Friday, May 11, 2012

Land's End, New Beginnings.

Lined up they look  like Pan Am sterwardesses-back when you had to be gorgeous, smart and efficient to get the job. Megan, Amanda, Heather, Sophia (me), Allison, Faith, Donna and later another Megan and Theresa.

Free State's Land's End aide station.
I noticed as I sent a photo I snapped on my phone that on one side of the aid station photos were labelled by GPS as Kanwaka and on the other Lawrence. This crux between the two, an oasis at mile 8 and 18 of a 21 mile loop, where on this day every runner flew first class.

"Would you like an S-cap?" Megan Jones, whose husband was running the 100k. It was her first time volunteering and she proved a very quick study, and able to dish out S-caps like a phameceutical phenom.

"Coke or Sprite?" Amanda.
"Baby wipe for you face?" Allison.
"Let me fill that pack." Donna.
(without taking off the pack, we filled- FAST.)
"Stomache issues? Here's a ginger chew." And so the day went. We grabbed, filled, dished and repaired.
"Thanks ladies. You all are incredible." Over and over.

It must be pointed out that there were at times 3 men around, but everyone just loved the beautiful ladies. My long time Saturday running buddy Kurt was the brains and brawn behind the operation hauling supplies in his 4x4 pick up truck and making sure everyone was headed in the right direction. Not his usual fare, on this day he indulges in an affinity for Pringles and PBR.

4 different races. 2 different start times.  The epicenter of the race was Land's End, with two passes per loop. An  added bonus this year, the half marathoners turned around at Land's End.

" Alright everybody, listen up! We now have runner's with all four races coming and going in each direction. Awesome." Kurt.
(Kurt's back is to you in the black and blue shirt- he's yelling directions.)
The strategy: Make sure the half marathoners make a hairpin turn. Make sure the marathoners, 40's and 100 k's go straight, meanwhile  watch for the frontrunners in the 40 and 100k as they head into the aid station for a second pass and make sure they head out the correct direction.  Once this begins, it never stops, but the focus does shift.

The buffet style aid work shifts to an atmosphere of an army MASH unit.

40 miles and 100k are a long way. It can mean a lot of mistakes, especially in a race that attracts many first timers. But it also gives the runner a lot of miles to fix their mistakes with the correct instruction.

My friend Danny who is a nurse and affectionately called "Mr. Mudbabe," due to his affinity for the weekly Mudbabe Monday runs was another of the 3 fellows and joined us after running the half.
"Sophia- come over here- this guy wants to quit."
I headed over to assess.
A firing of questions results in learning the runner needs salt. "Take two S-caps, head to the next aid station- take two more and we'll see you back here in 10 miles." It worked- he left and was back stronger for an even stronger finish. This constant re-grouping and evaluating of runners was exhausting but fullfilling. It pushed my skill as an extreme extrovert to the limit. And it was fun. "Do you want to touch the buckle?" I'd worn the Free State 100k buckle, just in case we had a runner who wanted to quit. However, this ended up being just a fun interaction with Lloyd Lantz one of my favorite local runners.
Actually what he needed more and we provided was a tight ankle wrap for a twisted ankle. The twisted humor, an added bonus. "Why is HE telling me I look good?" One of the male runners was sitting and re-grouping. "I want HER to tell me I look good." "YOU LOOK GREAT!" Squeeled the girls. "Massage?" Allison. Yes, today in a sport still dominated by men, the women ruled. br />
During a lull in the craziness, I noticed we were getting low on Pringles and decided to send Megan for more from the finish line, so Kurt could continue his love affair with the red tube of Pringles that was now sporting a fake mustache.

"I brought fake mustaches for everyone." Danny. I put one on and found it a bit hot, eventually it found a home on my signature cowboy hat. Danny's ended up on the Pringles after posing for this photo with  my bearded Armenian friend Seroj. Man #3. Holding the package of fake stashes, I looked over skeptically.
"I guess you don't need a fake mustache?"
"I don't need a fake nose either, Sophia."

Later I jumped in and paced my friend Erin for 23 miles on her first 100k. She ran a smart, planned race and didn't need much help. Still the friendship and commaraderie of a pacer is always a welcome lift. After her finish I went back to Land's End.
The scene was reduced to one table with cold quesedillas, soda, a few oranges and Kurt's empty can of Pringles. Kurt and Heather greeted me warmly and I sent Heather off to cheer in our friend Amanda (also on her first 100k- Heather had also done double duty, pacing Amanda in her second loop.) <> For three years I helped Race Direct Free State along with about 20 other races per year. Last year's Free State was the last race I co-race directed with my now friend and former fiancee Ben Holmes. Just one look at this blog exemplifies the struggle I've had to put any emotion into words. The void was vast as I stumbled in a community I had worked to grow. I focussed on group runs instead of volunteers. Without the race directing I felt small. Each time I got a call about races and had to explain my new status, it stung. Over and over again. I ran. I hurt. I gave. I grew. I used to joke when I race directed and delegated tasks that I must not be good at anything, because everyone had a job but me. I often felt I wasn't a very good volunteer. But now things are different. In the past year, to fill the emotional void, I raced, paced, planned and thought. I evolved and became complete as a runner, friend and volunteer. With each group headed into the aid station there were people I knew and shouts of happy hellos. Many close friends and friends of friends. The void diminished and I felt a warm sense of belonging that only comes when energy is exchanged on several different levels. I travel a lot for my work with Mizuno running. In that travel, I have developed many nurturing "home away from homes." One of those is Wichita which was well represented not just by runners, but by Megan Jones my little volunteer protege who had contacted me personally about volunteering. My new experiences, the foundation. My constant friends, Kurt, Mark, Erica, Allison, Danny, Heather and Erin add another layer of goodness. So now here at the cornerstone of Clinton Lake, a place very dear to my heart, I realized my world was not smaller, but larger.
Mud Hugs, Sophia