Sunday, April 11, 2010

Old School Ultramarathoning

I had a great time this weekend volunteering at the Heaven's Gate aid station (coordinated by the Champaign, IL Buffalo runners)  at the McNaughton Park ultra.  I was out there from about 6am to 10pm on Saturday (race goes until Sunday afternoon).  When you are volunteering for 12+ hours, you really get a chance to see how the distance affects runners.  Those that looked great after 10 miles, start to look like zombies after 40 miles in the warm sun.  Yet those that looked a bit ragged after just 20 miles, get a new lease on life and finish strong.  Interesting characters too.  Heaven's Gate aid station is hit twice on each 10-mile loop at McNaughton Park.  You get to see the 50 milers 10 times...and the 100 mile finishers 20 times!  I loved watching runners come in, fill their water bottles, and peruse the "buffet" at the aid station.  Chips?  Pretzels?  Cookies?  M&Ms?  PB&J?  Soup?  Almost too many choices for the tired mind to process.  As the day progressed, more and more runners just stopped and starred at the food tables.  "What can I get you?"  "I don't know."  "How you feeling?"  "I'm  not sure."  "Looking good!"  "Yeah, right."  Persistence pays off--those runners that keep putting one foot in front of the other make slow and steady progress and eventually cross the finish line.  Those that succumb to the fatigue and let their minds wander and make excuses...they fail and end up with DNFs.  Pretty simple.

Results of the 50 and 100 mile races, including race splits, can be found at the McNaughton Park web site.  Soon, I'll update the IL Grand Slam standings.  McNaughton is the second of the four slam races.  If you finished Clinton Lake and McNaughton Park, you've knocked off the two hardest races in the slam.  Take it easy this summer and come back for the two fall races, Rock Cut Hobo and Farmdale. 

Anyway, this was my first time as an MP100 volunteer.  I usually run the event and volunteering gave me a renewed appreciation of the ultramarathon world.  Ultra runners are great people accomplishing epic tasks.  Rarely do you come across a runner that is disrespectful to others...and certainly not to the volunteers.  There are occasional exceptions, but overall, ultrarunners are humble and polite.  And a bit eccentric. Some claim to see snakes, unicorns, and trolls, while others request a new set of legs, ice cream sundaes, or a foot massage.  Good people.  Not sure what my plans will be in April 2011, but I sure expect them to include either running or volunteering at McNaughton Park.

For those that want to look back in time and experience old school ultrarunning, you should check out the archived first edition of Ultrarunning Magazine (May 1981).  If you don't subscribe to this fine magazine (recent cover photo at top left), you should!  Who doesn't run an ultra race and look forward to reading the race report and seeing your name in print as a finisher?  Where else can you start tracking your real (& imaginary) competitors?  That dude keeps showing up in results 2 spots ahead of me...not next time bro!


Heidi E. Carpenter said...

It was great seeing you at Heaven's Gate, Chris! I had to laugh at your description of the runners as the day progresed. I was certainly at my best and worst by your aid station.

Hone said...

Thanks for volunteering out there last week. The wife and I will be back next year for sure. It is a great race!