Sunday, June 24, 2007

Crew Report: WS 100

First, Eric DNF'd. It was a tough call, but one he is at peace with. He, Rob and Steve are sleeping right now - I've had more sleep than them, so I'm up and writing. If you are interested in the crew side of things, read on...

My previous crew experience has been for at CCC100 last year and the year before, and for Rob and Eric at the White River 50. In those experiences I drove on unmarked gravel forest service roads, parked within sight of the aid station, there were no porta-potties and at CCC had around 50 other crew members waiting with me at aid stations. At WR50 there were about 20 other crew waiting. Not so at WS. At the two aid stations we experienced there were literally hundreds of people. The roads were paved, there were traffic jams and shuttle buses and porta-potties. (Only a few, and they were nasty by day's end!) This was an entirely different experience.

We left Jimmy and Suzy's house in Reno at 3:01 am, arrived in Squaw Valley by 3:35. We went into the Olympic Plaza to stay warm, visit with other runners and check in. We saw some big names in ultra-running and ran into TC, then Karen and George joined us. About 4:45 people started moving outside. Rob took the camera and went up the hill to catch a picture of the crowd climbing. Steve and I found a spot on the hillside. The sky was just beginning to lighten when the gun went off. The front runners sprinted off the line, with the rest of the pack jogging behind. We spotted Eric - it looked like he was looking for us, but never saw us. After standing and watching the mass move up the mountain, we finally went in. Rob came in a few minutes later. We had a good six hours till we could expect to see Eric, so we drove to Truckee, filled the gas tank and found a little cafe that was open for breakfast. It felt funny to be sitting and eating breakfast while Eric was running - yet another difference from CCC. At CCC we could get to quite a few more aid stations, and see a lot more of our runner.

After breakfast, we made the long drive back to Auburn - about 70 miles - then to get to the course, we had to catch Forest Hill Road and drive about 50 miles back towards the start. We made it to Robinson Flats in good time. We cruised in, got a spot and rode the shuttle up. I had a full and heavy day pack, Rob had a soft-sided cooler and Steve had our three chairs. We had our first surprise as we entered the aid station and discovered more than a hundred crew already there. We found a spot in the shade and set up. We soon learned the first lesson of the day... follow the shade. As the sun shifted, runners came in and crews left, we moved to shadier and closer spots. Our goal of the day became shifting to the best place for Eric (shady and close) each time we could. George (Karen's husband) eventually showed up - by the time he drove in there was a line up - it took him two hours to get to the parking area and on a shuttle because of all the crew traffic. We lucked out when we got there early. We spent three hours at this aid station. Lessons learned: take lots of food, water and sunscreen for ourselves! We had everything Eric could possibly want, but had only packed a single bottle of water and half sandwich for each of us.

Eric came in looking good. We swapped out his bottles and one gu bottle, sprayed him down with sunscreen, doused his cool-down scarf and he was gone. As we were waiting for the shuttle down, we saw Karen come in. She looked good too. Now we had about eight hours till we could expect to see Eric again. Contrast this with CCC where I could see Rob every two to three hours.

We drove back to Forest Hill and signed Steve in as a pacer. We stayed long enough to see the front runner come in - it was obvious that if everything stayed on track, he'd be setting a new course record. After that, we drove to the Michigan Bluff aid station. We knew we'd be early, but we did not want to experience the same traffic jam George did. This time we loaded ourselves up with more water and a little more food. We weren't too worried, because at the pre-race briefing we'd been told there was a group that would be selling burgers as a fund-raiser at Michigan Bluff. We foolishly decided to walk down to the aid station instead of catching the shuttle - a volunteer told us it was only a half mile. It was more like a mile, it was hot and my pack was heavy. I was whiny - especially when the bus passed us twice. We got into the aid station and found our first spot. We worked on moving up here too. A breeze had kicked up and it was a little cooler. Rob had his turn to be whiny when we discovered that the group had elected not to do the burger fund-raiser. After a while, Rob and I caught the shuttle back up to the car so we could get more food and water. George was getting off as we were getting on and we chatted for a minute or two. I forgot to mention that we were parked 3/4 of a mile up hill from the shuttle drop off. On the walk up we spotted some primo parking spots. Of course, by the time we got to the car and drove back down, they were gone, so we ended up improving our car parking by about 50 feet.

Back at the aid station, Rob checked on Eric's progress. Our best guess - best possible time coming in would be 7:15, worst would be 8:30. We got excited and laid out all the stuff. Rob and I went to the corner where you could see the runners coming in to wait. The minutes ticked by. I started to worry at 8:15, then really was worrying by 8:30. Rob decided to go check again and came back to tell me he was out - the aid station guy thought he'd been pulled for weight. We jammed everything back in the pack and started the long walk to the car (the shuttle stopped at 8:00). It was a silent car ride back to Forest Hill, interspersed by worried comments from me. We got to the school and started looking for Eric. A volunteer said he was in the medical area with Karen, but they weren't there. I ran back to the car to get the cell phone (we finally realized there was reception at FH). Just as I was locking the car door, I heard Eric yelling for me. I ran over to him and was extremely relieved to find out he was okay. He'd pulled himself out. He felt sick and wobbly and had dry heaves. Read here for his story.

Now we had to figure out what to do for the night. It was about 10:00 - the first thing we did was try to get a room in Auburn - we thought Eric would be running all night, so we didn't have rooms. That was a no go. We went to the track and watched the first runner come in and set a course record. We discussed food, but finally decided to take turns sleeping in the car. Rob and Steve sent Eric and I off - we laid out the front seats and went to sleep. About two hours later, we woke up and were just talking about going to get the guys when they tapped on the window. They had been freezing in the bleachers and kept trying to find somewhere warm to hang out before they gave up and came to get us. I can't quite remember the order of things after this, but we went to Denny's for some food, then sent Rob out to sleep in the car while the other three of us sat in the booth. Then we all went out, found a parking spot near the school and tried to sleep with all four of us in the car. Rob gave up on that pretty quick and went back to watch runners come in. I'm not sure how much later, but Steve and Eric woke up and wanted to go see the 24 hour runners come in. I told them I was going to keep sleeping. A good hour and a half after that I finally went back to the stands. We made a Starbucks run, then spent the rest of the morning watching runners come in. We finally got checked into the hotel about 12:45 and now everyone is showered and sleeping.

It was emotional watching the racers enter the field - I really hope we get to do this again someday and that it will be our crew escorting Eric around the track. This was a hard ending to months of training and anticipation, and yet, it's an ending that each of us know is possible whenever we enter a race. I've already told Eric I'm on board for whatever he wants to do next - another 100, another WS, anything. I'm also on board for Rob and Steve. Their support has been incredible and I'm ready to pay it back in full. Yesterday was a lot of fun thanks to those two.

I second what Eric said in his post - many thanks to all of you - the best running group ever - the Y Run Club - the great ultra-runners in our local running community, Jimmy and Suzy for hosting us and our friends, to Riley, for holding down the fort at home, and to our great blogging community for your support. You helped make the journey exciting and fun, and we thank you all! And special thanks to Lorri, for taking over my Pilates class for two weeks (two-a-days!) and loaning us Steve for the weekend.

Signing off from sunny Auburn, California, where the crew is resting, the runners are recovering, and the big event is finished till next year...

32 comments:

Anne said...

I thought of you, Eric and Rob this weekend, wondering if it was as hot up there as it was down here. Sounds like Eric was smart (and lucid) enough to know when to cut his losses, which is very good. It sounds like you, Rob and Steve got quite a workout too. I love reading your crew reports as much as your race reports.

runliarun said...

I entered Eric's bib # in the official website earlier today. There will be other races. I am so glad he is well. All my love.

Donald said...

I had heard that being a crew person at WS is a lot more logistically challenging than other races. Thanks for your report - it helps to match a lot of details to those stories.

wendy said...

Ahhh...Michelle, not a dry eye in the house now....What a great report from your perspective. I'm so lucky to have found you and this group. I too look forward to your next adventure, and I can't wait til ours later this year!

scott keeps running said...

as much as i would have loved to see him finish it sounds like he made the right decision. glad he's okay. you and the crew were awesome. thanks for the report.

Jon said...

Thank you for the post! I often wondered what went on for crews and a logistic pain it definately is! I am envious that Eric has such great support from you if he desires to do another race like WS. That's awesome. Drive back home safe (you, Eric, and the crew!)

olga said...

Michelle, glad you had a good time guys - well, besides that time you were going crazy driving up and waiting for Eric to show up. I kind of understand now what Oleg goes through when I am away (and without webcast) - he says he drinks and doesn't sleep:) I am very glad to have been able to talk on the phone this morning and put some things in perspective. I am absolutely positive Eric was physically ready for the run. What happened - happened. I believe the most important part is how Eric feels about it. I am not much into "inspiration...hero...whatnot" - Eric went out there to finish WS100. He ran into problems. He judged it by himself to his best ability. I actually envy him in respect of making decision like that. Could he have come back? I could bet 95% on it. Did he have to? Not really. He was there for himself and not to please the crowds. If that what he felt was best as opposed to stagger another 6M and drop later - then it was. We often (I'd say in my case always) learn from our own mistakes much better than from anyone else's. Time will pass, and Eric will evaluate what exactly lead to dry heaves, can he manage them better, can he feel the dizzy spell coming up and what to do about it, and various reasons on continuing or not.
You guys did an awesome job as a team. You are the most optimistic and positive group exsited. It's great Eric had you all by his side.
And I am really happy that you had witnessed and experienced this amazing party of ultrarunning - WS100!
(btw, Hal didn't break the CR)

olga said...

And thanks to both of you for posting so early - while everything is fresh and as IS, no non-sense and evaluation. I appreciate it as it gives a much better picture of emotions, and emotions are what at the top of the list in ultrarunning craze:)
Rest up! Next year!

Darrell said...

What a heartbreaker. You must all be exhausted. I guess you just never know how an ultra is going to turn out. It is very good to hear that Eric has come to terms with whatever happened. Hearing that he stayed around to watch and support others is a testament to who he is.

I'm off to read his account.

Thomas said...

Glad Eric is ok, and you seemed to have a good time despite the fact that he had to pull out. I'm sure he will be back, especially with the support he can expect from you! A lot of runners would give a lot to have a spouse that's as supporting as you are.

Randy said...

I'm so glad that Eric is ok, maybe tired but not injured. Your crew report was awesome, I love the detail. It had to be heartbreaking for you that short period of time that you couldn't find him. As us Texas Aggies are prone to say..."Wait till next year". Eric has a wonderful support team, you guys are all awesome.....

Wes said...

No matter the size of the race, we all know we can DNF. Eric was blessed to have you guys there for him, and I'm sure great things are ahead.

psbowe said...

Happy to learn that everyone is safe and made the right calls, might be disappointing, but you all walked with many lessons learned. I have to admire Eric for listening to himself and pulling out before running into anymore serious problems.

matt said...

you are such an inspiring team, the two of you. i am very sorry that Eric wasn't able to complete this attempt, but I know that with you by his side, he will make the choice that is right for him about returning to WS or to another 100.

Jessica Deline said...

Wow what an experience. While I"m sure a finishing would have been great - living to tell the tale is even better :)

JustRun said...

What a tale! You two are just so inspiring. You're the kind that not only run to run and challenge yourselves but also make feeling good part of that. One day, I'd love to crew for someone in an ultra- it's such a different experience than being the runner.
Thanks for sharing the story and I hope you're all catching up on sleep and recovering well. :)

Robb said...

That's quite an experience. I really enjoyed reading about this one with the challenges and logistical struggles. You did well in support for Eric. He did well to call it a day. Get some rest now.

GotLegs! said...

Michelle, thanks for the post. I don't like the crowds. My crew chose to meet me at Duncan and Dusty Corner and skip the zoo at Robinson Flats. It helped to have Glenn who's crewd for Jurek about a dozen times (WS, Bad Water, etc.) and me at CCC for 6 years (yeah, I DNFd the first try). It's really tough crewing (I did it in 2005). We spent 95% of our coorespondence (me and my crew) talking about crewing, what crew should bring, ice, sandwich prep, getting food for crew during the race, sleeping bags and blankets for the track, food for after the race, etc.

I have to say, my experience at crewing WS FAR surpassed running this event.

BTW: Eric is one lucky dude having you as a loving and suportive wife.

*tc

Jenny, Maniac #401 said...

Michelle- Great job being a supportive crew and wife. I understand that it is difficult to watch a loved one who has worked so hard to reach a goal, voluntarily drop from the event. you did it gracefully. I am sure you have gained incredible knowledge (not just about feet) and perspective on running and life fromthis experience. Not to mention hanging out with two cool guys while you were crewing. I can't wait to hear more details.
Oh, I decided to get an MRI. I have an appointment Tuesday. I'll post about it. Have fun in the sun! Oh, I forgot to mention I have cousins and anunt/uncle who live in Rocklin, very close to Auburn! Just so ya know! :)
Jenny
Jenny

Joe said...

Awesome report, Michelle. Like Olga, i appreciate it being so fresh.

How hard that must have been for you to now know just where Eric was for a couple of hours!! Oh my!!

Much time now to reflect and think. Glad you are well.

Mama said...

I wouldn't want to do the two-a-days for very long, but I can fill in for you again. Maybe not anytime, but I can do it again.
I was glad to share Steve with you guys and he and Rob got home safe and sound. See you soon and have a great trip home.
Lorri

Meghan said...

Michelle,

Oh no! After a weekend away from the computer, I'm just getting caught up. I'm so sad for Eric and you guys/gals. I'm very sorry to hear of this!

Eric has about the most loving, suppportive wife ever. This is a sweet, sweet post.

Thanks for sharing the details. I'll make my way over to Eric's blog now and read his version.

Meghan
www.running-blogs.com/meghan

Meghan said...

Michelle,

Oh no! After a weekend away from the computer, I'm just getting caught up. I'm so sad for Eric and you guys/gals. I'm very sorry to hear of this!

Eric has about the most loving, suppportive wife ever. This is a sweet, sweet post.

Thanks for sharing the details. I'll make my way over to Eric's blog now and read his version.

Meghan
www.running-blogs.com/meghan

robtherunner said...

I was happy to share the experience even though it did not turn out the way we all wanted. It was very emotional watching the runners come in, but one of these days it will be our turn to run around that track.

Nicole said...

Great post - so much emotion in it. I feel for Eric but glad you all had an okay time and everyone is safe.

Sarah said...

Great reading the crew report, although sad that Eric didn't finish. I hope you both make it back there someday and get to cross that finish line! : )

Sarah Elaine said...

One of the things I like about how you write is that I feel like I'm right there with you, living every moment of it. What I admire most about how you maniacs run is the unconditional support that you offer to each other, race after race. That's something special, for sure.

adam said...

Great report. It sure sounds like crewing is a challenge! Hopefully someday I will get to try both the crewing and the running at WS100 (not at the same time of course!).

Annette said...

You guys are so awesome to support each other the way you do. Not many people would volunteer to spend that much time out there.

Randy said...

Michelle, are any of your runners considering entering the Mt. Hood to the Coast in Oregon in August? We have some local runners that are doing that relay run and I think for them it will be a first time. Email me at aggiedad77@yahoo.com if you can share any information about the run or maybe some things from your past experience. I don't know if any of them blog yet. I can maybe one of them patched into either yours or Eric's blog or email if that would be ok.

Ryan said...

That's one great CREW! Nice report, sounds like you all had your own adventure out there.....what a wonderful & interesting experience!

E-Speed said...

I'm sorry to hear Eric didn't finish but I am glad he is okay. It sounds like it was still a good trip for all of you.

Looking forward to reading about your next adventure!