In the ultra community, there are the friends and families who follow their runners around on long races, commonly referred to as handlers, or “crew”. And the acronym of crew, is
And you know what? It’s true.
Actually, it’s not that true. My runner wasn’t so cranky.
But back to the beginning of the tale. I’m going to just go over my life as “crew” here in this post. There will be another post about what I observed at the Mohican 100 Trail Race a little later.
I was well stocked for my 24 hours of following my friend around all weekend. In addition to me, his two friends, Luke and Heather, and his 14 year old daughter, Amanda, compromised of the rest of John’s crew. I found it helpful to have the four of us to help out John.
11 miles into the race is the first place crew is allowed. Runners aren’t expected until 0700. I get there, and the place is PACKED with cars! Whoa, I’m not used to be hanging with the front of the pack. I get of my vehicle, and am startled to see Dan Rose already running through. He’s running with the 50 mile people! I barely get a “hi Dan” out before he’s gone!
My runner is # 3 of the 100 milers here. Ooops. This is way too fast. But he’s happy and running. We get him some fresh food, swap out his water bottles and send him on his way. With all these cars, we head out early to our next handler location.
This location is right on State Route 3, a very busy state route. I am getting a bit stressed watching folks lingering far too close to the edge of the highway. Semis are going by.I just don’t want anyone to get squashed!
John comes through here, still in good spirits, well on his 22 hour pace. In fact, I think a little too fast still. It’s not a long stop for him, and he goes off for what I know are some good long hills on roads.
Our next stop is Mohican Wilderness, which was the old start and finish of the race. I kill some time here waiting for John by helping set up the aid station and working at the Aid Station.
John spends a little time here, chatting at the AS, while we wait for him at the cars. He’s still moving well and complaining about the hills.
We have a bit better idea of how John is moving now, and I spend a little more time working at the AS before moving onto our next handler spot. Which is back to our location on State Route 3.
We get settled in the shade, and I set up my chair so I can see runners coming toward me. Us crew is now reading books and magazines. I try and get up each time a runner comes through to tell them they are almost off the asphalt, just a turn onto the dirt roads 1/8 of a mile away.
With Mohican being such my local race, I know many many of the racers coming through. I am really enjoying being able to give a shout out to everyone going by, because I know how much it makes me feel to get a ‘good going’ from a friend at a race.
John is overdue, and as he turns onto the state route, I can see he’s in meltdown. It’s a total 100% change from before. I go down to greet him and know we’ve got a situation on our hands.
We get our runner seated, and let him sit for a bit. We get some cheese pizza and sweet tea (I swear by this, this is ultra runner nectar). We get his girlfriend on the phone (miraculously, this is an area of cell phone reception). Still, he’s not real enthused about going on.
So I go and change into my road shoes, and a running bra. I’m already in running clothes. I tell him to come on, I’m going for a training run, and he can run with me down to Rock Point. I don’t really give him an option here. He gets up and we start down the road. He realizes he forgot his bib, when changing shorts, and I run back to get it.
When I turn off onto the dirt township road, John is out of site! My gosh, did he get a second wind or what? I take off into a run. I caution a runner that I am passing that I’m not in the race, that I’m a fresh runner. (There’s nothing more demoralizing than a runner whizzing by you at mile 40 in a race.) I catch John on the uphill, and we chat and carry on down some country roads. I believe I told John 3 miles to the AS, but it’s closer. We approach the AS, and I turn around. John’s feeling much now, and looking forward to get back on the trails. He’s also mentioned having some more pizza next time he sees us.
Our next spot to see John is the Fire Tower Aid Station. I get here and get to hang out with a bunch of friends. I also made a stop back to town and picked up pizzas. My timing was impeccable. I was back maybe 10 minutes with the pizza when John came through.
His pace has slowed down. The hot horrible weather is taking its toll. The weather this year is awful. It’s around 90 degrees and very humid. My short run I took was horrible. I was soaked through my shirt in the mile that I ran. There’s no way these runners can keep up with their hydration and nutrition. Still, John’s going on. He keeps talking about being in the “hurt locker” but we give him a 20 minute stay and then make him go on to the Covered Bridge AS.
We have about 2.5 hours until we expect him at the Start/Finish line, which is mile 65 for the 100 milers. I hang out at the Fire Tower AS. The weather is taking its toll on the runners. Many ‘faster’ runners that I know are well off their pace. But everyone I see at Fire Tower continues on.
I leave the Fire Tower so I can get over to the Start/Finish at Mohican Adventures so I can have a shower. There’s a line at the showers, so I can this idea for now.I’m expecting John around 8pm.
50 milers are still finishing up and it’s exciting to see folks finish. I managed to see Cindy and Bob, close behind finish!! I also start to get caught up on race gossip. Who’s dropped. Who hasn’t. It’s easier to figure who is still in the race. Not that many.
John’s over due. I start toying with the idea that I may need to pace John. I don’t think I can pace him for 30 plus miles. My blisters have healed from Laurel Highlands, but frankly, John’s a faster runner than me. He outran me when we ran our little mile together. I was fresh, he was 40 miles into a race. I go and get my gear together. No trail shoes. No inhaler. No hydration pack. But I do have running clothes, and a hand held bottle. I figure I could manage with a hand held if I have to.
Everyone is over due at mile 65. Pacers are milling around, restless. Experienced pacers, like my friend Ron Dukes, is sitting still in a chair , conserving his energy waiting for his runner, Chris Gellen. I try to follow Ron’s example and sit, and keep hydrating. (I’m glad I only drank a few beers through out the day now!!)
We’re all still waiting and waiting. Luke now changes into running shoes. But Luke has a bum ankle, and is really not supposed to be running. We don’t talk about it.
John finally arrives. He says he is done. I say he isn’t. We get over to the RD, who’s taking numbers.John says he is quitting. I tell Ryan to ignore him, we’re going to get some food.
So begins about one hour of me trying to cajole John back onto the trail. I do understand that he’s hurting, he’s stopped sweating, he can’t run any more. But John still has plenty of time to rest up and get back out there. I know how he will feel on Sunday and Monday after a quit.
It’s my JOB, dagummit, of what he wanted me to do for him, is keep him moving forward. I get him turkey and cheese sandwiches. He drinks sweet tea.I get his girl friend on the phone.
To no available. The girlfriend is giving him permission to quit. Now his other friends are siding with John. He’s not sweating. He can’t run. I scold and swear, and bitch some more. John’s being more stubborn than me.
I guess I quit about one hour after John did. I took his race number, and reported him in as drop.
I think John did very well out there. It’s been several years since his last 100 miler. I think maybe the memory of the pain and suffering he had forgotten. But he did very well out there in the horrible heat and humidity. John’s a very good runner. It kind of gave me validation to hear him say “these are some tough trails” as these trails are our training ground here! Maybe I’m tougher than I think!
Kudos to all who ran Mohican this weekend, finisher or not. These are some tough trails, in good weather. And in poor running conditions these weekend, good for you for going as far as you could!