Monday, April 7, 2014

A race and then some.

Check this out!  A timely blogging! Don't get used to it though, I'm sure it's just a fluke.

So a few weeks ago, I conquered half marathon #38, the Riverton Half. It was so great this year! From start to finish, it was a wonderful experience. The race day packet pick-up saved me hours of drive time and was quick and easy. The race started on time and the new course was a huge improvement from what it was in 2012 when I last ran this race. I love getting to run on the Jordan River Parkway Trail, and they kept the majority of the race on it this time. The weather couldn't have been better either. The conditions made for a really strong race for me. I finished with a time I haven't seen since last summer. And I was able to come home and run one more mile, since I had 14 on the schedule for that day.

So after I had this really great race, I then proceeded to spend the next full week, and part of the week following, being incredibly sick. Some foul bug had been making the rounds in my house and it finally caught up to me. It ruined two weeks of training and left me feeling completely wrecked. I thought I would be back to 100% in time for my pacing duties at the Umstead 100 this weekend. Turns out I was very wrong about that.

It was the perfect storm of lack of proper sleep, dehydration, being on my feet too long that morning, and not really running for the two weeks prior that brought me down on my pacing lap. I ended up having to have Rachel leave me behind because I couldn't keep up with the pace she needed to maintain. It's a good thing we had doubled up on pacing duty so Amy could stay with her and finish out that lap.

But let's not dwell on the few hours of failure that I had during this weekend. Let's focus on all the good stuff that went on instead!

100 miles?! All at once?!
I got into Raleigh early enough to help Rachel finish up her pre-race preparations, getting all the gear together, organizing the crash cart, getting detailed instructions on how to charge the Garmin while running, what nutrition we should force on her when she didn't feel like eating, getting the drop bag ready, and finding somewhere to put the cases of Nutter Butter's she had bought for the event.

I've never seen so many Nutter Butter's in one person's possession before...
We had shirts that said "Rachel's Crew" on the front and within a few hours of hanging around the race course the night before, Rachel was a celebrity of sorts. People would spy our red shirts and hoot and holler for us and for her. Apparently, a crew of the size she had assembled is rarely seen.

Only about half of us are in this picture.

We had plenty of time to get our aid station set up and all ready for the long days ahead. People mocked her for staking out her place on the course Thursday night, but by the time they'd done a few loops on Saturday, they realized the brilliance of that strategic placement. We were very close to the turn around point, which meant that Rachel got to pass us twice in a short period of time. She could pass by, tell us what she needed, and we'd have it ready to go by the time she got back around to us. The system worked beautifully. We also made sure to have someone meet her about a half mile from the station to find out vital things like did she pee? What did she eat? How much did she drink? What does she need? These questions are basic, but extremely important to ask. We had to know how much she had taken in, how much was coming out, and also keeping an eye on her electrolyte intake. These things are what will make or break you in an ultra.

And they made her. She was smart. She stuck to her plan. She didn't get caught up in the excitement of the first few loops and go out too fast. She nailed her paces, kept her heart rate in check, and smiled her face off for basically the entire 100 miles. I've never seen anything like it.

100 miles? Sure, that's easy!
It was such a great experience to be a part of something like this. It was a weekend that I'll never forget . I loved the chance to get to help out all of the runners by being on kitchen duty in the morning, then manning our aid station, helping out not just our runner, but anyone in need. And to be able to be out there on a loop with Rachel, seeing how strong she was even after logging over 50 miles, it was truly inspiring. There were so many amazing people there, giving every thing they had to keep going. I get all goose pimply thinking about what was accomplished out there in the woods of North Carolina. An epic number of people came out to help Rachel obtain her goal, and I made many new friends because of it.

This isn't even her whole crew! She had supporters from all over the U.S. that came to help.
I could go on and on about how much it meant to me to be a part of this huge event, but I won't babble anymore than I already have. If you really want to know what it's like, go hang out and volunteer for an event and experience it first hand. You won't be sorry. And until then, happy running!

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