Lake Martin 100 - Crew Report

I thought last weekend would be hard. Traveling to a race that I was supposed to run, but not running it. But it wasn't. It was one of the best weekends ever!
Before toeing the start line. She was ready!
I teared up as Jeanette started the race, feeling emotionally overwhelmed at the work she had done, and the work we did together, to prepare for her first 100 miler. She didn't let anything get in her way, but she also didn't let the training consume her life. She did lots of preparation for the mental aspect of training for a 100 miler. Her dedication to training and keeping it in the right priority for her was impressive. I definitely learned from her. She wrote about the training experience on her blog.

Crewing is an experience of it's own. There's lots of preparation and planning that goes into it, just like an ultra. It helped that Jeanette had prepared a spreadsheet of her expected pacing between aid stations. And this race had only two aid stations, which made it easy for the crew. Basically our job was to be at each aid station when Jeanette arrived, and be prepared to address her needs. This included refilling her water bottles, having changes of clothes ready, cleaning and lubing her feet, assisting with clothing changes, checking on nutrition and hydration, administering any first aid needs.
Walking to the first aid station to scope it out.
Crewing responsibilities also include taking care of ourselves so we could be ready for anything that came our way during the race and for the drive home. Jenn became our "sherpa of sherpas" and she ensured the three of us were eating and drinking and taking care of ourselves. Twice she made me peanut butter sandwiches, fetched food, pushed snacks. Checked that Ryan and I were drinking enough water all day. It was hard to keep on top of eating and drinking! Harder than I thought. We were so busy taking care of Jeanette that we needed someone to take care of us!

The first time we saw Jeanette was 4ish miles into the race and she was really happy to see us! She looked great and was off to a conservative (aka smart) start. The first official aid station was still 3 miles away, so once we cheered, we headed there with her gear to meet her. We immediately learned that we should have brought a wagon or something to haul all the gear. (plus anything we needed like chairs and umbrellas). The walk to the aid station from the parking lot was not brief. Maybe .5 miles or so. And most times we had to make two trips. Jeanette's husband Ryan brought a bike, so he put the plastic tubs on the bike and funny-pedaled his way over to the aid station. He looked pretty hilarious doing this, and I was very worried he would crash...


View from Heaven Hill (of course this was way better in person!)
Jeanette came into the first aid station happy and strong. We took care of her needs and sent her on her way quickly. I'm not going to give a play by play of the whole race, but Jeanette moved quickly and easily through each aid station. She wrote a great race recap, and you should read that too. Especially if you ever are thinking about a 100 miler (or even a 50 miler).
There's always time for an orange smile, even when the oranges are cut too big!

Jeanette clearly had a plan for how to manage her feet and sweating. She changed her shirt each lap (25 miles) and also her socks and shoes. She wore gaiters too. Over and over again, she came into each aid station smiling. It was awesome to see. She was unstoppable. While we were waiting, sometimes we would relax and hang out together, but other times we would chat with other crews, hang out with aid station volunteers, and even help other runners.

More than once, I reached into the sweaty unknown of a runner's hydration pack to pull out a requested item. That became a little bit more gross as the cool, damp (even rainy) weather was burned off by the sun heating up to the low 80s. We saw quite a few runners suffering in the heat and from dehydration. It was interesting to learn what other runners were doing for hydration and nutrition. And see how each runner was having their own race day journey.

Set up at Heaven Hill Aid Station and waiting
At around 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, it was time to start our shifts of sleeping and pacing Jeanette. I was to sleep first, while Ryan ran with her and Jenn crewed solo. I set up the hammock to sleep in, up at the aid station. I rested but I didn't sleep. It was early in the day and I was excited and there were cowbells...I got out of the hammock around 8 and prepared to assist Jeanette through the first aid station in the dark. I was cold and there was a fire, which was nice. I waited there for Jenn to show up, and I checked in with Jeanette's brother Jason, who was going to surprise Jeanette and thought he'd arrive around 9. Everything went smoothly through that aid station and I turned my focus to eating some dinner and making sure I was ready to run within an hour. I realized how underfueled I was for the day of walking around and heading out for a middle of the night 20 mile run. I was glad for a sandwich and hoped it would be enough. I did not want to drag Jeanette down or bring her my own problems. This was about her, and I needed to rally.

I met Jason up at the aid station and we got Jenn all set to take a nap. It was fun to stand with Jason in the dark and listen to him reminisce about when Jeanette did Ironman. I also knew Jeanette would be beside herself when she saw him, and I was so excited for her!

Then we saw two headlamps coming toward us, and we turned ours on and walked out. It was great to see Jeanette's face when she realized it was Jason. My favorite moment of the race besides her amazing finish. I had tears in my eyes as she yelled out and put her arms around him. And then I got to run with her, which I had looked forward to all winter. Jeanette was going strong, still running, keeping a great pace. Though I had no idea what pace, since neither of us had a watch or phone. She was just running by feel. It was very freeing. We enjoyed 20 miles together. I mean, "enjoyed" is relative. I've done many long runs with Jeanette so it was easy to fall in sync together and find a groove, follow her rhythm and take cues. She doesn't need a lot of conversation and my purpose was to keep her company in that moment in the way she needed. I hoped I was figuring it out okay but tried not to worry too much about entertaining her.

Broth, Coke, Ice Water, and a quick break
I am pretty sure that Jeanette hit her lowest point near the end of this segment. She wasn't able to eat and her electrolyte balance seemed off. I talked her through the things I thought might help slow her kidneys down and get her back on track again. Before we knew it, we were at the aid station where I would trade with Jenn, and Jenn would pace for her segment. I took Jenn aside and briefed her on how it was going, mainly the need to take in more salt and try to chew food to get a few calories in when possible.

Then I went back to our cabin and took a shower and got a short nap. It was 7:45am when I got to lay down finally. Ryan and Jenn came to get me at about 8:30 and then we went to the finish line, and waited for Jeanette and Jason to come in. It was very awesome that Jason was running the last 7 miles with Jeanette. It was exactly what she wanted.

We waited at the finish line but not for long. There she was and she was running and she was still looking amazing! She ran through that finish line and I was crying and taking video and then she JUMPED! Wow, how incredible.

Jeanette was pretty amped up for a few hours, managed to shower and eat and chat and laugh, and then she crashed for awhile on the car drive. We drove straight home that day - a 7 hour drive. It was tough for all of us since we were so tired, but what a weekend!

Go crew someone. It's a fun, inspiring, and energizing experience. As always, I left this experience feeling that my faith in humanity was restored. Ultras are tough and you see people you don't know and people you love at all-time lows and all-time highs. You see pain, tears, vomit, laughter, zombie-like faces, helping, fixing, unspoken communication, hugs, and such raw human connection among everyone. It's amazing. And odds are, at some point during the weekend you will be so tired that you might laugh so hard you can't breathe.

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