No, I"m not suddenly out running ultras again, but I did get the opportunity to volunteer at one this morning. This was a race put on by my running friend Mike Palmer. He asked if I might be able to volunteer, and, since I have a love of Mt Diablo and was feeling like it would be fun to step back into the ultra scene briefly.
The only downside with volunteering was the wake-up time. I got scheduled to work the registration desk, which meant that I had to leave at the awful hour of 4:30!! I left a sleeping Ed, who was leaving for a flight a few hours from then, and stumbled into my car, hoping that I wouldn't get lost since Ed was borrowing my GPS for the week (he's down conducting research in San Diego for the week). After a quick gas stop, I was off into the dark morning.
I started well as I went from freeway to freeway, but when I got off the freeway, my directions got, well, odd. It told me to go South on my exit, which I dutifully did, but then told me to go North (which I read after a good 5 minutes on the road). Around I went, but then accidently got back on the freeway. I then had to get off at the next exit and got lucky taking a surface street back to the road.
As I left the freeway and headed increasingly into the hills, it began to feel a bit, well spooky. I could just make out the rolling hills around me in the darkness. Cars occasionally went by, but it was fairly deserted. There were signs posted warning, "Drive Safe, Stay Alive!" As I looked up to the hillsides, I could make out the silhouettes of windmills looking ominous as they spun. Finally, I saw a few cars driving off from the main row, and guessed that that was the spot. Luckily it was!
The next hour was full as we set up the tents, tables, and all the registration papers.
The runners began arriving at 7am, most on the race bus, and we got everyone checked in. I saw some familiar faces including Mike, of course, and Ernesto, both who I hadn't seen for almost 2 years. They both commented that they almost didn't recognize me, but made me realize how long I've been gone from the ultra scene. I was also wearing glasses and had my hair down, which didn't help with my recognizability.
Before we knew it, it was time to send the runners off.
They got an inspirational pep talk from Bob, who is a wheelchair hiker. He has done the 50k course over 4 days!
After the runners took off,
we broke down the site and loaded up the truck to be carted to the finish. Then we got to take a break and enjoy the scenery.
I then hung out with some of the other volunteers, Bob, and Mark, a man who was scheduled to run the race but had a cold that got in the way. Bob was telling us great stories about all the beautiful places he has been, including his highly recommended Carizzo Plain.
As we were talking, I was just impressed by how beautiful the surroundings looked, and decided to go off on a short hike by myself before I headed back.
I went off, taking in the beauty of the land, and was thoroughly enjoying myself, until I saw them.
Now, anyone who has run with me knows I'm odd about wildlife. I'm hugely paranoid about Mountain Lions. But I'm also sort of scared of cows. And these seemed, well, huge! There were 2 about 10 feet from the trail, and I swear one of them kept looking at me in a sort of threatening way. I slowly walked closer for a few minutes, but finally decided it wasn't worth it and turned around.
I was a bit over halfway back to the car when I ran into Mark, who was heading off on a solo jaunt of his own. As I have possibly embarrassingly done in the past, I decided to latch onto his walk if he would let me. Thankfully, he didn't mind and I now had a walking buddy to keep me from getting intimidated by the cows.
Once we got past the cows, I was really enjoying the walk. It was breathtaking.
It was also fun to chat with a new person and hear about running stuff. Since he was a bit sick and I have my leg, we just walked about a mile and a half before we turned around. I think he was a bit amused by my photo taking obsession, not having gotten to experience it before.
Luckily he was a good sport :) Talking with new people is one of the best parts of being out on the trails.
It was such a lovely day, though. My leg hurts a little more now, but not too badly. I really need to be hiking more. It was beautiful!