Interviewing the VT100’s Camp Ten Bear Aid Station Captains

A 4-Question Interview with the Camp Ten Bear Aid Station Captains

In this post, we chat with Carolyn Shreck and Josh Katzman. Carolyn and Josh of the TARC running club captain the Camp Ten Bear aid station, which plays a crucial role in supporting runners at both miles 47 and 70. This spot is known for being nearly half way to the finish and for where you can finally pick up your pacer.

Let’s see what they had to say!

Q. What are you responsible for at Ten Bear? How long have you been volunteering there? How did you get involved?

Carolyn Shreck: I’ve toed the start line three times at VT100. Ten Bear was, hands down, the most memorable aid station for me as a runner, so when I decided to volunteer I knew Ten Bear was where I wanted to be. In 2016, I shadowed Mike Silverman, Mark Kruger, and Josh doing anything that was needed. This year Mike, Surjeet Paintal &  I will be there with a team of awesome Trail Animals Running Club (TARC) volunteers to help runners accomplish their amazing goals.

Josh Katzman: I’d say that my role is mostly behind the scenes. I try to beat the drum to get as many people as we can to show up to make sure Ten Bear runs as smoothly as possible. Because it is used twice during the race, we’ve got nearly 24 hours we’ve got to cover!  I’ve been helping out in that capacity since 2015, but I have only been able to help out on site in 2016 because my family is usually on vacation during the VT100.  I’ve spent time at the aid station as a runner and crew though, and it really is the most energetic place in the race (except maybe the start and finish!).  In terms of getting involved, I blame Mark. It’s all his fault.

Q. Since runners pass through twice and it’s a crew access point, Ten Bear can be a pretty hectic aid station. How do you successfully keep the chaos in check? Is there a secret sauce to running a well organized aid station?

Carolyn: Runners, volunteers, and especially Crews all reported that the 2016 setup at Ten Bear was the most efficient ever. Mike Silverman and Mark Kruger reorganized traffic flow to a ‘one way’ and got permission from a landowner to use a nearby field for crew parking. These changes drastically cut down congestion and chaos. Some crews were initially a little resistant to not being able to drive through the aid station and park where they had in the past, but later agreed the new system worked well.

Josh: The absolute key is having people like Mike, Mark and Carolyn who have been running these events and aid stations at other events for a long time. Just like a race, you have to be unflappable. If issues come up, like parking, you just need to figure out a way to troubleshoot. Mike’s big win last year was talking to the farmer at the end of the road so that we could park cars in his hay field. That made a huge difference because parking is always so tight there. It’s also important to remember that this should all be fun. Because of the incredible team of people and the tons of experience they bring on both sides of the race, things definitely go well!

Q. What Camp Ten Bear aid station specific advice would you give to first time runners?

Carolyn: Runners have access to Drop Bags and Crews at Ten Bear. There is a lot of activity (and friends!) there that could add up to many minutes of wasted time if runners aren’t careful. I encourage runners to have a solid mental checklist as they come into Ten Bear of what they want to accomplish so they can efficiently get in and out without wasting time or forgetting anything. When I’m running into an Aid Station, I repeat the list in my head in the order I’m going to do things: “garbage” (dump empty wrappers), “water” (hand bottles to volunteer), “feet” (change socks, shoes and treat blisters), and, “restock” (grab what I need from my drop bag). After they have called out their bib number, I encourage runners to just shout out their needs  as they are running into Ten Bear, so volunteers can help them efficiently. Something like, “I have a drop bag, number 374,” or, “can someone please fill these with Tailwind,” or, “I need to see medical”. We want to help, please tell us what we can do to help make your race successful! And always, always, always thank the volunteers!

Josh: When you leave Ten Bear the first time, you’ve got a pretty tough road climb to get out of the aid station. Just remember, even though you will soon pass the halfway point after the first visit, you are going to need your quads for those last 30 miles. I think I went too hard between miles 50-70 and it forced me to drop at mile 92!  These miles will catch up to you if you aren’t mindful of the downhills, especially. When you leave Ten Bear the second time, you’ve got a pretty long trail uphill once you cross the street. Try to jog the flat out of the aid station, and know that in 4-6 minutes you’ll have a hill you can hike/recover on if you need.

In terms of getting through the aid station, I think you should look for ways to cool yourself down. In 2016, we had buckets of ice water that we sponged people off with. Get some of that on your neck/head! You have access to a lot of water and Tailwind on the course. You won’t have access to ice or sponge baths as much.

We’ve also got port-a-potties. Use them if you need! Drop bags will be on your left when you come in. There are a lot, so make sure your name and bib number are all on your bag really clearly and large. If you have a crew, tell them to pick up your drop bag before you arrive. If you are solo, write “SOLO” on your drop bag, just so we will know you’re on your own!  And it’s tempting, because Ten Bear has so much energy, but tell yourself that (aside from any acute issue that needs to be addressed), you will spend no more than 3 or 4 minutes when you visit.  If you know you get stressed out by a lot of movement/people moving around, plan on spending even less time at Ten Bear.

As for Medical advice, I dropped at mile 92, so I’m probably not the best person to ask. In those last 30 miles, any difficulty or challenge gets compounded exponentially. You’ve got to be honest with yourself about your status, otherwise you won’t be able to change anything.  And this year’s crew at Ten Bear is, probably, the most experienced and knowledgeable that we’ve had there, so use them if you have any questions or problems. And address chaffing/blister issues. We’ve got a full medical staff at Ten Bear. They’re awesome.

Mostly though, DON’T FORGET WHERE YOU GOING! If it’s your first time through, you LEAVE UP THE HILL!  If it’s your second time through, follow the direction of all the parked cars – you’ll leave the same way they do!  

Q. What aid station specific advice would you give to first time volunteers? What makes a good aid station volunteer?

Carolyn: Anyone can volunteer! You totally don’t have to be a runner, know anything about running, or have ever volunteered at anything ever before. You will be parking and checking in at the volunteer desk at the start/finish area and then be transported by shuttle to Ten Bear. When you arrive please find me, Mike, or Surjeet to check in so we can assign you to a location like parking, food prep, traffic control, or water. Once you’re at your station shadow a veteran volunteer to see what they are doing and especially how they approach and talk to runners. Bring a small bag of personal items you may need for the hours you will be there, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, jacket, special foods, etc. Home baked goods are always the biggest hit at an aid station, so if you want to bring cookies, rice krispie treats, other baked good please do! Runners might even hug you for it, I know I have! Do not bring valuables you might have to leave unattended, make sure everything like cellphone and wallets can stay on you at all times! And lastly, as much as we all love them, please do not bring pets of any kind.

Josh: If you’re helping out for the first time, there are definitely some things you can do to help yourself out:

  • Water: Bring a lot of water and don’t forget to drink it!  It will get hot/humid and you will be exhausted.  
  • Food: Bring some of your own food. Yes, enjoying the fruits of an aid station is wonderful, but one does start to feel a bit “blah” after many hours of potato chips, M&M’s, and grilled cheese.
  • Sun Protection: If you use it, sunscreen would be huge.  As would a hat.
  • Comfortable shoes: You’ll be on your feet most of the time, so I find I actually prefer to have my running shoes on (and you never know when you may need to jog up the hill with a runner!), and always bring at least two pairs in case one gets wet during the day.
  • Don’t be concerned about: “not knowing what to do.” Most runners simply need someone to speak to, to vocalize their concerns/worries. Tell them they’re looking good, and that you are impressed by what they are doing/have done. If you want some specific troubleshooting knowledge, talk to the experienced volunteers before runners start arriving. They can definitely give you some ideas that you can start helping runners troubleshoot with if you want.  But if in doubt, get one of those “vets” or the medical team to help you with a runner.
  • And never forget: the best volunteers are those that make every single runner feel like he or she is the most important person in the world.  If you can help people feel like a rockstar, whether he/she is in first or last, that is the sort of positive emotion that will get them to the finish line.  If you can make each runner you see on the day feel this way, well, you will be the rockstar!

Finally, and totally selfishly, those volunteers that bring some awesome food to share with the other volunteers?  Yeah, they’re always super popular!

Now that you’ve heard from the captains 

Are you interested in volunteering to help out at the VT100? Check out our post that covers all you need to know about volunteering, including links to sign up.

*Note About Interviewing

*The VT100 is proud of all of the participants of our events, from the racers to volunteers to land owners who grant us access to their beautiful property to enjoy the weekend. So, we like to take time to feature some of these people and get an inside look at their perspective on the race and how they help make it thrive. If you know anyone who would make a good interviewee, please contact us in the form below and we’ll see what we can do! 

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