Ragnar SWAT Volunteering

April 20, 2012

Official logo of the Ragnar Rely SeriesI wanted to wait until next year (when I’m hopefully faster) to actually run in Ragnar.

This year, I got to enjoy the next best thing – being a SWAT volunteer. SWAT stands for “Sweaty, Wet, and Tired,” because you work a long shift. Mine was only about 13 1/2 hours. I’ve heard that some people go for 24.

In case you haven’t heard of Ragnar, it’s a 200-mile relay that takes place in various cities around the country throughout the year.

I didn’t know anyone running, but thought it sounded fun to volunteer. I put a post on Ragnar’s Facebook page, and found a fun group who needed volunteers. I met one member of the team at the Hollywood Half Marathon, and most of the other members today.

It was a day of hurry up and wait. Every few hours it would just so happen that I’d have to assign volunteers, answer a bunch of questions from runners, and respond to a semi-emergency on the walkie all at once. Then I’d sit around and do nothing for two or three hours until the craziness started up again.

I had an incredible group of volunteers I got to work with. I used to work a lot in theater, and I miss feeling responsible for organizing details and people. They bus parts of the day were an extremely fun challenge.

Aurora gets her own walkie talkie/phone communication system at Exchange 6 at Ragnar SoCal 2012
Look! I got a little communication thing with my name on it and everything. I’m special, right?

I worked at exchange #6, which was the start of the race for the second van. We had check-in, safety briefings, and generally a bunch of stuff going on at our exchange. There was plenty of stuff to do to keep volunteers busy.

In the non-busy parts of the day, I walked around, checking in on lovely volunteers. It was nice to see the action of the day from different places.

One of the few disappointments of the day was when I sat down for a couple of minutes at the back of the check-in tent after a round of checking in on people. The race director came over and saw me doing nothing when someone had just complained to her about a trash can that was overflowing. (The trash filled up so quickly!) Don’t you hate that when the boss catches you at exactly the wrong time?

The only other major disappointment of the day was that I brought my sunscreen from the Grand Canyon with me. I put it under the check in table, and it got packed deep into the big Ragnar truck! Once I realized it was gone, there was really no getting it back.

Everyone always complimented the smell of that sunscreen. It went on easily. I felt very protected by the sun. It was almost a brand new bottle. What a bummer, right? And I didn’t even remember what the magical brand name was! Fortunately, I have a friend working at the Grand Canyon this summer, so Josh should be able to remind me what brand it was.

One thing I learned, from a runner’s standpoint, is that you should get to Ragnar early. People love slap bracelets, and we ran out. Exchange 6 (and Exchange 1) both ran out of a fair amount of stuff. That really sucks for the fast people, because they’re the ones who start latest in the day. For people who didn’t get t-shirts or things, Ragnar made sure there were some waiting at the finish. But still. Check in early if you can, was a lesson I took away from this.

One of the stations we had today was set up next to a booth selling waterproof (Lifeproof) iPhone cases. The more I walked by the booth, the more I wanted that new phone case. My old one was pretty torn up. I’d heard so much about the amazingness of having a waterproof/drop-proof/almost-everything-proof case. For all my crazy running/adventure purposes, it seemed to be a great idea.

big field with runners and volunteers at booths in Anaheim at Exchange 6 during Ragnar 2012

Of course, I am trying not to waste money. Racing all the time is expensive, after all! But, they had a demo with a tank. And the cases were on sale. At the end of the day, I’d been convinced, and got my phone case.

(Edited to add: It rained Portland and other cities. Thankfully, it was a worthwhile purchase.)

Before you knew it, that last runner came through the chute, and the Ragnar staff had their truck out of there soon after.

Incredible secret: If you’re a SWAT volunteer 3 times in one year, you can get a free team entry to Ragnar! I can’t wait to run in this race in the future!

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