Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The End of Your Arm

"If you need a helping hand, there's one at the end of your arm."

I arrived home from Brazil jet-lagged and bloated from eating airplane snacks in another time zone. I also arrived home to my brothers Alan and Mark, Al’s wife, Carrie, Mark’s friend, John, and Al’s friend, Vern. There were airbeds across the living room floor, sheets on the futon and carbohydrates all over the counter.  They were in town to run the Cascade Crest 100 Ultra Marathon.  Well, three of them were running; Carrie, running her first 100 miler, and Mark and John who have run Ultras but not the Cascade Crest “Trail from Hell” Ultra. Al was going to pace for Carrie. That means that at mile 53 he is allowed to run with her. Vern was here to “crew” for Carrie and Al. For the uninitiated, to “crew” means that you drive ahead to various aid stations to meet your runner and have things they might need; different shoes, a dry shirt, their headlamp for the night part, duct tape for blisters or personal snacks that make them happy ( how can these people be happy after putting in double digit mileage?). There's a picture of Al all geared up and ready to pace.
If you did the math you figured out that Mark and John did not have a pacer or a crew.  My son was supposed to crew for Mark, but had to bail when he realized his school was starting a week earlier than he thought (duh). So I said I would crew for Mark. Saturday I was up early and off to the mountains. It was a grind, but I could find a silver lining here and there; I occasionally had cell service, I was thrilled I only got lost once, I didn’t miss Mark at a single station and I had remembered to bring a flashlight. I also got a workout in, hiking 3 miles downhill to an aid station and then 3 miles back up. Best part was that I got to walk the up part with Mark and provide some conversation. He was running without a pacer for the first time. From mile 73 to 76 I could distract him from his self-inflicted misery.  I think I got about 3 hours of sleep that weekend. Here's a pic of my dirt-and-muck covered car for all of you non-believers.

Why you ask? Why did I do it? I could have whined and claimed jet-lag and that unpacked bags were calling my name. I did it because I know without hesitation that they would have done it for me.
How did it end? Carrie crossed the finish line at 29 hrs 39 minutes. Mark at 31 hours. John dropped at mile 68 with a hip flexor that flared up. Still not too shabby in my book.  As I watched them remove their shoes and limp around in their flip-flops, saw grime in the creases of their knees and elbows, heard comments about the hornets that went on a rampage,  I was amazed by this incredible group of people. There are numerous books written on the mental and physical fortitude of Ultra Marathoners. I won’t be writing about that silly stuff. Instead I will offer this – it felt great to help. Even those times when I had driven an hour and half to a station only to spend one minute watching Mark refill his water bottles and squirt some GU in his mouth, my just being there with a smile and encouragement meant a great deal to him. And I thought about those times when we don’t let people help us. We are sabotaging a win-win situation. Helping is mutually beneficial. Otherwise we make win-lose or lose-lose situations. Those aren’t nearly as much fun.

Here I am with Mark. Why am I the one who looks like I've run 100 miles? Maybe because in some way (in my own head) I worked almost as hard.

And here's Carrie, looking adorable as always - ready to go run again. Note: Carrie said that the Cascade Crest 100 was the hardest thing she has ever done. She may not run for a while ...we shall see.

And for those of you waiting for more tales from Brazil, they are coming. Pictures are being organized, thoughts aligned, energy restored.  Thanks for reading.



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