I’m not exactly sure what it takes to run 200 miles (ultrarunners are sooo crazy), but I have a pretty good idea now of what it takes to handle a 48-hour aid station during a 100-hour race.
It takes a solid group of enthusiastic, untiring, caring ultravolunteers and a kick-ass Aid Station Captain. The Donner Party Mountain Runners 152 (ish) mile aid station had all of these, led to success by our fearless leader, JP Prince.
We were fortunate to have Mike Tebbutt have the advanced vision and organization of the aid station in the months prior to the event, which was conveniently held the week after Mike returned from Burning Man.
Tahopia, his camp at Burning Man, came straight from the playa and was converted to what we were later told (multiple times by runners, pacers and crew members) was “the best aid station yet”.
The Wednesday prior to the event, Mike,Liz, JP, Kathy D, Pete,Erin, Siri and Joel set up all of our structures.
Stephanie, Mark and Kale spent the day on Saturday at a west shore beach and then stopped by Homewood to pick up all of the AS food from the organizers and drove it up to join the rest of the opening crew for the final setup and the long day(s) ahead. This included putting the rest of the playa dust covered tarp walls on the sleep station, making creative and fun signs for the racers as they neared and entered our AS and arranging the station in a way to create a good flow and get runners through efficiently.
Covered in Playa Dust, our opening crew had everything set up and ready for runners by 6:00pm on Saturday night. For fun, we put together a little pool to bet on various items like:
1. Time the first runner will pass through (we were all WAY off)
2. Number of drops at our aid station (we were all off – it was ZERO!)
3. Number of runners to reach our aid station (we all under-estimated this one by a lot)
4. Number of runners to cry at our aid station (none- we were all wrong)
5. Number of runners who would arrive a) happy or b) angry (we were off- more were happy than angry)
6. Number of runners who say this is the “Best Aid Station” (almost everyone did!- and a lot of them without our pointedly asking the question)
We had a little meeting to go over the aid station instructions, runner tracking, protocol etc. JP said we should do a trial run to prepare for the first runner. His line of questions:
“What’s your bib number? Ok. Do you want to drop?”
The waiting game began, and around 12:30 a.m. we decided that the 1st place runner was at least 4 hours away, so we shut down the generator and took a 4 hour nap.
After a restful few hours, we were all up, lights, music, bicycle horn ready as the first runner, John Burton, came into the station at 5:03 a.m. (11 hours after we had arrived at the aid station).
He took a one-hour nap, refueled, and was on his way at 6:50 a.m.
Shortly after he left, crews began arriving for runners. Our kids on hand made friends with Jackson, from Australia, who was waiting for his dad Ewan. We decided to go for a little hike to watch for his dad, expecting to see him in about 1 hour. He surprised us by showing up within 5 minutes, and the kids helped run him in to the aid station.
He was pretty stoked when I told him he was less than 2 hours behind the leader. He left the aid station running in a matter of minutes, and gave Jackson a high five on the way out.
We were expecting more runners, but no one was coming. I took off down the trail to see if I could see anyone, and found a few runners, who were distraught that the aid station was further along than they expected (which would become a recurring theme). So, we increased our signage and did our best to let everyone know they were getting close.
As the day went on, business picked up at an increasing rate.
Our first female came through, noting that she had dropped her pacer. She left after a couple hours rest, pacer free, and ready to win.
Pete Broomhall went from working the AS to pacing the second place female finisher, who was in a little rough shape upon her arrival, to Tahoe City. Pete loves that kind of work! He then hitched a ride from TC back up to the AS to continue his shift.
At one point, we had a runner from Australia, who was solo without pacer or crew. Looking a little scared and super stoked to have “people to talk to”, until JP asked him, clipboard in hand, if he could show him his visa. After a panicked look he relaxed and laughed with us.
Mike Tebbutt joined the party after completing over 137 miles of the course in 49 hours. He was shut down due to an ankle injury, but his spirits were not hurt and he was excited to help and provide support for the other runners.
Shortly after Mike arrived, his pacer from Spooner to Tunnel Creek, Jeff Brown, stopped by to see if we needed anything. He made a grocery run for us, since more runners than anybody ever anticipated were making it this far in the race. We had more than 60 racers, along with pacers and their crews, come through the Martis AS. This is about 70% of the starters!
By the time I left for the night, the aid station was filled with crews, spectators, pacers, volunteers, and a steady stream of runners.
JP, Sam, Julia, Lucas and Mike worked tirelessly throughout the night and next day, on little or no sleep.
SuperCaptain JP made it on less than 3 hours of sleep (Saturday night), working the longest stretch, nearly 45 hours straight!!!
Responding to a post on FB, DPMR member Julia and her boyfriend worked the night and morning shift. Everyone was grateful for Julia’s expert blister treatments. Lucas also stepped up to pace Ingrid from Brockway to Tahoe City and played a crucial role in getting her to the finish as she chased the cutoffs!
Just to add to the bizarre atmosphere that racers were experiencing in their sleep deprived and hallucinatory state on Sunday night, they ran through a full blown and quite real “Full Moon Rave” out in the woods near Martis Peak and about 5 miles before reaching our AS. Most runners knew that it was too good to be true that they were already arriving to the Martis AS, and the bright laser show in the distance and the ground shaking beats heard from 1/4 mile away made them wonder just what kind of AS was coming up. Though disappointed that they still had further to go to find us, they were elated to finally find a use for their glow sticks that were a part of the mandatory gear.
On Monday, Helen, Joel, Dana and Stephanie came up and assisted with the final runners and “cleaning the shit out of everything” as JP put it.
It was an inspiring and exciting weekend and we can’t wait for the next T200!