I spent this past weekend volunteering for the San Diego 100. I had sent an e-mail to Scotty Mills saying I was available to help. I was expecting aid station duty or something similar, but because I had some ultra experience, I was asked to help mark the course and put in touch with Brian Gonzalez, alias Gonzo, alias Bad Rat, alias 9 toes Brian. He asked me to meet him at 8 AM at Big Bend in the Cuyamacas. There we loaded up packs and drove to Sweetwater. In the packs we had signs, reflectors, duct tape, 5 rolls of marking tape each, and 1 gallon pitcher of chalk plus the usual running stuff - gels, water, etc.
We headed out up the course with the goal of marking from Sweetwater back to Big Bend which is I would guess about 15 miles of the course, maybe a little more. I had never marked before, but it was fun. You try to picture yourself as a runner at that stage of the race, in this case mile 70 or so, running the dark. How often do you need to see a marker? What are the chances you are going to stumble down the wrong trail? Then you figure out how to keep everybody safe and on trail with as little stress as possible. So when you come to a dry stream bed, you mark the heck out of it so you know not to wander up the bed and to follow the trail. When you come to a turn, you put all kinds of ribbon and signs so you can't turn the wrong way unless you were trying to get lost.
Anyways, as a back of the packer, I know I LOVE seeing trail markers, so we marked the crap out of the course. It took us from about 9 AM until about 1 PM. That's a slow rate of travel, but you are stopping every couple of minutes to put on a marker or drop some chalk or something similar. So not only does that give you delays, it chops up your rhythm. I guess Brian had been marking for days. He is a beast, as he kept up a good pace and showed no signs of fatigue, despite nearly breaking his big toe. Twice (thus the monniker 9 toes).
Saturday, I said I'd help mark and sweep. So first we remarked a 5 mile loop. Then I headed home as I had to coach, and when I came back out, I was asked to check some markings because a horse race had shared our course. The horses had trashed much of it, so I repaired about 10 miles of markings making sure it was obvious. I felt relatively confident that it looked good, so I drove up to the start line and Brian and I ran another 6 or 7 miles pulling markers from the Laguna section of trail that was all done with as it was the first miles from the AM. By the time I got done, I was ridiculously hungry and killed it at the Viejas buffet, where I'm sure I looked and smelled like a homeless guy. They had all you can eat prime rib for 10 bucks. They lost a LOT of money on me.
On Sunday, Brian called early saying there were some lost runners who had fortunately been found by the time I got up there about 7 AM. Given we were short of some people and had lots of work to do, I pitched in to run some alone and pick up the trail. For this, like on Saturday, you run with a giant yard trash bag and pull down all ribbons and markers and pick up the trash as you go if you find any on the trail. As you might imagine, the bag starts pretty light but it adds up pretty quick and soon you feel like Santa Claus running down the trail with your 10 pound trash bag. All in all did 16 miles of cleaning up, and Brian did at least that much, so that a good portion of the work of cleaning up was done with. I said I could help more, but haven't heard, so I'm probably in the clear. I have some pictures, but need to develop them as they were on a disposable camera. I'll post after I get them done.
All in all, it was a great weekend. I'm not sure how much positive training I got, but I did get a lot just from the experience of hanging around all of these great ultra people and getting to see some people run and push themselves, and the miles I did weren't chicken feed. I know how much I've enjoyed racing so it was nice to give back. I really recommend it to anyone who either has raced or who hasn't but wants to see what its all about. I had a ball, met some great people, and will be looking forward to doing it again.
Hopefully back to a normal training week this week. I have about 3 to 4 weeks of good positive training before I have to start my taper for White River, so I want to take advantage of it. Tomorrow will be the canyon run, Wednesday will be the run from practice, Thursday will probably be a run from softball, Friday will be the course, Saturday an early AM Mission Trails ramble and Sunday will probably be Palomar again. Or I might skip Saturday and Sunday do a Palomar double. That would be hardass.