Sunday, August 26, 2007

Crewing the CCC

Okay, I've been up since 4:30 yesterday morning, so I hope this will make sense...

Eric, Steve, Sonya and I had a fun ride up to Easton yesterday. Eric was wired and full of silliness. We pulled in right about 7:30 and the first person we saw was Rob. We helped him move water coolers from his van to the aid station layouts and Eric checked in. The local firehouse puts out a big breakfast for the runners and their crew and we all spent time eating and chatting. Olga got there, and Lisa, Bad Ben, TC, Shawn, Arthur, local running friends, Paul, Luis and lots of others. We had plenty of time to visit before the pre-race meeting started. It seemed like 10:00 would never roll around, but if finally came, and the runners were off. We helped Rob load up supplies and drop bags, then Steve, Sonya and I headed for Tacoma Pass, with Colleen and Raymond (Paul's crew following). The road up was full of pot holes, some big enough to lose a small car in. Despite the slow speeds, we got there with plenty of time to spare.

We got Eric's stuff organized, had a little lunch and set out our stuff. There were clouds slipping over the sun, but when the sun was out it was warm. We chatted with other crews, caught up with Colleen, and waited. We cheered runners in and out, and were excited to see our friends pass through. Lots of runners came in complaining of wasp stings - apparently a nest had been stirred up. Eric came in looking good. We fixed him up and sent him on his way, then hung out with Colleen waiting for Paul and Luis to come through. After we got them going, we all caravanned to the next aid station, Stampede Pass.

At Stampede Pass, we went through the same routine. Just after Eric went through, the rain started. I went to change in to warm clothes and pulled out a couple of golf umbrellas, and the five of us huddled under them waiting for Paul and Luis. We tried to keep the stuff Colleen had laid out dry, but it got fairly damp before I got there with the umbrellas. Again, after they came through, we moved out. We went down to Snoqualmie Pass for dinner. I have this thing when I'm crewing - I want to move from aid station to aid station with no stops. I know I have plenty of time, but I worry about missing my runner. It was hard to stop for dinner, but Steve needed a good meal before heading out. Colleen and Raymond came with us and we had a good time and even managed to relax a little. On our way to dinner we drove by our Run Club at the Hyak aid station honking and waving. That prompted a call from Rob wanting to know why we didn't stop. After dinner, we gassed up, stopped by the aid station to say hello, then drove to Ollalie Meadows.

Ollalie is where Steve was joining Eric. It was fairly dark when we pulled up. I had forgotten that this was the aid station that was on a service road with huge, chunky rocks. It was still pouring rain, so I put my trail shoes in place of my sandals, and pulled out my 50-cent ponchos to offer around. We got the umbrellas again and stood in the dark and blowing rain waiting. It was hard to recognize runners coming in with headlamps, but we knew we were looking for two - a waist and a head lamp. We were all getting cold, but were mostly worried about the runners. I was glad I had convinced Eric to take his light weight shell at the previous station. We finally spotted his double lamp coming in. Steve shucked his warm pants, we fed Eric a pirogi and some soup, got him in a dry long sleeve (but had to put the wet shell back on over it) and off they went. Sonya and I were now on our own.

It's kind of scary-fun driving on forest service roads during the day. You can see the drops and the spectacular views. Night is another kind of scary. It's eerie driving through pitch black forest with only the high-beams giving light. Even though no one is out there, I felt the urge to lock the doors. Every once in a while we'd meet another crew driving up and one or the other of us would have to pull over so we could pass. We drove down to Hyak and joined our friends. After saying a quick hello to everyone, we organized Eric and Steve's stuff and I got some of our friends boiling water so I could refill our thermos. Someone came by and told me TC was in and was thinking of stopping. I went and talked to him, asked him if he could warm up if he wanted to go on with Eric and Steve. He said that might work, so we got him into one of the warm trailers with a spot to sit and something warm to sip. Shawn came in and I told her about TC - she had me to take her to him, and she asked him to go on with her. He decided he would and they left the aid station. Eric and Steve came in to rousing cheers and lots of fanfare. We got them set up and they were off.

Sonya and I now made our way to the Kachess Lake aid station. It was still raining and blowing some. We got a good parking spot just before the aid station, so the guys would walk by us on the way in. I set the timer on my watch for an hour and 15 minutes and we both went to sleep. Both of us woke up at about an hour, and sat in the car waiting for the guys. I had a cup of tea to sip on, and we talked about all kinds of things. The reflection of headlamps against rainy car windows made it impossible to see who was who. I started cupping my hands to the window and peering out looking for the guys. One thing that happens when crewing is that you begin to recognize the runners who are around your runner. Not knowing many of them, we gave them names like "yellow coat" and "pony tail". We were trying to remember about how far behind a certain runner the guys were last time we saw them. We saw some lights we thought might be them and I pressed my hands and face to the window to see - just as Steve came up to the window and startled me. We dropped the tailgate and had Eric sit down, and I ran to the aid station for hot food. Sonya pulled out a chair, we sat him in it (not raining at that moment) and I helped him change socks and shoes. Eric was cold, so Sonya brought her down blanket out to wrap him and I gave him my tea. Rob came by - he was waiting to pace Olga. We refilled his food and drink, made sure Steve was set too, and then they were ready to go. Olga came limping up the hill, walking stiff-legged, just as Eric and Steve left. Sonya and I repacked and headed out.

Sonya was reading directions when we came to a Y and I pulled one of my great directional moves and turned right. All of a sudden, I realized we were seeing runners coming down the road toward us. I knew that was wrong, so I pulled over and waited while several went by. Then I executed a stunning 29-point turn (drop on one side, ditch on other, very narrow road). We back tracked, corrected and went on. It was an hour and a half drive to the next station - nice roads through a couple small towns. I got really sleepy here and had to pull over and let Sonya drive. I was asleep within seconds of changing seats - I got to sleep for four miles. We were not supposed to drive all the way into the Mineral Creek aid station. Instead, we parked on the road a couple miles out and crewed from there. We set the time for another hour and went to sleep again. We didn't quite make an hour before we were both awake again. The car in front of us had a guy talking and talking - we couldn't figure out what he was doing. He had pulled a runner (not his own) into the car to warm up and was keeping him awake by talking. When the runner stepped out, his quads seized. We were on a hill - he take a step up hill, then stumble and weave backwards. This went on for a couple minutes - he'd stop and rub his quads (I wished I had remembered our tigertail), then would stumble around, then rub again. He finally headed up the hill and we saw him again at the next station (he finished!). It was daylight now, so Sonya and I thought we'd walk to the station to look for the guys. I was just locking the car when they walked around the bend. I fixed them and another runner some oatmeal and they all sat down to eat, then were off.

We thought we'd see if Paul was coming, so we started walking down the hill. We got down a ways and found Shawn and Rob coming up. When Olga dropped, Rob ran out and caught Shawn and paced her for the rest of the race. We walked up the hill with them, then did a little crewing for Rob while Shawn's brother took care of her. We sent them on there way and waited a little while for Paul. When Colleen and her crew decided to walk to the aid station to look for him we left. We found out at the finish that he dropped there.

Driving that hour and a half back to the last station, I got sleepy again. I traded with Sonya and dropped right off. She pulled into a convenience store and I mumbled something about staying in the car. When she opened the door to climb back in, it startled me out of a sound sleep. She bought a cup of coffee to help her stay awake, and drove us to the final station. We slept for another 45 minutes or so there, then hauled out stuff in to hang out - even though we knew it would be two or three hours. This was a tough (maybe the toughest?) 20 mile segment of the course, and we couldn't make it to the aid station at the top because of a slide narrowing the road. I wanted to, but several people said it was too dangerous. We wrapped in blankets and coats, I put my cheapo poncho back on to block a little wind, and opened up some handwarmers I had found in the car (I wish I would have thought of them during the night for Eric).

We chatted with Ben and his wife for a long time, then suddenly, Rich rode up on his bike. Our Run Club friends had camped out over night, and he rode up the trail to find us. Pretty soon Linda, Margaret and Abbi came running in. It was fun to have friends there to talk with. I had heard from Jenny a couple times, and knew they were walking the trail, but didn't expect them to come the whole way. Eric and Steve came in looking great. Eric wanted clean socks, and Steve, new shoes, so I ran to the car (fortunately, Sonya had moved it closer when a spot opened). The others asked Eric if they could run in with him and he said sure. He asked me if I was coming, but I wasn't prepared to run, and we had a ton of stuff to haul back to the car (we had picked up Rob's pack, Eric and Steve's packs, the dirty shoes and socks, as well as all the gear we had brought out for them).

Sonya and I hurried to the finish, where we found George, Melissa and Jenny. Cat and her husband were there too. And I finally met Jon, who has been leaving comments on my blog. We all hung out at the corner waiting. We cheered several runners in, then saw Rob and Shawn coming. I ran a little ways out to meet them and cheer them on.

When we saw Eric and the gang in the distance, Cat, Jon and I ran out to meet them. Eric grabbed my hand and we ran towards the corner. We all ran him to the chute, where we stopped and he ran through. I was feeling teary at this point. After many hugs, kisses, cheers and pictures, he got his buckle. It was pretty awesome.

We all hung around, visited, ate leftover aid station food (and carrot cake) and finally headed for home around 4:30. Sonya, Eric and Steve survived the trip home with me driving in a sleep-deprived state (I did stop and mix up a zipfizz, then we stopped at a Starbucks, so I did okay).

Once again, I loved crewing for CCC, and for Eric. Despite the rain and the cold we had a great time. Special thanks to Sonya - always cheerful, always funny and a great crewing partner. I'm looking forward to the next one! (pictures in the next post)

28 comments:

Jenny, Maniac #401 said...

Awesome report for being so sleep deprived! Again, you were a great crew leader for Eric(and Steve and Rob too). It was fun working at the aide station, I'd do it again.
See you soon.
Jenny

scott keeps running said...

Congrats to Eric and to his wonderful crew! Sounds like it was a tough one for everyone. Awesome.

Jack said...

Awesome crew report, Eric and friends are so lucky to have you backing them up!

Thomas said...

You know, after reading that entry I know exactly what it would be like to crew for someone at a 100 mile race. Great stuff.

Oh, and should I ever drop on my head and decide to run one of those myself, I'll have you flown over to crew for me.

Joe said...

Fantastic report, Michelle...you write better with sleep deprivation than do many fully-awake reporters!!!

Mega congrats to Eric for getting his century!! How marvelous!!! Tears indeed...and well deserved!

Sleep well!! What a crew!!!

Meghan said...

I don't know what sounds more challenging, running 100 miles or staying awake all night crewing for a 100 mile runner!

Nice job crewing and awesome report!

Meghan

Wes said...

What a stunning report. Well done, Michelle!!!

wendy said...

ahhh, Michelle, you got me all teary eyed, so early in the morning!

Great report, again. I just sounds like it was really miserable weather - crewing must have been very scary in the middle of the night! I love that you all ran to the chute with Eric, what a great moment to share.

I hope you're getting a chance to rest up from your all night adventures! I can't wait to see pictures.

Bob Gentile said...

Congrats Eric on getting it done under tough conditions...way to go!

robtherunner said...

It was a great adventure out there. You are expert crew now and seemed to have everything Eric needed and a litte more for the rest of us. The doubleshots were a huge help the last 25 miles. Oh, and I forgot to tell you how miserable it would have been had I not taken my hat with me up the hill. It was cold! Thanks for everything!

olga said...

Michelle, it was awesome to see you and Sonya at the AS's! You guys did a great job supporting Eric and those around him, and I am sure he now will be running more of this thingies:) Thanks for cheering!

King Arthur said...

Thanks for lending me your bottle holder. You're a life saver!

Dori said...

I'm teary, too. What a great report, Michelle. That's some man you're married to. But that's some woman he's married to!

I laughed at your 29 point turn. Must have been frustrating, but you got out safely and that's what matters.

Sarah Elaine said...

Great post. I got emotional reading it. The weather sounds like it was a bit challenging, and the lack of sleep and nerves wouldn't help much. Overall though, it sounds like a fantastic experience.

No wonder you and Eric have such a good marriage. When you do this kind of thing for fun, regular would seem easy!

Congrats to all of you.

Steve said...

You know, all the ribbing and kidding aside, I had a great time with you and Sonya. I will always be ready to be a member of the Queen's crew.

psbowe said...

You are one crew champ! So happy to read that everything went well, Eric ran well, congrats to you both!

Jon said...

It was nice seeing you. I'm glad I showed up in time to see Eric finish. It was cute to see the two of you running and holding hands. Like a bunch of puppy-love kids on the playground!

shawn said...

Thank you so much for being an emotional crew for me as much as for Eric. It was great seeing your smiling face at all the aid stations! Eric told me about your 29-point turn. :) What a great job – he was smiling and joking whenever I saw him.

Anne said...

I think awards should be given for crew bravery -- I was scared for you reading about that harrowing 29-point turn and I even knew the outcome had to be good.

It is so hard for me to relate to wind, rain and cold while we broil down here.

Sunshine said...

You are amazing; your post is amazing. Thanks for writing.

Darrell said...

Thanks for sharing this side of the race. It is definitely a trying time for the crew as well. It is easy to see how important you are to all the runners. Well done, Michelle.

And Congrats to Eric for knocking that 100 miler off the to do list.

~concrete angel~ said...

Great job Michelle, what a mom!! I'm so glad Eric finished and you stayed awake enough to stay safe (I know from experience crewing is tough)...that's so awesome!!

JustRun said...

Congrats to Eric and all your runners! And their crews! Your reports of these always sound like so much fun- and I love these events where someone can just decide to join a runner and run. How great!
Thanks for the report, Michelle. :)

Sarah said...

Great report. What an adventure for everyone involved! Anyone would be lucky to have you on their crew. You deserve some congrats too! Nice job.

Makita said...

A great report - with little sleep, no less! I enjoyed reading it ... felt almost like I was there with ya'll.

Thanks, too, for your visits to my new homeschool blog. It is helpful to know there are supporters out there. A 'friend' in book club the other night said, "Well. I hope it works out for you."

Annette said...

Crewing is quite the job. How great that you guys are willing to do that. I'm glad to hear that Eric finished - that is too awesome! Sounds like you could use some sleep now. :)

peter said...

Great job supporting your runner. I was there in the cab as you described that 29-point turn!

E-Speed said...

just reading about crewing makes me tired :) You are an awesome wife to help out your hubby during such an amazing event!