Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Vermont 100 crew

Before I left for Finland, Amy Rusiecki, giggle #3 of Team Giggles, sent an innocuous email asking if I were busy the weekend of 7/21-22.  She was looking to fill out a crew to pace and crew her for the VT100.  Well, I'm not known for my ability to say no to things, so naturally I ended up signing on to Team Amy, a spirited bunch of speedy ladies from western MA.  I hadn't met any of them before, and three of the four of us had never crewed for an ultramarathon before, but thankfully, Amy has an OCD nature, and gave us lengthy and explicit instructions as to what we should do.  That really helped!  Apparently, it's abnormal to have a race binder telling your crew exactly what you want at every aid station, but for us, that thing was the bible.  Key points were: ice, lots of it, for sports bra and water bottles, and bodyglide, anywhere you may have *any* chafing. 

Team Amy! From left to right: Jess, Karin, Liz, Alex, with Amy in front.  I don't know how she got a beer in her hand so fast after finishing; I turned around and she'd found a campchair and a beer!  good thinking.

So we met up in western MA on Saturday morning, leaving the morning crewing up to Amy's husband Brian's crew, and found our way to the mile 47 aid station, Camp 10 Bear, by 10am or so.  Amy had provided us with some detailed pace charts, so we could know when to expect her depending on how fast she was running.  Unfortunately for her, she had just gotten back from a trip to Wales for the World Trail Championships, and the travel fatigue combined with a nagging hamstring injury led to a strain around mile 15.  She debated for about 25 miles whether she wanted to drop out, and ultimately decided not to, racing the rest of the race doped up on ibuprofen and never really opening her stride.  She was clearly disappointed with her placing during the race, but we did our best to pump her up and encourage her, and apparently other crews were commenting that Team Amy had a bit too much energy.  Well, I was on Team Amy, what do you expect...

One of the cool things about this race is that it is a 100mi horse race, too.  So we got to watch these beautiful Arabian horses float by.  The horses were clearly in good shape, but they were held at mandatory vet checks for mandatory periods of time, so there was a decent amount of back-and-forth between the runners and the horses. 

At the aid stations, we would meet Amy about 100m beforehand, and get some questions in, like when have you last peed, what do you need, can I feed you these salted potatoes, how do you feel, how about an energy gel?  We'd greet her with a water bottle filled with some sort of tasty concoction, and lots of ice, she'd drink that on the way in, and then she had to get weighed, because if you are more than some percent of your body weight up or down from the starting weight, they'll hold you there until you're either more hydrated or less bloated, depending on the problem.

Amy was a quick transitioner, generally in and out in under 2min, and her main tasks were switching out the empty water bottle for a full one (with ice), in a carrier thing that we'd packed with gels and chewy things and salt tabs and ibuprofen as needed ahead of time, put some more ice in her bra, maybe switch out her hat or visor, maybe change her shorts, maybe eat some fruit or potatoes or potato chips, and then on her way again.  We always had a couple extra pairs of shoes for her, too, in case the current pair got muddy or sandy or were giving her blisters. 

Karin and Jess at our runner buffet.  From left to right we have: wash cloth soaking in ice water (for rinsing face and neck and general cooling effect), a selection of bars, chews, and gels, salt tabs, coconut water (tastes good), ginger ale (if stomach is bothering her), pedialyte (if getting too dehydrated), advil (duh), toothbrush (sometimes that makes you feel fresher), and the new water bottles for Amy and her next pacer.  There are also some new clothes and body glide, and a buffet of water bottles to choose from for the run in to the aid station.

Some of the aid stations were a bit of a trek from the car.  Thankfully, we had time, since Amy usually had to run 6-10mi between the manned aid stations, and we only had to drive a little bit.  By mile 70, she was allowed to have pacers (the first 70 miles of this race you had to run alone - imagine that.  we're talking like 12 hours or more, of just running, alone, with nothing to think about except how much your feet hurt or your belly hurts or your brain hurts... gah).  Liz took the first chunk, in the daylight.  Karin did the next chunk, starting in daylight, but finishing up in the dark.  I took the last chunk, 10.7mi, and it was full dark.  I broke my MagicShine headlamp, so just had a normal one, but even that was pretty bright, and at this point I was rarin' to run, so I kept pushing Amy to run a little faster, a little further up all the hills. We ended up passing a bunch of guys in the last 10 miles, there, putting Amy into the top 20 overall, and third woman.  She was closer than we thought to first, because 50 minutes over 100 miles is actually pretty darn close.

I don't think I want to do one of these anytime soon.  It doesn't look like a ton of fun, and this one in particular is all on dirt roads, with really limited amounts on trail.  Slogging through the last 80 miles of a race (because let's be serious, how much fun can any of these be after 20 miles?) looked like hell, but Amy is a special kind of crazy, our favorite kind. She was easy to crew for, which I expect is not something every crew can say.  It was kind of cool being on a crew for a race like that, because the real challenge isn't in putting one foot in front of the other (ok, maybe that plays a small part), but in the logistics and in keeping a happy belly.  No matter how you play it, you're going to run a caloric deficit over 100 miles - the question comes in as to how much you can replenish and absorb while on the run.  sheesh.  Sign me up for a 5k!

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