Volunteering for the Hardrock

By: Kyle Rice, NP
DCMH Urgent Care

For those of you unaware, there is a 100-mile trail race that starts and ends in Silverton, Colorado. It is considered a Graduate-level ultramarathon in the world of long-distance trail running. National and international competitors enter a lottery system after qualifying for the lottery by running and volunteering in other races. 145 runners are drawn.

July 20 at 6 am was the 25th anniversary of this prestigious race and I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to be a medical volunteer at the remote aid station at Engineer Pass. After attending a seminar in the morning on medical issues we might encounter, vehicles were loaded and by evening we left before the start of the race.

After an hour's drive to the Pass, we backpacked our own camping gear and carried food, shelter, and water filtration equipment a mile and a half and 1200ft down to a relatively flat meadow along the race course. We spent the night there and started setting up the shelter and getting ready for the runners the next morning. Set up included filtering water from a nearby stream, getting lights set up, heat, cooking broth, and getting food ready for the runners.

This aid station was at mile 51.6 in the course and 1 of 4 remote aid stations along the course. Once set up, the first runners started showing up at 4 pm with the bulk of them arriving around 2-4 am. My responsibilities included caring for runners who were having medical issues encountered during the race. Risks in this kind of race include heat-related illness, altitude illnesses, hypothermia, dehydration, lightning strikes, sprains/strains, fractures, or falls.

Fortunately during this race, the most common issue was related to the heat racers encountered going into the Ouray Aid station. They could not take in enough fluid, refuel, or manage to keep it down. By the time they arrived at the Engineer Aid station, they were mildly dehydrated, hypoglycemic, and hypothermic. For the most dehydrated or nauseated, I would place them on a Therma-rest pad to prevent hypothermia, cover them with a blanket, place them in front of the heater and allow them to rest for about an hour. After this, they would then be able to keep fluid and fuel down and then rejoin the race. Many of the racers were extremely grateful to have the opportunity to rest, warm up, refuel, and rehydrate.

The most rewarding part of the experience was being able to help these elite national and international athletes, providing assistance in this amazing trail race, and working with a dedicated group of volunteers who selflessly give up 3-4 days of their lives to do this.

Once the last runner passed through the Aid station at 8 am Saturday, we started breaking down the station. These backcountry aid stations are remote and Leave No Trace principles are observed. Everything had to be carried back out including all trash. I am planning to do this again next year and encourage anyone interested to volunteer at any of the many events that are planned throughout the year.