Posted by: Karen | June 19, 2008

Banff Jasper Relay Volunteering

Our weekend out in the mountains between Banff and Jasper was a lot of fun, considering the cold rainy weather. My friend Nancy and I packed our two road bikes, Alan’s bike, the tent, assorted camping gear and some food into the back of her new Jeep and headed out shortly after 6 a.m. Saturday morning. The race started in Banff at 7 a.m., but we didn’t need to be at our post near Jasper until about 2:30 p.m.

We met Stephen, a runner I know, when we stopped for coffee in Lake Louise for coffee a couple of hours later. He warned us that it was snowing up at Bow Summit and officials might have to close that stage of the relay, but when we got there the road was clear. We found Alan after he ran his relay stage, and then carried on further north.

We didn’t see as much mountainous scenery as we would have liked to that morning, as the cloud cover was very low. It was still a beautiful drive, and Nancy is great company, so the time went quickly.

We found Stage 14 just south of the Mount Kerkeslin Lookout turn off with plenty of time to spare, so we popped into Whistler’s Campground and set up my big tent. Setting up the tent itself only took us about 15 minutes. We headed back to our post and munched on lunch until other volunteers and race related folks turned up.

The timing guys set up their car at the transition mark, a line painted on the side of the road. We met Wray and Gail from Edmonton, who’d volunteered at this post last year. They helped us arrange the pylons and kept the runners organized at the hand-off. Gail had a big cowbell that she rang enthusiastically whenever a runner was coming in, which added to the excitement.

Nancy and I stood at either ends of the transition, waving big SLOW signs at motorhomes, tour buses and other traffic. It was cold and lightly raining on and off, so we wore our winter/rain gear and mittens. When I got tired of standing around sometimes I danced a little jig.

My experience as a team mate at last summer’s K-100 race helped me understand some of the feelings of the runners and supporters as they came and went through our little transition bubble. I saw high fives and hugs, sweat and fatigue, anticipation and apprehension, curious looks from tourists and warm smiles of recognition.

Somewhere around 6 pm? all of the teams who hadn’t made the cut-off had to send off their remaining runners in a forced start.¬† This sounds a lot more violent than it actually was. No cattle prods were necessary. After that we cheered in the remaining stragglers, packed up the gear for pick-up, and headed into Jasper for a nice warm shower and dinner.

Alan, the ultimate buddy, had offered his hotel room shower to anyone who wanted a warm-up before dinner. What a great guy! Once we were all squeaky clean, we joined the throng of racers, support crew and volunteers at the community centre for a fantastic meal of lasagna, salad and garlic toast. I had a lot of fun visiting with folks at a few different tables. it was a great way to end the day.

We made it back to our tent sometime after 10, just before sunset. It didn’t take us long to fall asleep, and we kept warm under plenty of layers. The next day we stopped and played tourist on the way home. I’ll elaborate more on that in my next post.

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