Posted by: Karen | June 12, 2009

Banff Jasper Relay Weekend 2009

Last weekend Nancy and I got to volunteer at TWO racer exchange stations in the BJR. Last year we only helped out at one.

We left Calgary at about 7 a.m. in a wet sticky snowstorm, with an inch of snow already on my lawn. I’d read that the weather was better further north and was quite happy to leave town. We got to our first handoff station in good time after about 4 hours of driving. We saw very little snow after leaving Lake Louise and it was a beautiful drive. I finished knitting a pair of red and white stripey mitts while Nancy drove.

Nancy and I were old hands at this now, having done it last year, and I got promoted to crew chief. This sounds impressive, but that just means I was in charge of set up and take down of the pylons and seeing that the port-o-potties were kept clean in good condition. I didn’t really have any means of cleaning up or re-stocking the little grey rooms, but I was in charge of ’em.

It was a lot of fun seeing the runners come in, hand off, and cheer on their team mates. I recognized some from the Calgary Roadrunners and another local group called Adrenaline Rush. There was a team from the UK army that was a lot of fun to listen to as they waited for their runner to arrive.

The weather was still chilly, necessitating warm layers, mittens and warm hats for those standing around. There was a cold wind, and it compounded the sunburn I got on my face while I stood out in the elements enjoying the views.

At one point I got to write down the times on the stopwatch as handoffs occurred between when the timing vehicles came and went, and I almost got to do the N15 forced start, but the official timing guys made it there in time to take care of it instead.

A “forced start” sounds a lot more dramatic than it actually is. In this case, it just means sending off all the racers whose relay mates haven’t made it in by a certain time all off at once. Someone just writes down all their race numbers, bunches them all up at the start line, counts down the last 5 seconds and yells GO! There is no resistance from the runners. No cattle prods or whips are involved.

We finished up Stage N15 clean up sometime after 7 pm, made our way to a campground near Jasper, and set up Nancy’s 2 person tent on the way in to the post race dinner and party.

At this point we really missed seeing Alan, a friend who encouraged us to volunteer last year. This year no one made sure we as volunteers got a food/ draw prize ticket or were offered a t-shirt. We got food and a t-shirt, but only because we asked. The food staff were friendly and the kids clearing dishes were very efficient.

We headed back to the tent by 10 pm with the party still going strong. Nancy and I are both early risers, which is a good thing when sharing the same tent.

The day after the race we packed up and headed into Jasper to the Bear’s Paw Bakery for coffee and breakfast. Their food is so good, we bought stuff for lunch on the road later too.

We poked around at Medicine Lake, where we saw a lone elk and some stripe-less, very quick-moving, big-eared chipmunks. I’m not sure chipmunk is the right word for whatever that was.

On the way to Maligne lake we saw two deer and three bears (a mom and two cubs). We saw a moose on the way back. I didn’t get decent photos of these – none of the animals were particularly interested in posing.

I did get some cool shots of relay stations, mountains, lakes, a river and a canyon. Check them out at my Flickr photostream.

I didn’t run or ride or swim all weekend, but we did some mild hiking around Maligne Canyon before heading back home. With a short stop at the Columbia Ice Fields, the trip back from Jasper took us about 5 hours. I knitted most of a pear/apple cozy on the way back.


  1. Now this is what I call hard-core volunteering! Whew!

  2. It did call for a very long drive, but the actual work was pretty easy in return for the great experience in the mountains.

    For hard core I’ll introduce you to Jim Clampett some time. He does all the timing for every Roadrunner race, even the -25C XC ones. I call him the “Yoda of Timing” 🙂



%d bloggers like this: