Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Vibram HK100 – A Volunteer’s Perspective

Website link here

Way way overdue post but if you know me, this shouldn't come as a surprise. What?!?!?! Well, now you know!

I should probably term this “Operation Deadly Silence” since no one, no one (ok, maybe except Alex coz I had to bunk at his place and BTW, his place is awesome-sauce! I digress…) knew about my plans until they spotted me on the morning itself. For blabbermouths like myself, that’s equivalent to killing yourself, been resuscitated and then driving the knife deeper into your body! I pulled it off – I kept quiet for weeks even when Karen asked me if I was going or if I managed to get a ticket.

Righto, back to the topic. Got in touch with the organizers, the wonderful Steve and Janet, ultra runners themselves and got myself a spot on the volunteer team. You’ll need to fill up a form and let them know of your availability, language skills, where or what roles you would like to help out, hiking/running ability (probably more for sweepers and those manning the more remote CPs) etc. It’s really very seamless with the online registration form and 2 weeks before the event, Steve/Janet sent out the volunteer roles and briefing notes – you can’t really not know what to do, where to be, who to contact (Steve/Janet/team lead).

I was assigned as the race marshal for 3 points: (1) 1km after the start into the turn off into the trail – very easy and I only needed to be there for 5 minutes since it was the beginning of the race, the runners were mostly running in a pack; (2) getting out of the trail heading to East dam – fantastic scenery and again, since the trail was narrow, most of the runners stayed together. Was there for quite a bit since the third marshalling was a couple of hours away (km37); (3) at km37 from Hoi An Road into Pak Sha O – this was 1km after CP3.

Why you should volunteer or rather why I did it

- Cheer on and support friends who are running the event. We had a pretty strong Malaysian contingent at HK100 – about 80. It was fun to surprise everyone at the event and it’s always nice to spot a familiar face on the route, especially at km37 where you’re in the run but not quite at the halfway mark. Plus, the other runners also need a boost at that point.

- Apart from that, there’s also the opportunity to watch the race “live”. Man, those Nepalis (2nd and 3rd place winners) were fast! And they were smiling while racing up to the turn off at km37 – that’s like a 1km hill climb, albeit gentle.

- It’s called giving back to the community – I’ve had endless of support and cheer thrown my way in a lot of runs/events and it’s about time I help out.

- Most importantly, I can’t friggin run the entire 100km! But still needed an excuse for a holiday trip! LOL! Which reminds me…as a volunteer, I get a guaranteed spot in next year’s edition. No, I’m not doing it. I can think if less painful ways of killing myself, thank you very much.

- Oh wait…I had some air miles expiring too!

What you need

- Warm clothings! Wind and water-proof jacket, beanie, gloves, thick socks.

- Plenty of heart and soul – this really shows and you can easily spot an enthusiastic cheer from a halfhearted one. Most of the team are runners themselves and understand what it means to be out there pounding the tarmac, asphalt and trails for hours.

- Offer snacks eg chocs, raisins, Coke

- Help runners adjust whatever they want eg shuffle the bag left/right etc; hold them while they adjust whatever

- Cheer signs or put on a costume – I looked spectacular in my blue fleece with the bright orange volunteer vest, pink gloves and orange shoes (read: clown!). You definitely can’t miss me! Which also means the entire interweb is flooded with my goofy pics. My moment of glory.

- Get in touch with your team lead so you’ll know what you need to do, what time you need to be there, where you need to be – this is especially if you’re from out of town like my case.

- Offer help to a fellow volunteer – I had loads of emails offering help, assistance when I asked for help in getting to the start point. Hey, getting to the almost-middle-of-nowhere (Pak Tam Chung/Sai Kung) at 6am is no joke! Connie, one of the volunteers (who I gathered volunteers every year), gave me a ride – super duper kind.

There’ll be a thank you lunch for the team this weekend at Aberdeen Yacht Club – so who wants to buy me a ticket to wine and dine? Pretty please. Oh volunteers also receive the cool swag – I really dig the tee!

Would I do it again next year? Absolutely. Unequivocally yes. But there goes the element of surprise!

Photo log:

At race start

Volunteer garb and we get a reuseable collapseable cup too!

Dark o'morning - with Joshua

Lai chowing down bak kwa - highly recommended pre-race nutrition; he finished in 21 hours

Yim with his charges

With the "Shark" (advocating "no shark's fins")

Race bib collection on event day

All baggages ready to be transported to CP5 and finishing point

1st road marshaling turn off - into the trails

2nd road marshaling turn off - heading towards East Dam

With my fellow volunteer

Rich Chai

Part of the Malaysian contingent


Pui San

With Wind Fong (photo credits to Rich Chai)

With Chow Kean Fatt and Winnie Wong (photo credits to Karim)

And my all-time fav pic (photo credits to Karim)

3rd road marshaling turn off - km37, about 1km uphill from CP3

With Terence, my fellow volunteer who also so kindly got me a skinny soy latte

The race leaders - the Nepalis racing uphill - they eventually finished 2nd and 3rd

Everyone seems full of energy and in high spirits despite the warmer temps this year

With Terence (photo credits to Tey)

With Leong Kwan Weng and Steve Leong (photo credits to Pui San)


Redhead Running said...

Thank you for sharing! What a surprise you pulled off! Volunteering is such a great experience and I think it helps make you more appreciative as a runner.

Surya Yoga said...

Hullo there, I'm sorry, I tried looking for an email address to contact you but I couldn't find one. I was wondering if you would be interested in writing a review for a yoga studio. How may I contact you? Sorry again. I didn't know how else to get to you apart from leaving a comment here.

Josh&Sharsti said...

I've thought about volunteering a couple of times, these great tips. Thanks!

Sue's Ramblings said...

Go for it! You'll love it. Promise, cross my heart.

adrian said...

Hi Sue! Not sure if you remember me... this is Adrian here from Singapore!!! We met twice along the trail :) Thank you for the sunshine smile!!!

Sue's Ramblings said...

Welcome Adrian! How did the run go for you?

adrian said...

It was painful after CP6. Had to walk the remaining 40km with poles. Something I will remember for a lifetime :) so when's your turn? Next year :)

Leslie Ho said...

Never met you before but I remember you greeted Wind at the dam loudly "Nice to see you again Mr Fong". I was thinking "Wow!!! whata friendly volunteer". I am one of the runners in your pix "Part of Malaysia team".