“I do believe that when we face challenges in life that are far beyond our own power, it’s an opportunity to build on our faith, inner strength, and courage. I’ve learned that how we face challenges plays a big role in the outcome of them.”
– Sasha Azevedo
The 50 mile story actually began Friday night. After the runners had logged their 50K, showered, and filled their hungry bellies, there was a pre-race meeting. These are not too common for road races, but fairly standard for long events 50 miles and above. They went over course markings, what to expect from aid stations, some notable warnings (such as barbed wire), and basically explained how they had marked the course. Anyone with grey matter was excited for the race ahead.
Again, we woke up to a few puddles and the sound of rain outside the tent. We all headed to the warm yurt and filled our bellies, wiping sleep from our eyes.
Soon all were packed up and ready to go. It was dark and everyone had a long day ahead, and I was surprised by the lack of nerves around the start line.
Of course it’s possible that people were just too cold to be nervous. Here are two especially bubbly runners cuddling to keep warm in the pre-dawn drizzle. I love this photo because it represents how these two lived the entire three days, weathering the storm of adversity together.
After the racers took off, a few of us hiked over to the first vague turn to direct sleepy runners as they approached in the darkness. It was the perfect way to start the day, hanging out with friends and waiting for more to fly by in the stream of bobbing headlamps.
A good crew prepares for post race as much as for mid race, so I spent the morning drying clothes, pillows and blankets for after the race. The girls would be soaked for every minute of daylight, and I wanted to have some comfort waiting for them when they had finished the day’s work. I also inventoried the food and each runners’ drop bags to make sure we’d have everything they’d need. Sitting, playing guitar, and eating chili were also on the agenda.
When the time came, Jenster, Linnea, the giant goldfish carrying goldfish, and myself hopped into the Prius of Hazard and drove several winding unmarked country back roads to find the mile 25 aid station. When we got there the scene was completely relaxed. We pulled right up into the clearing, popped the trunk, and spread out our runner supplies and clothes.
As I had suspected, Jenster was a quicker draw than Billy the Kid with an arsenal of cowbells. As you can tell by this maniacal expression, she intended to employ them with ruthless tenacity and reckless abandon. You can’t beat a good festive jingle!
The girls came through a short time later, bounding happily through the bright colors of the forest. At this point they both seemed astonishingly fresh! They looked as if they had just started, cheerfully gobbling their Ensures and cheese sticks. I was thrilled to find them in such good shape; there was a distinct possibility that the previous day’s miles could have made the current race a sufferfest!
That was a fun warmup marathon. Wanna pick it up a little for this next one? Yeah? Good, let’s hit it. Have you noticed how thoughtful and attractive our crew is? Me too, they’re the cats pajamas. Here we go! Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!
When Nermal and Megatron shot off into the woods, we quickly packed up and raced to mile 33.7, the next aid station (they were all 8-9 miles apart).
In a stroke of good fortune, the newly repatriated Colonel Cannon had generously volunteered to join the dynamic duo for their last 17 miles of mud skating and stream hopping. My only regret is that he didn’t wear something more visible.
(I am insanely jealous of those shoes; I’ve always wanted a pair)
Pretty soon some familiar faces began appearing, the few runners we had seen at the last station. This guy’s family had walked up the trail so he could carry his adorable daughter for a bit, something I imagine was the biggest spirit booster he could have had. The family vibe throughout the entire event really was remarkable.
This was the best aid station experience I had all weekend by far. Once we were situated and had the gear ready, Sass, Missy, Dana and Lisa pulled up and filled out the cheering section. The fact that they had lots of cold beer was also a significant plus.
It wasn’t long before the Turbo Twins rounded the corner with guns blazing, charging into the clearing.
Colonel was bringing up the rear, no doubt covering them from enemy stick fire.
The girls looked a tad more tired, and I could tell they were both starting to run on fumes. The legs were working, but the exertion of having logged 64 miles was wearing on their minds. I was glad Mike was going with them, as I expected the next 17 miles to be much more enjoyable with a fresh friend in the mix. Both girls may have been getting slightly punchy, but they never lost their look of fierce determination and there was never a doubt they would make it through the race and back to camp that night.
All in all, I had a blast crewing Saturday. These two women are wonderful company if you’re winding through miles of wilderness and have no idea where you are!
When we got back to camp, the sun was beginning to set and the fog was settling in, which made for a spooky atmosphere. The anticipation rose with every runner who came in, as we heard about more and more drops. Runners were dropping like flies, so the few who made it to the final stretch were rewarded with an enthusiastic reception. The Loop contingent was strong, and were leading the charge in finish line cheering. I overheard one race director say to the other, “What is happening? This is so cool!”
The Trail Trio soon appeared, and as Mike broke off and the girls sprinted the last 1/4 mile, the sound of emotional cheers was deafening. I’m glad others were videotaping or snapping photos, because I was only concerned with one thing: giving my girl a huge hug and making sure she and Meg were ok. Those women had battled through a collective 82 miles (1 bonus detour mile) and were charging through the finish arch. The Loop family enveloped them, I wrapped Laura up in an embrace of pride and concern, and someone passed the moonshine.
In this life, I’ve been fortunate enough to collect a few memories I would call “perfect moments.”
This one left them all behind.