Sunday, August 30, 2009

CCC 2009

Let's find out how it goes when a blogger writes a post on two hours of sleep. I'm forcing myself to stay awake till bedtime, or at least till Eric gets home. Might as well get my thoughts down now...

Once again, it was an incredible weekend. I'm not sure how it happened, not sure how my life turned out like this. (Maybe I'm too tired and emotional to write this after all...fair warning it could be mushy for the next few sentences). For all the trash talk and teasing that goes on, I feel such a deep bond with my running friends. Somehow these events we share, whether running, crewing or volunteering, create a measure of friendship that I never expected to find in my life. We are a diverse group, mostly strong-willed, often of differing opinions and feelings, of various ages and abilities, yet sharing this common thread of running. I suspect that though our friendships have been forged in shared running experiences, that they will last well beyond our ability to run. How else do you explain the support we give each other, the time, energy and expense to see others achieve a dream? And not just for one of our own, but for many others as well?

Let's get on to the story.

I don't know how to tell you about the weekend. The run is Jenny's story to tell. The crewing is my story, shared by Sonya and Rick. Pacing is Rob's story. They are intertwined and viewed from varying perspectives, woven together to create lasting memories.

This was my fifth year crewing at CCC. Year one, I spent the day alone, crewing for Rob. Neither of us was sure what we were doing, but we made it through. It was a lonely day, as I didn't know any ultra runners, only Rob as he came into each station. Things improved when George and Olga joined us for the evening, alternately riding with me and pacing Rob.

Year two brought Sonya in, and I began to recognize a few crew members and runners here and there. George and Olga were there to pace, Rob and I both had a better idea of what we would do, and even though Rob's race finished at 63 miles, we had fun.

Year three found Eric running, Sonya and I crewing and Steve pacing. Rob was helping run the Hyak aid station at mile 55. This time I knew many of the crews, pacers and runners. We were comfortable in our roles and it was a great and successful weekend.

Year four found Rob burning up the course again, this time with Eric pacing , Sonya and I crewing, and the majority of the Y Run Club managing the Hyak aid station. We all knew what we were doing, we knew at least half the field and their crews, and it was another wonderful weekend.

And that brings us to year five.

Eric and Jamal were set to mark course on both Friday and Saturday. Eric also had another friend, Dave, lined up to help him clear some dead falls from the Trail from Hell. Evening would find Dave and Lesa with the rest of the Y Runners managing the Hyak Aid Station again. This year Rob was lined up to pace, Steve was pacing another friend, and Sonya, Rick and I were crewing. Best of all, our runner was Jenny. I was thrilled to be helping Jenny reach for a dream - she worked incredibly hard this year preparing for this race. She ran weekend after weekend, marathons, 50ks, 50 milers, training runs in the mountains. She gave up family time, and spent time bonding with Rob, Steve and Eric, soaking up their experience, and building her own. You all know that Jenny and I have run many a race together, including our two adventures at Pac Rim.

And Sonya. She's been running a lot on her own, coming back from injury, tending to her Mom, spending time with her family. We haven't seen as much of each other as usual, but it didn't seem to matter. We got in the car and time melted away. We added Rick to the mix - Rick who runs with me every morning, and with Jenny and I on weekends. He climbed in the backseat and put up with a lot of giggles and girl talk, he carried the heavy stuff and took the pictures. Rob was there to pace - picking Jenny up at Ollalie and running through the night and morning - keeping her moving and eating and steady.

It was...laughs, fears, cold, hot, dirty, scary, exhilarating, more laughs, talking and talking, and stinky, dusty, messy, fun, hilarious, serious, funny. It was spooky, tiring, relaxing, caffeinated, humbling, inspiring. Meeting the fabulous and fun Maria, knowing so many of the runners and pacers, the crews, the dogs, the aid station volunteers. Meeting new faces, sharing stories, seeing Eric waving me down in the road at Lake Kachess. Sleeping in the back seat, folded like a jack-knife. Feeling like royalty as we cruised into Hyak. Peeing in the woods. My infamous 29-point turns on dirt roads with ditches and drop-offs. Rutted, pot-holed, dusty, washed out roads. Roads carved out of mountside and forest, drop-offs that go forever, I-90 through the mountain pass in the dead of the night. Sleepy little towns and campgrounds. Jenny's car with all the bells and whistles and blessed seat-warmers. Hand-warmers in the pockets. Smiling runners, sick runners, stumbling runners, bounding runners. Dirty children. Smiling volunteers, caring and tending to runners. The crackle of radio communication. Flashlights and headlamps. Spooky forests and knowing that Sasquatch was around every corner. Sitting in the morning sun. And so much more.

Jenny's journey was epic. I have never admired her so much as I did last night, watching her huddled in the chair nauseous and tired, climbing to her feet and heading down the trail, alone and into the dark. Sonya, Rick and I fretted and worried, and rushed to the next mountain side aid station. She eventually came in as looking as strong as could be, weary, sore and invincible. Our fears calmed, she headed down the dark trail again as we went to get Rob and deliver him to the next mountain side. They ran off into the night, and she kept moving. Moving and moving and moving. Blistered and tired and always moving. Her race ended at mile 73, knowing she couldn't make the next cut off. Twenty-four hours and twenty minutes of constant forward motion - incredible, inspiring, amazing. She finished with a smile, with grace and peace and contentment. She gave it every ounce of herself and she came out a winner. Today reminded me why it is I love her and admire her and am so lucky to have her as a friend.

The trip home was a jumble of this year's race and next year's plans. We'll be out there next year, crewing for Rob again, seeing all the familiar faces and I'll find myself filled with all the best that life and friendship has to offer. I can't wait!

15 comments:

Donald said...

Wow. Obviously an emotional weekend on many fronts, and you captured that quite well. Thanks for sharing your perspective ... now I'm off to read the other reports!

Jack said...

Awesome report Michelle, you certainly captured the weekend in your text!

justrun said...

Wow, what an experience for everyone! I can understand why you'd be emotional.

Anne said...

You did very well capturing the essence of the ultra race on just a couple of hours of sleep. Seat warmers? Hand warmers? Goodness graciousness, it's in the 100s here and I just can't fathom that kind of cold in August.

Bret said...

Great time to write down your feelings, right after it happens. It will be a great memory to look back on. Tell Jenny I feel her pain but when you know you gave it your all I think that is enough.

Running these ultras and marathons have done the same for me Michelle. They have brought me some great friendships I will remember way after I quit running.

A good running friend of mine who has kind of slid away from the sport asked me why don't I just go back to running 1/2 marathons? Why put yourself through all of this? I didn't really have an answer. There is always just one more goal to attain I guess.

PS You can crew me anytime! I bet you were awesome.

jessica said...

dang it michelle, you made me cry at work.... you have an amazing ability to capture the moment. I think it's time you write a book!

Jenny is one amazing women and she did pretty well picking her crew =).

Now let's wipe away those tears and get ready for a Grande Ass marathon of fun, laughter, giggles, and coffee!

Jessica DeLine said...

Hey Michelle - was great seeing you out there! I got 3 hours of sleep so I guess I beat you ;)
Boy am I still tired though today...

Joe said...

Great post, Michelle...boy you captured so much. Nice to write while it is still fresh.

Seeing Jenny accomplish so much had to be moving. You had a big role in it and she'll be the first to say so.

Thanks for taking the time to write...hope you are catching up on sleep now!!

lizzie lee said...

As I have followed your blog for the last couple of years I have understood that bonding. I may be wrong but I feel that bonding has to do more with the ultras than with running itself, or w/shorter races. Maybe due to the time spent with your group and the kind of support you need from others. What would happen if you don't have that especial support when you are out in the woods?

Shorter distances are pretty much, get in, run, leave. More of an individual situation where everybody is looking for their own thing.

robtherunner said...

You captured it all perfectly. It was another great race and as much as I love having you as crew I would gladly give it up if Jenny decides to give it another go next year. I'll still run, but I can go with drop bags.

Sunshine said...

You write pretty well on no sleep! Wow!

Darrell said...

What a great post. The shared experience is a huge part of running. You captured it well.

Sarah said...

Wow...what an awesome experience. Thanks for sharing your perspective. You put into words excellently what is often difficult to express.

Juls said...

Great post. Having never done one of these LONGER events, it is interesting to read your perspective. You are lucky to have her and she is lucky to have YOU.

Sunshine Girl said...

Thanks for sharing Michelle! I've only got a small taste of what a great running community you have out there in the PNW, but what you have is clearly, pretty darn special.