Monday, July 17, 2017

Crewing Ryan at the 2017 VT 100 (Alternately Titled: Perfectly Imperfect or Yah Running!)

I'm not even sure where to start with this post. Being at the VT 100 this year and crewing Ryan was a most amazing experience and there was just so much awesomeness that is going to be hard to put into words.

First and foremost, I am incredibly proud of Ryan, who put in many, many miles and hours of training going into this race. He was crazy dedicated to his training throughout the winter and spring and although the day wasn't what he was hoping for, he didn't give up. He suffered, as is often the case in a 100, but he kept going. After 40-some odd miles of stomach issues and a whole lot more walking and slower pacing than he would have liked, there was eventually a turn around with a strong rally once he had picked up Zak and gotten some caffeine and food in his stomach. He finished his first 100 in 25:50, looking amazingly strong and smiling like crazy. That is strong stuff, and I am honored to have been a part of it.

I am insanely grateful for Mindy and John for hanging out with us this weekend, making me laugh, helping me find our way across the VT countryside and helping me crew Ryan through the day and night, especially when it took longer than anticipated and we all got a little punchy. There were a few wrong turns and a few decisions questioned, but we were a strong team that worked well together and we had a lot of fun too. I am also so thankful that Zak was there as Ryan's pacer - he got Ryan moving as we all knew he could in the final 30 miles and it was pretty amazing to watch. We are lucky people to have these three as good friends.

I so appreciate Irene and Dana for coming up to support Ryan and I in this crazy endeavor and being his cheerleaders along the course at the spectator spots, as well as to Mom and Dad for having Sam with them in NC for two weeks. She is having so much fun and it was nice to know we didn't have to worry about her during the race.

It was great to have another TMR friend running the race too, and I am psyched for Chad for his awesomely fast finish! A 21:33 in his first 100 - wow! We all enjoyed having Chad's family around during crew stops and at the house. A good group of people for sure.

Of course, all of this doesn't happen without all the dedicated race volunteers and one of our favorite RDs. Together, they all do an amazing job with what must be incredibly challenging logistics, and put on a great event.

And finally, we are so blessed with such an awesome family of friends in our Trail Monster Running group. Life would not be the same without this group of diverse people who have become our friends and many of them are like family to us. It was wonderful to have so many of them in VT this weekend and such fun to have a house filled with friends to hang out at before and after the race!

Crewing Ryan at the VT 100: A Photo Journal 
(with most photo credits going to John, our resident photographer, whether we wanted him taking the photo or not 😂)

The car was well decked out for our departure, and filled with crew:

Note by Sam

Special "Snowman Stalking" heart made with love by Ann

We met up with Irene and Dana in Woodstock and stopped for a delicious lunch at the South Woodstock Country Store before heading to Silver Hill for runner check-in.

VT 100, here we come!

We then headed to the awesome house that had been rented for the weekend, and once people started arriving, cooked up a pasta dinner and hung out for the evening. Such fun!


TMR central

Afternoon relaxation

Look closely... ;)

Everyone went to sleep early with the anticipation of a very early start on Saturday. We were up and out of the house a little after 3:00 to head to Silver Hill for the 4:00 am start. Yah running!

Ryan and crew

Ready to rock it!

At the start, very misty and foggy

Yah running!

And they're off into the darkness down the hill...

Irene and Dana stayed to watch the horse start while Mindy, John and I headed back to the house for some breakfast and to take showers. It was nice to have a bit of downtime before the craziness of the day began. 

Irene and Dana were able to see Ryan in two spots before the first crew stop at Pretty House.

Taftsville Bridge, mile 15

Cloudland Farm, mile 20

Mindy, John and I headed to Pretty Farm in time to see the lead runners heading out, and then hung out cheering on others until Ryan's arrival.

All set and waiting

Watching the road for Ryan's arrival

Fog blowing off and the sun coming out

John and race RD and friend, Amy

Coming into Pretty House at mile 21.3 miles, looking good and with a big smile

Ryan said he had had a rough first few miles but was feeling good and moving well, and after a quick stop to resupply, he headed out again at 7:53 am, and we hung around and waited for Chad's arrival. 

Chad and Kelly

From Pretty House, we headed to Stage Road. It was getting warm now!

Aid station set up

Coming down the road (and look at Mindy's hair! Flowing!!)

Ryan came through Stage Road at 9:35 and had had a good stretch between Pretty House and there. It was good to see him getting into a groove and we headed out to get ice for the cooler and the requisite breakfast sandwiches (so good!) at the Teago Country Store. The stretch between Stage Road and Camp Ten Bear was one of the longer stretches without crew so we took the chance to head over to Lincoln Covered Bridge aid station, which was the TMR aid station. It was so fun to see our friends and to have a chance to help out!

Of course, it was also here that Ryan came in looking really rough and it was hard to watch when we weren't able to help him as this was a non-crewed aid station. He was having major stomach issues and was not in a good place. Thankfully, Billy was able to talk with him, and in a stroke of luck, RD Amy had stopped in to see how things were going and was able to talk with him as well. Her words of wisdom as an ultrarunner and friend were invaluable, and after sitting for a while, Ryan got up and started walking slowly on down the course. He was not looking good, I will admit, and I know he was struggling, but there was no giving up. The day was young yet and it never always gets worse.

Awesome aid station volunteers!

Such a great group!

Kate got to feed a horse some watermelon!

After Ryan left, we headed out to get some lunch and then headed over to 10 Bear to meet up with Zak who had driven over with Ian, Chad's pacer, on Saturday morning. 

John's view all day... me driving...

...and Mindy navigating. Thankfully we only made a few minor wrong turns!

We knew it would probably be a rough go for Ryan to Camp Ten Bear 1, given what we'd seen at Lincoln Covered Bridge, and indeed, there was a lot of anxious waiting for his arrival. 

Coming into Camp Ten Bear at mile 47.0

Despite obviously not doing well and looking like he was practically translucent, Ryan was in much better spirits and feeling determined to continue on no matter what when he arrived at Ten Bear. Given his stomach troubles, he decided to ditch his nutrition plan and go with what was working, which was pretty much chips and gingerale. We skipped the gels and loaded his pack up with several kinds of chips and a bottle of Tailwind. John also very graciously cleaned and changed his socks, and we set him off on his way. He was out at 2:15 pm. And really, while his pace had certainly slipped, he was still really doing fine time-wise, even if it wasn't the pacing and race he had envisioned.

We headed up to Margharitaville and enjoyed hanging out in the high field, taking in the view and utilizing the good cell service to get out some updates too!


Chad coming through Margharitaville, looking great

Beautiful view, Margharitaville, mile 58.5

Zak and Ryan walking into the aid station

Ryan was better but was low on calories, and it was a struggle to get him going again after a stop to eat and drink. While we knew he wasn't giving up, he wasn't having fun and there was a cloud of despair and disappointment sitting over his head, weighing him down. It was rough to watch him shuffle on down the road by himself, but we also knew the next time we saw him, he would be able to pick up Zak, which would hopefully help turn things around.

Headed off down the road

Hard to watch him go 

We went into Woodstock to grab some dinner and pick up a few cans of 'Jedi Juice,' George's secret weapon - Starbucks Espresso Shots. I was hopeful that the caffeine would work as night fell and would perk Ryan up.

Rainbow at Camp Ten Bear 2, mile 69.4

Strategizing

Coming down the hill at Ten Bear

Still moving well, if a bit more slowly than hoped

Running Ryan in down the hill

Felt so grateful to be his crew this time around, after all the times he has supported me. Through thick and thin, always.

We were still able to have a bit of fun ;)

Just a bit...

Nah, not fun at all ;)

Headed out with Zak at his side at 8:50 pm

At Ten Bear, we did a full sock and shoe change, changed Ryan's shirt and got his headlamp ready, along with coercing him into eating a piece of pizza. Grateful that Ryan would have support for the final 30 miles, Mindy, John and I headed up to Spirit of 76 to set up and wait. I was hopeful having Zak with him would spur Ryan on and had high hopes for his pace to pick up. The six miles between 10 Bear and Spirit of 76 were some rough ones though, and apparently Ryan was practically asleep on his feet the whole time. Their pace slowed to the slowest all day and we were now looking at the 27:30 pace chart. They didn't arrive until after 11:30 pm. There, he had a lengthy stop for his Espresso shot and some quesadillas. The aid station was run by our friend, Nick, and it was so good to see him! Jeff H was also there and it was great to chat with them both while we waited.

Spirit of 76

Ryan and Nick

Yum, quesadillas are good!

Fueling up

Getting a hug from Jeff before heading out at 11:50 pm

The sky at Spirit of 76 was beautiful, full of stars. So pretty!

From there, we headed right to Bill's so that we could take a quick nap before seeing Ryan and Zak again. I set my alarm for 2:00 am and we got about an hour of sleep before I woke everyone up. Not sure John was super pleased with me ;) but I wanted to make sure we got down to the barn and set up, just in case Ryan picked up the pace. While this had not happened since mile 30, I just had a feeling. And it turns out, I was right! They arrived at 2:55 am, well ahead of the 27:30 pace chart predicted arrival time of 3:16. Yes! We were all so excited to see Ryan and Zak moving well! Yah running!!!

Ah, Bill's. Nothing like standing at the edge of a field in the middle of a dark, misty, foggy night, with bad 80s music blaring from a barn :)

Getting fueled up

Driving in the night, on windy, narrow VT country roads, with runners running both in the same and opposite direction as we were, depending on which road we were on, was nerve wracking, and I was tired, but thankfully the directions to each aid station were good and Mindy did a great job navigating for me. We arrived at Polly's fairly easily and got ourselves set up along the road. We had most definitely hoped to not be there as the sky was lightening in the early morning hours, but such as it was, it was beautiful. 

Beautiful sky with moonset and sunrise behind the barn at Polly's, mile 94.9

Misty field and pond 

When they arrived, Zak and Ryan barely stopped and Ryan chugged a can of Redbull before they hit the road for the final 5 miles. 

4:52 am and they were in and out on a mission for the finish line! See you in Silver Hill!

Chug that Redbull and let's go!

In our excitement, Mindy and I started to head back to the car without the wagon full of all of Ryan's gear - ha! Thankfully John had the presence of mind to pick it up and haul it back to the car ;) And then I headed the wrong way back onto the course and we took a lovely scenic detour a few miles down the road before realizing we had headed in the wrong direction. Eek! I knew Ryan was going to run these last 5 miles as fast as he could so I was really mad at myself for going the wrong way. Thankfully, we got back on track quickly. As we arrived at Silver Hill, the sun was up, the sky pastel above the tents as we looked out into the valley. We quickly crossed the field and headed into the woods to the finish line.

Finish line 

Ryan came screaming up the hill to the finish line so quickly that I didn't even get a chance to get the camera out and take a photo of him crossing the line of his first 100 miler in 25:50, but I think the following photo captures his joy and relief and happiness and pain quite well. 

Done!

Hugs from Amy

I'm pretty sure she is saying, "See, I told you you could finish!" :)

Runner and pacer, best of friends and awesome partners for the final 30 miles

The crew :) 

We were all so proud of Ryan and so happy to see him finish. What an amazing journey! 

As it was not yet 6:00 am, we made the call to load Ryan into the car and get him back to the house for a shower, a nap and some food. Those steps after the finish line are rough indeed and it was a bit of a struggle getting him into the car but we were soon off.

I'd say this sums it up. We are all smiling and laughing and joking and Ryan is like "What the hell is wrong with my knee?!" Ultrarunning is fun :)

It was really nice to have time to all take a shower, let Ryan take a short nap, have breakfast, get caught up on Chad's awesome finish and get the house all cleaned and closed up before heading back to Silver Hill for the awards ceremony. It was awesome to hear the names of all the finishers and see Chad and Ryan get their buckles. Those were very well deserved!!

Hugs from Amy...

...and a buckle! 

Proud parents :)

Proud owners of some pretty awesome buckles and now officially 100 milers! 

We parted ways in the field and headed for lunch before making our way home. By the time we headed out, it was around 2:30 pm and I think I was on Route 89 for only about 2 minutes before both Ryan and John were snoring - quite loudly, I might add 😂😂

It was a long day with a lot of driving (I did all the driving around the course and back home), but oh so wonderful. After doing some laundry, getting things unpacked and getting a bit of dinner (or Pringles and a beer in Ryan's case), we both went to bed early. I've become such a bad sleeper, but I fell right asleep and slept for 8 hours straight. I'd say that's a sign of a good ultrarunning weekend!

Running a 100 miles is a crazy thing but it was just so awesome to be a part of this experience this weekend and to have the chance to help Ryan finish his first 100 mile race. 

On weekends like this, I realize how much of ultrarunning is not about the running but about the community and support, and just how special that is. I came home yesterday after not sleeping for 40 straight hours exhausted but exuberant, humbled and hopeful, feeling blessed and lucky and oh so thankful. You never know what you are going to get in an ultra, but there is so much to be learned and taken from whatever path your race leads you down. I know Ryan didn't have the race he wanted, but I think he had the race that was meant to be his. It was a perfectly imperfect day, and just like life, sometimes what you think you want isn't what you get and what you end up with is better than you could have imagined 💕

And if you haven't, you should watch this. Just keep those tissues handy :)



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