Monday, August 28, 2006

CCC Crew Report

Sonya knocked on my door about 5:20 am Saturday morning. We loaded the coolers, ice, water, food and our gear into the car. A quick last minute check to be sure we hadn't forgotten anything and we were on our way to Rob's. Once there, we added another flat of water, his cooler of food and his bags of gear. Rob had the clock for the race, so it was added to the pile of the gear too. The back of the Element was completely full, and half the back seat was full - we had a lot of stuff! A quick swing by Starbucks and we were on our way. Our trip up was uneventful - just lots of talk.

We arrived in Easton about 7:30ish - in time to get Aid Station #1 instructions, grab some pre-race breakfast, meet Bad Ben, say "hi" to a few others we knew, and snap a couple of pictures. Then Sonya and I helped one of the Marathon Maniacs, Van, load up her car with our aid station supplies, found Rob so he could get geared up and ready before we had to leave. We followed a local fireman up to the spot where we were supposed to set up. This is the first aid station on the course, about 3.3 miles in and at the top of a hill on one of the dusty forest service roads. A few minutes later, reinforcements arrived - we suddenly had three more adults and two young children to help us. I think all of us were surprised at how quickly the first runners arrived, and how quickly we went through our supplies (since it was the first one, we just had water and sliced bananas). Rob came through looking strong and feeling good. We gave him a quick message from Olga, handed him his ipod, camelback and prepared bottles and he was off. The race started at 10:00 and all the runners and the sweep were through by 10:40 or so. We packed everything back up, said good-bye to our new friends and started down the road. We cleared all the markers on our way down, so it was a stop and go trip.

Sonya and I were free to start our crewing duties. The first crew-accessible aid station was at Tacoma Pass, mile 22 for the runners. Once we got there, we set up our chairs and settled in. It turned out to be much warmer than it was last year - so it was a comfortable wait. We chatted with other crews, and enjoyed watching the runners come in. Rob came in about 20 minutes later than last year, but still ahead of his proposed pace. He said he was feeling nauseous and didn't want his sandwiches. We fixed him up with fresh bottles, saw him get a little aid station food and some ecaps down and sent him on his way again. We hopped back in the car and headed for Stampede Pass at mile 33. There was another aid station between these two that was not crew accessible.

After much dusty, bouncy, rocky driving, we arrived at Stampede Pass. One of the fun things about crewing is seeing the other crews at each station and getting updates on their runners. We settled in again - this time near the radio truck so we could hear all the chatter. I was angling for a nap, but decided to drink a zipfizz instead to keep me awake. Rob came in about 48 minutes off last year's time, still feeling nauseous. We refilled, tried to get him to eat a little (I think he got some fruit down), handed him his headlamp and sent him out. I asked him if he wanted me to get Olga up early to meet him at Ollalie Meadows. He thought he'd be fine and we'd stick to the planned pick up. Next stop: Meadow Mountain at mile 40.5.

I'd like to pause here to talk about driving from aid station to aid station. Up until I crewed for Rob last year, I'd never done any driving like this. These are forest service roads, rock, dirt and gravel, full of potholes, ridges and switchbacks. Most of the time there is only room for one car and pull outs are far between. Often there is a huge drop-off on one side and a cliff to hug on the other. Last year, I navigated these completely on my own, till George joined me around 11:00 pm. This year I had the world's best navigator, Sonya, to keep me company, keep an eye out for signs and most of all, to keep me laughing. I'm afraid that my normally well-behaved self disappears with a lack of sleep, a silly companion and a lot of driving. Crewing is a lot more fun with a buddy! By the way, my car and everything in it was absolutely filthy - covered with a layer of dust from the roads.

The Meadow Mountain aid station is amazing. It is set up in the middle of the road, on a steep hill. Parking is a ways away, so we tried to get everything we might possibly need packed up with us. It was pretty dark by this point and starting to get cold, so on went multiple layers. We were worried about Rob being cold as he was in a singlet, so we carried his clothing bag up with us. The trail crosses right over the road at the aid station, and the runners approach through head-high bushes. We could usually hear them, or catch a glimpse of their lights before they made it to the aid station. We waited with Bad Ben's crew and we stared at the stars. Up on the mountain, with no lights around, the starts were absolutely incredible - dense and bright and amazing. Rob came in still feeling sick and out of it. He sat down and was barely answering our questions. We refilled bottles, made him put a shirt around his waist and made him eat a plain bagel. He suddenly spoke up and said he was going to need Olga at the next aid station if we wanted him to finish. Fortunately, Bad Ben's crew had a phone that got reception and they let me borrow it to call. Olga said she could be on her way in 20 minutes, and it would take her an hour to get there. Rob waited till we had that info, then headed into the dark with another runner. Sonya and I needed to get down to Hyak to meet Olga and then figure out how to get to Ollalie Meadows (mile 47). This aid station was not recomended for crew, but was okay to go to if you were dropping a pacer.

We got down to Hyak and drove around a bit trying to figure out where we should meet Olga and have her leave her car. We finally decided our best bet was to meet her at the Hyak aid station and leave the car there - this is the one aid station that is on a regular road rather than deep in the forest. We were chatting with the guys at there and heard that most people trying to get to Ollalie were having a tough time finding it - the beginning is kind of confusing. I thought I remembered from last year, but I wasn't positive. Luckily, just about then, the phone rang and it was George - he was in Hyak, at the Sno-park, ready for pick up. I knew that George remembered exactly how to get to Ollalie, so after Olga got there, we picked up George and he directed us straight to the aid station. We bundled up and waited only a few minutes till Rob came in. Olga sat him down and started asking questions and forcing a little food. She led him out a few minutes later. Now we had time to go to Hyak and rest.

Of course, once we got to Hyak, rest was out of the question. We had to catch George up on all the days activities, and then we just relaxed in the car and talked. Olga and Rob came in, Rob changed clothes and shoes, ate a little and he and George headed out. We decided to head to the Kachess Lake aid station at mile 67.5 to sleep. There was one station between that was not accessible to crew at mile 60, so we knew we'd be able to get a couple hours in. We couldn't find a good place to leave Olga's car, so we decided to have her follow us up, then we'd have George drive it down and we'd leave it at the start on our way to the next stop. I took my contacts out, and we all went to sleep (this is around 2:30 am). The next thing I know, someone is banging on my window - I don't have my contacts in, so I can't tell who it is, plus I was really sound asleep. Sonya tells me it's Olga, so I open the window. She told us Rob had dropped and we needed to pick him up at Keechelus Ridge. The radio guy that told her Rob was out also gave her instructions to follow.

We set off - following the directions we were given. We drove right to where we thought the aid station should be - and no one was there. Okay. Maybe we made a wrong turn. We back tracked and tried a different road. Nope. We came to an intersection - (now remember, this is about 4:30 am, pitch black, side of the mountain) - we couldn't quite remember which direction we had come from. We made a choice, and it was wrong - we figured it out when the road narrowed down so far that the bushes were rubbing the sides of the car. More back tracking. Found our mistake and tried again - whoops, maybe it was that side road? Sonya and I waited at the intersection while Olga drove up the side road. She found a tent and camp chairs and a cooler, so she got out and asked if they were the aid station. I imagine she really startled them! Nope. We decided we'd have to go down to Easton, the start/finish and the main radio base to figure this out. This is after an hour and a half of driving around the side of the mountain. We got down there and they told us they'd bring the guys out. Later, through discussion with Rob and George, we figured out that the radio guy had sent us to the opposite side of the mountain - completely opposite of where the aid station was. Bummer!

So, yes, Rob dropped. Was I disappointed? Only for Rob. I knew he was disappointed and that it was a hard decision. I also know Rob well enough to know that if he made that decision, then it was the right one. This is a stubborn, strong-willed guy who doesn't take a DNF lightly. I'm actually quite proud of him for sticking it out for 60 miles when I know he was feeling awful. Sonya and I both had a great time crewing for him, and would do it again in a heart beat. I actually feel a little bad that we had so much fun while he was feeling so bad! I know Rob will bounce back quickly, make an assessment about what went wrong and figure this thing out so we can do it again. I can't wait!

19 comments:

Thomas said...

It's very interesting to read a report from the crew's point of view, rather than the runner's. I'm looking forward to reading Rob's version of events, and compare.

Wes said...

Great report, Michelle. Rob is SOOO lucky to have friends like you to help him out. Is 60 miles really a DNF? I'm sure Rob thinks so, but I don't... I'm impressed.

JustRun said...

Great report- sounds like a good time. And it's great of you to be there, no matter the distance.

D said...

Thanks for the report Michelle. You guys are awesome. Bummer for Rob. Sucks that you run 60 miles (a feat most of us can only dream of) and have the awful DNF attached to it. Ugh.

Annette said...

Wow - crewing sounds like almost as much work as the event itself! What a friend you are! Hope you get caught up on your sleep soon.

Sarah Elaine said...

All I can say is that you are one amazing friend. I'm sure Rob won't be forgetting about this race for a long time (I know I wouldn't)... But if you're going to make that tough decision, better to have friends like you there to see you through it.

robtherunner said...

Thanks for all your help out there. I am sure I will be back next year.

Donald said...

I love reading your reports and Rob's together - it gives a great insight to the race from multiple vantage points.

I'm glad you had a good day out there, and I suspect you're right about Rob - he'll be back.

olga said...

Can you crew me next year too?
Sorry we were in such a hurry and didn't talk. May be we should get together for a Starbucks!

Yvonne said...

mmm, you make me wanna crew at one of these races one day. give something back and all that...

good job!

Robb said...

You are truly a good friend. No question, a sad day for Rob but we all know that cat is determined. He'll pounce back!

Jenny said...

Michelle- I can only imagine the craziness inside the car with you and Sonja being kinda tired already from the 18 miler we did the day before! I spent my weekend pretty much in bed with a sinus infection/major sore throat! Thought of you and Rob (and Susan)the whole time!

Anne said...

I swear, I think your crew reports rival any done by the actual runners. Can only imagine the ordeal from that wrong turn in the pitch black. Great report.

craig said...

Sounds like a wild night. Great to hear about the race from behind the lines. And it's clear you really enjoyed your support role.

Ryan said...

Thanks for that wonderful behind the scenes recap! That's quite an adventure! What an awesome support team!!

Run Momma Run said...

I just wanted to de-lurk and tell you how much I love reading your blog! I am a Tacoma girl transplated to AZ and I love how you describe towns and places and I nod my head and say, "Yup! I know where that is!!!" Thanks for giving me a little bit of the NW to read about...

Sarah said...

You're a great friend, Michelle. Sorry about Rob, but it sounds like you had a great adventure!

Rose said...

Great report - I have to second the others who mention how interesting it is to read different perspectives of the same event. I'm glad you and crew were there for Rob - the whole event is such a huge undertaking.

Darrell said...

I always love your comments on other blogs and don't really know why I haven't stopped by here more often. I was interesting to read about the other side. Thanks!