ragnar Trail Cascades

Just two weeks after volunteering at Ragnar Trail Massachusetts, I headed to the other side of the country to help with the Ragnar Trail Cascades at Loup Loup Ski Bowl. I was really excited about this race because I've never been out to Washington, so this was a new state for me! Unfortunately, coming from the east coast, it meant a long travel day for me on Wednesday. I left Charlotte at 9:30am and after a 5 hour flight, I met the rest of the SWAT crew at the airport and after catching lunch in downtown Seattle, we settled in for our 4.5 hour drive to Twisp, WA on the other side of the Cascades. We stopped several times on our drive to take in the beautiful scenery. 

For this race, everyone was staying together in a huge house and since we had a kitchen at our disposal (two, actually), we had a team cook for the race and all of our meals were homemade. Gina did an amazing job cooking for over 20 people for breakfast, lunch and dinner! 
This was our house - it had so many funky rooms and even a built in hot tub off of the main entrance 

After dinner on Wednesday night, I went out with the loop managers and headed out on the Green loop since with my new role at this race, I wasn't sure if I would get a chance to head out on the trails later. This course had a short Green loop (2.7 miles) and longer Yellow (6.9 miles) and Red (7.0 miles) loops. 

Thursday was my long day at this race since my new role was Gear Drop Manager - I was in charge of a group of volunteers who would make sure that teams could bring all of their stuff up close to the village, drop it off and then move their cars down to the official parking areas. I wasn't sure what to expect with this role. Obviously I've seen gear drop at other races and have been through it as a participant, but it's a lot different being the one who is in charge of making sure it all runs smoothly! Thursday morning and afternoon were spent putting out signage (lots of no parking!), marking lines for parking and gear drop and generally coming up with a game plan to make sure that we could fit cars from all 240 teams into the designated areas. 
It looks chaotic, but the volunteers I had at this race were awesome!

Thursday and Saturday most of my volunteers were board members from Loup Loup and I had volunteers from the teams fill in throughout the day on Friday and Saturday morning. It went extremely smoothly, with only a few people parking in the gear drop area and we were usually able to find them fairly quickly and get them into the correct parking areas. One of the biggest issues that teams ran into was that there was no cell phone reception at the venue unless you went up the ski slopes, so teams that didn't coordinate where their campsites were or who didn't know their teammates before they got to the race were having trouble figuring out where their teammates were camping, especially if they showed up after it got dark out.
This was Thursday afternoon - by Friday morning, there weren't any empty spaces between tents and this was only one section of where teams could camp.

Thursday I worked until about 10:30pm and then Friday we were back at the venue by about 6:45am to get ready before the first teams started at 8:00am. Gear drop closed around 4:00pm on Friday, but since we had carpooled to the venue (and there wasn't anything to do back at the house anyway), we stuck around until 8:00pm. Since we had extra time, I took that as an opportunity to actually get out on the trails and check it out in the daylight. From what the loop managers told me, I decided to head out on the Red loop just before sunset and it was the perfect time to run! While the views weren't anything like what we saw coming through the Cascades, it was beautiful with lots of red, yellow and green and mountains in every direction.


Saturday morning I headed back to the venue around 8-ish and some teams were already in gear drop packing up their stuff. I was impressed that the teams that had come in early (before anyone was there to direct them) had lined up their cars exactly the same way they dropped off their gear and while it wasn't nearly as crazy on Saturday morning as it was when teams were arriving on Thursday night, it was very steady through lunchtime and then we had fewer and fewer cars coming through. It was fun being in gear drop because I got to talk to a lot of teams and people would recognize me from being in the same spot for 3 days straight, so I got a lot more interaction with the runners than being a loop manager. As a loop manager, you're running around most of the time or trying to fill in at other positions, so while you may see the same people, it's not as noticeable as when you're in the same spot. I even got to talk to a guy about the Grandfather Mountain Marathon - now that's a small world!

As gear drop slowed down Saturday afternoon, I spent time picking up trash in the village and generally helping with clean-up. I was excited to finally get to be a part of the final team traditions at this race - when the final team is coming in from their last leg, all of the Ragnar staff, SWAT and sponsors come over to the finish line to cheer in the final team. It's a great way to finish off a hard-earned race. As a participant, my team was one of the last ones to finish in Angel Fire last year, but we weren't the last team, so I didn't even know this happened.

Cascades SWAT celebrating another successful race!

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