So while you’re outside looking in
Describing what you see
Remember what you’re staring at is me~ Stone Sour
After I DNFed at this event last year, I made it a point to come back as a volunteer this year. I gave the excuse that I wanted to take notes and get a clearer picture of what I was training for to be better able to train for it, and it was indeed useful for that. The bigger reason was that I feared this would become one of those “maybe some day” events, the ones that you keep pushing off because you don’t quite feel ready yet. Making it a point to be there, even if I am not competing, makes it harder to push off. (And true to form I am signed up to give the 12 hour a go next year.)
What I didn’t expect was exactly how odd it felt to be there, watching, directing, encouraging, taking notes, but not pushing through the pain with everyone else.
The rest of this post will be random observances and notes. As I went 48 hours with maybe 4 hours of sleep (between the drive and the event itself), random is about all I can do.
The people you meet there are incredible. I have never met more caring, encouraging people, pushing you far enough to get stronger without pushing you to breaking.
There are times that you can physically see someone’s emotional state. The uncertainty when someone realizes they are back of the pack and wonder if they really belong here (perhaps I picked up on that one because I’ve been there so often myself). The stoic determination to keep going when you are hallucinating from cold and lack of sleep. The caring tenderness when looking after an injured competitor. The pure joy when the athlete that you weren’t quite sure would make it through, does.
Lots of feats of strength and endurance that you are unlikely to see anywhere else. Ruck an unknown distance through a creek bed, stopping at several checkpoints to do sets of 100 of various calisthenics, do rope climbs and log flips, ruck back to throw weighted kegs and ball-and-chain over a 9′ bar, burpees, caber toss, get 15 minutes to look after yourself and your gear, then head out to do more. In one case continuing on for 30 hours after breaking a finger and fixing it with duct tape.
After seeing the river movement toward the end, I understand why the official description of this event includes a reference to Deliverance. Swimming down a swift-flowing river in the dark for 2 hours, to immediately run 10 miles back to your start point, over a lot of ground not intended for human travel.
Reminder to make sure your pack is up to the rigors of this type of use. I saw a few athletes with light-duty packs getting absolutely destroyed by their gear.
Notes to self for volunteering:
Bring a small rucksack, dry bags, headlamp, and hydration bladder next time. You may end up manning a checkpoint for 4 hours at a time, and it is really easy to lose your water bottle while accompanying athletes through chest-high water. Also bring bug spray, as this area has some breed of giant mutant mosquito.
Breakfast after (for both athletes and volunteers) is beyond awesome.
This is one of the events that I think truly forces you to find the edge of your abilities and find out who you really are. And I will be back next year to dig a little deeper and see what else I can find.