Sunday, October 12, 2014

Do You Wanna Volunteer (for a RunDisney race)?

This past weekend was the 3rd annual Tower of Terror 10 Miler at the Walt Disney World Resort. Usually, when a race is taking place, Im running it, but I decided to sit this one out because Tower isn't my favorite race due to the pretty boring course (from DHS out to ESPN Wide World of Sports and back) and the gravel trail portion of the race. Also, the first two years of the race have been pretty hot and humid. Luckily, this year this wasn't a factor. With temps in the 70s and low humidity it was an amazing night for a run! I was ALMOST jealous and wanted to be out there with my team. But just because I wasn't running doesn't mean I was sitting on my butt doing nothing. This year I decided to experience the other side of a RunDisney event and volunteer. Being a night race, we decided for our first time through we wanted an "early shift". The actual start time of the race is 10 PM so that means volunteer shifts could go as late as 4:30 AM (or even start around 10 or 11 PM). We were lucky enough to be able to get a 6 to 11 PM shift working gear check pre-race. I was excited because I thought that meant I would get to see my teammates, even if it was for just a quick good luck hug. Unfortunately, as the race got closer I found out we were assigned to "gear check - finish line". Which meant we (me, my Mom and my Dad) would be on the other end at the finish line before the race started.
I was a little bummed that I didn't get get see my friends but it turned out to be a pretty cool job. But before I get into race night, I think I better start from "the beginning". A few weeks before the race we each received our volunteer confirmation letters in the mail, confirming our volunteer shift and position as well as a name tag if we were working the expo or 5k. Just like the runners, race volunteers have to visit the expo to pick up their credentials (or an property office the week before expo). Because we weren't arriving until Saturday, we chose to go to expo to pick up our stuff. When we arrived at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, we were directed to the HP Fieldhouse to a room set up with several tables. Unfortunately our experience started with a bit of craziness as the first gentlemen we encountered thought we were there to volunteer for the expo and sent us to the wrong table. The poor lady at the table tried to scan the card I had received in the mail over and over again to bring up my shift with no luck, until she looked at my paperwork and realized that I was working the race not the expo. So we were sent BACK to the other table where we got were handed an envelope with our final race instructions, lanyard and name tag. We weren't given our volunteer t-shirts there which I was a little bummed about because i was pretty curious to see what they looked like but looking back now I understand why they do that way. All volunteers are required to wear the provided shirt or jacket to their shift so to assure this, they just give them out before the shift starts.

 A few hours later around 5:30 we followed our directions and headed over to the Rapunzel and Mulan lots at Magic Kingdom to check in for our shift. Once we were checked in we were given our tshirts (bright yellow with the race logo) a blinky blue safety light and glow sticks. In addition, each volunteer is provided snacks - meaning we were given a gallon size Ziploc bag and told that we could choose 5 items from a table filled with Oreos, Chex Mix, Goldfish, trail mix and chips. Among the 3 of us that's 15 snacks (and 3 bottles of water)! Very generous! We then headed out to the parking lot to wait for our bus - which our name tags told us to board bus #4.

There was a bit of confusion among the team leaders with the busses but after about 40 minutes our bus finally arrived and we were finally on our way. Before the bus left, our team leader Bob introduced himself and took a roll call and then we headed for Hollywood Studios. On the way there the bus driver put Frozen on the DVD player, but since it was only about a 20 minute ride we only got to when Anna wakes up on coronation day...just enough time to get "Do You Wanna Build A Snowman" stuck in my head.

 Finally we arrived in the parking lot to Disney's Hollywood Studios - in the distance I could see the lights and hear the music of the gathering area of the starting area. The weather that night was AMAZING - mid 70s and REALLY low humidity - the nicest it had been in MONTHS! I was so jealous! I wanted to run - but I had a job to do! Our group headed across the lot and backstage or should I say "behind the scenes" to our set up area on the Indiana Jones Stunt Show stage. The showing having been there since about 1989 I had seen it a few times but never been a part of the show so I had never been on the stage, until that day. I had a great time getting a close up look at all the details (did you know the boulder that nearly tramples Indy in the opening scene is more of a big rubber ball?), taking pictures and having my pictures taken.

 After a bit, the tables arrived and our team lead Bob instructed us how to set them up in groups of two columns, three tables long each. Our next job was tape papers with numbers on them to the edges. At first I was confused because every few tables had the same numbers - then I figured out that each few set of tables was for a different part of the alphabet. For example, the first 3 tables were for last names A-B. The next 3 for letters C-E so the bib numbers started over each time. Confusing I know.

 For the last section, they brought in some large rolling medal racks that some of us were assigned to hang S hooks on to. This was something RunDisney was trying out, but I don't see how it would work well with the strings and I would think the numbers would be hard to see.

 Soon after, the first of the bags showed up, being transported in the carts the resorts sued for laundry. We wasted no tim e positioning the carts near their respective tables and starting to unload. At first we were told to not worry about getting the bags in specific order, just get them on the right tables.

Between trucks we had a little bit of time so most of the bags got organized in some sort of order anyway. I think with every new load of bags we learned something. For example, the first load, a couple of people were in charge of unloading the bags from the cart and putting them on the table. By the second load we found that didn't work too well because the new bags were getting mixed in with the sorted bags. Later, we learned to if possible, try to grab a bunch of bags that belong in the same area. For example, at one point I grabbed like 6683, 749 and 5 so I had to keep going around and around the tables. We also learned pretty quickly to actually look at the numbers - it was pretty easy when you were moving that fast to mix up 1023 and 10023! As the race got closer, more and more bags showed up (probably about 6 or 7 loads) and the crew continued to set up around us (barriers and signs to help the runners find their letters to get their bags). Some sections were so full that we had to make use of the space on the floor to store the bags.

 While we worked there was some area appropriate music playing....except Once Upon A Dream from the new Maleficient movie...not sure how that fits into the Indiana Jones area. Problem was it was on a loop of about 5 songs which got REALLY old after a while. I kind of wish they had some better, more fun music playing for us while we worked! Throughout the evening we did get to see some pretty interesting stuff. Some bags had HUGE backpacks shoved into them (really? you want to carry that around DHS during the party all night?) and another bag had just a single package of ClifBlox (seriously? You wasted the time standing in line, now this person will have to come back to pickup for THAT...i would have just put them in their pocket). One bag had a full sized trophy in it - guess they wanted some cool pics at the after party? While others weren't very smart with their valuables we found a couple of iPhones in the bags and one bag with $35 smashed up along the side so it was clearly visible. Amazingly, one of the first bags I put my hands on had a WDWRadio Running Team sweatshirt in it! What are the odds that I would be the one to grab that bag? Through the wonders of Facebook I figured out that bag belonged to my friend and teammate Scott...but he didn't have any good snacks in there. Boo. Before we knew it, we had unloaded the last truck, the next shift of volunteers had arrived and we were done - and IMO the bags looked pretty good and ready for pickup!

Team Leader Bob gathered us all on stage to thank us for a great job and to take a group pic before we headed back to the buses.

 The buses took us back to the volunteer tent at the Magic Kingdom lot where we had started. When we had returned all the tables that had been used for check in and been broken down except for one where we were asked to line up for check out. Upon checking out, we handed over a card that we had been given in our credentials packet and in return received a 1 Day Disney Theme Park ticket! (that only happens if you work the actual race - volunteers who work the expo, Kid's Races or 5ks have to earn 16 hours before they earn their ticket!) Considering the work we did, that was an awesome deal! Our shift was 5 hours but between the bus rides and the waiting around I'd say we actually worked maybe 2.5 or 3 hours - and we didn't have to deal with any runners. Good deal! The next day my back was a little sore but I would definitely do it again. Unfortunately there is no Tower of Terror 10 Miler next year but I don't think this is my last runDisney volunteer experience!

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