Last weekend I had the immense pleasure of volunteering at the Yankee Springs Winter Races near Hastings , MI. An acquaintance mentioned the race to me a month or so ago and I emailed the co-RD and asked if I could sweep the course. He responded affirmatively and soon I found myself signed up for 2 whole days of volunteering fun!
I arrived early on a cold, windy January Friday and bundled up for a course marking expedition with Phil. He pulled a sled of supplies while I trotted along placing orange and blue pin flags merrily in the snow. There was a 10k course as well at a 25k. The 50k course was 2 loops of the 25k. All in all we probably ran about 18 miles marking the two. As we jogged along the packed snow trails in the sunny, but cold afternoon I couldn't help but giggle–this was definitely not getting me ready to pace at HURT!
We wrapped up the marking and immediately went into set up mode, unloading the uhaul and organizing registration. I helped Phil, Kim and other set up the finish line tent and then made a mad dash for the indoors. My Reynaud's was acting up and I knew that many more minutes in the bitter cold and I'd be useless anyway. I took up residence beside the fireplace in the lodge and checked in runners who were camping in the rustic cabins that night. It was an odd feeling to be looking at a registration table and not know any of the names!
Sleep was short that night, but warm and comfy in the cabins. I pulled on about 8 layers of clothes in the morning and helped with set up, check in, finish line timing, awards, etc. I chatted with the Montrail rep and am excited to give a few of their new, lower drop models a whirl. It was exciting watching people come rolling into the finish line! Finally, around 1pm with the last 50k runner about 40 minutes ahead of me I stripped down to my running clothes and headed out.
The trails were sparkling and silent as I ran through the dormant hardwoods. My knee/leg was hurting, but I did my best to block that out of my mind and dwell instead on how much fun it was to run the rolling terrain. I came into the first aid station and chatted a bit before cruising onward. I discovered a junction whose signs had been removed, but luckily, since I'd marked the course, I knew which way to go! Another mile or so and I reached the second AS. There I re-met the RD of the 12 hour race I'd done the previous year. Somehow a half an hour elapsed while I chatted with him and several volunteers. Reminded of the cold my numbing hands I headed out once more. The sun was sinking as I ran through The Pines. I stared upward along the straight lines of trunk, through green boughs, into blue, sun gilded sky. Deep inhalation....sigh of bliss. It reminded me of sleeping under the stars and the Jeff pines all through northern Cali. I felt a stirring in my soul–eagerness to sleep once more in that realm of quiet, peace, and perfect pine soft bedding.
At the final AS one of Phil's sons made me a grilled PBJ, by request, since I had told them that's what, as a vegan, I ask for in a hundred when offered a grilled cheese. About a mile from the finish I caught up to the final runner and his pacer. The pace had hiked the AT and he and runner both had been to the Javelina course as well as several other places I had also run. They were delightful to chat with and soon we were rolling into the deserted finish.
I relinquished the pin flags, ate some warm food and headed home. It was so great to spend a weekend with runners! I was really missing all my friends and the community! I also highly recommend Yankee Springs if you are looking for a winter race (although they have a summer option as well). It is incredibly well organized The course is a gorgeous, runnable, rolling romp through snowy forest. The prizes are delightful (snowglobes!) and there is plenty of swag too!
Once again, my Altra's took the terrain in stride. I've now run rooty, sloppy PNW trail; flat, loose, sandy desert; and now hard packed snowy trail. I have yet to be disappointed in them!