Monday, October 26, 2015

Ghost Train 2015 Crew Report

This weekend was the second time in the past two years that I've crewed a friend at a 100 mile race. My experience last year crewing with Ryan and Jamie at Vermont for John was awesome. It was hard and tiring and inspiring. I learned a lot, and mostly from my crew master extraordinaire husband. This year, I wouldn't have him there to be the lead crew, and this year, the experience was a bit more intense and personal. I love John, but crewing for your best friend is different. Amy has been through a lot in life, including her foot surgery only 14 months ago. I've trained with her, cried with her, laughed with her and knew how important this race was to her. I was so excited to be part of the adventure but I did not want to screw it up and I so wanted it all to come together for her this past weekend.

Amy never came out and told me she was planning to do the 100 until close to the race, but I knew. There was never a real doubt in my mind that she was intending to go the whole distance. Not that running 60 or 75 miles is bad, or lesser, in any way at all! But I knew she wanted that 100 mile finisher spike ;)

And so it was that Amy, Tammy and I set off for southern New Hampshire bright and early on Saturday morning, with Tammy at the wheel. Tammy would be the official race photographer for the day along with helping me crew Amy. David and his wife, Jes, would meet us there around 3:00 pm, so that Dave could pace Amy for the final miles of the race.

It was a cold and crisp morning, the sky yellow along the horizon as we sped across 101. We arrived at the race venue and parked. It took only minutes for me to run across George and Ann, who were also running. George was parked right along the main drag of the camp that the race runs through. I said something about the great spot they had gotten and asked if they had directed him to park there. He said, nah, I listen to the direction and then just do what I want :) HA!

There was a space right in front of them, so I quickly told Tammy to move the car down from the far reaches of the ball field. I am so glad that we did that as the spot afforded us prime viewing of the course, let us sleep right next to where the runners ran through, gave us good access to the bathrooms and aid station/turn around area, and worked out wonderfully the whole weekend. Prime spot indeed! 

TMR takes on Ghost Train

Only for Amy would I don cat ears ;)

A few minutes after 9:00 am, the runners took off from the start down by the covered bridge and ran down off along the camp road onto the old fire road in the woods. One of the interesting things about Ghost Train is that you don't have to commit to any certain mileage. It's an out and back of 7 1/2 miles and you can run any distance from 30 to 100 (or more!) miles and get a finish. You don't have to choose. You can tell them when you cross the timing line that you are done or you can keep going. I think it is a cool idea, but I am guessing the open-ended-ness of it all compels many to stop early. It also made it hard to know who was doing what along the way.

Pre-race hugs (Thanks for the photo, Tammy)

Ready to rock it

And they're off!

After the stream of runners disappeared into the woods, Tammy and I took a walk along the trail ourselves after walking down to the beach and taking in the view. The sun was out and the light was hitting these gorgeous red maple leaves on the hillside and it was just lovely.

Autumn vista

Pretty colors

Early morning

Start of the trail into the woods

Tammy photographing the scenery

We walked for about an hour before returning to the start to warm up in the car and catch up on things before the runners returned. While we could have driven out to the turn-around point at 7 1/2 miles, we chose to remain at the start/finish area, which really worked out well as it meant things were a bit less nutty in terms of timing, and allowing us to either relax, get some food or sleep/ take a nap in between seeing Amy, George and Ann, all of which are essential if you are going to be up all night and out in the cold. Plus, it allowed us to really see the race, run into people we knew, cheer on other runners, hang with other crew at the aid station, and watch it all unfold. It was really a cool way to crew and do race support.

Amy and George ended up running quite close to each for other most of the race, leap frogging back and forth as the miles went by. This was great for us as it was easy to keep track of them!

In at mile 15. 

12:05. Donuts and covered bridges. Headed back out for another 15.

Tammy and I took the time after Amy and George headed out for their second 15 to go grab some lunch at a nearby restaurant. Due to our location we were able to easily get out, and back in, with no issues. It was great fun to share the hours with Tammy, and later Dave and Jes. We had a really good time together and the time, conversation and even the late night passed easily with them all.

Mile 30 involved some foot work...

...and more donuts...

Apparently mile 18 was a rough one.

George being George :)

Having a bit too much fun for mile 30 (I love this photo!)

Amy headed back out after 30 at 3:45, 6 hours and 45 minutes in. She was still in good spirits, and running close to George. 

Ann came through a while later, all smiles. Of course :)

Jes and Dave arrived in time for us to all go out to dinner together before returning to the race site to wait for everyone at the 45 mile mark. 

Watching and waiting. #crewlife

Amy in at mile 45. 

Dave was ready just in case Amy wanted him to run with her at mile 45, but she was still feeling great and there was no mention of needing a pacer. She did a full change of clothes here, putting on tights and long sleeves, as it was cold and damp out, and headed back out at mile 45 at 8:05. Dave decided to take a nap, and Tammy and I got in the car, did some catching up on our phones and settled into our seats for some sleep if we could get it. I think I probably slept for an hour or so before waking back up to get things ready. Of course, thenTammy locked the keys in the car at 12:30 am ;) Ha! Thankfully I had my AAA card in my pocket along with my money and license and they got someone out to help us within a 1/2 hour and we were able to crew Amy like it never even happened :) That was huge. Unfortunately the guy was a jerk, but what can you do? 

Somewhere in the night, I got this photo over Facebook. How cool is that? Our friends are awesome! It was fun to share with Amy, George and Ann as they ran!

TMR love :)

Amy came in at mile 60 and I ran with her, like I had the past few laps, from the start/finish/timing area down to the covered bridge and back to the car, catching up on the loop's happenings and finding out what she needed going forward. Her headlamp had blown out there, and the extra Dave had given her was weak. I gave her Ryan's Black Diamond one to use for the rest of the night, and then she and Dave headed out into the night at 1:04 am.

Amy and pacer extraordinaire, Dave, mile 60

We knew we had a good stretch of time before we would see her again, so Tammy and I once again crawled into the car, set the alarm and got some sleep. I was surprised to find that I ended up sleeping for about 3 hours, awaking with a start at 5:20 when the alarm went off. I was glad to have set it early, as Amy and Dave picked up the pace in this lap and came in around 5:55 am. 

View from the car out into the night. Mist on the windshield. Glow from the serious construction lights at the start/finish/timing area.

Headed back out at mile 75 at 5:59 am.

They were moving well indeed! Amy ditched her pack here, as the Tailwind wasn't working and therefore the pack was essentially useless. Aid stations were 3.5 miles apart and she was simply eating real food at each stop. It seemed to be working. They were in and out and on a mission. 75 down, 25 to go. It was raining now, but there was nothing to be done. We just hoped they were moving fast enough to not get too cold. 

After they left, we rested a bit more and then Tammy, Jes and I headed up the road a few miles to Parker's Maple Barn for some breakfast, just as they were opening at 7:00 am. Yum. Coffee, a roaring fire and bacon. What more can a crew need?! ;)

Breakfast. Yum.

Then it was back to the start to wait. The rain had stopped and things had quieted down a lot. Many had either finished or dropped, and the remaining ultrarunners were very spread out. But things got busy for a while as the 15 milers came through. Funny juxtaposition of the fast spry 15 milers and the plodding 100 milers ;)

We were able to see Ann finish her 75, and then while Jes and I were taking a walk along the trail, we saw Ally running the 15 miler. What fun!

Ally cruising during the 15 miler

Ann, with a 1/4 mile to go to finish up her 75!

75 miles! Way to go, Ann! Congrats!!

George came through at mile 90, and told me that his legs were feeling a bit shredded. Well, I wonder why after having run a 100 the first weekend of the month, 25 miles pacing Sean at TARC and then the 50k at BBU last weekend :) His smile was a wry one, but he kept on going. No stopping now! Only 10 to go. And Amy and Dave, they were moving well and although really looking forward to being done, Amy seemed to be feeling good, or as good as anyone running a 100 could ;) They headed out for the final 10 at 10:25 am. 

10 go to!

Still truckin' :)

We cheered on the runners coming in, waiting patiently (or impatiently) for those final 10 miles to roll on by. 

Tammy shooting

Waiting, hoping, wishing. #crewlife

And then, there they were! Coming down the road, only one 1/4 mile left to run. Yahoo! She had done it! 100 miles :) So happy for her. 

Final stretch!

Finish line smile

Love that buckle!

100 mile spike! Way to go Amy! 28:14. Congrats on your first 100!

George came through soon after, and then poof, it was done. Ghost Train 2015 was in the books, complete with 275 miles run by our three Trail Monsters. Pretty impressive!

George: "I think I'll take a few days off now, D." ;) 

Such a fantastic experience and great weekend! It was a fun event, with great volunteers and a good, chill vibe. As always, TARC puts on a good race.

Tammy was a great crew partner, and it was nice to spend some time with Jes and have her support too. Dave was the perfect pacer, enthusiastic and encouraging. I know Amy so appreciated having him out there. We were a good team :)

I loved being able to see not only Amy along the course, but also George and Ann. These two are inspirational and always so happy. I was such fun to see them out there doing what they love and watching them achieve their own goals and share in their story for the day (and night) :) Ann finished up 75 miles, and George, after having run a 100 the first weekend of the month, 25 miles pacing Sean at TARC and then the 50k at BBU last weekend, ran his second 100 of the month. Incredibly impressive, both of them. 

Amy was a rockstar all day (and night) long. It was not all beer and Skittles out there, but it was still awesome. She fell at mile 18 and came in with bloody knees. She had to tape up her foot at mile 30. Her headlamp blew out on her somewhere in the night between 45 and 60 miles. The bladder in one of her packs leaked all over her. The Tailwind messed with her stomach but she kept on chugging, going to a solid food diet and then eventually just ditching the pack all together and relying on the aid stations, thankfully spaced only 3.5 miles apart. It was cold all day and night. And the night was long, like 13 hours long. And of course, it started to rain just before dawn. 

You know the drill. Nothing goes as planned but this is why ultrarunning is so cool. You never know what is going to happen, but you just roll with it and keep on going. And Amy did. And she ran really well. Yes, she was tired. Yes, she slowed. But she made up a big chunk of time in the lap from mile 60-75 after she picked up Dave, and I was so glad I had set my alarm to wake me up far ahead of time, just in case :) And she just kept moving forward, and there was no doubt she was going to finish the 100 and get it done, and that is what it is all about. Propelling yourself forward, using all your strength and training and grit and resolve, using the help of your friends who are out there to pace and crew you, oh and powering through with the help of a few donuts too. And that finish line smile, 28:14 later, well, you know it was all worth it :) So proud of my friend for achieving her goal, and so happy to have been there to witness it and be a part of it! 

And with that, I'm off to bed ;)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh D! I always love your race reports! This one is special and has so many special touches and remembered details! Over the weekend I saw so many of the special qualities you have, along with skills you learned from the Crew Master, Ryan! Amy is truly lucky to have you as a best friend! It was great to spend time with you over the weekend. Thank you so much for your support!