Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Flood that was The Old Pueblo 50 Miler - Volunteer Report

Let me start things off by saying that a lot has changed since my last post. It's the reason why I haven't been around for a while. It's funny how one of my favorite things to do always gets pushed farther and farther on to the back-burner while other things get made the priority. The things that need more attention, like family and work, always seem to be put first. But it isn't necessarily terrible; it's just how life works out sometimes. 

Most recently, it has been my job that has been getting in the way. In my second year of teaching, I had issues with a coworker for quite sometime (from way back in October) and I really feel as if she should have been fired for the things that she did. She never was, and she continued to create tension and a negative atmosphere within the middle school building. It was horrible. There were many days when I dreaded coming to work because of the way she treated me, my coworkers, and my students.

I was upset with the fact my bosses were the NOT handling the situation. They were letting her continue to be a nuisance and gossiper. She began to talk to some of the students who had behavioral problems and she got them to turn against me. There was also an incident with a parent that she helped to create (but there are past issues with favoritism of certain parents at the school, and that problem could just never be helped sadly). It was unreal. The fact that this woman was 30 years old and she was acting like a jealous little kid; it absolutely blew my mind. 

She was never fired but she was not asked back for the next year.Whole lot of good that does, especially after the fact that she caused so much damage in the middle school that I NEVER want to go back. So that's what I decided to do. I turned in my resignation letter on the last day of school and had my classroom cleaned out in 2 days. I figured that I was extremely unhappy at this school and it was doing me no good to stay there, regardless of if this woman returned or not. I realized that I did not want to be a part of the chaos any longer. The school has some serious issues to work out and I wish them them the best of luck in doing so. But it is definitely not a quick fix and that's why I couldn't take it anymore. 

I knew it was the right thing to do when I caught myself grinning after walking out of the office for the last time. I was so elated and I knew that if I did the wrong thing I wouldn't be feeling that way. My first year at this school was great, but year two was less than stellar. And thinking about spending another year at that school made me nauseous. I have also decided that teaching is not for me. And I know I have made the right decision. :)

So, what have I decided to do now that teaching is out of the question? Well, I am an outdoorsy gal and I figure I have a lot of options. I would really like to become a wild-land firefighter, but I will have to wait until November to apply for next season (this season is halfway through). I got a job as a lifeguard (year #2!) and I am taking classes to get my EMT certification and get accepted into the fire science academy here in town. But of course, I am also exploring other options. There's a lot of opportunity for a gusty girl like me. I have no worries. ;)


Let's get to the race recap!

I was actually signed up to run this race waaay back in March. Unfortunately, I hurt my knee pretty badly at the Ragnar Trail Ultra back in October 2013 and I had to take out a LARGE chunk of my 50-miler training. MAJOR BUMMER.

I was pretty upset about it, but I wasn't going to try to run my 1st 50 miler without enough training. 
I'm not that crazy.  

First, I made sure I got my registration deferred until next year (check!). And then I decided to volunteer with my long time camp friend Laura's parents, Connie and Joe. They always run Aid Station 46 (@ mile 46, the last station before the end and the best one in my opinion). I volunteered with them last year and I had a blast so I made sure to get on board with them again this year. 

I was a little late getting out to the course, around 10am. It is an hour drive Southeast from Tucson, in the Santa Rita Mountains. Normally, I would think the course would be a little hot this time of year, but today the weather was weird. We usually don't get much rain in Tucson until monsoons (in July) but it was cool and overcast, with a forecast of all day rain. I didn't believe it (rain never lasts for more than a few minutes here).

Gardner Canyon Road - Already showing signs of muddy roads ahead...

I got to Gardner Canyon and started to drive down the already muddy road. It began raining pretty hard on my way over. I was giving it 30 minutes, maybe an hour, before it let up. I was thinking of the runners on the course already, and how nice this must be from the heat wave last year! I remember how hot it got last year near the end, and this was definitely nice compared to that.

I arrived at the aid station but I was having trouble pulling my jeep in. Oh great, it's stuck in the mud. I was so close to the tent, yet so far away! Joe came over to help me push it. We got it out and then it got stuck again. :/ One more time and we got it to where it needed to be. I figured I would be leaving anytime soon however. Good thing I thought to pack a bunch of blankets and a pillow, you know, just in case I had to sleep in my car. ;)

My car got stuck in the mud a few times...whoops.
My next car needs to be a 4 wheel drive. 
I am wearing multiple layers
(of everything)
here and I am still freezing!

I got out of my car, careful not to put my hiking boots in too much mud (HA). It was pointless, I was already soaked and muddy. I pulled out my coolers with the food in it (left the s'mores in the car, no point in that coming out too soon) and scrambled over to the singular tent that Connie, Jo and two other volunteers were shivering under. They had pulled all of the tables, stove and other coolers in under the tent with them so there wasn't much room to stand. It was nice though because it was FREEZING outside. The temperature had dropped and the rain wasn't letting up. 

No one had come through yet so I wasn't that late. I would get to see the finisher, which is pretty cool. I love this aid station because you get to see the runners right at the end, at their worst. They are so close to the finish and they know it, yet they are suffering from the past 46 miles they just had to run. I love it.

AS 46. We huddled as much as we could to stay warm.
The Aid Station this year was a sad sight. Last year, the tables and camp chairs were spread out along the trail so everyone would be able to see the runners easily and they would be able to see us as well. There was even a campfire going so we could keep warm at night and roast some mallows. :)
This year, there was none of that. Just a little shade tent propped up on a hill so we could get away from the "mini-rivers" running everywhere. The weather was impossible!

I was freezing, but I wasn't doing so bad. I think I was too excited by everything going on. There was something happening every minute.  Families of runners wanted to come see their runners at AS 46 but they had some trouble actually getting to the aid station. Cars were getting stuck left and right. And since we were already soaked, why not get out there and help them out?

This woman's car got a flat tire AND it got stuck.
AND she had no tools to help us fix it.
Thankfully, another aid station had what we needed. 
Runners were coming in, shivering and loving the food we had at the aid station. Connie brought all of the good stuff. She was boiling potatoes on the camp stove and had a bag of salt to dip the potatoes in. We also had soup and coffee as well as the normal aid station stuff: gu's, salt tabs, electrolyte drinks, etc. I brought the gummy worms because that's what I crave on long runs!

Joe, another volunteer (I forgot his name!) and Connie.

A woman helping her husband fuel up before the last few miles. 
Now, I came prepared to do another job at the OP50. I was asked to set up glow sticks along the trail for the last miles of the race. Once it gets dark, it is very difficult to see where the trail continues. Other volunteers set up glow sticks along the rest of the course, and I was excited to get to set up the last ones. One problem, I left my running at homes. Oops.
I decided to go in my hiking boots and to stop worrying about it. No point freaking out. It was probably a better option anyways because of the mud along the trail. My hiking boots were more supportive in conditions like that. 

I went to my car to change. I decided I needed multiple layers of everything: 3 shirts, 2 tights/pants, and 3 pairs of socks. I grabbed the bag of glow sticks and off I went! I headed down the trail and began hanging glow sticks off of the trees. It was a very slow run. I ran a little bit, hung a glow stick, ran a little more, turned around to make sure I could see the glow stick and did that over and over again. 

Then I came to a small river. I doubted that this was here before the rain and I was hesitant to cross it. It looked fast and I was worried it was going to get higher as the race progressed (that rain was nowhere near to stopping anytime soon). I crossed it slowly and it reached my knees. 

The "river" crossing.
This would get much higher by the end
of the night. 

Me and my glow sticks. My buff helped
keep my nose and mouth warm.
And the headband helped with my
ears. Both are VERY useful
in cold weather!!!
After the crossing, I was definitely soaked to the bone. But it wasn't like I was upset about it. I was having fun! Maybe had it been my first 50 miler I would be panicking. But I only had to run 5 miles in it. So, I was having a good time. :) 

I set up more glow sticks and took some more photos. I was really slowing down just to look at the scenery. I had never been on this course before and I loved how beautiful it was! 

Had it not been raining, this place would have been HOT. 

The trail gives away that a lot of people have passed through. 

I got to the top of a hill and looked around for the trail. I was at a dirt road and there was a few ways to go. 
All of a sudden some guy comes running up behind me, demanding to know the way. Considering I just got there, I had no idea. So I told him that. Bad idea. He freaked out. He said he was lost and he wasn't going to finish. Okay, I get it. The weather sucked. But it doesn't mean your attitude has to as well, I don't care how far you're running! I told him to hold on while I look for flagging tape. I eventually found it and pointed him in the right direction. What. A. Jerk. 

The rude guy running away. At least the scenery is pretty. 
After another mile or two of running and putting up glow sticks...

Kentucky Camp: The start and finish of the OP50.

...I made it to the finish! I ran to the cabin and I was so happy I survived the terrible weather. I was freezing and shivering like crazy, but I made it. I walked into the cabin and it was PACKED. Runners, families & friends of runners, trainers, volunteers were all working/mingling and hanging out around the fire. I checked in with the race director and let him know all the glow sticks were up. He was happy to hear it and then ran off to the next thing. A volunteer, Art, ushered me to the small fire in the common room and went to go get me a burger. 

At this point, I realized how bad my situation was. My clothes were completely soaked and I had no way of getting back to my car. I really didn't think this through. I told Art and he offered to drive me back (and a few other volunteers who ran glow sticks). That solved one problem. I got so close to the fire (it was a contained furnace fire) you could see the steam coming off of my running tights. I took off my socks and shoes and outer shells and laid them next to the fire. I was still freezing.

Eventually, the cabin started to clear out. Runners came in and then left, as well as families and friends. The atmosphere began to get quiet. Once in a while, a runner would come in, and everyone would congratulate them and then I would give up my seat so they could warm up. I got to know a few runners from TTR pretty well: Mike, Wayne, Tom, Pam. There were some others but I haven't talked to them since so I have forgotten their names. I'm sorry if you're reading this!

Everyone had warm clothes to change into, except me. Art noticed this and let me wear his extra shirts and socks. I am so grateful for him! I was much warmer thanks to him. Eventually, he was able to take me, Mike and Tom back to the Aid Stations. 

We drove down the dirt roads for about an hour and then we saw it...that "mini-river" that I crossed earlier had gotten so high that we couldn't drive through it anymore. I was stuck! I was so tempted to run across and get to my jeep, but the guys wouldn't let me. We hiked down to the river crossing on the trail and actually made it just in time to help two runners who were getting swept away. It was up to their waists and way to high for runners to be crossing safely. We let the two runners go because there were no more river crossings, but we had to get back to Kentucky Camp and shut down the race. It was no longer safe to finish.

We headed back and I sat around the fire for some more time, trying in earnest to get dry. I would, after all, be spending the night. I wasn't sure where, but I figured it would be out here. I was getting grumpy and I was couldn't stop shivering. Runner after runner continued to come in. At one point, there was a few scares. The race director and some volunteers believed that they were missing 10 runners! A crew was waiting patiently for the longest time and they were getting worried. The last place their runner checked in at was AS 25. They haven't heard his number on the radio since.

The rain was still going strong outside and it was getting really cold. We were really worried about these runners. Panic was spreading. No one wants ONE runner to be lost, let alone 10, especially in the desert, at night, in the freezing cold rain. It was not a good situation.

Kentucky Camp at night, after almost everyone has left. 

We eventually gathered everyone that was left (it was around 9:30pm at this point). It was only a handful of us. We went though the list of lost runners and tried to remember if we talked to any of them. We crossed off 9 runners doing that. Some of these runners didn't have the decency to check in before they went home. That really annoyed us.
  If you are running a race, especially a trail or ultra race, make sure someone knows you have crossed the finish line and that you are going home. If you just leave, the volunteers may not have checked you off the list, and search and rescue will begin. 

We figured out only one guy was missing. He took a wrong turn after AS 25 and ended up way down south. Thankfully, he arrived at the highway and flagged down a sheriff. Phew.

It was getting later and later and I wondering where I would sleep for the night. Thankfully, Art decided he would go home to Tucson. He offered me a ride and since I was SO TIRED, I said yes. We arrived back to Tucson around midnight. He dropped me off at my house and I told Chance the whole story. I was planning on waking up early and heading back to get my car.

I left my car in the Santa Rita Mountains with the keys on the drivers seat. Fantastic.  

You can imagine how I slept that night. I was tossing and turning, thinking about how someone would steal my car. I got absolutely no sleep. But, when I woke up at 6 am, I felt extremely energized and ready to go. Now that I think about it, I really wish I stayed at Kentucky Camp. I would have been much closer to my car and I wouldn't have had to make Chance drive me down to Sonoita (it's about an hour drive). But I was so cold and so tired and I wasn't thinking straight.

The Santa Rita's in the background. Snow definitely fell last night!
What a beautiful sight to wake up to! 

The river crossing that almost swept some runners away. I was
considering crossing it again, to get back to my car...

This is the road that I couldn't cross last night (Chance is on the
other side of the bank). 
We finally got out there and was amazed at how beautiful the Santa Rita mountains looked! Last night was sure chaotic, but it sure made for wonderful scenery in the morning. The road was still blocked off by the river, but it was much lower now. I ran across it expecting to run another mile before I got to the aid station. But Connie and Joe were there waiting with my jeep! Yay! I was so happy it wasn't stolen. :)

We were trying to figure out if I could make it across (as well as some other guy with a sedan). We eventually did and we were on our way home. What a great ending to an absolutely crazy weekend. 

Heading home. :)

Happy Running!


  1. Great post! Good luck with the job hunt!

  2. I'm so proud of you for having the courage to quit your job and go after your dreams! I was in a similar situation for YEARS and quit my job in February. I am very frtunate my husband is very supportive of me being a stay at home mom. But I am also planning on making some $$ at some point. I'm hoping to find something fitness related. We'll see!!


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