The Free Press Marathon was Sunday, and was pretty interesting. I'd never volunteered for something like this before, so in the days approaching it I was slightly worried about forgetting something or missing some detail, but all went pretty smoothly. I think part of it was that I had been given a good amount of information about the overall communications plan that didn't really pertain to me, so for someone coming into this when most there seemed to be coming back having done it before, it was a little overwhelming. Fortunately, though, I was assigned to a Fluid Station (Fluid Station 13, specifically) that was halfway through the race, and on the far edge of the course, so it wasn't dense with spectators or otherwise hectic.
Not knowing how traffic would be, and knowing that the roads would start being closed off around 6am, I got up early - around 3am, and got ready. I don't recall exactly, but I think I found the station at around 4:30 or 5am, and drove a little longer to find a somewhat nearby parking spot, which ended up being just on a side street about a block away. I happened to walk up to it right as the truck was dropping off the supplies for the station, but being as I was there just to do communications, I had no idea what was going on with them, so I left them alone. Each fluid station is staffed with a group of volunteers, often from companies or sports groups. I think around 5:30 or 6am the group doing this fluid station (an athletic clothing company, Lululemon Athletica) arrived and started setting up. Suddenly one of the cheap (but quite bright) LED flashlights I had brought proved their worth, since pouring little cups of water in the dark is a wet and annoying task.
At about 7am the start of the race was announced on the radio net, but being that we were some distance down the course, we didn't see the first runners (actually, they were ones doing the course in specialized wheelchairs) for a while, though I didn't make a note of the time. They trickled in, then we saw some small groups, and then the floodgates opened. There were a lot of runners.
My job there was just to observe the runners and course, and report back to the radio net any problems, hazards, medical issues or emergencies, and that sort of thing. Aside from some cars that were driving on the course, though, none of that came up. I did jump in and help keep the people handing the cups off to runners supplied when the bulk of the runners came through, though, since they weren't able to keep up with the people they had there - like I said, there are a lot of runners, and unsurprisingly, they're thirsty.
The only real hiccup or problem I had there was that my HT didn't quite seem to hit the repeater very well - it was enough that if I spoke slower and enunciated carefully, and maybe held the radio up a bit, they could understand me, but I get the impression it was pretty noisy. Fortunately I brought both my cheap mag-mount 2 meter antenna, and my Arrow II antenna. After testing my signal on the repeater before the net started, I walked back to my car and grabbed the mag-mount, and put it on the metal fence behind the fluid station, and tried again. I was told that now I was "full quieting" on the repeater. That obviously limited my mobility, but at some points when I didn't seem to be getting through well, I'd quickly change antennas. This is when I suddenly decided I hate SMA connectors. BNC connectors would have been so much easier and quicker, but so it goes.
After a little while, the "weary wagon" passed by, and the race, for us, was over. I hung around a little afterwards as they cleaned up, but soon thereafter I checked out of the net, and meandered the streets of downtown Detroit until I finally found a way to get to southbound I-75.
There's plenty of articles on the Free Press website, but if you're curious, these pictures are from the fluid station I was actually at (in them, I was probably right behind or to the side of the photographer): One, Two, Three. Another highlight was seeing some of the runners - who could refrain from laughing when you see a runner at a marathon, dressed like this?
Overall, it was interesting and even a bit fun. The runners very often thanked the fluid station staff for volunteering, sometimes quite loudly and enthusiastically. It was enjoyable helping, if only in some very minor role, to make the whole event possible and run smoothly. I plan on being there next year, although maybe next time I can manage to get a little more sleep beforehand.
After ten or eleven years, I finally have an HF radio. I still need to get a tuner and set up a better antenna, but even with just sticking the leftover wire from building the power cable in the SO-239, I can pick up a little bit (although it's noisy, and not much). So far, though, it's pretty awesome just doing the limited listening I'm doing now, but don't plan to leaving it at that for long.
Being in an apartment puts some rather severe restrictions on antennas. I'm on the second floor at least, so I have a little bit of height working for me, since it'll have to be indoors. I'm thinking I might try a form of magnetic loop, or any number of other options I've seen people talking about blogs and whatnot. I'll definitely post what works and doesn't work when I get into that - the web has plenty out there, but a lot of "see what works for you", so maybe if I detail it, it'll be of use to someone else, too.
Simple enough - everyone that was nominated by the nominating committee was elected unopposed for their positions, which includes me. I'm now the Secretary for the Motor City Radio Club. I have to start getting off my butt now, and go to board meetings. At least there's food. Jerks, they know exactly how to bribe me into going.
In other news, I have a Kenwood TS-430S on the way, courtesy of another ham on Ebay. A 20 or so year old radio, but they're (relatively speaking) cheap, and I've heard they're good solid radios, and the low-frills design means they're a decent "first radio". Despite being licensed for around 11 years now, I've never really operated on the HF bands, so this is like starting a whole new hobby to me.
I'm thinking I'll ask someone in the MCRC if they'd mind me taking it over to their station and just running through the bands and making sure it's all fully functional, since this is part of me setting up my first HF station (still need to get an antenna tuner, for example). I meant to ask at the meeting, but forgot, so maybe I'll just mention it on the Tuesday night net. Part of me setting up my shack will involve some experimenting with indoor, low-profile antennas and operating with low power (the joys of apartment-dwelling amateur radio), so that way if I don't hear anything during that, I know it's the antenna, not the rig. I'm not too worried about the selling trying to screw me, as he's been extremely communicative so far, and even emailed just to say "let me know if there's any problems" and noted that he always worries a bit about that when he sends out a radio. I think if he were trying to be devious and screw me on it, he'd be like most people there and do the bare minimum communication. Naive maybe, but talking to a human rather than a form mail helps, in that regard.
It's planned on being delivered Tuesday, so maybe very soon here, even if only limitedly, I may finally break into the low bands.