Friday, August 3, 2012

Camp Croft Challenge - What have I done???


     I picked this title because that is how I felt almost every day after the Greenville Running Company and I talked about setting up a Marathon and Marathon Relay with only 2 and a half months to get it together. Yes I have put together an event before (One Epic Run) a 24hr event in December, but this would be a whole new ballgame. I had no clue what I was in for and at every point of this event I felt like it showed. When it comes to running I am far FAR from being professional and apparently that is a big no no when you’re an RD, but to tell the truth I really don’t give two shits….. “My reputation depends on it” …. Really???? What freaking “reputation” the fact I’m an Ultra running drunk? Boy I would hate to mess that up in any kind of way. The fact that I’m a combat Marine? Lord; no don’t want to change the fact that I ever did that (twice over). The fact that I care about GOOD people and have good people in my life that I am thankful for everyday I open my eyes. Don’t think there opinions of me will change.  The fact that I would do anything I could for my friends and family. Anything outside of that I really don’t care.  Running is something I do for fun and if you don’t want to come out to one of my events because you don’t like an email I send out or something I post on my personal Facebook page stay home, and you can tell people anything you would like to I will not lose any sleep at night over it. To tell the truth this RD stuff is no joke people expect you not to be a real person. As far as “my event sponsor” it was MY freaking credit card. Look at the Website “brought to you by the Epic Runner and the Greenville Running Company. Guess what people the Epic Runner is me and my Visa card so idle treats to try and scare my sponsorships away is a joke. Yes the Greenville Running Company played there part in the event helping and giving advice and helping me to keep my crap together.  I don’t want it to seem like they did nothing. They were a major part in my mental state and helped me to stay motivated to get this event off the ground. Now that that’s out there on to my blog/report……

     As I said I had no clue what I was getting into. I have some friends that put on much better events than I think I ever could. I try to listen to them on runs and see what they have to say about the difficulties of putting on an event. I myself just go out on runs and drop some water off in a couple places and hit the trails for hours. I normally run a marathon distance on 120oz of water when its 101 degrees and 96% humidity. So that is what I was going off of setting this up. I understand that other people need a lot more than that. Not everyone is my size, run my pace, try to kill their bodies. Haha. So I needed all the help I could get to understand the needs of other runners in that kind of heat. I read a lot of blogs from other runners/talked to other runners and tried to understand what their water intake would be and how much I would need out on the trails. I had a lot of help from Go-Greenevents, the Rangers at Croft, the company making the medals, my Job allowing me time to make the calls and send the emails I needed to on their time, the Greenville Running Company, a friend that set up the website out of the kindness of his heart, etc.…  As things moved forward it seemed like every day there was some kind of disaster I was faced with. People that know me know I don’t ever get stressed about anything and I can handle most anything that comes my way, but boy this was getting a bit over the top.

     The truth is that the Camp Croft Challenge can be vastly improved from this year and I plan on taking the steps to make that happen.  I think as a first year it was a good event; again it can be worlds better.
One problem I had was the constant changes to the relay teams. It seemed like every day I got an email about a teammate that had to drop and be replaced with another runner. No offence to anyone I myself have done team events and had to do the very same thing. During one event we had a runner get food posing the night before which left us with a 3 person team. These things happen, but as an RD it creates a lot of work. Go-Greenevents talked to me about setting it up in the upcoming years where it will just be a team listed instead of the runners that way as long as the team caption stays the same it does not matter (just one of the many things I learned). Getting rid of the shirts and doing handhelds or towels is another thing; that way there is not a shirt size problem with the team changes. Maybe I’ll just do the medals who knows. Another problem was undercharging the relay teams. Making very little money for the park was a big disappointment considering we took up there trails for most of the day, but the Rangers understood that it was the first year and they know I have problems.

     The crazy thunderstorm the night before while marking the trail was a lot of fun as well. Nothing like having crazy ran hitting you for 3 hours to make you feel all worm and fuzzy about an event. I marked the first 13 miles and looked at the weather report “scattered showers” ok no problem I thought. I just packed up and went to help with packet pick up. I headed back to the park latter that day after the rain and the weather report said it was going to be a nice night. BULL CRAP!!!!!! Not five munities into the trail and the hardest storm ever hit. Well no choice had to get it done. I had a runner starting at 2am and had to get it marked.  The turn markings that I had made were paper and did not hold up to well in the rain bending and even falling off some of the sticks. Once I got that done I was back at the start to meet up with Viktor before he headed out on the course. As I was setting out the water a couple hours before the event, because some spots were really remote places to get to;  I high centered my truck getting it stuck for about 30 minutes and beating it all to shit trying to get it out. As I got out and started heading back I saw Viktor again heading out on the trail to start his run. As I got what water stops I needed to get set I headed back to the Activity building where packet pick up was that morning. I got all the stuff set up and ready knocked some of the mud off of me and passed out for about an hour and a half before start time. My alarm went off and I thought I hit the snooze button; nope I cut the darn thing off. About 5 minutes latter the Inov8 rep called – thank God -  to get the gate code so he could get in and get set up. It was nice that the Greenville Running Company got him out there. I really love their product and it really made it feel like a legit event.

     I told the relay teams that I could provide transportation for them then at the last minute I realized that there was no way that would work because of the different speeds of the runners. So had to tell all of them at the last minute some jacked up driving directions at the start of the event hoping that they would understand. I said what I had to say to the runners telling them to pay attention to the trail names and that I used yellow caution tape to mark the trails. More on the caution tape latter and they were off and running. 

     Once they took off I grabbed some volunteers and headed to the 1st team change. They were amazing I gave them some instructions and my phone number and asked them to call when the sweep got to that point. Everyone that came out to help was key to this event and key to a lot of the input of what was going on out there. I went back to the start and some more volunteers and myself went down to the 2nd relay team change to set it up. I was in luck one of them knew the trails and I showed him the changes that needed to be made to some of the markings after everyone went across the bridge. After that I was off back to the start to double check on everything there and give the Rangers an update. About that time I got the call from team change 1. Off I went to take that down and get them moved to team change 3. Once team change 3 was set up back to team change 2 to get the updates and forward the information to the Rangers. Everything up to this point was running very smoothly and I was very happy with how things were turning out. Now back to that yellow caution tape. I knew that kind of marking was used to mark low trees so people would not bust their heads on anything;  what I did not know is that it is the bikers that put it up and maintain most of it. Well the Lizard trail is one of the more hardcore biker trails out at Croft and they ripped some of the tape to shorter pieces to get it out of there line of sight while on their bike and even took some down all together. This was not them being malicious in any way. They were doing what they do. I talked to some after and they said that they do that because if there is no longer any danger of someone hitting their head or from something they take the tape down. Next year I will know to use something other than that. One runner’s feedback said it might be good to find tape that matches the color of the relay legs I put on the website and that it will help from getting turned around as well. There were some runners that went the wrong way on the trails in section 3/4 and it’s because of all that adding up and I do apologize for that. I’ll have to see if I can get the colors to do the team legs with. The mud was overwhelming in some sections of the course and that is something I needed to find a way around. The trails were great Friday morning but after all that rain they were trashed.

     For the most part I feel that it went really well for the first year. The trail markings on the last leg were the biggest problem with the event and as the RD I take full responsibility for that. I know next year to not use paper turns and yellow caution tape. I got some really great feedback on how to better improve the event for the following years. There was some race directors from other events out on the trails and gave me some great feedback. 

     I got the call from team change 3 that the sweep came and went. I thought wow that’s great a lot faster than I thought. Went and pulled that aid station down and was informed what runners had and had not come past. Looking over my paper work I was missing 2 runners. Got back to the start and they were drops. Thank goodness so everyone was past mile 21. A little latter I saw the sweep coming out of the woods and I get ready to pack it in. when he crosses the finish we find out that I was  missing a runner. SHIT!!! Ok I thought at least she is on the South Side of the park and not the main park. That will make it a lot easier to find her. I quickly took my shirt off grabbed a water bottle and off I went running. I think once I went over the bridge I was running faster than I ever have out there. I hit some bikers and gave them the info on the runner and asked if they could ride what was the 3rd leg of the marathon and look for her and I ran the rest of the 4th leg backwards. When I was almost at the parking lot I turned around and ran all the way down center line looking there. I got back to the park and the rangers were on their way to the south side parking lot and I took off to the last unmanned aid station. As I was pulling into the aid station I got a text from the finish line “last runner in” YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA sweet. She made it. NOOOOOOOOO how mad will she be when I get back???? Driving back I thought well it does not matter how mad she might be at me what matters is she is out safe. The fact that she might be mad should have never even come into my thoughts and I felt bad that it did. How selfish of me; her being safe is all that matters even if she hates me for the rest of her life. When I got back to the finish I did not see her to tell her that I was sorry so I started packing up. A little time passed and I see this really high spirited girl walking up. It was my lost lady. She was very happy to have finished her first marathon and took it easy on me. She told me that she ended up back at the last unmanned aid station then the bikers that I asked to help look for her told her  how to get back and that she was not far away. I have run many trail events and someone always takes a wrong turn. I was happy that she made it out without getting hurt. My 2nd Ultra I got lost so bad it’s not even funny. Only ran about 75% of the true course, but ran more than a 50k. So I know how bad it feels to be out there out of water and lost. It really freaks you out until you find out your 10 minutes from safety.

     After we talked she went back to her campsite and I keep taking things down and packing up. Thanking to myself how glad that everyone was safe and it was over. I just wanted to shower and go to bed. I did talk with the Rangers for a bit about the event then headed over to the GUTS crew. It was nice to just chill out with them and talk trail, but it was short lived as I still had a lot to do before I could get that shower and worm bed.

     The Monday after the event it rained all day. I spent my lunch break looking over trail maps to find a way not to use those muddy horse trails. Right before I got of work the rain stopped and I headed out to the trails. With a new course in my head I headed out with 40oz of water. I ran the new course in a little over 4hr so I believe that it is a marathon distance considering that I have never ran a marathon in over 4hrs unless I was pacing the event. I will still need to wheel it out to find out for sure. After all that rain there was barley any mud on the trails that I ran and even a great view of one of the lakes right at the start of the course. The new river crossing is deeper but without rocks and a nice sandy bottom.

At the end of the day it was just nice to see a bunch of friends and make new ones.

Looking back at what to fix:
New course with less chance of mud
Different trail markers and try to color code each leg
Water, sports drink, GU, ice at as many aid stations as I can get out there
Try and add more aid stations
Ropes for the river crossing
Relay team names not runners names
Do something other than shirts
Post mile markers at the aid stations
7 hour cut off (maybe)
Try and get people out at the major turns to help the runners from getting lost
Give driving directions to the relay teams there is just no way to bus them without a chance of being late for the faster teams.  Try to add information into the team instructions.
Some kind of discount to the GUTS members

1 comment:

  1. Outstanding job for your first Camp Croft Challenge Trail Marathon, Joe! I thoroughly enjoyed this event, and look forward to running the race in years to come.