Bigfoot 200 Aid Station – Council Bluff

This weekend was an experience.

We left Seattle early afternoon and made it to Randle by the evening. We met up with some of our aid station volunteers at the headquarters to pick up gear. I’m so glad there were four vehicles, or we wouldn’t have gotten all the gear there. And then we headed out. It took us an hour and a half to go about 38 miles to our very remote site. Perseus (our Subaru Crosstrek) got his first real taste of gnarly roads! We got there just before sunset and set up our camp, and I set up the Lug-a-Loo. Good to go! We ate dinner and looked up at the millions of stars we could see without the city light pollution. Lovely!

The next morning we woke up with the sun, so some folks went out for a hike and the rest of us set up. We weren’t expecting our first runner until noon, so we had loads of time. But it was nice to get organized. And then noon came and went. No runners. A few hours go by and we see no one. We had a satellite phone, but it wasn’t working, so we had no clue as to what was going on. We waited, and waited… and nobody came. Eventually I bit the bullet, and called the HQ on the satellite phone, which was supposed to be a big no-no, but it was 6:30 and we hadn’t seen/heard anyone or anything. They told us to expect runners later. Basically, the runners were taking longer on the sections ahead of us. We didn’t get our first runner until 11:15pm. Eleven hours later. As it was an inaugural race, it was a learning experience, but yikes.

Patiently waiting for runners!

Patiently waiting for runners!

Once our runners started rolling in it got a lot more interesting. It was never a frantic pace, but we rarely went 15 minutes without a runner coming in. Our volunteers were fantastic!

Checking in to Council Bluff.

Checking in to Council Bluff.

We all got 4 hours of sleep on our shifts, and then Megan, Adam and I were up until 4am on Monday. Our sweeper and last runner came in at 1:30am (our original cutoff time), but then they moved our cutoff time to 4:30am. Only one runner needed it, and it was because she sat at our aid station for 3 hours. She was a mess, and I honestly didn’t think she should continue. Eventually, she did (but dropped 2 stations later, I think). We only had 2 drops overall, and only one of them we drove out with us Monday morning (he slept on the cot we had.) The other drop left with crew, but he had a fever and had run the Colorado 200 just a few weeks prior. Yikes. And really, with the race, they had a 75% finishing rate (59 of 78), which is crazy!

Mt. Adams - just a few glorious moments did it look like this.

Mt. Adams – just for a few glorious moments did it look like this.

The first runners that came in looked remarkably good for 130 miles, with still 70 to go. The section of trail just before us was the hardest and longest bit, so I expected some pretty gnarly carnage. But really, I was impressed with the runners. We had a variety of foods, but what struck me (and it shouldn’t have been surprising) is that hardly anyone touched the “normal” aid station food like fruit, chips, candy, etc. Everyone came into our station wanting REAL food, and nothing sweet. So we made breakfast sandwiches with eggs, cheese, avocado, quesadillas, grilled ham and cheese, and later mashed potatoes/hash browns with lentil soup poured over it like gravy. The bacon disappeared instantly (and then we had tasty smelling bacon grease in the backcountry – I’m sure no animal was interested in that, lol!)

The only flowers we had around us, but their cheery brightness caught my eye.

The only flowers we had around us, but their cheery brightness caught my eye.

Thankfully, our area was well-marked.

Thankfully, our area was well-marked.

He's just napping. No really, he's not dead. Just napping. I think.

He’s just napping. No really, he’s not dead. Just napping. I think.

I think my favorite was when this guy (who I started calling Frat Boy) came running in and telling stories and being loud, etc, that guy. But the first thing he said was, when queried about food, “I want dead things.” Okay, sausage, etc, coming right up. And then he said, “Funny thing is, I’m a vegan. But I don’t care. Don’t tell my wife.” This race turns you primal, as ultras seem to do. But it really was fun chatting with the runners. So many of them had done Tahoe last year (and agreed that Bigfoot is way harder, course-wise). Also, at the Tahoe aid stations, everyone has cell service, and they’re much closer to civilization. So they don’t have the challenges that we had. Maybe they don’t have to deal with generators or Lug-a-Loos, etc. Maybe they do. (p.s. How many people can actually say they’ve shit in a bucket? Now I can, lol.) But we ran out of some stuff, and camp stove, and had to request a supply run. Good for them for the future, though. I gave the volunteer coordinator LOADS of feedback, good and not as good, for next year.
It was a fun, but sort of odd experience. Seeing a headlamp coming in at 3am, and jumping up and cooking them grilled cheese and mashed potatoes and letting them nap for 30 minutes on our cot… So crazy. There were sleep stations (ahead and behind us), but we got a lot of people in the middle of the night. But we had a great view of the stars, and all sorts of interesting nighttime animal noises too…
After we packed up (it was just Megan, Adam and I), we had lunch at a diner and were all sorts of slap-happy from the exhaustion. It was a long drive back, but it felt so good to use plumbing, have a shower and sleep in a bed. I took the next day off and spent 5 hours on the couch, just reading. Anyway, it was fun (although I think Adam actually had more fun than I did!) I struggled a bit with the stress of it ahead of time, but now that I know what to expect and whatnot, I’d probably do it again.
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