Monday, August 25, 2008

Crewing CCC100

I'm here to tell you, crewing is a blast! It's a lot of hurry up and wait, then spend minutes with your runner, before packing it all up and heading to the next spot. We were able to go to every single crew accessible aid station on the course this year - that's nine aid stations. We managed about an hour and 45 minutes of sleep in short spurts throughout the night, we drove on a chopped up, steep, rutted, scary road to French Cabin Creek aid station and were rewarded with spectacular views, we shared a lot of laughs, helped a lot of runners along the way and it was all worth every minute of it to see Rob come flying across the finish line.

Sonya and I picked Rob up early Saturday morning, made the obligatory trip to Starbucks before heading for race central in Easton. Eric, Jenny and Steve followed an hour or so later. I know I said this in the last post, but it's so amazing to see so many friends at these races! We chatted with lots of runners, sat in on the race and crew briefings, and then gathered for the start. After the runners were off, Eric, Steve, Sonya and I helped Jenny load all the aid stations supplies for Hyak into her car. We found a local burger joint that the fire chief had recommended and had a quick lunch before heading up to Tacoma Pass. We got there in time to see the front runners come through, then settled in to watch for lots of friends, and wait for Rob. We tried to help runners that didn't have a crew, refilling bottles, offering chairs, and getting them food. The aid station volunteers are wonderful, but once in a while get overwhelmed by a rush of runners. We also had the chance to talk to several thru-hikers - they were on the PCT, starting at the Mexico border back in April, and almost to the Canadian border. I'm proud to say that at the two aid stations where we saw the hikers, the volunteers were more than happy to share food and water. In return, the hikers watched and cheered for our runners.

We followed Tacoma Pass with Stampede Pass, where we gave Rob his light for the next section, then went on to Meadow Mountain. The mosquitoes were horrible at Meadow, seeming to be a constant swarm. Here, the aid station was down the hill from the trail and runners had to walk down and back up. We spared Rob that extra climb by bringing food up for him. After we checked him out, we made the trip down at the Hyak aid station, so Eric could change in the warm comfort of our friend's trailer. We visited for a few minutes before heading to Ollalie Meadows. This is where Eric would leave us, to begin pacing Rob for 53 miles. The next morning I heard a volunteer radio operator comment that "Though anyone who'd sign up to run a 100 miles is nuts, it's really the pacers who are crazy. They're running 53 miles for no reward - no buckle, no prize, no finish time!" It's kind of hard to explain the sheer joy of running the trails, the shared experience and the satisfaction of helping someone else meet their goal.

After Ollalie, comes the middle-of-the-night main aid station: Hyak. Our running club has sponsored this station two years now and does a fabulous job. It's just off I-90, at mile 53 for the runners, and at the point where they come off the mountain on one side of the freeway before beginning the climb on the other. The Run Club had a Christmas theme this year - Christmas lights everywhere, Christmas goodies and a giant, inflatable snowman, Abi in a Mrs. Santa suit, Santa hats, Christmas was spectacular! We got to hang out for a while with our friends while we waited for the guys.

After Hyak, Sonya and I drove to Kachess Lake. We were hoping to get a couple hours sleep here, but it didn't quite work out. We got about 15 minutes, then were awake for a while, then got about an hour more before the guys came in. I had to do a little work on Eric's foot where he had the mega-blister at the Death Race, and we got some Tums and some food into Rob here. They left for their next five mile section, and Sonya and I left for the next aid station - 42 miles by road! Fortunately, we drove off the mountain, to the freeway, then some back country highway, before another short section of forest road. To give you an idea of what the trail must be like - they covered 5 miles on foot, we covered 42 miles by car and still beat them there. I got so sleepy on the drive that I pulled over and let Sonya drive, then did it again on the way back. At Mineral Creek we provided tea and oatmeal before sending them off. Then it was 42 miles back, and the drive up to French Cabin.

Even though it was rough and scary in parts, I love that drive up. I had to stop a couple times just to soak up the view, and then, waiting at the aid station, I couldn't decide whether to look at the view, or watch the mountain side for runners. This is my favorite aid station of all - you can see runners coming down the side of the mountain, and even hear their voices, long before they arrive. It seemed like we waited forever here, but I think it was us being tired and anticipation. We finally saw the boys at the top of the mountain, and the radio volunteer watching through her binoculars described them - when she finished up with "...bald headed" Sonya and I let out a cheer - we knew it was our boys! They came in looking strong, spend just a minute or two and were back out.

Finally, the last aid station. We parked at Silver Creek, set the timer on my watch and slept for 15 minutes. Then we walked out to wait - and less than a half hour later they came running in. They dumped packs and water bottles and headed right back out. We phoned ahead to let Jenny know - she, Steve, Abi and Melissa had all waited to see Rob finish. Jenny went and found Rob's family to let them know he was on the way, and Sonya and I drove over to the finish line. What a relief to be done! I was now almost 4:30 in the afternoon - the adventure had started the day before at 6:00 am when we left the house. Rob and Eric came blazing in a short while later - a 30:38 finish!

After hanging out a while, we packed it up and headed for home. Eric drove for a while, then got sleepy, so Sonya took over. We made it home, unloaded our filthy car, and headed for bed. I woke up during the night feeling violently sick. Eric got up to help me out, and eventually, I was able to go back to sleep. Fortunately, I had lined up a sub for Pilates, so I didn't have to worry about that. Eric called in to my office and let them know I was sick, while I slept on. I finally got up around 1:00, and am slowly beginning to feel better. I don't know what it was - bad cooler food? Virus? Me being run down from the marathon last week, and this weekend without sleep? What ever it was, I'm better now, and it's time to start thinking about the Grande Ass!


robtherunner said...

Thanks for being the best crew chief, ever and for subjecting yourself to a violent sickness afterwards:)

I'm ready for the marathon, well, I should be by Sunday.

angie's pink fuzzy said...

i'm right there with you - crewing is so fulfilling!

scott keeps running said...

You're the best, Michelle. :)

Ryan said...

Peace and quite, yes I just came from Eric's bird chirping blog :-)

What a dedicated trooper, great job out there. Any chance you ran into my friend from MA, Ron Farkash?

wendy said...

yay, michelle! crew chief extraordinaire! =)

What on earth did you eat at the burger joint? Maybe THAT is what made you ill. ;-)

can't wait til sunday!

King Arthur said...

That sounds like a lot of Fun. I'll have to line up a crew for next year.

I thought of you when I was in the tunnel. I almost stopped and had a cold shower but I knew Stan was right behind me so I pressed on.

Thomas said...

You sound like you're made for crewing!

Anne said...

Now I can't wait to read Rob's report for a different perspective. You certainly do make crewing sound like a lot of fun. I love the Christmas-themed aid station. What a great way to cheer up runners who are dead tired by then.

Wes said...

You gots to be the best crew ever :-) I'm sure Rob knows what a lucky guy he is. Now, what's this about my ass? LOL!!!

Mother of Martineau Tribe said...

It was great to see you! Next year we can crew it together! Great job!

justrun said...

That sounds great!

I hope you're feeling better today. :(

Laura H said...

Great job Michelle! I have a photo of the boyz coming up the hill to No Name - they looked good! I'll get it posted when I get a chance.

Funny - though I was violently ill, my gut has been unhappy since I got back. I think it's from lack of sleep. Hope you are better now!

Steve Stenzel said...

Wow! Sounds like a blast! Now, go get some sleep!!!

TryPiggy said...

I hope you've recovered and feel better.

Jenny, Maniac #401 said...

Great job out there! It was fun to hang out for a while and fun at Hyak too! The Lights/Christmas theme was a big hit you are right(or Left)! Can't wait till next year!
I'll post some photos from Hyak soon!

Sarah Elaine said...

You are an amazing crew! Can't believe Eric's blister is still annoying him. (Well, I can, but it sucks.)

Sorry you got sick though. Hope you're feeling like yourself again soon!

Joe said...

Awesome job crewing, Michelle. Glad you enjoyed it.

What a great run for Rob...and you were central to make it happen.

Hope you are feeling better!!!

Meghan said...


Goodness, it sounds like working so hard as crew chief made you a little (a lot?) sick!

You, Eric, and your friends really worked together to make Rob's race pretty amazing! I'm really impressed!