This weekend I had the esteemed pleasure of crewing for S. Baboo, at the Rio Del Lago 100 mile Run. This was my first crewing experience of any sort and the first 100 mile run I had ever been to. I have had a hard time processing all the emotions and experiences I had in doing this, so we will just have to see if I can put it to words here. I am certain I can not do it justice, but I will do my best.
Backstory ('cuz I can never just get right to the story. Don't act like you are surprised)
I "met" S. Baboo through reading his wife's blog, The Athena Diaries, which if you are a late onset athlete like myself, you should really read from start to finish. In reading her blog I found myself inspired to do and try things athletically that I never even knew existed and certainly never thought I was capable of. (I know, gush, gush. I decided a while back life was too short not to tell people what I really feel. If that makes me a puss, so be it.)
It may or may not be known that I am a bit of an ultrarunning groupie (well, not known to you unless you are a holder of one of the multiple restraining orders against me, but I digress...)
Anyhoo... when S. Baboo started running ultramarathons I started following and commenting on his blog. He has this amazing writing style that lets you see what he saw and feel what he felt during his runs. Reading his race reports was like I was on the run as well. (More gushing, apologies...)
Fast forward to last spring and he announces that he is going to train for the Leadville 100 miler. I believe my comment was:
Oh. My. Fucking. God!!!! LEADVILLE!!!!
Such a class act that RBR.
Then he announces that he will be coming out to California to run the Rio Del Lago 100 miler in September, a mere 3 weeks after crazy-ass Leadville, and asks if I want to crew (ok, 'he asked', 'I begged'... toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe...)
Uh... HELLS to the YEAH, I want to crew!
One problem, I have never crewed and have never been to one of these things and other than reading a bunch of 100 miler race reports, I don't know shit about ultrarunning or crewing.
I am sure it will be fine.
[Star struck RBR did not take a picture with S. Baboo]
The fact that I do not have one single picture of me and the S. Baboo to put here makes me sad.
As you know already, Misty and I ran the 50k (52.5 K, still bitter) that morning. Both races took off at the same time. We planned to finish (I will not even tell you what we projected our time to be. Let's leave it at, we were WAY off and possibly high on crack when we projected our finish times) and then shower, grab food, and head out to crew.
We had hoped to catch him at the Auburn Damn Overlook on his second time through which would have been at about 44 miles, but we did not catch him until Rattlesnake Bar which was at 55 miles.
Rattlesnake Bar Aide Station
Little did we know that during those 11 miles from Auburn Dam Overlook to Rattlesnake Bar, S. Baboo had suffered greatly. A runner came in calling for Misty and telling us that her runner needed his headlight. She grabbed hers from the car and headed up the trail to give it to him.
I looked at my watch. It had been dark for at least 30 minutes. That is a long time to be alone on the trail in the dark. My heart sank as I realized that had I been faster today, we would have gotten to Auburn Dam or at least the Maidu aide station at mile 47, and he would not have had to run in the dark without his headlamp.
This is not the last time I would have that guilt haunting me.
RBR Crewing lesson #1: Do not run a 50K on the day that you are crewing for someone in a 100 miler. (Or get a lot faster. I will admit the former is more likely.)
He and Misty came walking into the aide station. He was cold and his stomach was revolting on him. He asked for a blanket and I ran (ok, waddled, sore feets, remember?) to the car to get a sleeping bag I had brought. It was a little shocking to see him hurting so much 55 miles in. All I could think of was, "Holy Christ! He has 45 miles to go."
I was silent. I did not know what to do or say. Misty ran the show. I felt about as useful as tits on a bull.
RBR Crewing lesson #2: When you do not know what to say or do, shut up and take orders. (Ok, that one is kind of a life lesson)
After his stomach had some time to settle he ate the sandwich we brought him and he started to chat with us and the volunteers. He was clearly more comfortable and cracking jokes, but he kept telling us that there was nothing left in his legs, they were just done.
No one talked about him dropping and no one talked about him continuing. We just listened to him tell us he was done and got him soda.
Then all of a sudden he got up wrapped in the sleeping bag and said he was going.
"I am just going to walk and I will be nice and warm in this" he told us, as he headed to the trail.
I grabbed his hydration pack and Misty scrambled to get ready to pace him to the next aid station. We got him another shirt and took the sleeping bag off (obviously he was a little loopy, 5 miles to the next aid station with a sleeping bag was probably not a good idea, but I felt terrible that we did not have anything warmer to put on him)
RBR Crewing lesson #3: ALWAYS have warm and/or dry clothes for your runner, even at a hot race.
I thought to myself, "We were honestly going to send him back out there?!" as he wandered down the trail back into the darkness.
Horseshoe Bar Aide Station (1.93 miles from Rattlesnake Bar)
After navigating a 30 minute delay stuck behind the horseback course sweeps, I finally got to the next aide station only to have missed them by about 2 minutes according to the aide station volunteer.
I rock at this crewing thing. I am certain he will want me at ALL of his races from now on. I headed off to the next aide station which was about 6 miles of tough, technical trail for them and about 2 miles driving in a cushy car for me.
Twin Rocks Aide Station
I set up a chair to wait knowing that they had those 6 miles of technical trail to navigate in the dark and I may be here awhile. He left Rattlesnake Bar at about 8:45, 1 hour and 15 minutes before the cut off, the cut off at Twin Rocks was at 12:15 am.
Well, it was originally at 12:15 am.
While I was sitting there there was a very worried looking man at the aide station. Come to find out his wife was lost between Horseshoe Bar and Twin Rocks. She was over an hour late to pick up her pacer at Twin Rocks. The race officials sent someone out looking for her. About 11:30pm she came in, clearly distressed, but very relieved to have found the aide station. The trail ribbon sabotage earlier in the day, and the fact that the ribbons were not reflective left her wandering alone lost in the darkness for over an hour.
Dear God. I know how pissed I was in broad daylight when I got lost and I knew I was only about 2 miles from the finish. I can not imagine how scary that must have been for her.
Her husband hugged her and she hurriedly babbled her story:
Lost Girl: "There were no ribbons. And, and, the ribbons were not reflective!
And, and you could not see them until you were right on top of them! There was NO ONE out there! I was so lost."
"I just wanted to be here. It was so, so ..."
*her voice catches*
Husband of Lost Girl, looking to console her: "I have soup"
Lost Girl: "It was soooo awfu...." she stops short and looks up at him. "You have soup?
Lost Girl: Do you have a ham sandwich?"
Husband of Lost Girl: "No, but I have soup. I can get you a ham sandwich for the next aide station."
Lost Girl: "Ok. I want soup" and with that the crisis was over.
She drank her soup, picked up her pacer and trotted out of the aide station.
RBR Crewing Lesson #4: These are a different breed of people. You could have not gotten me back out on that trail with a cattle prod or even promises of half naked firemen waiting to rub my feet and hand feed me Pop Tarts at the next aide station. (Scary little view into my fantasy life, huh?)
RBR Crewing lesson #5: Have pacers for your runner during the time when it is dark that is when they need them most.
After that they extended the cut offs at each aide station. It seemed unclear as to exactly what the extension was, but S. Baboo and Misty showed up right at 12:15 am. He was in and out quickly. He physically looked better than at Rattlesnake Bar, but his mood was dour at best.
Negro Bar Aide Station
After two more aide stations, we noticed that he had slowed considerably and his mood had not improved. At Negro Bar, he came in looking like the walking dead. He was freezing cold and his gait had been reduced to a shuffle. I was amazed at how he could still joke with us and the volunteers. He is actually quite hilarious.
At this point, I was consumed with guilt that I could not pace for him. Misty had already paced about eight miles and her feet were done. I had not paced one step. My blisters made it hard to even walk small distances, but in sending him out there alone I felt like a sadistic kid that enjoyed pulling wings off bugs.
Watching him move slowly and painfully off into the darkness once again, I thought, "This is crazy. We need to pull him out of this." Misty kept telling me "We just need to get him to the dawn. When the dawn hits he will be a new man."
I was starting to have some serious doubts that we were not just torturing this guy.
Hazel Bluff Aide Station
All bad at Hazel Bluff, but he trudged on.
I felt like a random, worthless spectator to his misery: "Good luck, Big Guy!" *smacking him on the ass* "See you at the next aide station. You want us to get you anything at Starbuck's?"
*for the record, I did NOT smack him on the ass, despite the fact that Misty and I both agreed that with all of his crazy running, he has quite a nice one. ;)
Mountain Lion Knoll Aide Station
Dawn had finally arrived and we waited at the aide station for S. Baboo. We asked the head of hte aide station (hell of a nice guy, by the way. Top notch volunteers at this thing) if S. Baboo had passed the last aide station.
Cool Aide Station Dude: Number 50? We do not have any information about number 50. We are waiting on 2 runners, 22 and 23.
Misty and I started to worry that they had pulled him from the race.
He called the previous aide station and after a little back and forth, they announced he was still in the race and about 15 minutes out. Some mental math told me he had made up some serious time.
Misty: Maybe hs should not have done this so soon after Leadville.
Cool Aide Station Dude: He ran Leadville? This year?! Like 3 weeks ago? Damn. That is crazy.
RBR: And a marathon on Monday
Cool Aide Station Dude: Wow, what is he? Superman?
Misty: I keep telling him that just because we call him Superman does not mean he has to prove it every time.
And as if on cue, another volunteer announces, "We have a runner coming up."
S. Baboo comes trotting up the trail, smiling and looking like he was out for a Sunday jog.
Cool Aide Station Dude *smiling*: Looks like Superman found his cape.
Misty and RBR: *screaming and cheering*
Hazel Bluff Aide Station (Return)
JT (JohnnyTri) had called us (when we were at Starbuck's. Don't judge me! I had blisters and was tired, and I needed coffee) and told us that his runner had dropped. Misty told him S. Baboo was still in the race and JT offered to pace him from Hazel Bluff to the finish.
I thought, "Thank Sweet Baby Jesus! He won't have to run alone anymore"
We got to Hazel Bluff and JT is there looking fresh as a flower. I looked like 10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound sack, yet he had been up all night, running over 24 miles in the pitch black with a sick runner, and there he is looking all handsome and perky. Fucker.
S. Baboo came running in looking like a million dollars and under the original 8:35 am cut off. Misty was 100% correct, the dawn and breathed new life into him and he was making up time fast! The aide station volunteers could not believe he was the same runner they had seen suffering so much only hours before.
With his pacer in tow, S. Baboo took off down the trail. For the first time since Rattlesnake Bar I smiled as he ran off. He was going to complete his second 100 miler in under a month.
I will never doubt Misty again. The girl knows her man!
RBR Crewing lesson #6: Make sure there is at least one person on your crew that REALLY knows your runner and/or is an experienced ultra crew member. The suffering is hard to watch and you need someone that knows when it is ok to let them go and when to pull the plug. I would have pulled the plug at Rattlesnake and I would have been dead wrong.
Negro Bar Aide Station (return)
Moments after we arrived at the next aide station Misty's phone rang. It was JT. S. Baboo had dropped him 2 miles in, on an uphill. He was running 8 min miles uphill after over 90 miles of torture.
A few minutes later S. Baboo comes flying, and I mean FLYING, into the Negro Bar aide station. He refilled his water bottles, grabbed a snack and took off. We had to cheer from the car he was so goddamn fast.
I finally felt like I could take a picture. Photographing his suffering through the night was too much for me to contemplate. Don't worry, now that I know exactly how tough this son of a bitch is, next time I will get a photo log of the amazingness!
Misty jumped in to pace him the last 3 miles and I drove back to Cavitt school to wait at the finish. It was getting hot and he had slowed, but was still making up time.
And then the man that had hit teh Hazel Bluff Aide station, half dead and almost an hour over the cut off came barreling into the finish chute over an hour UNDER the cut off
100.28 miles in 28:45:10
Superman found his cape, indeed.