Or possibly this could be because I am a runner, an organizational freak and an ultra-running fangirl.
Whichever the case may be, when Jared got into Western States, via the last Golden Ticket at Lake Sonoma (thanks Sage and Dakota for passing down the love!), the following week I had an Excel spreadsheet started.
All Jared had to do was write in what he wanted at each Aid Station (“AS”) – ice, change of socks/shoes, gels, food, approximate arrival times etc. and we a had plan. Easy, right? Four days before the race he started to think about filling it out. Sigh.
Chris, Jared and I flew into Reno, NV on June 21st, 3 days before the race. Squaw Valley Lodge, in the Olympic Village, would now be our home for the next few days. We could walk outside of our hotel and almost step on the WS100 start line. There was a gentle buzz throughout the village as you saw all the big names walking around, dining next to you and running around the neighboring areas.
The biggest name runner we saw wasn't until Friday; Jim Walmsley made his appearance with an entourage wearing "Stop Jim" shirts and cameramen who were filming his every step. The buzzing halted when Jim appeared, all eyes closely watching and ears closely listening. Jim's claim that he was going to not only break the course record; but, also, go sub 14 hours made for a great story that everyone wanted in on.
*Side note: Timmy Olson holds the current course record with a time of 14:46 and I really like the fact that it is Timmy who holds the WS100 record.
The Crew Meeting: All crew members/pacers met and listened to Tropical John Medinger and Lon Monroe go over what our race day would look like. They gave us tips about where we could stop throughout the day to replenish ice/gas/food and the best spots to meet up with our runner. This was very beneficial because we were attending two AS's that they strongly advised against and we had to reconstruct our plan. We also learned that the race was supplying roughly 60 pounds of ice per runner! With a total of 369 runners, that is a LOT of ice! The race ratio of volunteers to runner is 5:1. This race caters to its runners.
Friday morning was runner check in. Jared had to answer a few questions like: Is this your first 100, what socks are you wearing, what shoes you are wearing, are you staying in Squaw/Auburn, etc. He then had his picture taken with his number and began collecting all of his swag. NIkki Kimball put his wrist band on!
During this time a 6k Challenge was available to anyone who wanted to run it for free. It challenged everyone to run up the first 4.5 miles of the race, the escarpment. After talking to Peter Maksimow (support the ATRA), the race was actually cut down to 2.5 miles since the conditions from the snow made way for a waterfall down one section of the course. I missed the race in order to be with Jared while he checked in and Peter's news made me feel better.
Up next was the mandatory meeting for all the runners.
In the afternoon Chris and I hit up the grocery store and bought the missing essentials for Jared, and nourishment we would need throughout the long hours on race day and then picked up Zach at the airport. Zach's "celeb" status helped when we told him our woes about TSA taking our race day gels. He was able to get some GU supplies and we were back in business! We went over Jared's plan while driving back to the hotel.
At the hotel I helped lay out Jared's race day attire and gear. I double checked everything because Jared's nerves were high. (I can hear Zach saying – you lost the safety pins!)
Race Day Start – Yay, race day! The best day ever! I will get you to the track in Auburn!
I got to sleep around 11:00 p.m. and the race start was 5:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. My morning began at 2:00 a.m. because Jared couldn't sleep. So we talked a little and then began getting him ready for the day. Jared left to grab some breakfast and get his bib while I began to get a head start on packing up the car.
Slowly Zach and Chris woke up and began getting ready too. As we finally exited the hotel with 14 minutes until the start it felt like we were walking to our execution. Jared was very quiet.
When we got to the start line I wanted to have a before picture of all of us, Chris joked that it wouldn't be hard to get someone to take our picture having Zach with us. He was right. We asked Billy Yang (check out his videos!) to take our picture and several other people took pictures of us getting our picture taken-LOL. I kissed Jared and reminded him to only push to the finish if he was healthy to do so and not do anything he didn't want to do. He didn't have to finish if it was under unsafe circumstances. He replied, "I have to finish" – sigh. I gave Chris and Zach the once over about pushing him too much. I think this was mainly for Zach's sake-haha.
Chris filmed the start and I ran up the escarpment to film the runners heading up. The first runner to appear was Jim Walmsley. I got a wave from Kaci and that made me smile. Earlier, I told Jared to run with her because I could watch her race all day. Our friend Jason Mintz was running as well and he came by all smiles.
Now it was business, Zach, Chris and I loaded our cart of supplies into the car. Our plan was to crew at Robinson Flat (mile 30.3), Michigan Bluff (Mile 55.7), Rucky Chucky (far side)/ Green Gate 78/79.8), Pointed Rock (Mile 94.3) and Robie Point (Mile 98.9). We had a 2.5 hour drive to the first Aid Station.
Robinson Flat – Mile 30.3 – OMG, OMG where is he?! How exciting!
- Backpack 1: Two 1 gallon water jugs – 1 of water and 1 of Roctane mix, pretzels, gummies, bananas, banana chips, gels, waffles, a marathon stick, foot roller and go pro.
- Backpack 2 – shorts, shoes, socks, shirts, bandanas, a medical bag (KT tape, scissors, Biofreeze, anti-chafe, Tiger Balm, Band-Aids, medical tape, ankle brace, knee brace, Amica Gel, Neosporin and sunscreen).
- Backpack 3/Cooler – we kept the ice bag in this.
- 2 fold up chairs
- In the car was a huge cooler with our food, clothes, extra gallons of water, ice, GU Roctane, gels, waffles, etc.
At last, we were on the shuttle. We walked around trying to find the perfect spot to watch the runners go by and where Jared could see us best. We found a spot across from Walmsley's crew, with Jeff Browning, Jesse Lang and Stephanie Howe's crews surrounding us. I didn't know it at the time that Jeff's crew was whom I was talking to but they were very impressed at the time we were expecting Jared to arrive and very outgoing. Thank goodness because we had no cell reception and it was nice to have some conversation.
Waiting for your runner to arrive under the 100+ degree sun was pretty uncomfortable. I couldn’t fathom running in that heat. Everyone saw us with Zach and wanted to know more about more about whom he was crewing/pacing. I thought it was nice Jared was getting some recognition in a roundabout way. I learned pretty quickly that you needed to lay out all your runner’s items on something in order to save your spot at the AS and make it easy for them to grab. The AS would announce the runners as they came in so you could call out and notify your runner where you were located.
The first runner in the AS was Jim Walmsley. He came in 35 minutes ahead of second place, Ryan Sandes. EVERYONE became silent and ran over to video him. More runners followed after 35 minutes and the hustle and bustle of the crews would lower and all attention was on the runners entering. Crews would strain their ears to listen how each runner felt.
So far I noted that Jim Walmsley, Jeff Browning and Alex Nichols sat down to change their socks, so I laid out a pair for Jared.
Let me preface this with that no matter how much I crew, I always shake and am chaotic.
Jared arrived in 22nd place in good spirits. I told him to change his socks and he listened. I realized I left his chair in the car, thinking he wouldn't need to sit this early. All the other runners sat to change their socks but Jared had to stand on gravel as Zach and I held him steady. He said, "That first 30 was really hard." We took his bottles and filled them both with GU Roctane, spread Biofreeze on his quads, sprayed him with sunscreen, gave him sour patch gummies, put ice in his hat/neck Buff/Buff arm sleeves and Nathan Vapor Hydration pack. Jared asked how far to the next AS and I knew the answers for the AS's we would be but not the ones he would hit on his own.
Things I immediately learned: Bring a chair no matter what (even just for me to sit on – or else you are standing there for hours). Know the mileage to every AS, not just the ones you are crewing at. Remind Jared of everything he may need, he ran off without his gel he wanted. It was clearly noted that these runners are just there to run, not to know what they need to eat or drink next or what mileage is ahead of them. They would listen to whatever it was you told them to do. Everything was in your hands. You solely could mess up their race. Wow, that is a lot of responsibility!
Stephanie Howe entered the AS and was visibly distressed. Gasping and talking about the heat. Kaci Lickteig came in and looked unlike her chipper self – more like exhausted. Then we heard that Camille Herron dropped out already. Geez, how bad were the trail conditions for the first 30 miles, I guess Jared was right!
We packed up our gear and headed back to the shuttles and re-packed the car.
We overshot the road and turned around. Again I found myself driving down some questionable road, hopping on a shuttle and entering the AS. After learning a few things from the last AS I brought our fold up chairs and laid out a large bandana with all the things Jared would need. We had a LONG wait ahead of us. I had a migraine and was swallowing vomit for the last 30 minutes. I do NOT do well in the heat. How were they running in this? This was the AS where the runners would be just exiting the canyons via climbing out of El Dorado and into Michigan Bluff.
The temperature at the AS read 100, so the canyons had to be at least 110 real feel. This AS had food we could purchase and that was welcoming. We were all hungry for real food at this point.
They announced Jared (still in 22nd place) and I ran to meet him at the corner. I told him to give Chris his bottles, go through the AS and stop at the sponge/water area. He did just that. I led him to where we were set up. He refused to sit (of course, when I bring the chair). I put Biofreeze and sunscreen on him, ice in his arm sleeves/hat/hydration pack and he was off. I thought he was in high spirits and seemed like he was ready to rally. I learned later that he thought this might be the end of his race. He was in unknown territory – over 52 miles, his furthest to date.
We walked to the corner for the shuttle. Who knew this would be the corner of disappoint. Kaci came walking by with her coach Jason Koop and Magda Boulet. She was crying, dry heaving and exclaiming she didn’t know if she could go on. Magda put her arm around her and walked down the trail with her encouraging her. Your heart broke and you really felt the friendship between them – Magda willing to put her race on hold to care for Kaci.
Next up was Michael Wardian; he was slowly approaching us with a very stern look. He was clearly hot, exhausted and digging deep. YiOu Wang’s mother (?) went over and put her arm around him and gave him some kind words. You don’t just crew or cheer for your own runner, you are there to help everyone get through. This becomes true for our own crew just momentarily.'
Note: We saw the worst rolled ankle that ever took place on this earth and the runner was running on it since mile 7. WTF?! Kyle Pietari you are crazy!
The shuttle never arrived and we heard that the driver was on break. So we lugged all our gear, in the 100 degree temperature, up the hill to our car. This gave me even more appreciation for the runners- because I was HOT and I was pissed! Buff, USA Marketing Specialist, Casey Rolig, was there taking photos of Buff Athletes (this includes Jared) and helped us to the car and offered us some ice since we were running low.
This was the busiest AS by far. AND WE HAD RECEPTION! We found a spot under a tree, set up the chair, Jared's items and checked in with the outside world. It felt like it was only a moment before Jared was announced. We also forgot we were supposed to run down to Bath Road and run Jared in…oops. At least we made it there! I led him to our area and he sat down. Casey (Buff, USA) and a few other people took pictures of Jared getting aid. I took off his shoes and socks and dried his feet. I cooled him down with water, put anti-chafe on his feet, slipped on new socks, put on his shoes, applied Biofreeze and sunscreen, and put ice in his sleeves/hat/hydration pack. Jared ate a banana that Zach insisted upon and started off with his first pacer, Chris Raulli. He was in 18th place and ready to pick off some more runners. Or so I thought.
Zach and I drove to Green Gate/ Rucky Chucky (far side) to meet Jared and Chris. Zach would pace from there.
The directions were horrible. That is all have to say about that. Zach took us around the windy road, smashing all the coke cans from side to side. We were worried we were going to be late and possibly that we were lost. We finally parked our car, saw the exploding coke cans, packed the cooler backpack and Zach fueled up a bit for our hike down to Green Gate. The directions stated it was a 1.7 mile walk – to this, I call BS.
So, a little background, I have messed up hamstring, healing stress reaction in my sit bone and fibromas in my heel that are causing havoc. But when Zach Miller is going to run with you, you run. I instantly found myself praying to God to just let me be able to run a lousy 1.7 (lies) miles with him. It was 100+, had a cooler on my back and a sore everything but I tried to run down the trail. Zach, like Jared, decided he wanted to talk about everything while running. I was just trying to breathe without him hearing it. It was hot. It was SO HOT. My feet were killing me and the bag was heavy. I also thought my sit bone was going to break *insert another prayer. I finally had to call it and tell Zach I needed to walk – hangs head. I might have to go with Jared to visit Zach at Pike's Peak to redeem myself.
I got to Green Gate and Zach went down to Rucky Chucky (another 1.5 down the trail). I was sweating for a good 30 minutes after I stopped moving. I was actually going to beg the AS to give me ice until I saw the leader of this AS and I could tell she meant business. I was certain I was going to faint or vomit. I began to be concerned about hiking back to the car and meeting Jared in time at Pointed Rock. Jeff Browning’s crewmember went over some tips regarding getting to the next few AS’s. He was so nice and helpful to me. I paid it forward and gave Chris Mocko's crew a headlamp (News was that he was down on the course with a messed up ankle). Also, the hot news was that Jim was not moving -he was vomiting from Forest Hill to Rucky Chucky and he was officially dropping the race.
A really nice girl who was the only person at the AS who had reception and she was AT&T (wtf) gave me an update as to where Jared was. He was back in 22nd place. Damn. I waited, I waited a LONG time. I waited some more. I made friends with Zach Szablewski's wife ( I think) and we talked about how it was funny that Zach S. and Jared were going back and forth like they did at Lake Sonoma (Zach S. and Jared both nabbed the Golden Tickets there. Zach S. one place ahead of Jared). Zach S. entered the AS in 17th place…one place ahead of Jared. Jared was secure in his 18th place again. Chris and Zach M. were running him in. Chris was immediately in my ear that YiOU (leading female) was down on the trail and it was bad but Jared was ok. Wait, why tell me he is ok…if he is really ok? That is when I looked at Jared and saw him visibly shaking while Zach told him what to eat at the AS. I tried to talk to him and he didn't respond, Zach said it was fine, he had to keep moving. He wiped down Jared's legs with cool water and exited the AS. I went to kiss Jared and he missed my lips – more worry. I yelled out to Zach to take care of him and he said he would.
Chris and I trucked the 1.7 (lies) miles to the car. Chris concurred that it was way more than 1.7 mile and we think they had Gordy measure the course while he was stoned. After what seemed like hours we got to the car and made our way to the next AS.
At this point I didn’t care what anyone needed. I packed a jug of GU Roctane for Zach and Jared and some pretzels for myself. Chris and I hiked 24 miles (Gordy indicated ¾ mile) in the dark on the trail already 20.5 hours into crewing and we laid down on hay with the jug of Roctane as my pillow and waited. I later realized that the hay had field mice sleeping in it.
The announcer announced the runners. I went from worrying that Jared hadn't arrived yet to cursing him for not being fast enough. I wanted to scream! We were exhausted. We finally had reception and we didn't even have the mental facilities to use it. Imagine how your runner was feeling? – NO, I was exhausted. I heard other crews laugh when I said how our personal AS got smaller and smaller each AS. Now he can eat pretzels and like them or go hungry. LOL.
Out of the silent dark night the "High School Homeroom-like" speakerphone announced "Bib Number 40, Jared Burdick". A few minutes later we saw headlamps through the trees and soon Zach and Jared came through the AS. Zach was clearly directing Jared on what to do with everything. "Jared take this, have another banana, drink this, come this way." Zach was eating everything in sight too. After 17 hours with Zach eating we had to laugh that his eating continued at the AS 's too. They didn't want anything we brought with…I guess pretzels didn't sound good. So I said, "You did it! You made it! See you at the finish."
Chris and I began our trek in the dark in the pitch black night.
We parked at Placer High School Track, set down our bag filled with warmer clothes for Jared and ourselves and walked to Robie Point. The street was dark and we were following backwards the foot prints painted on the street that marked the WS100 course to the track. We sat down on the curb waiting to see headlamp lights against the car hugging the corner. We could hear cheers in the distance. Someone just left the last AS. Soon we saw Sabrina come by, the third female finisher. More cheering. It felt like a very long time, so when two walkers came by I asked if they saw runners. They informed me that the climb up Robie Point was steep, especially after 98 miles. Finally headlamp lights peaked out of the distance and I could hear Zach, "Come on Jared, you are looking good Jared, you are almost there Jared, just a little further Jared." Zach appeared a few steps ahead of Jared but constantly turning his head to watch him. (Later, when questioning Zach about his filthy shirt, Zach said he found every rock and root on the trail for Jared. Lol. He was turning to watch him so much. Good friend). We started to run with them in the darkness. Jared was very focused, never cracking a smile. He seemed like he still wasn't sure he could reach the finish.
The Track – 100.2 – The most amazing thing ever. Let’s do it again!
We reached the track and Chris ran across the field to film the finish. Zach and I ran next to Jared. Zach asked him if he wanted us to finish with him. I said I shouldn't because I didn't do anything but Zach said I should run with him and Jared agreed. We ran around the track and crossed the finish line at 20 hours 23 minutes. Immediately 2 chairs were put out for us in front of a line of cameramen, we were congratulated and then two more chairs came out for Chris and Zach. We each got a water bottle and had our photos taken. The cameraman told us Jared was 18th (we learned later he was 19th).
Zach and Chris ran to get some food at one of the stations on the field and I had Jared change into a dry shirt.
We drove 1.5 hours to our hotel, went to bed at 3:30 a.m. and woke at 6:00 a.m. for no reason. We drove all the way back to Placer HS Track for breakfast and awards. Seeing all the people so proud, sharing their stories, thanking others for their help it was really wonderful. I love the trail running community.
Jared has already stated he wants to go back. I agreed as long as I have a driver and someone to carry the bags!
The video is sideways, I honestly don't care. LOL.