A Way Too Cool Experience

On Saturday, I awoke at 3:50 am, not to run a race which would be the usual reason for waking up at that un-gawdly hour, but to volunteer at the Way Too Cool 50k. I had heard a lot of good things about the infamous race where a partial of the course is part of the Western States trail. When Ultra Miles Matt asked me if I wanted to volunteer, I jumped at the opportunity.

Originally, Ultra Miles Matt or UMM, was on the waiting list as this race is a lottery registration process. He was number 150 or something like that on that list. Regardless, he knew he wanted to be involved in the race, and since he needed volunteer hours for the Western States anyway, he pulled himself off the wait list and signed us up to volunteer! I am so glad he did! It was such an inspiring experience to be around all the hardcore trail runners.

We arrived in Cool at 5:30 am where we then took our places at Bib and T-shirt pick-up. Though I had already had two cups of coffee, I was still not awake when the very first runner Brian came to my line to grab his bib. I actually have been following Brian’s training for the last year, thanks to the dailymile. I had a hunch it was him, but with the brain still not fully awake, I said nothing. We laughed about it electronically later as he wasn’t quite sure it was me due to the beenie I was wearing. Good to see him in person all just the same! The hours passed quickly as many runners flooded the tent at bib pick-up! I also saw Aron who was running her very first ultra marathon, and Jojo who but a week prior ran a huge PR at the Napa marathon. Talk about hardcore mile junkie chicks! 

And suddenly and without warning, 8am came and the race began! UMM and I then moved from the tent area to our next volunteer obligation which was the Mile 8 aide station. There we helped set up all the food and liquids and assisted with filling up the runner’s water bottles as they passed. What a treat to be able to see the first few runners buzz past to the very last ones who still looked just as good as the first. It was here that I saw a few friends that I did not see at bib pick-up and also missed a few friends running past. I took my job of pouring Gu Brew into water bottles very seriously you see. I was focused and therefore did not see every single runner that passed.

That's me focused on not spilling.

After the sweepers passed through, we striked the aide station and moved back to the tent area where we helped put up signs until the runners finished. It was then that I moved to my last volunteer duty of the day which was to be the Tent Nazi. Only runners could enter the tent to get food and massages and I was there to make sure it was so. Not the easiest of jobs mind you. It is hard to tell people no sometimes, and other times people can be quite the sneaky ones. I was able to recruit another volunteer which helped a lot as we stood at each side of the entrance congratulating the runners as they piled in and stopping those who didn’t have a ticket. Quite a few runners had complained to me that they thought it was ridiculous that they were only allowed one slice of pizza and a cupcake. They also wondered where the beer was. I sympathized with them and explained that I was only a volunteer. I guess if I were running a race in the middle of nowhere, I would expect more food options too. For the most part though, I enjoyed all the runners energy as they told me of their 50k adventures on the course. Besides the food issue, all the runners seemed to have had a blast. And that’s what it is all about really! I thought overall this race was really well organized and so much fun to be apart of! 

Gary Gellin first runner to cross the finish line with a Way Too Cool Time!

I put in over eight hours of volunteer time, and I was spent! I was almost as tired had I actually ran the race...Well, almost. I am not certain that I will ever run an ultra. I will approach this topic at another time. I do know, that I love trail running, and I love being around trail runners in all their sweat glory. It’s funny when I think about it, all of the volunteering I have done at races have been on the trails! Coincidence? I think not. I am so happy I was able to give back to the community that I love so and what a Cool experience to boot! 

Volunteer gift!
Much needed coffee stop in Auburn after the event.

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