Monday, June 3, 2013

Volunteering - Run For Aurora 50K/50M

In my quest to try to give back, I volunteered Ariel and I to help out at the Run for Aurora ultra marathon that was to be held in Roxborough State Park.

I had a few back and forth emails with the race director (back in April) who indicated she wanted us there at 6:30 am, and if we could bring food/snacks for the aid stations. No problem. A baked a delicious batch of brownies with my mom the day before.

"Race" morning, I was up at 3:45. Not because I had to be up that early, just because I had trouble sleeping. I tried unsuccessfully to go back to sleep. Finally got A up at 5:15, and we started the drive down to the race, which mapquest had taking 1 hour.

We get to the park, and much to our dismay, it costs $7 to park... um, what? That was not mentioned on the race website, and I certainly was not informed of that in any of my communications with the race director. I don't carry cash on me. I figure maybe she has a plan for volunteers and we drive in and park. We walk a few minutes to the visitor center where the race starts. I find the RD and ask her about parking. She is apologetic, but acknowledges that I do, in fact, need to pay. And I can just write a check if I don't have cash. WHO CARRIES CHECKS??? Finally, she gives me some cash to pay the fee and I have to drive back down the dirt road to get my pass. Turns out, it is NOT enough money, but I shove $5.30 in the envelope with an apology that it is all I have. Womp.

Giving final race instructions, photo courtesy of Travis

I get back right as the race is starting. We have nothing to do. Why did she have us get there so early. She says the course includes a 2 mile loop and that A and I are welcome to walk or run it if we want while we are waiting for the runners to do the bigger, technical 7.5 mile loop. So A and I take off. The course is beautiful.

We get back in plenty of time to see the first runners come in. It was a lot of fun talking to the runners, who were all really appreciative of our time and efforts out there. Fascinating to see the people that didn't even run with water or barely ate anything. Apparently the big loop was pretty technical, and 5-6 runners came down with injuries from falls. Nothing serious but people were pretty scraped up.

Photo courtesy of Travis
The news crew came to do a story on the race, and A kept trying to photo bomb the RD. I DVR'd the news, but didn't see the story so no idea if it even aired. The RD took off to run the small loop with her brother. A asked if she could run with them for a bit, so I was left alone.

A runs back in from her partial loop - photo courtesy of Travis

In that time, 2 runners DNF'd (not from injury, they both said they weren't feeling well) and three separate people said they got lost on the course and wanted to know how much extra they had run and what they were supposed to do in order to finish the correct distance. Don't know, not in charge.

She finally comes back and asks if I will run to the store to pick up food/water for the runners because she doesn't think she has enough. Sure, no problem. I say, I should probably go between 11:00-11:15 so I have enough time to get back. We start chatting, talking about races. Turns out, I actually "know" her. She was the only woman who ran more miles than me the first year I ran in Moab. Also, I remembered talking to her during the Leadville marathon. Anyway, running really IS a small world.

11:15 and I tell her I need to leave to go get the supplies. She gives me money and I head out. I leave A with the race director (per her suggestion) because A is being a big help and is handing out medals, etc.

A giving medal to overall winner of the 50k, photo courtesy of Travis

It takes a bit longer than I thought to get to the Safeway, but I manage to pick up 4 cases of water, 4 gallons of water, 4 giant sandwiches from the deli and a few bags of chips. By the time I get back to the gate to re-enter the park it is already 11:55. I have probably 20 minutes to get in, drop off the stuff, grab A, drive to the other aid station to drop off half the supplies and get out so that we can drive back up by our house for A's gymnastics meet.

There is a line of cars at the gate, and we are not moving. I didn't have cell phone service while in the park, so I had my car in park and was checking my social media, email, texting, etc. Before I know it, about 10 minutes have passed. And we have not moved. Woman behind me gets out of the car and comes up to my window asking what the problem is. Well, I have no idea. She says she has a state park pass and doesn't have to pay for parking so she is going to find out if she can drive around and go in. I tell her to let me know what they say because I also have my pass already. She comes back and says the park is "at capacity" so they are not letting anyone in until people start leaving.


So I get out to talk to the park ranger at the gate. There are a half dozen cars in front of me and I am told the same thing about no parking spots available. I try to reason with him that I have a carload of stuff that just needs to be dropped off at the visitor center and I just need to pick up A. Ranger says, nothing I can do, those are the rules. He offers to call the other ranger that monitors parking. She says, no, I cannnot drive up, I needs to get in her car and wait my turn.

NO ONE HAS MOVED. I have been sitting there for over 20 minutes. The park rangers offer to take the supplies up to the visitor center but they will not retrieve A and they will not let me go up to get her. The female ranger drives down and I try to reason with her. I ask her what my options are and that I understand there are no spots, but I don't need a spot, I just need 3 minutes to unload my car and get A. She immediately goes on the defensive and informs me that I am NOT special am NOT privileged and those are the rules, and I can wait like everyone else.

Finally, since basic logic is not happening and no solution is being offered, I offer to call the "real" police if I am not going to be permitted to get my own child. After the female ranger reminds me that had I not "abandoned" her I wouldn't be in this position, she says she will let me through and will be happy to inform all the cars in front of me that have been waiting patiently to enter that I am too "special" to wait in line.


So I the road in is dirt and I have to drive really slow. It's about a 2 mile drive and I have to drive on an access road to get directly to the table where the food/water is. I am unloading the car while yelling at A to get in the car when A NEW PARK RANGER pulls up behind me. He needs to "talk to me" when I am done. What. What. What.

The race director is standing there pretending like none of this is happening. The new ranger identifies himself as "head ranger" and asks for my ID. I ask why and he informs me that he is a "peace officer" and he needs my identification after my "belligerent and threatening" conversation with the female ranger.

What. What. What.

By now it is 12:35. He sits in his truck for 5-10 minutes with my ID, who knows WHAT he is doing. Then he gets out and says a bunch of crap about how I am not special and I don't get special circumstances just because there is a special event happening in the park. What. I VOLUNTEERED FOR THIS RACE. I had never been to this park, I didn't know the "rules" and certainly no one ever said that if I left I might not be able to get back in. Finally FINALLY we were allowed to leave (I'm expecting a ticket for this in the mail or something), and we are on our way out. We don't even have the time to get a piece of the sandwiches I had picked up, so we stopped at Subway on the way out and had to eat in the car.

We barely got to her gymnastics meet on time. It ended up running over 30 minutes late, which in turn put us 30 minutes late for her bridging ceremony / BBQ for moving from Daisies to Brownies. Being late for THAT in turn put the BBQ starting late, no food until 6:45.

Random Thoughts.
  • I loved the actual volunteering, the runners were all GREAT. However, this entire situation just left a BAD taste in my mouth. I am a bit upset with the RD for failure to communicate some of the basic things I needed to know, like the parking expense and the re-entry rules.
  • The park itself was beautiful, but I will NEVER go back after how I was treated. 
  • The whole situation makes me never want to volunteer again, which is sad.
  • I took a few days before blogging about this, so now of course I'm wondering if I was in the wrong here. I made sure to look on my way out and saw ZERO signs warning about parking and re-entry not being guaranteed.
    • Who, if anyone, should I be upset with? I'm trying NOT to be mad at the RD, but I can't help but feel some of this could have been prevented, or at the very least, she could have tried to talk to the head park ranger THAT AUTHORIZED THE EVENT, instead of pretending the whole incident wasn't happening.
    • The park rangers seemed to just have a big "I have the power to wreck your day, so I'm going to" attitude. Again, I would have been happy to have had them pick up A and bring her back. Or I would have been happy to have grabbed her car seat and ride up in the park ranger truck and get her. Or been escorted up by the park rangers. Seemed to me that they were having NO logic and even though solutions were being offered they refused to be flexible. On the other hand, rules are rules, even if they are dumb.
To be continued...

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a hot mess!

    I volunteered at A LOT of ultras last year due to pregnancy and I know a few of the RDs pretty well. I get the sense from them that there is often an unnecessarily adversarial relationship with the park folks. The rangers are the gods and if you want to keep having events, you don't make trouble with them. They have even stopped racers from completing races for dumb reasons and the RDs hands are kind of tied. If your RD had that type of experience, I can see why she might not have spoken up to protect her event.

    She totally should have told you about the $7 though. In my state, all state parks charge a fee and most ultra peeps have a pass since they are out training all the time anyway. A reminder would have been nice though!


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