This was my first attempt at crewing solo, I won’t lie I have been stressing out about this more than I did about running my own race. What if I’m not fast enough? What if I can’t find the aid stations? What if I am too hard on Heather? What if I forget to make her eat? What if I make her eat too much? What if I am too fast? Actually scratch that last one, that is not something I have to worry about, but all the others have been playing on my mind and these were just a small sampling. So just getting to the start line and seeing Heather take off was a good start.
Things quickly went south when I left the start line and headed to the first aid station and promptly got lost – oh crap 20 mins into crewing and I already suck and to make matters worse I could tell at least one other crew had followed me, obviously mistaking my quick departure for confidence. Great I am lost and have probably pissed off someone I am going to have to see for the next day and a half, good going Dan!!
After nearly an hour of expletives and multiple u-turns and I finally made it to aid station 1. I still had a bit of time to kill before Heather was due in and as I didn’t want to face anyone who had got lost following me I decided to head into the trails and let the smoke settle. I was instantly jealous of Heather these were some of the most beautiful trails I have ever seen. Eventually I decided to slop off back to the aid area and blend into the background and not be identified as the moron who got everyone lost. Not to be, the second I showed my face I heard “oh you got here, I followed you”, oh dear oh dear, fortunately it was followed by a laugh, Huegette did seem to mind and even found my navigational incompetence funny. We spent the next 40 or so mins chatting and I learned that she was crewing for her husband Dan “the legend” Brenden, very cool hearing her stories of their travels, though I have to say I think I need to find a way to claim that moniker for my own.
The runners came through in quick succession and as Heather arrived and started asking for things that I had left in the car I realized that I had gotten a little distracted by my chatting with all the other crews, who I have to add managed to chat and have everything their runner needed. Fortunately Heather’s demands were simple ones, one quick sprint to the car and we got her back underway. To be fair to me she was 20 mins ahead of plan and I really was planning on being set-up by the time she was due in. At least I had managed to make her gel flask, which was no small feat as I had practically managed to freeze the gel. Oh well I was going to get more practice as the race wore on.
Now a good deal of crewing is hurry up and wait. Especially this next leg as I was skipping the next aid station, the Race Director had said that it might be cutting it fine to beat our runners there, and given my abject lack of navigation skills I thought it best to heed his advice and meet Heather at aid station 3. This gave me a good few hours to kill so I retreated to the nearest saloon which I was able to find with ease based on the multiple times I had already driven by it in my state of u-turn limbo. Now I have no idea what the place is called but it was certainly an interesting experience. To say I stood out like a sore thumb would be an understatement first of all I was significantly reducing the average age of the place, secondly I wasn’t drinking (more due to the later pacer duties rather than the crew duties) oh yeah and I was the only one not to arrive on an ATV. Kind of odd but the majority of patrons primary mode of transport was ATV, had to wonder if there were different drink driving rules for these. I had attempted to order the healthiest item on the menu, the grilled chicken sandwich, what I didn’t count on was the bun being fried, oh well.
Aid station 3 was found with masterful ease due purely to how well it was signed. I was ready here, small talk could wait I was getting all the gear I could possibly need from the car before any of those shenanigans. And I waited and waited, some of the other crews were starting to worry about their runners, people seemed to have slipped behind pace already, then we heard a few groups of runners had gone off course. I knew this was one of Heather’s biggest fears, ranking somewhere between being eaten by a mountain lion and trampled by an elk. A few minutes later a small pack of runners came through, one asked if Heather had already come through, when I said no she said that she must be in the pack of runners that got lost. My heart sank, I know Heather is mentally and physically tough, but I wasn’t sure how much this was going to eat in to her psyche. Not long after Heather popped out of the woods, a little annoyed at her detour but overall still pretty chipper. After I sent her off for the next section I realized that she had come through that aid station a little behind her race plan, and that it may potentially get dark on next leg if she had any issues. Did her crew chief send her off with a head torch? Of course not, strike 2. I considered chasing after her but thought this might be considered cheating, instead I spent the next few hours worrying.
Heather did make into the next aid station with about 20 mins to spare before darkness descended. At this aid station I earned a few brownie points back after insisting that Heather change into a long sleeve shirt despite her protests, all the locals had done it so I told she had to, turns out I was right.
The plan was for me now to head back to the hotel and grab a few zzzz’s before coming back to the same aid station at the 50 mile point However the dirt roads were sketchy and slow and I didn’t fancy my night time navigation skills to be better than my daytime ones. Solution sleep in the car, problem it gets cold, solution heated seats. After a few fitful hours of sleep I changed in the car and got ready to pace. My final crew duty for the night was to fix up Heather’s feet, cleaning, popping blisters, applying blister guard followed by a talcing, and fresh socks, home run!
Now let’s get pacing.