Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Those Who Do Not DO 100 Milers CREW 100 Milers

What a weekend! I got to help crew for a runner on her first 100 mile race! And holy crap it was awesome! I am so lucky to have friends that are super talented runners. And one of  those runners, Steph decided that this was the weekend that she would try her first 100 miler.

So, what do I know about crewing? Not much. Runner comes through, you give runner food and drink, drive to next point. Seems straightforward, right? Except, OH MY GOD! They're doing the epic thing and I have to make sure they have all the tools to do it? And I have to motivate them and decode their mood and be awake for a million hours and


Slight anxiety? Maybe a bit.

Thankfully, I was joined in my crewing duties by Ben (Steph's husband and a person who has actually completed a 100 mile race), Steph's mom (who I'll just refer to as Mom from now on), and Steph and Ben's super adorable pup Toby. If this had all been on my shoulders I would have crumbled like a... well, like a crumbly thing.

Moving on....

So race day is here. We get Steph to the starting line on time (score!) and sent her on her merry way. Thankfully, Ben has programed all the aid stations into his GPS on his phone AND is driving (he was obviously the brains of this outfit). After the start we had to wait for her to get 6 miles of running done and then we would see her again as therunners looped back by the start of the race. We "relaxed" in the car for a little while and then headed up to the aid station to do the crew thing. Ben asked me to spot Steph as she came out of the trail and let her know where we were. So I was READY. First problem.... the runners are wearing headlamps. Crap. They all look like bobbing lights. Thankfully I recognized her, got her over to Ben, he took her headlamp, probably gave her some something and she was off again. YEAH first crew station and I didn't fail!

Our next crew station was at mile 17ish for Steph. We headed there right away and got a great parking space. Win! We sat in the truck and did a bit of people watching (favorite hobby of mine). One of the first people I noticed was a gal next to us that had a clipboard, a cellphone and all other kinds of things that she was fiddling with. Oh course I immediately thought, should we have a clipboard? Too late now. As the first runners came in she was furiously typing in her phone and scribbling down numbers. We assumed that she was a spotter for the race tracking? I called her Math Girl. When a runner came up and obviously knew her (she gave him a new shirt to wear), we realized that she was crew too.

This was also our first sighting of tan guy. He was solo crewing as well, and was really tan. As the runners came in, they got names too:

-Ribs- he wasn't wearing a shirt and had impressive rib muscles
-No shirt guy - pretty self-explanatory
-Muscles - this guy and some arm muscles for sure
-Camelbak guy - duh he was wearing a Camelbak
-Blue Shirt Hokas - (he later became white shirt Hokas and Red shirt Hokas.)
-Long Hair - he had long hair
-Plaid Shirt Guy - No foolin, he was wearing a button down plaid shirt
-Achieve - His shirt said achieve (thankfully he kept the same shirt on for the majority of the race)

When Steph came in she was looking great. We sent her on her way and also met New Crew Guy. He was just a super nice guy that said hi and asked us if it was our first time crewing. It was his first time and you could see he was a bit overwhelmed, but so excited to be there.

At the next aid station, she was through the marathon in 3rd place for women! It was so exciting to be at the race, but to have a runner that's KILLING it at the race was oh my god oh my god oh my god super exciting! We were joined here by Mom and spent the rest of the caravaning from place to place. Oh, and it had started raining....

Next aid station was mile 42ish. So, we had a bit of a wait. Mom took Toby on at least a couple of walks while Ben and I puttered around on our phones. The new routine of me asking Ben a hundred times, "when should she come in?" was in full effect. You see, Ben had a spreadsheet that had all kinds of mathy mumbo jumbo that would give us a good feel for when to expect her. It was really good at predicting her times and Ben was really good at predicting when mom and I would be so anxious we needed to get out there anyway. Then we would open the back of the car to start organizing and Toby would supervise.

We got to the aid station that was conveniently located under a giant shelter. Giant enough to have a picnic table to set up our spread and keep us out of the rain. And it was the first time that I got to marvel at Ben's obsessive compulsive organization of the buffet we were offering Steph. From a gal who definitely has her own OCD issues, this was familiar territory. But it was still kind of amusing to watch him lay everything out and then move it all a half inch. Then he would fan the gels out so that they looked more appealing . After stepping back and taking it all in, he would typically trade the placement of two or three things.

We saw the familiar runners coming through, plaid shirt, Camelbak, Blue Hokas, and Achieve.  Then came our girl. The rain had made things sloppy, so she switched to trail shoes. We loaded her up with as much food and supplies as we could because we wouldn't be seeing her for 24 miles. Her spirits were up but we were all worried about her running these long middle miles with no friendly faces. But with a potty break and one more almond butter covered apple, she was on her way.

So, we had a 24 mile break. What did we do? We went to a town, found the running store where Ben proceeded to buy a few more socks and a brand new pair of shoes.... just in case she wanted them. We also got some lunch. And then we waited.....

This wait was miserable. When we got to the parking lot of the aid station, we puttered around on the phones some more, and Mom took Toby for another walk or two.... Ben and I finally tried to get a bit of sleep (we had been up since 3) when 15 minutes in Mom taps on the car door. I can't remember what she wanted to tell us, but I think it might have been about the massive clouds of mosquitoes at this aid station or about the fire that was built in the shelter, or something. Either way, those 15 minutes were the full extent of our sleeping for the day/night. We saw our crewing "friends" Tan Guy and Math Girl pull in and went back to puttering on our phones and obsessively tracking the runners. The tracking was showing us that these legs looked difficult for the runners. And we just weren't sure what we were in for when we saw Steph next. But at least it had mostly stopped raining.

When Mom and I were too anxious to stand it, Ben finally gave in and we headed up to find a spot for our crew station. As we hauled our goods up the path I noticed that Math Girl's runner was standing at her car with flip flops on. I looked at Ben and said, "I think Math Girl's dude is out". This was confirmed when Ben saw him get in the car. So his race was over. This was something ELSE that made me more anxious about what kind of shape Steph would be in when we saw her.

With the weather drying up, we knew that this would be a great time to get her into some dry clothes. It was my job to go with her into the bathroom on site and talk to her about how things were going. Ben gave me her clothes to hold while we waited and then began to pile on every other thing he could think of. Take this towel in case she needs to dry off, take this apple juice, take this sports wax, take these electrolyte pills, I kind of felt like this guy

We waited for her while staring down a long trail. Our tired eyes thought that every leaf movement was a runner. Two very nice ladies walked up beside me and said they were hoping that the next runner would be wearing a green shirt. I said, no we want her to be wearing orange. Well it turned out that we saw both of them at the same time. They had been running together. I shuffled Steph off to the bathroom to get her in some dry clothes. It was then that I got my first runner drunk, "I love you".

You know how when you get drunk, people get all huggy and start saying I love you a lot? I think that 100 milers might have the same effect. And apparently when crew members are sleepy and obsessively worried about their 100 mile runner..... they say it too... Love you Steph!

She was blown away by the new shoes (which she took off running in) and the new socks. Her spirits were up in part to her new running partner. After some more refueling she was off again, we would see her in five miles. That aid station was fairly uneventful. She was still with her new running partner (yeah) and we gave her back her headlamp from the morning. The next time we saw her it was going to be dark.

Next aid station, mile 86ish. The sun was starting to set and as per usual I was anxious. But the sunset was beautiful.
As Ben and I passed the time fiddling with our phones again and Mom was out on a walk (Toby might have been too tired at this point to go with her), we heard a tap at Ben's window. Mom was standing at the window and asked if we had some bug spray for her new friend. As Ben turned to me to get the bug spray, his eyes got big. Mom's new friend was Tan Guy! We had been crossing paths with him all day, but never said a word. Mom, on the other hand, met him and it turns out he's a delightful fella that we were happy to share some Deet with.
Ben finally gave in to my nerves and we headed to the aid station. As we laid stuff out next to Steph's new running friend's family I spritzed a bit more Deet on myself because the bugs were CRAZY! At this point someone asked me in a whisper if they could borrow my bug spray. Of course. Then another lady asked in a hushed tone. It was like we were doing a drug deal! We settled in on one of the picnic tables in the picture above and stared into the treeline straight ahead waiting for headlamps. When you are as anxious as I was lightening bugs can get a bit frustrating. Every single flicker was a headlamp as far as I was concerned. When the crowd of runners would see a genuine runner breaking the tree line we would shout like we were watching fireworks. Only to have the shouts die down as the runner worked their way towards us. You see, it was a bit of a longer run than we thought. So the cheers would die down, they start up again as the runner got closer, and then we would all try to figure out who this headlamp coming at us was. Every runner's shuffle looked EXACTLY like Steph's. .
When Steph finally got to us, it was the first time that it was obvious she was hurting. She hugged Ben, hugged Mom, and then hugged me. She listed off her aches, took some new socks and a bit more food. Never once did she mention anything about stopping, but my heart was tearing in half watching someone I care about hurt like that. I knew going into this race that I would need to be ready to see a "downturn" in attitude and an "upturn" in OH MY GOD THIS HURTS. Who wouldn't hit a low during 100 miles? But I wasn't ready at all. Seeing someone I adore be hurting like that was miserable. But, they had a race to run, so we got them on their way and hustled back to the car as giant raindrops started to fall again. Thankfully, the rain was short lived. But I was nervous about how things would be going at the next station.
We found the aid station nestled behind a car wash. The runners were now on a town paved trail system. Steph is amazing on roads and we hoped that the change in terrain would work in her favor. and we were NOT disappointed! They zipped through moving quickly and wanting to keep moving. She wasn't chipper but had become determined.
One crew stop to go. We got over there quickly and waited for her to come in. I knew she needed a bathroom break because she had wanted one at the last stop but there had not been one there. When she came in I got her right to the bathroom and shouted, "I'VE GOT A RUNNER" at the two unsuspecting women chatting in there. They quickly exited (maybe because they were afraid of me) and Steph told me about some of the scary terrain they had covered in the night. She was chatting and seemed so much better! With another run drunk I love you, she was off. As we sent her on her way, the fourth place woman showed up out of nowhere! WHAT?!?! We headed to the finish line wondering how this would play out. A race for 3rd at mile 96? Oh my lord, this is exciting!
The finish line was in town and relatively quiet. We found Steph's running partner's family and looked down the road for runners. Red Shirt Hoka came through with the same gracious smile he had all day. We had watched him all day and even when he was hurting he was always smiling. Steph's running partner came barreling through, but no Steph. And then.... ZOOM! She came flying down the street looking stronger than ever for a 20:46 finish! Amazing! 3rd place female!
It was an fantastic day. And I would tell you over and over, if you get the chance, crew for a hundred miler, volunteer for a hundred miler, be a part of one of these races because HOLY CRAP IT'S SO AWESOME! I never would have guessed that helping someone else reach their goal could be so super fun.
Steph's race report should be up soon! Go read it at

Monday, July 29, 2013

Witnessing the Burning River 100 Miler

This weekend I got to do something amazing. I got to crew for a friend that was running her first 100 miler. The experience for me was pretty epic and I couldn't figure out how to get it all into one blog post. And the answer is..... I'm doing a two parter!!! This first post will describe how it felt to watch a 100 mile race. The second post will give you a little insight into the adventure that was crewing a 100 mile race.

So here we go.....

100 Mile races are not a reality for someone like me. I mean, they are a reality in the way that yes, I know they exist as a thing. But a hundred mile race is something a slower runner like myself has a high unlikelihood of finishing in the allotted time. So, it was thrilling to watch some very determined runners experience the massive undertaking of a 100 mile footrace.

The starting line was not as flashy as your average road race. There were not deafening Black Eyed Peas songs to scream over, no annoying beach balls being bounced around, and no corrals to fight thru. In fact the race was started by some dude shouting (without megaphone) GO! And off they went. The race started at 5, so the runners all took off with headlamps to see where they were going. As we walked back to the car, we noticed how cool it looked to see the line of tiny lights head out into the woods. We took video that doesn't begin to capture the awesome... in fact you hear me noting that on the video

But, you can kind of get the idea.

We then spent the next 20 hours and 46 minutes driving all over the place to meet up with our runner and give her things. It gave me a lot of time to think about things. And I kept thinking wow, this is an amazing thing that is happening. The obvious amazing thing is that a human being would choose to do this. What are you doing this weekend? Meh, gonna run 100 miles. HA! That's a REAL conversation that these runners could have had! But what is also amazing is the amount of planning and people that go into giving those people 100 miles to run! There were flags to put up, aid stations to be manned. All kind of things have to happen to make this weekend a reality. It's a big deal for all parties I would imagine.

And the runners. Wow. Watching them come into the aid stations. Muddy (it rained for the first 10-12 hours), wet, tired, and bloody. Some were smiling and some were all business, but they were all there to do this same giant thing. Yet, none of them acted like it was so giant... it was just something to do?

Our runner finished up just before two in the morning. When we got to the finish line, it was another stark contrast to the average road races I'm familiar with. There was the giant timer, some not deafening music, a few folks waiting for runners, and some water. No giant finishing chute, no buffet of processed snack items, not even a bagel in sight. We cheered in our runner who finished super strong. In fact, here we were watching people that had run for over 20 hours and they looked like they had just run a hard marathon! Sure, They were tired and a little limpy after they got across the line, but they didn't look 100 miles broken. I mean, they almost made it look EASY! Our group then headed to the hotel for a quick nap before the award ceremony the next morning.

When we got back to the finish line to wait for the awards to start it was a pretty stark contrast from the finish line of the night before. This race has a 30 hour cutoff and we had made it back to finish line in time to see some of the 29-30 hour folks cross the line. These runners had run through the night and through two sunrises! There was a guy that EMTs were checking on. There was a woman that was so excited about her finish that she had the shoulder shaking tears (which of course made me tear up). There were people with such visibly swollen calves that they almost seemed to be the size of their thighs! At some point in the night/morning a breakfast tent and foot treatment tent had been set up as well. Seeing these people limping around gave me TOTALLY different view of what a 100 mile race finish looks like. Holy crap.

The finish line of the morning also gave me a reason to smile. As a slower runner, I often get to the finish line of races and the volunteers are worn out, the chocolate milk is all gone, the water is hot, the post race food has run out, and the beer truck has driven off. I don't need a ticker tape parade at every finish, but it is nice to have the hot soup you had been dreaming about for 26.2 miles. Here I was at the amazing race and the FASTEST people had gotten the somewhat more lame finish. The good stuff didn't come out until the slower finishers were crossing the line! It was like opposite day for me.

All in all, the magnitude of this race and the runners that were there blew my mind. It also made me fall in love with my sport all over again. Which was something that it turns out I desperately needed. I wouldn't say I've hated running lately, but I've been exhausted by my training and was in a bit of a slump. This weekend busted me out of it. Like I said in the beginning, 100 miles isn't something that's in my reality. But the reality I have is really great and I'm excited to see what I can do with it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What's Wrong With Me?!?!?

I’ve got a marathon in two and a half weeks or so and a 50k in September. I’m running, sure. I’m running plenty and that’s ok. But what am I doing when I’m not running? I dunno, maybe you should ask the saggy couch cushion on my couch. And also, ask me what level I’m on in Candy Crush, cause I’m KILLING IT! Also, ask me how to make beef jerky? The answer is: cut up some meat, throw it in the dehydrator and then get back to work... crushing candy.

-Maybe it’s the heat.
                I mean it hasn’t been so terrible, but can’t I blame my crappy attitude and general laziness on summer?

-Maybe I’m just tired. I train SO hard!
               That’s BS too. I don’t really train THAT hard. I mean, I do heart rate training. When I try to train really hard, my watch yells at me, so then I walk. I have the energy to do TONS of stuff after work. I’m just not doing it.

                Total BS. I’m not in 7th grade gym class anymore, so I should really stop using that excuse.

-Maybe I’m just lazy?
                How is a person that’s running 35+ miles a week lazy? Just ask my couch.

 The answer.... maybe it's just a funk, but like not the cool James Brown kind. Just the I want to lay around on the couch kinda funk.
How do you heal a funk? I dunno. First thing? Take a day off every now and then. Second? Make a point to not spend every second not running or working on the couch. Sometimes you gotta fake it til you make it. Like tonight. I finally got around to a bit of sewing I've been thinking about but not doing for weeks. And I finished up this blog post that I've been adding a word or two to for days now.
Watch out world! Things are happening!


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

It's good for the soul

Non runners ask me a lot of questions about running.

Why would you do that?
How did you start?
Why would you do that?
HOW far do you run?
Why would you do that?
What do you wear?
Why would you do that?
How many calories do you burn?
Why would you do that?

You get the idea. But the one thing I tell them about that they rarely think to's good for my soul. For as long as I can remember I have battled sometimes crippling depression. I've had good days and bad days. And days I almost didn't make it through. I tried medication, but it made me tired and robotish.... I went to therapy and it did help some.

 After a few years of overeating and too many years of smoking, I got my act together. I started eating better and gave up smoking and I got this puppy that wouldn't calm down....
My husband and I discovered that if we ran this puppy for a bit, he would calm down JUST enough to listen to us a little better. So, I started a run/walk program to start running and make pup less crazy. I was really jazzed about how skinny I would be as a runner girl and how I would be super fast and graceful (it never happened quite like I imagined). I kept at it and slowly increased my distance and amount of running. Before I knew it I could stumble my way through a 5k, then a half marathon, marathon, and now a 50k.
But something more important happened along the way. I started to heal a little. Depression shows up in me as a little thought or a tug in the back of my head or as a hand crushing my heart. But the running helped. I used to repeat to myself during a run at a stressful point in my life, "exhaust the body, relax the mind. exhaust the body, relax the mind". Maybe that's what happened a little. The physical exertion helped relax my mind enough to find some peace. When I found that peace, it helped me gain perspective.
I now go to doctors to heal my body. I run to heal my soul. Does it work for everyone? NO. It's an awful battle that you need to use everything you have to fight, then figure out what works. For me, running has helped me gain perspective. My body is healthier because I run, but more importantly, so is my soul.