There is only one thing (besides training, of course) that will make or break my ability to go the 100 mile distance in 18 (*GULP) weeks. This one thing is the people who have graciously offered (or been forced) to help crew me for this event. This post is for them more than anyone else. It is one last attempt to allow them to back out, should they begin to feel a bit overwhelmed by what is required by crewing a 100 mile runner.
I have crewed this distance before and it was tougher than I ever imagined it would be. It was fun, no doubt. I'd do it again and in worse conditions if given the opportunity. But it was exhausting and painful as well. As a crew member, what kept me positive and upbeat was my brother, the runner, and all the other exhausted determined runners filing into the aid stations or along the course when I was out there too. I now know not to ever underestimate the exhaustion and work required of the crew. It is a huge undertaking and when considering "who" I would like to help me do this, I had to look no further than my own running group. This group of people have run countless long runs and experienced all the same highs and lows, ups and downs, good runs and shitty runs over the course of a few years now. They know what I'm like when running... when I'm bitchy or calm or annoyed or quiet (rarely). And they keep running along side me, or ahead of me, so they are the best choice. I want them to know what they are getting into. I think it's called full disclosure. And I want to say that this would in no way be possible without them. I am not Jack, who twice has only had one crew member to help him through 100 miles. I am going to be needy and difficult at times and I am going to need them very, VERY much to ignore that whining voice of mine, wanting to quit.
I am working on toughening up by forcing myself to run alone at times. That is going to be a bit easier after the Flying Pig marathon, when some of my friends will be finished with the races they are training for and kicking back, preparing to enjoy a well-deserved, relaxing, running only when they want to, summer. Thankfully, however, two of the crew members will be in the heart of training for some pretty hefty challenges at the end of the summer. One is considering the full Ironman distance and one is toying with her first 1/2 Ironman. And to be quite honest, those that are in the peak of their marathon training right now may full well decide to do a fall race after a few weeks of downtime. We are kind of idiotic like that... we cannot WAIT to be done with training... to kick back and not worry about long runs and speed workouts. But we also cannot STAND when there is no actual goal in sight. And so we sign up for something and do it all over again. Here is how it goes, like directions on a shampoo bottle.... Recover from our race, Register for another one, Run our hearts out in training, Recite that we can't wait to be done and not have a race to worry about, Race, Repeat. We are, indeed, creatures of habit.
And so, with much excitement and anticipation, I present to you... the Burning River crew:
John- Duh, my husband. He wouldn't miss it for anything and I wouldn't do this if he could not be there. But he could also be the weak link when it comes to seeing me in horrible shape. There have been times he has really pushed me when I don't feel well and because he is my husband, he has been the recipient of some pretty harsh backlash from me. He has implied that I am "wussing out" at times and nothing makes me madder than when he does that and I really feel bad. But between you and me, sometimes that heckling ignites something I didn't quite realize was there and I am able to overcome a bad spell. HOWEVER.... if he thinks for a second that I could die or really get hurt, without reservations, he will pull the plug on the entire thing. So I need to keep that in mind when I choose to act like a dying idiot. In other words, toughness is a must during this race when he is involved.
Sarah- Second to John, this is THE person who has been with me through every single goal since the very beginning of my goal oriented days. From that first e-mail in 2008, stating my goal of running a BQ marathon, and everything in between.... the failures, heartbreak, injuries, triumphs, bad moods, fabulous workouts, horrible exhaustion, overtraining and perfect training (JFK 50 was what I would deem my perfect training and race execution), she has been constant. I suppose she, like John, has the potential to also be a weak link by the sheer nature of our friendship. But I'm not planning on any of that. Instead, I'm planning on dragging her whining ass through the woods in the middle of the night at a snails pace and forcing her to look up at the really bright stars. I'll need a plan B if it's raining or cloudy. In other words, I plan on forcing her to "love" this so much, she will want to run an ultra.
Kim- One of the first people I asked to help crew me for this. Kim is the organized planner. She gets an idea, she plans, she executes. That is Kim and she is a must for this. Kim also will provide not only me, but the rest of the crew with many hours of lighthearted humor. I see her as kind of "the manager". In fact, Kim, you are officially the Manager of the crew. Kim will know what supplies I need at what aid station and be sure that everything is where is should be (right, Kim?). Kim can do a ridiculous amount of work in the amount of time that I could only do a few tasks. To give you an idea, this past week, Kim painted and cleaned nearly her entire house (they are getting it ready to sell), left for a business trip on Thursday, caught the red-eye that night, flew through the night, got home in time to see the kids off to school and stayed up to pack and move stuff in preparation for company this weekend. Oh yes, and then we met her on our run yesterday morning. She got up to run, instead of spending that time sleeping in like most mere mortals would have. Need I say more as to why I need her?
Greg- (aka Inspector Gadget) Greg is the guy who will do WHATEVER is asked of him. Greg will run anytime someone needs a companion in the wee hours of the morning and doesn't feel safe or motivated to do it on her own. Greg often plans the routes of the long runs, the stopping and starting points, allowing people to jump in and out for whatever distance they need. Greg loves gadgets and has the technology skills we all flock to when we need help in this department. He is the numbers guy. He is a source of quiet comfort and has become so used to listening to a bunch of complaining women. I see him as incredibly valuable when I am at the point of just needing a pacer who will listen and keep me moving forward, navigating the dark trails when my sense of direction is completely gone (of course, I don't have to be doing an ultra for that to happen).
Nancy- Crazy, lighthearted, hilarious, crass, realistic and privately tenderhearted. Can you see why I want her? Nancy is a kindergarten teacher who deals with kids that come from some pretty rough backgrounds. She approaches life at work and home with the notion that we not take everything so darn seriously all the time. She LOVES LOVES LOVES her "kindergarten babies" and is usually crazy attached to the ones who are the neediest in terms of needing love and affection. Nancy is the one, who at 5:15 am, during our TRX class, will suddenly be grinding on the straps when a song comes on that she likes. While the rest of us are grumpy and complaining about how hard it is, Nancy keeps it in check and makes us laugh... hard. I can only imagine the things she will pull out when life is not so funny in the later miles of this race.
Erin- By accident, chance or Divine intervention, Erin came into our group last summer. I met Erin several years ago at her sister's bridal shower and had gotten to know her a little bit at family get togethers on John's side. Erin is the sister of John's cousin, Rick's, wife (got that?). She and her family were occasionally at the same things we were that her sister was hosting. Last summer, at her niece's graduation party, we got to talking about her first upcoming half Ironman. As the conversation evolved, I began to work my magic in convincing her to think about running a full marathon. I invited her to run with our group, as the long runs particularly can be so mentally challenging to do alone. Not much later, Erin came out and ran with us. She continued to train and eventually signed up to run the full Columbus marathon that same fall (2012). The group training for that one was training for a Boston Qualifier. Erin was the only one who had never run a full marathon. Take one look at this tiny powerhouse and the writing was on the wall. Erin, indeed, qualified for Boston running her very first marathon along with the Jen and Cheryl. I'd wanted to dislike her for that, but I can't. She is equal parts competitive and humility. She is sweet and so easy to like. And she likes trail running so I like her a lot.... even though she nailed a BQ in her first marathon. Erin has been with me on a trail run where neither of us knew where we were going. But her adaptability and go with the flow mentality made a rough run a really great experience, even though we were lost most of the time. Not to mention we had very difficult and muddy trail conditions. Erin will be awesome should the absolute unexpected pop up... and it very well may :)
Jen- Jen will be the drill sergeant. I mean that in the best way possible. When Jen first started running with us, she was post baby number 3 and had long abandoned her days as a marathoner. She came out to the track one morning and walked/jogged around the track. She was starting over. Fast forward 4 months or so and Jen was running the Columbus half marathon in a 1:46 or something like that. That is Jen in a nutshell. Goal oriented and determined. I've seen her time again start from scratch and build to excellence. This past fall, Jen had the job of pacer for herself, Cheryl and Erin during the Columbus Marathon. Being the most experienced of the three marathoners, this naturally fell to her. These three would run in pursuit of a BQ (Jen's second), but would run their own race even if one fell back. Jen had no intention of letting one fall back, however. Somewhere in the middle miles, Cheryl's IT band caused some issues and it became very difficult for her to keep pace (although SHE DID!!) Jen refused to respond to Cheryl's distressed words of discomfort. Jen knew that would be the demise of Cheryl's race... to entertain her pain with sympathy. I know that sounds harsh, but for Cheryl it was needed and Jen innately knew that. Her tactic worked. This is not to say she was mean or unsympathetic. At one point she took Cheryl's hand and pulled her along for awhile, ignoring her own fatigue running at that pace for so long. She was very sympathetic, but knew the best way to provide comfort was not to coddle her, but rather encourage her without words. I see myself needing this kind of encouragement at many points and so it will be awesome to have Jen.
Kristie- I don't run with Kristie. Kristie usually runs with Nancy. Kristie is one of those rare breeds that can abandon a half marathon training plan and decide on a whim to run a full because her training buddies are doing it. And then she can run that full marathon beautifully. Kristie approached me several weeks ago and let me know that she would like to help in any way possible with my race. I don't know if she could see the absolute shock in my face or not at that moment. Not knowing that I was recently going through a moment of panic when I thought I could not do this, I felt this was definitely God's way of letting me know that I would have plenty of help and that I would in no way be alone during this race. The timing of her offer was just too perfect to be deemed as coincidence. Kristie is sweet and fun and will be such an awesome addition to an already amazing crew. I can't thank you enough for offering when you did, Kristie :)
Suttan- Suttan was going to crew me, as I cannot imagine not having her there. Suttan is the same sweet soul who nearly abandoned her own race goal of a PR at Air Force to stay with me when I was falling back. She also bought trail shoes to begin doing some trail running in prep for Burning River, even though she hates it. Now that is a great friend! But Suttan's husband, Keith, turns 50 the same weekend as the race and no way should she miss throwing him a party to crew me. Your spouse must always come before your friends. That is a no-brainer. And although I am so sad she won't be there, I also would not want her to ditch her husband on his birthday. So I know that Suttan will be there in spirit, wishing for the best outcome. I will miss her dry humor and funny stories about Keith :) And I am sure she will invite me to soak in her pool when I get back so that I can tell her all about it in person. And then she maybe can help with my next hundred after that.
God-I've left the best, most important crew member for last. I did this on purpose because after God, everything and everyone else pales in comparison. Though my husband and friends have certainly been there through so much of this journey, it is God who is there at all times. It is God who gives the gifts of passion, desire, determination and strength. Without those, a goal like this is unfathomable. It is God, who through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, whispered this idea of using this race to do something that will help so many. Since I was toying with it anyway, make it about honoring Him and giving back. And so it is important to acknowledge that because a feat like this is so huge in terms of pushing past human limits of endurance, we must look to the One who makes anything and everything he sees fit, possible. Even the most unimaginable and impossible. One can look no further than little miss Nora Yusko to see God's ability to make possible the impossible. Because I know His power, I know I will not fail, so long as I keep Him at the forefront of this goal.
There are no words that can justly thank this wonderful group of people who are doing this for me and with me. There are many reasons why we all run, some different and some the same. I am so blessed that we share the common notion of "getting it" without having to explain it.
I've attached a link for my crew... just in case you needed some tips :)