Monday, April 13, 2015

2015 Cherry Blossom Volunteer Report

Once again, I didn't get into the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Miler, but I thought I'd make good on my desire to volunteer more this year.  Fortunately, the CB has a really good volunteer signup system, and I had a few choices:

1.  Show up at local area airports to pick up some of the elite athletes flying into DC, which would then involve me driving people I didn't know in DC traffic.  That seemed REALLY bad.  As in, "Elite Athletes traumatized because CUCB volunteer drove according to the laws of each runner's country of origin."

Maybe I shouldn't have had all that cough syrup before picking you up . . . .

2.  Hand out bibs/goodie bags to runners.  At first blush, fun.  Then again, LOTS of interacting and opportunities for paper cuts.  Also, there might be a time where a person's bib would not be there, and I wouldn't be able to hide my not caring face.

Oh well, more sleep tomorrow morning for YOU!

3.  Security.  Primarily standing around directing people to the NEXT security person.

Can I be loaded for this job?  HAHA TOO LATE LUNCHTIME BEERS ALREADY.

THIS was something I could handle, and, fortunately, there were still slots available.  I chose the opening day of the Expo, Friday 10 April, from 2-6pm.

I showed up to the National Building Museum armed only with Shakespearean bon mots and insults if anyone got out of line (literally!).

This is going to be a SHORT blog entry, so let's just get to My Afternoon.

1:50pm Depart for National Building Museum.

1:55pm Arrive at National Building Museum (it's quite near my office).

2:00pm Get lost in NBM.

2:01pm Find the volunteer room (2nd floor, as it turns out).  Orientation has started already.

2:02pm:  Notice that everyone has on these REALLY cool looking long sleeve volunteer shirts, and I don't.

2:03pm:  Stew during volunteer roll call.

2:04pm:  Fret because they haven't gotten to me on the roll and I still don't have a shirt.

2:05pm:  Work up courage to ask random volunteer where they got a shirt.  Get (loudly) directed like 10 feet away to A GIANT PILE OF SHIRTS.  Oops.  Good thing the coordinator stopped with the roll call so EVERYONE COULD WATCH OUR EXCHANGE OMG SO EMBARRASSED.

I wasn't wearing my compression socks, ok?  SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP.

2:09pm:  I am literally the LAST name the coordinator calls out, but I'm now officially "signed in" as a volunteer (to get your guaranteed entry, you have to be checked-in and checked-out).  So this was a good thing.

2:10pm:  Coordinator leads us out of the room and starts to "place" us around the NBM.  At first, he asks for about 6 "very loud" people to volunteer.  But, I'm (1) injured with a very sore knee, and (2) recovering from The Plague, so I keep my mouth SHUT.

2:15pm:  We get to the bottom of a long stairway.  It goes up pretty far, hits a large landing, and then turns around to go farther upwards.  I'm in the back of the pack, and when he asks for one volunteer to just stand . . . at the landing . . . for 4 hours . . . I moved into position without saying anything.  Mine.

This landing is MINE.

He sent another lady past me, farther up the stairs, but she would have to do a LOT more traffic direction up there.  As near as I could tell, my job was to tell people who were ALREADY walking up the stairs to:

1.  Keep walking up, and
2.  Try not to go down.

I got this.

2:20pm.  Shift starts.  I will have to stand here until 6pm.

2:21pm.  Knee starts hurting.  I realize there is nowhere to sit.

2:22pm.  Off to bathroom so I can put on my long sleeve t-shirt and take off the shirt I wore.  Spend 5 minutes in bathroom pondering whether a bathroom selfie at a museum would be cool or douchey.  Decide that I look too fat to photograph, and go back to assigned post.

I did have a bit of scruff, so this isn't far off.  Also, if you didn't like "The Critic," we have a PROBLEM.
2:27pm:  Back to post.  I now have a person assigned down BELOW me at the bottom the stairs, and ABOVE me up at the top the stairs.  At this point, my job now involves helping people who might go halfway up the stairs and then NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO.

2:30pm:  People are starting to trickle in now, and I've got to think of something to keep them moving upstairs.  The stairway is KINDA dark.  And there's a big window ABOVE me with light shining in . . . .  

Oh, why not:
This worked on a decent basis with anyone who was older than their 20s.

2:45pm:  Expo is (almost) open, but people are moving into the building to be there early.  

Woot!  I was spotted (I think we saw each other at the same time) one half of Twins Run In Our Family, the future BQer Malinda Ann Hill!  She (of course) had her stylized Twins Run handbag/gear, although I didn't meet her flat sister.  It was nice to chat her up quickly while I pulled double duty telling the masses of people who were walking upstairs to, in fact, continue in the direction they were going. She wrote me back later that evening after a full day of Expo shopping, mingling, and schmoozing (she's one of the CUCB 2015 Bloggers).

So kind!  That Twin is top banana!

3:00pm:  More and more people are coming in when -- wahoo!  It's Kim, of Kim Runs Miles with Smiles!  She's with her friend Lynn, who snapped a quick pic of us (this will give a nice view of the volunteer t-shirts!).  I had remembered Lynn from Kim's Across the Bay 10K race report, and that Lynn had gutted out a difficult race, finishing it even when things looked dicey.  Lynn (and of course Kim) were SUPER fired up over the CUCB, and the Expo.  Kim was picking up bibs for like 6 different racers, so they had to move along after a few minutes of us chattering at each other. Kim's also a 2015 CUCB blogger, so look at her and Malinda being overachievers and arriving early.

3:10pm:  Post-meetup letdown.  People coming in more and more now.  I'm really struck by how many people have their noses in their phones.  It's interesting to see from the perspective of someone who isn't able to use one at the moment.

3:15pm:  My knee hurts.  Still nowhere to sit. Almost 3 more hours to go.  Every so often, we'd stop the line because the upstairs was just packed for a bit.  I took the opportunity to tell folks this was "stoppage time" and that this was instance X of stoppage.  The stoppages themselves were never that long, and off folks would go again. Clearly, the people in bib distribution were working their bootys off.  But, my knee hurts.

Public face:  Yay, happy happy!  Inside face: 

3:40pm:  My first complaint!  A guy passes by me on his way up the stairs, and snarls, "You people really need to have this at the Convention Center, these lines are too long."  While I was halfway impressed he even thought enough that I had an IOTA of say with ANYONE connected to the CUCB, I just stared back at him.


Actually, that's not true.  I smiled fairly broadly, and just gave him this IRL:

Otherwise known as "bite me" in Japanese.

3:45pm:  Meet another Twitter friend!  This time it was fellow chocoholic and morning runner Leah, who actually spotted me before I saw her (I got a bit of a thrill from being "recognized").  It turns out that apparently it had happened a bit more than I thought, once I got to my Twitter/Instagram mentions that night.  Regardless, with Leah, It was nice to have a quick second for a hug, chat, a laugh or two, and a hug goodbye.  Leah was psyched to run CUCB, and gave me a quick heads-up about the lines outside the building.  It was helpful to know that people might be surly, and that they'd need an EXTRA HEAPING DOSE OF TAI HUMOR OMG SO FUNNEH HAR HAR HAR 

No, seriously, Leah regaled me with getting into the NBM, as well as just training tales leading up to the race.  It was nice to meet!

4:00pm:  Halfway there to a guaranteed entry into the 2016 Cherry Blossom, and my knee is Not Impressed with me.  Ouch.  Lots of phone staring, still, from runners coming upstairs, and a curious amount of people RUNNING the stairs.  "SAVE YOUR QUADS!  SAVE YOUR HAMSTRINGS!" People smile, and keep running.  Ah, runners.

4:01pm:  Never mind the knee -- look who's found me in the stairwell!  It's M!

Pretty sure she and I will be the only people to get this joke...

No, it's M of ReadEatWriteRun, here to listen to Bill Rodgers give a talk.  She's positively coiled for her first Boston Marathon, so we talked Boston, as well as my various lung/knee maladies. She had some good ideas for my pain, although I think we essentially settled on my needing to be better at stretching my hamstrings.

4:20pm:  More jokes.  More attempts at jokes.  More questioning people if they had their bib numbers at the ready, and if they'd filed their taxes yet.  I should point out that while there were a lot of folks staring at their phones, I was pretty pleased by the number of smiles and laughs from folks. 

4:30pm:  Standing.  Knee is trying to Google family law attorneys to divorce from my leg.  Over the course of the afternoon, I've had a few questions, like people who want to downgrade to the 5K (answer:  just get in the 5K corral with your 10-miler bib, and it will register you as a 5K runner). It feels nice to actually know some answers and everyone is very appreciative. They're also staring at my shirt a LOT, so kudos to whomever designed it this year.

4:45pm:  More standing.  Found out later that someone who follows me on Instagram saw me, later mentioning that they'd noticed I'd placed my Annapolis 10-Miler jacket on the central bannister (it prominently displayed -- I had to show my fellow runners I was capable of doing this distance!).  But that reminds me - if you see me, or THINK you see me -- ask if I'm me!  I'll be happy to tell you!  And if it's not me, then I'm sure that person won't mind.  Just tell them that I'm a made-up person from the internet who loves his pseudonym and dick jokes.  I'm sure they'll understand (or they'll mace you).

4:50pm:  More more standing.  But wait! A new kind of crisis!  A guy did NOT have his bib number.  My phone was low on battery, but using the CUCB app, we quickly looked up his number, and I sent him (up) the stairs.  Whew.  Beer me.

5:00pm:  BEAKERTUDE!  The eponymous Running Lonely of the aptly named Running Lonely Blog appears in my stairwell with the Solar Powered Pig!

Time for (you guessed it) a Pig-Powered selfie: 

5:20pm:  Closing in on being done.  The skies are getting darker.  The crowds have definitely thinned somewhat, from the KA-RAZY levels I saw from 3-4:30pm.

5:45pm:  Woot!  My relief person appears!  Except she isn't wearing a volunteer t-shirt.  I send her off to the volunteer room to get one.

6:00pm:  Shift over.  I brief my relief person on what to do, have her download the CUCB app to her phone, and skedaddle off to the rumpus room to check out, so I'll be listed as having done my entire shift (and thus eligible for a guaranteed CUCB entry!).  

6:05pm:  Pass on the Expo.  I'm TIRED.  Spent.  I walk back to my office, and coordinate dinner plans.  But I'm . . . psyched.  I did my thing.  I volunteered at a race, and hope to do a LOT more of this stuff this year.  I'd love to volunteer at an Ultra, and even a "regular" race too.  This was just plain rewarding.  I saw friends, met new ones, and got LOTS of hugs/pics/great chat time.

One final thing -- it was really rewarding seeing all the different body types that come out to these races.  It wasn't beanpole after beanpole coming to get their bibs.  I saw people of every age group, ethnicity, and body shape.  Everyone (except Surly Guy) seemed to be in a fine mood.  I really suggest you kick in and do a shift at a race of any size and see what life is like from the other side of the starting line.

Happy running, all.


  1. Fantastic recap! I feel like I was standing there with you eavesdropping on your thoughts the whole time. And you should add this to the recap linkup part (volunteer recaps count):

    1. Thanks so much Kim! It really was so cool to meet you. And I (eventually) figured out how to add my recap. I'm a dork, lol.

  2. I think you need to work a runDisney expo. Just once. OH GOD, JUST ONCE. #AllTheShruggingSmilies


  3. Totally hilarious. Kudos on your entry to CUCB! Hope your knee is faring better now.

    1. Thanks Rachel! It's improving. I think the issue is my hamstrings, which means more foam rolling. Ugh.

  4. Replies
    1. A Twin endorsement! That counts as a double like. ;) :P