Castlewood 8-Hour Volunteer Report

I volunteered at the Castlewood 8 Hour Adventure Race today.  It was cold as all get-out, and I blame my friend Patrick and his race report from the Berryman 36-hour adventure race for my hypothermia.  After following his team's progress during the race and reading the race report, I was hooked.  I emailed my brother and begged him to do Berryman with me next year (you remember my brother? He likes to compete hungover...and in suits).  He agreed, which means that now I have to actually figure out how to do things like navigate with a compass and topographical map and mountain bike without falling before next September.  Today's volunteering was step 1 of my Intro to Adventure Racing plan.  I wanted to see what I'm getting in for.  Getting a discount off of a future race entry didn't hurt, either.

I didn't realize Patrick was volunteering, too, so it was a welcome surprise when he said he was.  We ended up planning to ride together.  Our initial email from the race director requested that we be at Castlewood at 5:30 a.m.  Not an exciting prospect.  Then, on Friday, he emailed again and said he didn't need us til 10.  Score! Since we were both wanting to see some of the race, we ended up getting there about 8:15.

This morning's temperature was a chilly 37 or so, but it wasn't too bad as I went outside to get into the truck. We had a lot of sit and wait at the park until our 10:00 duty called, and the temperature seemed progressively cooler. I don't think the actual temperature dropped much during the day, but the sun decided to take the day off and the wind picked up a bit, so it was cold by the time we were at our station.

Our spot was checkpoint 22, the beach.  Racers had already been running, biking, trekking, and canoeing since 7 in the morning.  Our job was to cheer like maniacs, punch their passports, and make sure they carried their canoes across the beach, up the boat ramp, and into the parking lot.  You can imagine how welcome that last bit of news was to them!  Besides their gear, they were also hauling their bikes in the canoes, so most teams had to make two trips across the beach.
As cold as we were, we didn't have it as bad as some of the racers.  They had the advantage of being on the move, which makes a big difference, but several of the canoes capsized earlier in the day.  I can't imagine how cold those racers must have been! It was plenty miserable dry.  Another racer broke his collarbone on one of the mountain bike sections.
Patrick, looking official
We stood on the beach for a little over an hour before we saw the first boats.  Time passed a lot more quickly when there was something to do.  We made plenty of noise and cheered them in.

Above you can see the first canoes arriving.  Most of the time we only had 1-3 teams at most, but every once in a while we got more of a rush. 

Castlewood 8 hour

Above you can see some of the racers getting ready to unload their boats. 

During one of our busier times, we saw Patrick's friends and teammates Chuck and Robin of ROCK Racing. Since I've been following their exploits on their blogs (you can read about their recent participation in the Checkpoint Tracker National Championships on the blogs linked above), it was a little bit like meeting rock stars.  Unfortunately, we were too busy making sure we got people punched and times written in that I didn't think to get a picture.

After a while, our traffic was pretty thin.  We had to stay out there til the last team came through, so we were rooting pretty hard for the stragglers.  That 36 degrees was about 24 with the wind chill, and newbie volunteers that we were, we didn't think to build a fire.  Or go back to the truck and get warmer clothes (Patrick). 

An older couple waited down with us for a while because their son was competing.  It was pretty cool that they were there to support him, but they decided to leave for a while and come back.  They still hadn't heard from their son when they came back, so we were all watching for him (not that we knew what he looked like or his team name).  I mentioned to them, "I wish I'd given you some money and asked you to bring us back coffee!" The lady said she'd have been glad to.  A little later, they decided to leave for a while, and when they came back they had hot drinks for us.  Very sweet!  It made the cold much more bearable for a while.  They never did see their son, and it ended up he'd been past our checkpoint some time before.  I guess they caught up with him at the finish line.

While the couple was gone, a team came in who had capsized just a bit upriver from us.  They were ready to go on (though not so happy that we didn't have a fire. :( ), but one of the men, Chris, didn't have spare gloves and his hands looked awful.  I had a spare thin pair, so I offered him my thick fleece pair.  (It wasn't a huge sacrifice because I couldn't write teams in and page through our packet of teams wearing them.)  He asked how I'd get them back and I told him he could leave them at the finish line for me.

We had a loooong dry spell, and finally several canoes came in around 4:00.  We were delighted when one of the canoes held the sweep, who told us there were no more canoes still out on the river.  We were not delighted when one of the last two teams--two guys--left their canoe on the beach and took off, leaving us to carry it up to the parking lot.  Nice.  The two girls who came in around the same time DID take THEIR canoe.  In fact, the other team that left their canoe on the beach (during our busy time), was (according to our coffee-delivering friend) two guys also.  Jerks.

Those girls rocked.  This was their first time doing this type of race, and they picked one in December.  And even though they'd been racing for about 9 hours when we saw them, they were still positive with each other and ready to go for it.  They only had an hour left before they had to hit the finish line, but I heard one of them tell the other, "Let's just try to get a couple more."  I think it was them, anyway.  I guess they changed their minds, though, because we passed them riding in to the finish as we drove back there.

I had forgotten about my gloves, but when we got back to the finish, one of Chris's teammates came up, thanked me for helping him out, and asked me if I'd gotten them.  I said not yet, so he left, I assumed to get my gloves.  Instead, Chris came over, gave me a big hug, and thanked me for lending them to him.  He said if he hadn't been able to use them, he'd have been done.  It wasn't a big thing for me to have done, but I know I'd have wanted someone to help me out if I was in that situation (and, knowing me, I would be).

And, you know, I had a blast today.  Yes, it was a really long time to stand out in the cold in not really the right clothes for the weather.  Yes, my legs were killing me from just standing there.  No, we didn't have creative cheers or the forethought to build ourselves a fire. But we had a nice time talking racing and bikes and running in general while we hung out there.  We worked well together as a team, and all of our whining about the cold was good-natured rather than annoying.  It was fun to cheer for the teams coming in and talk a little to some of the other volunteers and spectators.  All in all, it was a great experience.

Castlewood 8 hour finish line
Finish line!

We hung around for a little bit at the finish line, got our race t-shirts, and ate some pizza.  Then, it was back in the truck and the wonderful, wonderful heat.  Patrick asked what I was thinking about Berryman now that I'd been out there for one of the races.  I'm definitely up for it.  I can't wait to do an adventure race.  Just...not in December.


  1. WOW - The race sound amazing. I can't imagine doing it myself, but I love stuff like this. I used to sit on the side lines when my hubby raced mountain bikes. I love the impromptu carmorardie you end up having with people. What an amazing day!

  2. Great report Kate! Glad you were out there volunteering, it was cool to see someone we know at the finish of that canoe leg.

  3. Sounds like you had a blast even though it was a long day. Next year it will be you racing!

  4. Great write-up! It was nice to see the race from a volunteer's perspective! And giving your gloves up was a noble thing to do. Although it may seem like a small gesture, I'm sure it was a HUGE deal to that racer. Kudos to you! Good luck at Berryman next year. I hope to see you there.

    BTW, we're planning an adventure non-race (a free and low-key, low-pressure AR) near Jefferson City sometime in the spring. It would be a great way to get your feet wet. Let me know if you're interested, and I'll keep you posted.

  5. What a crazy amazing race. That sounds awesome. Well, the most awesome part to me was the part where you got coffee. ;-)

  6. Sounds like a cool race! Thanks for your comments. Too bad you are not closer or I would totally swap runner's world for Reading TEacher! :) And yes, World of Warcraft can get out of control! My husband plays it but he has it in check for the most part.

  7. Yikes, sorry it was so cold, but sounds really awesome, too! A friend of mine and her husband, who live in Australia, own an adventure race company. Apparently they are huge over there!

  8. That's one crazy race!!! That's awesome you volunteered. Sounds like a fun time (despite the cold). Can't wait to read about your future adventure race! :)


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