|He was ready!|
So hard to know where to begin these posts sometimes, especially when there's so much to say and so many emotions involved.
Eastern States was not my race, it was Emir's but it might as well have been mine too. I went through all the ups/downs mentally and physically during his training this summer. There really weren't many downs actually. He was in fact rocking it. I mean how he handled 18 hours on the Velebit course convinced me he was more than ready. And I just could not wait to see him accomplish this goal, maybe even a little jealous that he would accomplish his first 100 before me ;-)
At first we thought we could handle everything with just me as Emir's crew and pacer however we quickly figured out that given the logistics of Eastern States, this would not work. If I was going to pace, I would have to leave my car at an aid station and somehow get a ride back to it later or get a ride to the aid station from the start/finish area. Thank goodness our good friend Mo volunteered to help us out and he brought another friend of his, Sandy, along.
We all took half days on Friday. Emir and I made it to the race start/finish sometime in the 5 o'clock hour. He picked up his bag however bibs would not be given out until Saturday morning. There wasn't much going on and we weren't hungry yet to feel like attending the pasta party so we decided to drive back to Williamstown where Mo had so generously gotten a B & B room for the night. I have seen Eastern States referred to being in the black hole of PA and now I know why. A few minutes after turning off of the highway to head towards Little Pine State Park, we lost all cell reception. So once we got back near the highway we started getting messages from our teammates wondering where we were. Turns out they were about the same distance from the B & B as we were, so we all ended up arriving around the same time.
|Tiff and I representing Altra and Trail & Ultra|
|#teamdedic or #teamred with Sandy and Mo|
I know you aren't reading this to hear about how we spent the night before so we ate, had a couple beers and went to sleep. We left the B & B around 3:30 am as the start was at 5 and Emir needed to get weighed, get his bib and hand in his drop bags. While he did that, myself, Mo and Sandy got our PACER bibs and I spent some time talking with our friend Tiff from Altra. She also had some Lone Peak 2.5's on hand for runners to test. Emir and I jumped at the opportunity to try some out. We both have the Lone Peak 2.0's and they have been, o-k but we heard some great things about the 2.5's. Some picture taking ensued and some more talking to other friends that were there and before we knew it, it was start time.
|drop bag area|
|alot of stuff is needed for a hundo!|
The start of ultras always makes me laugh because everyone is so pumped, energized and rushes over to the start line. Then they say go, blow a horn or whatever and it's like the slowest start to a race you will ever see. Cracks me up every time especially because I do it too. After the runners left. We had a lot of time to kill. There were only a handful of aid stations that crews were allowed access to just because of the nature and location of the course, it would be impossible to allow a bunch of cars and people safely. The first aid station that crews were allowed wasn't until AS 3 which doesn't sound bad but it's at 17.5 miles into the race and given the nature of this course, we knew it would be a solid 4 hours if not longer before Emir would get there. We drove back to the B & B to eat, collect our stuff and put our running clothes on since we knew there would likely not be facilities for changing later.
|runners are ready|
|coming in to AS 3|
We went back to AS 6. We parked and took naps in the car. I had set my alarm so we wouldn't miss Emir but I woke up because my arm was numb from the position I was in. Emir was averaging about 20 minute/miles the first 17.5 so we had figured he would be in around 4 or so. I was getting antsy when it was past 4:30 and we hadn't seen him but at the same time, we didn't see runners that were a little ahead of him at the other station either. Eventually he came in. He looked great but I could tell he was frustrated. I ran down the road to meet him to talk to him while we made our way to the aid table. He told me that there was extra mileage to aid stations 4 &5 and not just a little bit extra about 2-3 miles extra. He said there were people running out of fuel and water because it was further than what they had said (each aid station had a profile of the next section with the distance to the next aid station which would have been awesome if they were accurate). And he was upset because he should have been hours ahead of the cutoff based on his pace and the mileage listed however he was a little less than 2 hours ahead due to the extra mileage. I told him not to worry about it that he would probably make it up in other parts of the race. He seemed to be ok and I think he was excited because the next AS we would meet him at was only 4.5 miles away and that's when I would start pacing him. I was excited too. I couldn't wait to get out on the course with him plus I was bored of sitting and waiting all day.
|AS 6: discussing how things went since I last saw him|
|coming into AS 7|
|figuring out what he needed|
|#teamdedic ready for action|
|off we go!|
|#bibchat Donut Hole!|
I've seen stuff at ultras before but AS 8 was kind of a mess. Runners were everywhere. It was like a graveyard. People were in dazes, wrapped in blankets. It just wasn't a good scene. And I knew exactly why, the extra mileage had killed people. It's fine if it was 9 miles between aid stations but runners need to know that so they plan for it. Also many of them were very worried about the cutoffs due to the extra mileage which now was also a huge concern of mine. Emir's overall pace was still just under 20min/mile but yet we were only 45 minutes ahead of AS 8 cutoff. I just couldn't wrap my head around this whole thing and I didn't have time to either. I got him to eat some soup and some other stuff. AS 8 was amazing with the spread of stuff so I made sure we took advantage. I even tried drinking coke for the first time in a race. I had always been scared to try it. I really do not like soda and in general I feel like it leaves me thirsty and with a bad taste in my mouth which are things I don't want to experience while trying to run an ultra. Since I only had a few miles left pacing Emir on this leg and we weren't moving especially fast, I figured it was a good time to try. To my surprise, I REALLY enjoyed it and I felt really good after I drank it. I'll be utilizing that at future ultras for sure.
AS 9 was listed as 3.5 miles away and would also be when we would meet up with Mo and Sandy. Sandy would then relieve me of my pacing duties and run the next 9 miles with Emir. I told Emir this is good, it's a short section. His response was "who knows how long it is?! none of the distances between stations are right!" He was down and I mean DOWN. I worked him through some emotional times that short segment. I, myself, was getting so pissed off. I just didn't understand why the distances were so much longer than what they said, it was messing with the runners big time. If we had hit AS 8 at 7.4 miles even 8 miles Emir wouldn't have been in his current state. But there was nothing I could do but encourage him and keep him moving. He was afraid to run too much in the dark which I can't say I blame him. The terrain was rocky with wet sections and sections where you literally were running on the edge of some kind of cliff. I totally face planted while were hiking not running. Despite all this, somehow we still managed to maintain his overall pace right around the 20min/mile. I would have been happy because that SHOULD have put us well under the cutoff but surprise surprise we rolled into AS 9 at only 45 minutes ahead of cutoff due to the extra miles, again. My leg that was supposed to be around 11 miles was 13. 2 miles in a race with this kind of terrain is a big deal as for the average runner it's anywhere from 30-60 minutes longer than what they thought.
|AS 9 was AWESOME|
|checking in at AS 9|
I could tell when we got there that our crew was worried because they were expecting us sooner and we had gotten too close for comfort to the cutoff. I explained what happened and we went to work getting Emir what he needed. AS 9 was big and TONS of great stuff so we made sure he ate well. Sandy checked in with me to ask what Emir needed while she was pacing. I told her to make sure he kept eating and drinking because I was sure that's what caused him to get so down during my part. Mo and I sent them off as quickly as we could, knowing that there were some really tough sections ahead with more cutoffs. After they left, we were conversing with a few people that had ran the year before. The one guy was pacing this year. He was saying how his runner was frustrated as well because he thought he was doing more than a good enough pace to make the cutoffs but then was barely making it. He said how he had to explain to him that yes that was his actual pace but not his pace according to the Eastern States numbers. He also told me that the course was actually about 107-108 miles not the 100.8 that is listed everywhere. I was really starting to panic because these extra miles really could make the difference in Emir's race. But there was nothing I could do other than cross my fingers.
Mo and I set off to find AS 11 as that would be the next time we could crew. Our plan was just to get there and then sleep in the car since we knew we had a few hours. Once we got there, we went over to the aid station to use the pottys. As we were leaving to go back to the car, we saw a guy come running from the trail. He was coming the wrong way, never a good sign. He was yelling that someone had "pitched over into the creek and was in shock" We walked over to see if there was anything we could do as we could hear someone else yelling in the woods. We were informed that a runner had somehow made a wrong turn and ended up falling off a ledge into the creek. He broke his hip and elbow and suffered hypothermia from the creek as it took a little bit to find him. There wasn't anything we could do so feeling shaken up we went back to the car and settled in for a nap.
I set the alarm for about 1:45 as I was hoping Emir and Sandy would come into the aid station about 2:30ish, the cutoff is 3. While we were waiting, Mo asked if the aid station volunteers knew what time they got to the AS 10 and he said 1:00am. We definitely panicked big time! 1:00 was the cutoff and now we were very worried if they would make this 3:00am cutoff. Thankfully they emerged from the darkness suddenly right around 2:30! I was SO EXCITED! Other people sitting around were laughing at me but I was just soooo happy because I really thought they might not make it in time. There really wasn't much food around at this aid station, a lot of little snacks. I was disappointed because earlier when we first got there, they had pizza but that disappeared real fast. While Mo and I were waiting, we watched other runners come in and ask what they had and the answer was just these snacks, of course they had fluids but nothing with caffeine and no major food items. I refilled Emir's bottles and shoved more fig bars and clif bars in his pack. I told him just keep moving that he could do this. He was looking and feeling great. He was just worried about the cutoffs, as the next one was at 5am at AS 12 followed by 7am at AS 13. These cutoffs were super stressful and didn't really make much sense. There was a lot of them that were just always 2 hours apart regardless of how long the section was or what type of terrain it was. We sent him and Mo off, crossing our fingers.
Sandy and I now had ALOT of time to kill. We would not be able to see Emir and Mo again until AS 14 which was a solid 17-18 miles. Since we were in the middle of the black hole of PA with literally nothing around or any kind of phone access so I made the decision to drive back to the highway to Sheetz so we could get some food, drinks, use a nice bathroom and have some phone access. It ended up being about a 45 minute drive. I'm not sure how long we were there but I also made sure to get Emir trio of mini burgers because I wasn't sure what kind of food he would be getting while Mo was running with him. Then we headed to AS 14 which was probably another 45 minutes or longer. We parked and I immediately went to the check in area. There was a board with all the people that either dropped or were cut off, it was getting LONG. I asked the guy if he knew when Emir checked in at AS 12 but he said all his info was running at least an hour behind so he didn't know. Then he mentioned something about AS 13 being at 7:30. WHAT?! I asked him again and showed him our million papers that say 7 and he's like nope it's 7:30. So then I asked well what about this one then, it says 9. And he responded with "I'm not sure what time this one is yet. We have to radio in to find out." I wasn't upset with this poor volunteer because these things were not his doing but I was freaking out. I mean it's good that the times were later however I just prayed that Emir and Mo had this information as well because it could totally change how they approach those legs of the race.
I was so keyed up but so exhausted as well plus I was supposed to run the last 22 miles with Emir so if he made it in time, I had quite a journey ahead of me. I pulled out my sleeping bag and pillow and found an empty grassy area and went to sleep. I was so restless and could only sleep about an hour. When I emerged from my cocoon people were laughing because they really didn't think there was a person inside the bag.
|trying to get some rest|
|Best crew!! Couldn't have done it without you guys!!|
Emir and I have been reliving Eastern States for two weeks now. We know not everyone will agree with our opinions or assessments. We also feel that if the race directors decide not to make changes to the info given to runners and crews that people deserve to know what they are getting into and also just for their safety. It's well known that there are many 100 milers that are more than 100 miles but that's just it, it's well known. I have seen many races that are whatever100 but it clearly states it is 102 miles or 105 miles. Eastern States clearly states everywhere 100.8 miles however it's actually somewhere between 106-108 miles. I honestly don't care that it's longer, I just want to know so I can prepare and pace accordingly. Emir had studied all the numbers and information. He made the conscious decision to try to keep his pace slow enough so he wouldn't bonk out especially given this was his first 100 but so that he would make all the cutoffs and finish well under 36 hours. The fact that he was successful in doing this however didn't make the cutoffs because the information they gave was incorrect, makes me mad. I also wouldn't bring up these points if I thought it only affected Emir or if it was just a case that he just wasn't prepared for this race and just wasn't fast enough for this race. I witnessed many other cases of runners who felt they had a good shot of making it, get cut off. I also talked with some crew and runenrs who felt the same way and saw discussions online after the fact. So I do know this was an issue that affected many people. And let's face it, a 30% finish rate is not good.
The other major issue was the distances between aid stations. We have done a number of ultras at this point and I know it's not an exact science. However, I have not experienced where the aid stations were anywhere from 1.5 miles to 2 miles further than what was stated by the race. In a race like Eastern States, this is a BIG deal. Depending on the time of day you are hitting a particular section, it could totally mess you up big time. I witnessed it first hand. There was a number of people who were struggling because they ran out of hydration and fuel due to the extra miles. Emir also reported how bad it was earlier in the day when it was hot and runners were becoming dehydrated due to the extra miles. In this type of course an average runner is going to take an extra 40 minutes to an hour to complete two extra miles especially if it's one of the tougher sections or it's the hottest part of the day. And like I said earlier, I have no problem if it is indeed 9 miles to the aid station but runners just NEED to know that.
In general, we did have a great experience at Eastern States. The atmosphere was exciting and fun. I loved being part of a big event. All the volunteers were super helpful and very friendly. I loved getting to crew and pace. I loved hanging out with tons of other runners, their crews and our crew. Getting to know Mo and Sandy was awesome! The course is tough and challenging but beautiful and fun. I enjoyed the miles I was able to get in with Emir. And I learned that crewing is NOT easy. I woke up Monday morning with a splitting headache and so tired. I'm pretty sure I didn't hydrate myself enough during the race and was feeling the effects of dehydration and extreme fatigue. Even though coach Caleb had told me to rest, etc., now I really know for next time to take better care of myself while crewing.
This whole experience made me SUPER excited for my race the TARC 100. I think just seeing what a 100 was like in person gave me a whole new perspective and I just feel really good about it now. As it turns out, Emir's DNF might not have been the most horrible thing either. Both myself and coach Caleb have urged him to run TARC with me since it's not until October. He needed a little convincing (not much) but he's registered. This time we are doing the 100 miler the right way, TOGETHER! I think it's just destiny that #teamdedic accomplishes all new distances together. With the exception of our first marathons, we have run all our ultra distances for the first time together (50K, 50 miles and 100K) and been successful so maybe it was our fault for doing the hundo different. Why fix something if it's not broken?! In any case, I am so happy and can't wait. But before that, Labor day weekend I am tackling the Labor Pains 12 hour in Reading. It will be great prep for the hundo and tons of fun. My teammate Kristen is running and Emir & kids will be there supporting me. Speaking of which, time to get back to running! ;-)