Well that was quite a week! I think I’m almost recovered from the weekend. As you read in Cilantro’s race report, I was captain of her crew, which I didn’t completely realize until a few days before the race. One thing I learned about Cilantro this weekend is that she doesn’t like to ask for help. I knew she was coming to race, but I was waiting for her to tell me what to do. When it was a few days ahead of the race and I hadn’t received a directive, I took matters into my own hands and quickly, with much help from 100-mile vet Coriander, amassed a tiny army to assist Cilantro in her quest. Cilantro didn’t think she needed much help beyond a pacer or two, but witnessing my friend Meghan and then Clove tackle the Burning River 100, I knew she would probably need more support than that!
[This just in! Clove finished Badwater in 4th place! FOURTH PLACE! YES!]
In the meantime, I was scheduled to run a leg of an 8-woman relay at the race and lucky for me I signed up for the first leg which would give me plenty of time to crew for most of the day while Cilantro plugged along on the “easy” part of the course.
This is actually really cool. My local chapter of Moms Run This Town organized 5 relay teams for the Burning River 100, four 8-person teams and one 4-person team. Together we raised over $7,000 for the Cleveland Metroparks Trail Fund. I don’t normally run for charity, but I’ve been running on those trails since I was a kid and it just made sense to contribute! Salty Running was even a sponsor of the endeavor!
Anyway, I basically just did an average long run with my buddy Mina who was on another one of the MRTT teams and then high-tailed it out of there to get to the mile 2x-something aid station to see Cilantro. But I got there and I couldn’t find her drop bag and after stumbling around mystified I finally figured out it was because she had been there and was already gone! So I hustled to the next station. I arrived and saw she texted me about 10 minutes earlier that she was leaving that aid station! WHA?! She was WAY ahead of schedule!
I got in my car and hustled to the 50k station where I met up with Jasmine. We hung out for a little while and then sure enough we saw her, over an hour ahead of schedule. WOWZA! She looked fantastic and seemed super upbeat. PERFECT! I was slightly concerned that she was so far ahead of schedule but she assured me it was because the course was far less difficult than she anticipated to this point. Ok then! She was off and so were Jasmine and me.
We hit up the next mega-aid station which was helmed by none other than Pepper, herself! I got to help Mr. Pepper and Papa Pepper direct traffic for a little while before getting ready for Cilantro’s arrival to the station. She arrived right on schedule and we fixed her up and saw her off (I even learned how to fill a camelback!) The she went off on her second loop from this aid station (runners visit this one twice before heading off to the next one).
While she was out, I briefly relieved Pepper of runner spotting duties so she could relieve herself. I didn’t get a chance to talk to her much though, because she was one busy lady! After that, Saffron showed up with a gigantic coffee for me. Oh my! That was so nice on both the seeing Saffron front and the caffeine in my bloodstream front. Shortly after, Cilantro made appearance number 2 at Pepper’s aid station. She was still looking good 40+ miles into the race and Jasmine, Saffron and I felt good heading off to the next stop to see her.
The next aid station was not a crew-access point so we basically hunkered down in the woods waiting to give her a little cheer before her next major stop – the 53 mile mark where she would finally pick up some company in her pacer! She came through and looked great still! We knew this section was the first of the very hard trail sections, but we were hopeful she’d make it through and feel good on the other side. I reminded her not to worry about pace on this section and to take her time through the difficult terrain.
Saffron left and Jasmine and I hoofed it to the little-over-halfway point. This was the finish for the concurrent 50 mile race and was abuzz with excitement and activity. It was also hot as hell. It was late afternoon and the air was at its hottest. Jasmine insisted we abandon the spot with good visibility under a tree that seemed like shade to me, to find “deep shade” instead. What the hell is deep shade? Jasmine hates the sun and makes me laugh. (Shhh. I think she might be a vampire! Ha!)
We waited a long time here despite walking about a mile and stopping to chat with Saffron before she left on the way to this aid station. I started to worry. Maybe she wasn’t feeling as good as she let on. We were approaching her distance PR. Perhaps she would run out of steam, afterall? In the meantime, Cilantro’s pacer, Sean was planning to be at this point around 5:30, but now we were expecting Cilantro closer to 4:00 if not earlier. He was hurrying to get there, but as the clock struck 4:00 and he wasn’t there I got nervous and then I got more nervous because Cilantro wasn’t there either.
In the meantime, to the meantime, I was dicking around on Facebook and saw a post from my old friend Kevin on the Burning River page asking if anyone needed help at the race as the person he was supposed to pace DNF’d as he was driving to the aid station. I messaged him to see if he’d crew for Cilantro as Jasmine and I were fast approaching our expiration dates. He agreed and we scheduled a meet-up at the next aid station, at about mile 58.
Shortly after 4:00, my phone rang and it was Pacer Sean. “Where are you?” he asked. I was describing myself when I spotted a handsome young guy talking on the phone and searching the crowd. “I see you!” I said and I made my way over to him. Phew! Now two problems fixed! But what about Laura?! Where was she!?
About 10 minutes after Sean arrived, I spotted Laura coming through the tall grass. As she ascended the hill to the aid station I saw the tears. It had been a rough section. Her first of the day. Sean, Cilantro and I moved over to the shade to discuss how she was doing and what we thought needed to be done to finish this thing. She said she needed to eat more and we all encouraged her that things were changing. It’s ok to cry and rough patches are normal. But now she had a helper at her side for miles and miles. Things would turn around. She agreed and I told her she’d meet Kevin at the next aid station. I said a temporary goodbye to Cilantro and Sean and Jasmine and I headed back out. But first, we treated ourselves to ice cream. It felt kinda weird to be sitting in the shade eating ice cream and laughing while Cilantro was out their struggling, but at the same time, I had basically completely neglected my own needs for hours and the little recharge felt good!
We hit up the next aid station and sure enough there was Kevin. I swear, he was sent from above! He had run the race two years ago. He was knowledgeable about the race, the course, and what a runner in Cilantro’s shoes would need as far as nutrition, but also to hear to keep going. He turned out to be clutch and I am just so glad we found him!
After chatting with Kevin about Cilantro and making a plan, I felt like I could leave her and relax a bit. She and Sean showed up: it was clear that her quicker than expected pace for the first half was not going to be carried over into the second half. But it also didn’t seem like the quicker early pace did her in either. Everything seemed pretty good. So when she and Sean hit the trail, I hit the road.
I met my kids at an evening birthday pool party after shoveling food in my face on the 45:00 drive back to my neck of the woods. Then I put them to bed and completely crashed until my 5:00 alarm. Ouch! I almost hit snooze until I saw my texts. Cilantro had hit a very very very very rough patch at mile 80, but got back out there thanks to Sean, Ginger (who came to relieve Kevin), Kevin and an extra insightful volunteer. If she could get back out there, I could get my sorry ass out of bed.
So, I threw on clothes and left. I forgot coffee and food. But luckily I had Cilantro’s drop bags so I stole a powerbar and grabbed a giant burnt coffee from a gas station. I hit up the mile 90 aid station, sprayed myself with bug spray and suncreen and waited with Ginger, who filled me in on the overnight events. And then, there she and Sean were! They made it 10 miles beyond Cilantro’s pit of despair. She seemed tired but upbeat again and I felt so great seeing her go off with her new pacer, Ginger. I thanked Sean for being a hero and implored him to go to bed. He felt bad: “when you’re out there, you get attached,” he said. I assured him I’d keep him posted and send him photos of the finish. “Ok,” he said a little begrudgingly and a little relieved that he’d soon be reunited with his bed!
I began driving to the mile 95 station and I saw Jasmine getting in her long run along the course! She was almost done and was going to meet me at the station. When I got there I also saw Mr. Pepper waiting for Pepper who was pacing another friend. That crazy lady captained an aid station all day and then paced 47 miles all night! She amazes me! I saw them go through and then Jasmine arrived. She ran up to see how far up they were and came back to report there was still some time before they’d arrive. We were beginning to need to keep our eye on cut-off times. I started to worry a little, so I decided to run up myself to see where they were. I expected a mile or so, but saw them in a couple of minutes down the trail. Phew! Ok. She is going to do this!!!
They made it 20 minutes before the cut-off and quickly made it back out. Just 5 to go and I’d see them in 4, I told them. Jasmine and I drove to the finish. She set up to take photos and I ran out to the 99 mile mark. On the way, I saw the four 8-person MRTT relay teams finish! They had some rough spots over night, but they did it!
I ran out, probably to the 98.5ish mark when I saw them. The elation I felt! I knew she was going to do it! She had forty minutes to walk 1.5 miles to make the cut-off. She was so chatty and with it despite all she had been through and it just amazed me! And finally we saw the signs of a downtown which told us the finish was right around the corner. And then we saw the clock and Jasmine with the camera and the crowd at the finish line was cheering! It was amazing!
And then there was a lot of sitting around doing nothing for a long time! The end!
Mon: 6 easy miles on trails.
Tue: 45:00 solo kettlebell strength work and 45:00 elliptical.
Wed: 5 miles easy.
Thu: 6.5 miles rolling hills with the single stroller.
Fri: off (read: frantically cleaning in anticipation of Cilantro’s arrival!]
Sat: 14ish including 11.6 as part of the relay and running a mile or so back out to run in with the other 2 first-legs of the MRTT relays.
Sun: we’ll give me credit for 3 which would be running here and there in anticipation of Cilantro’s finish!
Total: 34.5 miles, 45:00 strength, 45:00 elliptical