“So, 8 months ago, I met this asshole on plentyoffish.com…”
Andy helpfully offered this introduction to my crew report. He continued with, “then you could say, little did she know what she was getting herself into…”
My previous crew experience was limited to that of 2 aid stations at the San Juan Solstice. Essentially, little to none. But I’m anal-retentive and my daily job involves intense event planning. I should be ok, right? Yikes.
One of my smartest decisions was taking a vacation day prior to our departure. We finished laundry, errands, packing and reviewing crew and race details for the umpteenth time. Never underestimate how much time it takes to plan and pack as a crew team. And for the runner, never underestimate the fact that taking one extra day of vacation prior to your race will benefit you mentally and emotionally more than you might imagine. Especially if you anticipate driving several hours before race day.
We spent several hours creating ziplocks with exact amounts of Perp and Heed, Salt and Gels, labeled each with Outbound or Inbound and the aid station. At some point we separated fuel in one bag (extra baggies of Heed, Perp, water, etc.) and misc in another, consisting of first-aid, flashlight/batteries, braces and bandages, baby wipes, sportshield and sunscreen, ipod, etc. Another bag was additional clothing.
I had my clipboard with notes ready to go. So did our awesome crew. A spreadsheet of times, splits, distance, fuel and water, misc. needs and notes, cell phone numbers and directions. I had already driven the course twice prior to Thursday (except Winfield).
Thank goodness for the free car upgrade from Enterprise. The Jeep could barely hold all of our essentials while still leaving room to sit. Time to boogie. Andy typically leaves the car packing to me since I can fit a square peg into a round hole.
The night before the race was a memorable one. I’m not sure what Andy did to himself, but my ghod, Annie and I suffered for it. At one point he pushed up the bedroom window, bent over and stuck his ass outside. “I can’t believe I have to sleep next to stinky!” I whined. Annie retorted, “Hey! I’m the one sleeping on the floor at the foot of the bed. It hits me first!” I could only hope that he took care of business before the race. More hilarity ensued after he shoved cotton balls up his nostrils to relieve his sinuses. I got a “Fuck You” that sounded very much like the munchkins from the Wizard of Oz.
JJ graciously made a run to Safeway for sandwich products. I definitely recommend sandwiches for any crew. The pizza that she and Carlos picked up on the second day was the best pizza I ever had. Seriously. OMG. I headed to bed around 9:30pm and after dozing off for several hours I woke up at midnight, went downstairs, made some sandwiches, went back to bed, got up again at 2am and began to pack it up and move it out.
After discussing our game strategy with the rest of the crew and Andy’s coach, Scott Weber, our team (JJ, Annie and myself) headed straight to MayQueen around 3:30am. Carolyn, his pacer, and Carolyn’s boyfriend (now husband), Carlos (her crew), would meet Andy at the start.
Picture 3 pack mules hauling multiple bags to the aid station. Pretty typical, I imagine. We positioned ourselves outbound from the exit. I recommend parking as close to the Mayqueen Aid Station as possible to reduce the hauling quotient. They will let you park near the gated entrance. Do it but turn your car around so you can easily exit. Setting up after the aid station exit, further down along the path and away from the huge crowd was a good idea. Andy made it clear that he did not want to linger at the aid stations, only spending 1-2 minutes at each if possible. We assembled the table that JJ brought along and arranged the bottles of Perp, sunglasses and sportshield, mountain dew and ibuprofen, ipod and extra water. Afterwards, Annie snuggled into her sleeping bag and literally stretched out on the road for a nap.
It was still dark as I waited for Andy at the entrance to the aid station where the runners quickly emerged. He blazed into MayQueen about 10 minutes ahead of our predetermined schedule. Although he felt great, I was concerned about him pushing it too fast too soon. We discussed the beginning of the course many times and we all agreed it would be better to go out conservatively while still ensuring a good position for the single-track running he had to do. He needed to regain control and pacing strategy.
All of a sudden Andy came running back to us. What’s the fuck?! Wrong effing sunglasses. They are both black. Both Oakleys. They must have gotten mixed up in the unpacking. Lost about 5 minutes there. I was sick with regret that we dropped the ball. If it came down to those lost 5 minutes… well, I just didn’t want to think about that. Would 5 minutes really matter THAT much?? Yes, it does, actually. Cross that bridge later. I eventually asked him why he chose to run back for the correct sunglasses and he said, “I didn’t want to run for the next few hours fuming over the fact that I was wearing the wrong shades.” Point taken.
At this point, I just summarized things I learned because the idea of writing down all the details from the remainder of the event was too daunting at the time. I still plan to work on a list of highlights though.
Things to note for next year:
☼ I always like to canvass the aid stations that I can reach the day before and familiarize myself with how to get there, making notes to myself as needed.
☼ Reduce the amount of shit you bring to the aid station specifically. Bring the essentials for your runner and a chair for you along with a small cooler to keep your runner’s bottles cool (as needed, obviously).
☼ Lay out on a blanket, mat or the underside of a plastic tote, the things you think he might need. Sometimes just seeing a bottle of ibuprofen will remind them that they need or want it.
☼ Label everything with aid station details and have splits on hand to prepare. I like to have everything ready about an hour before the estimated arrival time. You just never know.
☼ Remind them not to go out too fast at the beginning. Be encouraging and supportive. Don’t say anything if your runner is falling behind their time. They KNOW.
☼ Pick your crew team carefully. Pick people who have worked together before and you know your personalities mesh well. It was really great to have a separate outbound team leader and an inbound team leader so you can give each other breaks.
☼ Coach Weber iced Andy’s legs and the back of his neck at Winfield inbound and it helped him enormously. The coolness rejuvenated him. I was worried about him sitting down but the pros outweighed the cons.
☼ Coach Weber bandaged Andy’s toes and soles at Twin Lakes and we changed socks, all of which was very important. The blisters were really painful and rather than take off the bandages and risk making things worse, we just wrapped him up like a mummy and hoped he wouldn’t feel the pain for a while. It was a good thing that Coach had good blister tape on hand.
☼ For the crew: keep a sleeping bag in the car along with extra socks, sweatpants and a warm sweater/coat/gloves/hat, etc. It will get cold at night and if you’re like me, you’ll probably catch a few zzzz’s in the car at some point.
☼ One cool thing that another crew team did at Treeline inbound: They taped a flashlight to a pole/stick and stuck it inside one of those glow stars that you can buy at Western Hardware in downtown Leadville. It was very easy to see at night. Plus, it’s peeerrrrty.
☼ Ask someone to take pictures throughout, especially at the finish.