There is a fascination I feel when I hear about or think about the Wasatch 100 course. Possibly because it is one of the first ultramarathons I ever heard about when my neighbor Vic Mason was dreaming about this race and attempting it over several years. I saw how hard he trained and watched the course spit him out each time and yet he continued to try for many years.
That was the start of my Wasatch 100 stalking. I was slowly making friends in the ultra community and those names would be selected each year and I would follow them every chance I could on the Wasatch 100 website as the race unfolded.
I look out my window each day and see the Wasatch Mountains. I have run, walked, cried, prayed and face planted many a times in these same mountains. They fascinate me. They scare me. They intimidate me. Somewhere deep inside is a hope that one day I will be worthy of this race, but in the meantime, I want to be involved in this race one way or another.
Several years ago I agreed to pace a portion of the race. My runner DNF’d early in the race. I went and hung on the course instead. The next year, I agreed to pace a portion of the race for a different runner. Once again the new runner DNF’d before ever getting to the point they can have a pacer. One more attempt was made the next year and my runner DNS’d because of injury. (Note: for the uninitiated – DNF = Did Not Finish. DNS = Did Not Start.)
At that point I said the heck with it. Either I cursed runners or were cursed by them but I got tired of the disappointment. So – I contacted the race committee and asked if they needed a volunteer. They did. They offered me a few positions but really needed someone to help with bus checkin on race day and to drive one of the support vehicles for part of a day.
And thus started a new tradition. My daughter took over the stalking portion based on a list I provided her and I began volunteering with the race.
2015 was my third year of driving a support vehicle. I now spend a good portion of 2.5 days being on call and driving wherever and whenever net control sends me on various errands. While I am not often right at an aid station with runners, I get to interact with runners and pacers and the race committee and feel like I do a small part in helping these incredible athletes attempt a superhuman feat.
Of course, when I signed up to volunteer this year I had not planned on having my hip and back go out several times in the weeks before the race nor had I planned on having skin cancer removed and my face repaired a little over a week out. I kept praying that I would heal enough to be able to drive the van and for the most part I was able to do all I needed to do.
One of the hard parts is waiting for a runner to come in to an aid station only to get a call from Net Control needing me to transport someone. I only got to see a few friends actually come into aid stations or the finish this year. A bit frustrating – but part of the job. That’s why I get the big bucks. Oh, wait…..
Anyway – here are some of the highlights of driving support van 2 in 2015:
- Taking Trax downtown to get the support van and having my ticket checked multiple times over 6 stops.
- Helping to load drop bags into vehicles
- Waking up at 2 a.m. to coordinate and load the buses in downtown Salt Lake
- Leading the bus convoy to the start line in Kaysville
- Watching the start of the race
- Killing time waiting for my action to start (should have taken a nap during this time)
- Helping set out drop bags at Lambs Canyon
- Picking up drop bags from Francis Peak and transporting to the finish
- Trying to coordinate a way to get a lost runner off Francis Peak when the support vans are not allowed to leave pavement
- Cheering on runners at Lambs Canyon
- Getting sick (stupid surgery) and needing to call it an early night
- My relief driver showing up at my house 45 minutes early. Good thing I checked my phone at 5 a.m.
- Battling Big Cottonwood Canyon marathon buses up BCC
- Cheering on runners coming off Guardsman Pass and heading to Brighton
- Cheering on Davy Crockett only to have him tell us to pull over because he was DNF’ing and didn’t want to walk a step more (I knew he had done enough of these races that he had already made up his mind so did as asked).
- Getting back off Guardsman after dropping off the relief driver at the start of the marathon
- Trying to get two DNF’s out of BCC 40 minutes before the marathon start and being told by the BCC race crew that we were not allowed to drive down until well after the race started. (That ticked me off)
- Finally getting my two runners over Guardsman Pass to the finish line
- Driving pacer to Brighton
- Driving runner who DNF’d after Brighton closed to SLC
- Dropping off runner + pacer pair at their car left at Lambs Canyon
- Driving runners back to the parking lot in SLC after the race ended
- Dropping off the van
- Walk back to Trax and then long walk home late at night
I’m really glad that I volunteered again. I got to meet lots of neat people and cheer on some great athletes. I was able to help in a small part to the successful completion of an awesome race. I was saddened by so many DNF’s of friends who dealt with huge issues on a rough, tough day. I was happy to see others who were able to somehow battle demons and make it to the finish line. I made some new friends in the ultra community.
What more can you ask for in a 2 1/2 day period.
To all that attempted this race – my hat is off to you. I can only imagine the training you have put in and the effort this cost you. For some the effort was harder to have to stop than to continue – but many did not have a choice.
To all the finished – I bow to you. Thank you for inspiring me.
To the race committee and volunteers of all shapes and kinds – thanks for letting me be a part of this wonderful tradition. Sign me up for van 2 again next year!
Van 2 signing out.