Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Crewing the Western States 100 - My Rules for Crewing

I have a good reputation as being a pretty darn good crew chief and take my job seriously. I was giddy when Martin asked me crew his first 100 miler, which also happens to be the epic Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run.

I'm the more emotional, excitable one of the two of us and this was clear the day before the race when I was bouncing around singing, "tomorrow is race day, race day..."while Martin chuckled at my adolescent behavior in nervousness.

Day before the race. I think I'm more excited than he is. 
My dear friends Josh Witte and Andrew Harding were also running States. And through North Texas Trail Runners and my new gig with the Dallas Morning News covering trail and ultra running, I had a few other Texas runners to cheer for at States.

Take a peak at the story I wrote for the Dallas Morning News Running Blog.
Don't mess with Texas: runners and their pacers!

Martin's dear friends Janet and Doug joined us. Martin has paced Doug the last two States and it was Doug's turn to return the favor. Janet was my experienced States crewer and had lots of hints and tricks for me.

Team Martin at 3:30 a.m. race morning. Before coffee, yes, I look tired.

Nick Polito and Martin minutes before start. 
This was anything but a typical Western States. Known for hot temps, the race started with temps in the 40s, hail and wind. Martin started with a short sleeved shirt and jacket. Worried at the start about it getting colder, I tried to convince him to wear a long sleeve shirt, but he said he was fine.

Crew Rule 1: Know When to Push and When Not to
Early in the race, your runner has veto power. Later in the race when they've been up for more than 20 hours, you can argue with them.

Janet warned me that the Robinson Flat aid station (mile 29) is a mess. You have to take a shuttle in and it's crowded. The race guide said to allow an hour for the shuttle.

The rain started coming down hard and then the hail hit. I made the executive decision to get Martin's only long-sleeve shirt, the one he was saving for night time and his only other jacket and bring it to the aid station.

Crew Rule 2: Think One Step Ahead
You are your runner's brain. You need to think strategically and ahead for them. Regardless what their race plans say, you may need to improvise. Think about what you would want in those conditions and tell them when they come into the aid station why you are changing things..."It's cold. You need a long sleeve shirt and a new jacket now. I'll handle the rest later. Don't worry."

Crew Rule 3: Do NOT Overpack
I see tons of crew with basically everything and the damn kitchen sink, 5 plastic tubs of crap, a suitcase of clothes. Don't do this. Seriously. You have to ride a bus with hundreds of people who are also going to the aid station. If it doesn't fit in a backpack, you don't need it. They aren't going to want that short sleeved shirt if it's hailing. Leave it in the car.
Janet and I with no less than 6 layers of clothes on and my best $1 spent ever - the disposable poncho with hood!

With new dry clothes, Martin headed out. I told him I'd see him again at mile 55.7.

Getting Martin in dry shoes.
Crew Rule #4: Flexible and Flowing
The round trip to and from this aid station was three hours! Much longer than I thought. I now have a pacer I need to feed and get ready, wet clothes that were going to be saved for the night time and a ton of other things I needed to do to get ready for his arrival at Michigan Bluff.

I fed Doug and we headed to Auburn Running Company so I could buy Martin a new long sleeve shirt. I got the last Auburn Running Company shirt and headed to the hotel where I knew they had a dryer that I could use.

I quickly threw his clothes in the machine, put money in and set it to go. That's odd, what's that water sound...SHIT, I started the washer, not the dryer! And there is no way to STOP the washer once it started. Worried about time, I tried to figure out what to do next. Well I could unplug the machine, risking breaking the whole thing or just wait. So I waited. Finally they were washed and I threw them in the dryer. Love the fact tech material dries fast.

We rushed out to Michigan Bluff and waited Martin's arrival. He had one drop bag before he saw us and I figured he would shed his jacket and put on his short sleeve shirt. He can running down in the black long sleeve. Luckily the shirt he started in was "washed and dried" and I put it back on him.

The next time I would see Martin would be at Forest Hill, mile 62 where Doug would pace him. He had picked up the pace a bit and I figured he would be at Forest Hill sooner than plan.

Martin heading into Forest Hill, Mile 62. Doug on the right ready to pace. 

Changing out his shoes. 
Martin sailed into Forest Hill, picking up time. Doug met him up the trail and headed into the aid station with him. I ran to the car to wait for them.

Crew Rule #5: Be ready before your runner arrives
Before Martin got into Forest Hill, I had all his items laid out and ready to go. The object is to get them in and out of the aid station as quickly as possible. I had his shoes and new socks laid out. A long sleeve shirt, his jacket and gloves out and ready for him.

Crew Rule #6: Know the aid station cut off times
I never had to do this with Martin, but I have with others...you may need to kick them out of the aid station. Pay attention to the cut off times and if your runner is close, kick them out.

The next time I would see Martin was after the river crossing at mile 79. To get here, I had to take a shuttle and hike down about 1.25 miles. There was an option to hike down another 2 miles to see him at the far side of the river after he crossed.

The shuttle broke down and the race was down to one van. I knew he was speeding up and Doug would be pushing him hard. I finally got a ride to the drop off point and ran with his backpack down hill for over a mile. Just as soon as I got to the trail to head down, I got a text from Doug that they were on the far side of the river.

While I wanted to head down to the river and hike up with him, it was more important for me to get his gear laid out so he could quickly change socks and shoes and get dry clothes on.

Other than sleepy, he was running very strong. I gave him a kiss and sent him off. Not knowing the bus situation, I was concerned about how long it would take me to get back to my car. So I power hiked/ran UP that hill, with all that wet gear.

It was so damn dark and creepy out there. I was alone. After being up for nearly 24 hours, I swear I heard creatures in the woods. Maybe some voices. Some growls.

Thankfully I saw people hiking down. I asked if the busses were working again. They were! Yay! Just as I get to the top, the bus is heading out. I wave. Shine my flashlight. It leaves. Lovely. Now I get to sit in the dark by myself with the growling things in the woods.

Praying nothing eats me, some people finally arrive from Green Gate. No longer alone. Phew!

I rushed to get to the next aid station, mile 93. The announcer calls "Marin Guthrie 204." Wahoo! He's back on 24 hour pace. Holy crap, he's moving fast. He looks great. Doug was pushing him hard. He didn't need anything from me at this aid station, but I wanted to be there for him.

Crew Rule #7: Encouragement 
Regardless if your runner needs anything at a later aid station, go there anyway. Sometimes all they need is a smile, a hug, a friendly familiar face. Your job is to keep them motivated. They may want to scream and complain. Let them. Give them a shoulder to cry on if need be.

The next time I would see Martin is at 98.9. I planned to run with him and Doug from here. Janet and I zipped to the finish line, parked the car and I ran to the aid station from the high school while she waited at the finish line with cameras.

I met up with a gal who was waiting for her friend. We were all praying our runners would come in soon. It was getting close to that 24-hour mark.

It's 4:15 a.m. We both decided as long as they come in before 4:45, all is well. The trip back out is a lot of hills on the road. So anything faster than a 15 minute mile may be really hard to pull off.

4:37 a.m. I see an aid station volunteer call "204".

"MARTIN!" I scream in excited. I see that big smile. He looks fantastic. You would have never have guessed he had run 99 freaking miles.

Doug, Martin and I know a sub 24 is going to happen.

After the hill, I ask him, "You want to run?" He says, "Yes." And the three of us are off. Running a little ahead, he says, "Nice butt." We all laugh.

There's another little hill. I scream back to him, "This is the only time I'll ever be ahead of you on a hill, after 99 miles!"

We enter the high school and I tell him to take his victory lap.

It all ended after 23:53:31.

Home now for 24 hours. I'm having ultra crew withdraw.

I feel compelled to look up my friends' progress on ultralive.net.

I feel like I should be updating FB every hour.

I have a desire to drive around in the middle of the night.

I want to organize my day in ziploc bags.

I keep asking everyone how they are feeling and what they need.

I want to lube something.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A first pass up Hope Pass

Hope Pass
June 16, 2012
9.5 miles - 3:45

The Leadville 100 mile trail run is deemed one of the hardest 100 milers, simply because it starts at 10,200 feet and climbs to around 12,800 feet. And if you know anything about this race, you have no doubt have heard of Hope Pass. Around mile 40 at Twin Lakes, the runners make their way up to Hope Pass, reaching 12,800 feet and then drop down to Winfield. Then they have to turn right back around and conquer that pass again.

I had the opportunity to crew and pace Leadville last year. I fell in love with Colorado and the race. I promised myself I would be back to run it some day.

One of my favorite scenes from Leadville, Colorado - down the street from the Hostel
Martin and I decided to make a long weekend in Leadville. We climbed Mt. Massive the day before and I said I wanted to go up hope. We plan to run Transrockies next year and I wanted to get some experience at elevation and taking a stab at Hope. We also are running Squamish 50 in about 6 weeks and I really wanted to get some hill training in, which is hard to do in Texas.

I've been struggling with my knee. I've been going to PT twice a week to try to fix things. While at Western States training camp, I really did a number on it running downhill. My goal this weekend was to learn how to hike and run downhill.

We started on the Twin Lakes side and planned to hike up to Hope and then back down to Twin Lakes, as opposed to running down to Winfield and climbing it again. I was pretty tired from the Mt. Massive climb before and really didn't want another double digit day.

Stopped to tie my shoe. He said my hamstrings look good. 

The start of the trail is very nice. There are some sections that are runnable for me. As I was going up, I was thinking, this would be pretty crazy with the fast runners zipping down while you're trying to head up.

At almost 4 miles, I grew a little concerned how much further we had to go to get to the top. We had not even gotten to tree line yet. My knee was feeling good and I didn't want to screw it up again.

We ran into a couple who noticed my Zion 100 shirt. He had run it also and his wife had paced him. She is training for Leadville 100 as her first 100 and they were also doing a training run. We asked them how much further and they said only a mile. We were just about at tree line. 

Just out of treeline, I see the goal. I don't know if it was my warped sense of reality because just the day before I had climbed a 14er, but I got excited and thought "Oh that's all? Cake." 

Snow on Hope Pass

At the top of Hope Pass with Twin Lakes in the background

The back side of Hope Pass looking down to Winfield
I made it to the top of Hope Pass!
It took me 2:25 miles to get to the top of Hope Pass, about 4.75 miles. I wasn't the fastest, but I felt pretty good about this. Martin and I both wanted to run down. I told him to go ahead of me and to meet me at the bridge.

I focused on quicker turn over and shortening my stride. What a difference! I was not only faster, but I had no knee pain. Previously, I was over striding and breaking. All that downhill pressure went straight to my knee.

I was having a blast and passed the bridge where Martin and I were to meet. Good thing he passed it too! I ran into him hiking back up. We hiked back up and then found the bridge to finish the run.

I had the grand idea of doing an ice bath in the river. Um well, that lasted all of 3 seconds. That water was 20 degrees, I swear. Much colder than the American River!

The Leadville weekend was a perfect training run for Squamish 50. I feel a lot better about my knee and my ability to handle a 50 miler with 10,000 feet of climbing!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Massively Massive

Mt. Massive Summit - 14,421 feet
June 15, 2012
13 miles
My First 14er
In the endurance world lots of people decide to run their age in miles on their birthday. I decided to climb the second highest mountain in Colorado. And then follow that with a little run up Hope Pass the next day (that's another blog entry).

Starting at 7 a.m., we kinda made a few mistakes -- like not eating breakfast, bringing a few gels and bars for the entire journey and downing lots of coffee right before our ascent. Let's just say, I owe Martin a new pair of gloves...

My boy scout with the GPS and maps.

The first few miles went pretty smooth. Other than a little headache in the morning, I was feeling pretty good. The altitude was treating me ok below tree line (more on that later).

This was the only spot I ran going up Mt. Massive

Just coming out of tree line, about 11,800 feet.
South Massive is right ahead, but the summit is to the right and just off the photo. 

Things started to change at about 12,500 feet. Like a light bulb, the elevation hit me. Suddenly, I can't breathe. I'm huffing and puffing, feeling nauseous and dizzy. Martin had gone ahead and said he was going to go up South Massive and said he would meet me in the saddle and climb to the summit with me.
I caught up to another hiker. And we said hello and that was about all I could get out of my mouth. I was so focused, I didn't even introduce myself. Besides introducing myself would have taken entirely too much oxygen, of which I was sure there was not enough left for the two of us.
At this point, I had to play a game with myself -- 20 paces, you can stop and take a quick break to breathe. Then I would try to break my PR -- 40 paces, 50 paces, 75 paces. Never did make it to 100, but I got to 82 before I had to stop to breathe. About an hour later, I got to the saddle of Mt. Massive where Martin was waiting for me. He had returned some work phone calls, check and returned emails. I swear that man was a mountain goat in his previous life.

I'm the little blob in the back. 

Martin at the saddle just having gone up S. Massive waiting for me. 

The summit is just ahead. I had to take a break!
I may or may not have curled up against a rock earlier. 

 I think it was at this point I turned to him and said, "are you even feeling the altitude? Is it even hard for you to breathe?!?!" He said yes, but I think he was just trying to make me feel like less of a wussie.

These little buggers ate a hole in Martin's coat. 

There were a few nasty looking clouds and I got a little worried about making it to the summit in time. Turned out the storm was heading toward Leadville and we lucked out.

I made the summit in 4:51.

Martin took a video of me making my Summit!

We made it to the top!

Mt. Massive 14, 421 feet! There's my hiking buddy I met on the trail behind me in the photo.

We decided to take the back side of the mountain down. This is called the North Massive Trail. I quickly learned the back side of massive is not only steep, but it was all rocks. Lots of damn rocks. I was really hoping to pick up the pace on the descent, but I simply couldn't in this terrain.

Me cursing the rocks. 

The blue blob is me, probably still bitching about the rocks. 

Martin kept telling me to "find the staircase" as a way to keep down the path. "WHAT EFFING STAIRCASE?!?! It's just rocks. Rocks everywhere."

Here's Martin ahead of me thinking, "Is she still complaining about the rocks?!?!?"

And 8 hours and 30 minutes later, it was all over. I made it! I climbed a 14er. I'm not going to lie, it was not easy. The hardest part was after 12,500 for me. I got pretty dizzy and nauseous, despite not being able to move 20 paces without stopping for a breath. And then it was a complete thump to the ego when I couldn't run the back side down. I had been counting on running down the whole time as I was going up, thinking how nice the run down would be. Ha! I was having a hard time walking.
It was a perfect way to celebrate my 37th birthday! Life is short. Go out and live it. Put something on your to do list and make it happen. Material things fade, the euphoric feeling you get from doing something for the first time doesn't.
Do Epic Shit.

Friday, June 1, 2012

On the right track

I had my first PT appointment today. I'm very optimistic that he has me on the right track.

What we already knew
I don't have any biomechanic issues. I don't over promate. My gait is good.

What I learned
Dr. Bob told me that my right leg is stronger than my right. Yep. This visit definitely confirmed it. My PT had me do some stregth and flexibility and balance tests.

I have very strong quads. But my right quad is nearly 2x as strong as my left. Yes, 2x. I was able to complete 9 reps on my left leg before fatigue. On my right, 16.

My dreams of being on the Olympic national team for gymnastics are shattered. My hamstring flexibility is poor. In fact, embarassingly poor.

On my right leg, my flexibility was 45%. My left 25%. It should 10%.

I did well here. It's in pretty good shape.

Not in too bad shape, but my left one is weaker than my right.

I'm down .5 pounds. Wahoo! The constant hunger pains have decreased. I think whatever I'm doing is starting to work. I hope anyway. I guess it's too soon to really know. That .5 pounds could be water!

Back on the Bike
Tomorrow I'm going to try to ride for 2 hours. And then back to Yoga for 2x4s (AKA Slow Movement Yoga).

Until next time,