I have not run the Vermont 100 since 2007, and my wife and I have been increasing our volunteering time each year since then. We've been helping out one way or another most years since 2002, but the past few years, we've worked a lot more on race weekend.
This year, my wife and I were asked to increase our volunteer roles a bit, taking over the Camp 10 Bear aid station as station captains. Last year, we had essentially run the station all day, so this was not really a big change for us.
I went to the race site on Friday, to help with the medical check-in, but mostly to say hi to all of my ultra-running friends, many of whom I rarely see any more, because I'm not running ultras these days. I helped, mostly with pre-race weigh-ins, until the pre-race meeting started. I saw a few more friends at the meeting. After the meeting, I didn't stick around for the pre-race dinner, opting instead for dinner at home and an early bedtime in my own bed.
My wife and I were up very early on Saturday, packing the items we needed to bring to the aid station. This included some high quality knives, a cutting board, some cast iron pans for cooking grilled cheese sandwiches, and a collection of stuffed (toy) bears to decorate Camp 10 Bear a bit. Regretfully, it was so crowded that I don't think anyone even noticed the bears.
We arrived at the aid station a little bit later than we wanted, due to some street paving going on in downtown Woodstock early on a Saturday morning. I was amazed that a tourist town like Woodstock would allow street paving on a weekend.
We knew we had a lot of early volunteers, and when we arrived at the aid station, we were astonished. The early crew had already set up all of the food and beverages. They were truly amazing volunteers - great attitude, glad to be there, willing to help however they could. Everything was ready to go, with one exception. We had no ice. Normally, the medical team brings the ice to this station, but there was a new medical team this year. They didn't bring the ice, probably because they didn't know it was their job. The race management didn't remember this detail either. Luckily, the person who takes care of all the logistics for the aid station - parking, tent set-up, generators, wiring, audio system, etc. - was all set up and he ran out to get ice for us.
By a little after 10:00, our first runners started to arrive. They were in the 100 kilometer race and they'd only run 9 miles or so by this point. Luckily it was cool and no one asked for ice early. But, by 11:00, the first 100 mile runner arrived, and we started to get requests for ice. All we could do was promise that there was ice 11.5 miles ahead and we would have ice when the runners returned. Luckily, no one really complained, and the ice arrived before 11:30.
I had recruited a couple friends to help us during the busiest times for the station - from 2:00 until 8:00 or so. The first two arrived around 11:00 and stayed until 9:30, which was a huge amount of help. Another friend arrived later but stayed late as well.
Thanks to some rule changes this year, the station was a bit calmer than in previous years. Normally, we have large crews there for their runners for hours at a time, and those crews frequently feed themselves from the aid station. We put up a sign this year indicating that the aid station food was for runners and pacers only, but this was still frequently ignored.
I would prefer to set this station up the way that Western States does their aid stations, where only runners and pacers would even be allowed to get into the station, and no one else could get to the runners' food and drinks. Someday maybe.
The temperatures were moderate for this year's race and the humidity was not an issue. Due to that, we had no issues with running out of ice or water or energy/electrolyte drinks. We did run out of watermelon for a while, but a re-supply truck gave us a cooler full of fruit and we were set for the rest of the race.
We did request two extra volunteers for the late shift, especially with timing the runners, which we also owned. But, race HQ was able to find some volunteers for that task, and we had no issues.
By 9:00 or so, things started to really slow down. Typically, there are many runners coming in after this time, but that just wasn't the case this year. I haven't looked at the results to see if the cooler weather allowed a lot more sub-24 hour finishes than usual. By 11:30 or so, only one runner was still on the course behind our aid station. But, that particular runner, while not fast, is very steady and finishes almost every race he enters, often in the final minutes. I heard someone say that he has 9 finishes at the Massanutten 100, and has never finished with more than 16 minutes remaining on the clock.
He got to the station around midnight, and we took care of him and sent him on his way. We spent the next hour or so tearing down the aid station. My wife and I got back to the start/finish area at about 1:30 a.m.
For the first time in years, neither of us was pacing, and we didn't have any reason to stay up all night. We slept in the car for a few hours, and then watched the last 90 minutes of the race at the finish line. Regretfully, two good friends failed to finish, which was disappointing for them and us. The highlight of the morning was seeing that last place runner from the aid station cross the finish line with about 3.5 minutes to spare.
Next year, there will be a new race director for this race. I have talked to her by e-mail and in person this past weekend. I told her that my wife and I will be happy to help out however we can.