Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Crewing Amy at the VT 100 2016

On Friday morning, after loading up the car and picking up the requisite donuts at Frosty's :), we headed south to drop Sam off at Irene and Dana's for the weekend so that Ryan and I could head to VT for the 2016 edition of the VT 100. This was Ryan's 5th year crewing and my 2nd. I had so much fun crewing John when he ran it back in 2014 - it's a great event with so much energy and always seems to be a grand adventure for runners, crews, aid stations and pacers alike. Not to mention, there are horses! And this year, we were crewing for Amy, which was even more exciting! I was also set to pace her for the final 23+ miles from Spirit of 76 to the finish, and I was really looking forward to supporting her along the way and taking part in her journey!

Amy was the only TMR runner this year at the race, but TMR was once again manning the Lincoln Covered Bridge aid station, a pivotal aid station set in the long stretch between crewed aid stations, so Kate had rented a house nearby for a bunch of us to stay at. Ryan and I were the first to arrive, but we didn't stay long and soon sped off to Silver Hill Meadow to meet up with Amy and Rob, her friend from VA who was joining us as a crew member and who was on tap for the first 8 miles of pacing duties. It was warm and sunny, the air muggy. We caught up a bit and then Amy, Rob and I stayed for the pre-race meeting, although I could barely stand to be in the tent it was so warm. I jumped at the chance to head outside and get us the ice cream Amy and Rob had been contemplating getting before we arrived and distracted them :) Yum!

Amy and Rob dropped me off at the house after the meeting, and then headed back to their hotel to rest up for race morning. Meanwhile, our TMR crew began to arrive, and soon enough Kate, Ann and I were cooking up dinner and enjoying catching up with everyone. It was a fun evening and a great start to the weekend!

Saturday morning dawned early with a 2:30 am wake-up. We wound our way through the quiet VT countryside to the start line and took part in the nervous energy that is the start of a 100. Amy seemed very composed, and soon enough, they were off down the hill, a line of runners illuminated by each other's headlamps as the horizon began to glow.

After the start, we decided to head back to the house to catch a bit more sleep. I had hardly slept at all, so I was more than happy to climb back into bed, and I fell right back to sleep for about an hour and half. Then we made our way to the first crew stop, Pretty House, at mile 21. It was a gorgeous morning, bright and sunny but still cool in the shade. We did notice, however, as we sat by the roadside chatting and watching the runners come through, that most runners were already soaked. A sign the humidity was high.

Amy came through looking good, very solid and steady, and only stayed for a quick pack swap and to tell us that the Redd Bar was sitting a bit heavily in her stomach. After watching her take off down the road, we packed up and headed out to the next crew stop, Stage Road.

We were psyched to catch a glimpse of Jeff going by at Stage Road, and found a good spot in the shade to hang out and watch the runners go by. Amy came through once again looking really good, and keeping a nice steady pace. It was another short stop, this time with a change into her white TMR singlet, as it was getting warm and there would be a lot of exposed spots through the next stretch. Once, again, we sent her off down the road...

The next stretch was the longest between crew stops, so we took the opportunity to go back to the house and eat lunch inside and relax for a bit before heading over to help out for an hour or so at the TMR aid station, Lincoln Covered Bridge. It is incredibly awesome to help out at an ultra aid station, and I must say that ours is pretty awesome! Kate does such a great job organizing, and it is was great group there helping runners, filling bottles, giving out popsicles and encouragement, and sending runners out on their way. Once Amy came through, we picked up Jamie, reorganized the car and then headed off for a stop at South Woodstock General Store for Jamie to get some lunch before we drove out to Camp Ten Bear to settle in for our next chance to see Amy at mile 47.

We had started to recognize a lot of runners who were running around the same pace as Amy, which is always fun. And at Camp Ten Bear, we had the chance to chat for a while with Carolyn who was heading up the aid station for TARC. They had reorganized the crew parking, which made the experience there much nicer, and we were able to grab a spot in the shade while we waited. Here, we realized that Amy was slowing down quite a bit, but no worries, she was still on a good pace. As it always is with crewing, it was hurry up and wait ;) and fret, and wonder, and cheer and woohoo! There she is!! Here she took a bit of a longer break, changing her socks and telling us that she had struggled a bit through that last stretch. VT is no joke - there are a lot of hills with no real respite, it was hot and humid, and let's face it, 100 miles is a long way to go. She wasn't eating much, so we asked her if she wanted us to get her some real food for the next aid station. I suggested pizza and she seemed to like that idea, so after we sent her off up the hill, we headed into Woodstock to get some pizza ourselves and to load up with food to bring back to her at Margharitaville. Despite the fact that she had slowed coming into Ten Bear, really Amy was still moving along and wasn't falling apart at all mentally. She was steady and determined, and we were hopeful and optimistic as we set up at Margharitaville in the shade to await her arrival there.

Sadly though, we sat for a long time, as the shadows grew longer and more and more runners came through. I walked down the hill a ways, and ran into a runner who had spent a few miles running with Amy. He said she was hurting. We were worried, but all we could do was wait. When she did come up the hill though, Amy immediately told us she was going to drop. There was no drama, just the straight up acknowledgement that her foot, which had been hurting for a few weeks prior to the race, was not holding up and that there was no going on. We sat her down and got her into some warm clothes. It was not the ending we had all wished for, hoped for, or wanted for Amy, but sometimes these things just don't work out as we would like. 100 miles is a long way, and it is always an adventure, sometimes with an ending that is not the finish line.

It was a long, quiet ride back to the start/finish line. We got Amy into the car and after a quick cry between the two of us and a few hugs, we sent she and Rob off. We could hear the cheers from the finish line for those finishing in the 16-17 hour range. It was a rough juxtaposition.

Back at the house, the group was still up. I was feeling rather somber and wasn't really in the mood to socialize, so I didn't stay up long. Despite the fact that what I really wanted was to still be out there crewing for Amy and pacing her through those final miles, I will say I was more than happy to climb into bed and get some sleep. I slept like a rock and woke up around 7:00 am. We all quickly organized, packed up and took off. It was not the ending we had envisioned for the weekend, but it was still a fun adventure.

A DNF is never what we want, but not finishing does not define us and a non-finish it is not a failure, especially when one is injured. When you run enough, you realize that statistically, there will be DNFs and sometimes they will be yours. But these experiences are often the ones that teach us the most and the ones we grow from. Regardless of the outcome out on the course, I am really proud of the way Amy powered through her 58 miles on the rolling hills of VT, running with a steady, calm resolve and a determination that was most impressive. She was easy and fun to crew, and I know she will get out there again, when she is healed and the time is right. Heal up quickly, my friend! I look forward to getting back on the roads and trails with you soon!


Meanwhile, Sam had an awesome weekend with Irene and Dana, playing mini golf, taking a swan boat ride in Boston and going to the Aquarium. Thanks, Grammie and Grampie!

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