Well two weeks before the race I started monitoring the weather for October 6th. It looked pretty good the first week and then the second week things started to change. By Sunday, the weather channel and Action News 5 had a 10 degree temperature difference and a 30% chance of rain difference.
Monday and Tuesday night we spent making lists and going over maps and things like that. The weather was still varying on the two websites. Wednesday, we went over previous years paces and when he checked in at aid stations…then we went over the maps and how long I would have till he would arrive at which aid stations…what he would need, what I would need etc. There are massive amounts of planning when it comes to a race of this stature. I know Michael would say “not really,” but I am a highly organized person…I want to know when, where, why, what to bring, what the weather will be like. I didn’t want to mess this up or him up…and have him start worrying about me while he was running around the forest.
We got most of our gear ready on Wednesday night…tents, sleeping bags, and our normal camping gear. I took another look at the forecast and asked Michael if he was prepared for rain while running 100 miles. He said not really, and said he would wear a garbage bag…I was like really for 100 miles? I told him to go look for a rain jacket, which he didn’t have time to do.
Thursday I called around and asked several outdoor stores and running stores if they carried a specific rain coat designed for runners, something that is incredibly light. I put holds on two different stores and Michael caught a break and was able to go try and buy one. That was a tiny weight lifted off of me…one less thing to worry about. Thursday night I took another look at the forecast and as we were going over lists and more race info…I asked Michael if he was going to pack his tights. He said no, and I was like don’t you think you ought too…just in case? The Weather Channel said a high of 52 and low of 40 with a 60% chance of rain. So he threw his tights in his bag.
Friday morning rolled around and we packed up the car, coolers, and double checked and rechecked our gear. I got the girls up, fed, packed, and loaded in the car and we were off to my parent’s house to drop the kids off for the weekend.
We rolled out of Memphis and arrived at Lake Sylvia around 2:00. Michael checked in and weighed in. He weighed 138 lbs…and they gave him 135 lbs. They weigh each runner at various aid stations and if they have lost a certain amount of weight then they are put on warning, or even pulled out of the race. Michael was allowed to loose 9 lbs before being DQ. We also had a runner and crew meeting where they went over what you can and cannot do…and the best ways to get to each aid stations and all other race information.
We did some light shopping and Michael bought us two matching AT100 hoodies. I squealed with delight when he gave me mine…I said oooo matching hoody parties!! He quickly rolled his eyes at me and replied, “oh great!” I did a quick check of the weather since we still had service and the rain was about to roll in. It was looking more like the Weather Channel was on cue. We went to our camp site and set up the tent with nothing in it (just in case it flooded). It started to drizzle so we decided to go back to the lodge and wait on the spaghetti dinner to begin.
While we waited we talked with many runners Michael knew…and met some new ones who were new to the race and were asking Michael questions about different legs, when to have a flashlight, and when it got light and dark outside. I also met PoDog Vogler, who in the past years has won the traveller and most recently finished the “Grand Slam” of running…meaning he ran the Western States 100, Leadville 100, Vermont 100, and Wasatch 100 all in the same year. This is a pretty impressive competition as little people can do it. Michael wants to run the Western States next year, and is hoping he gets in.
At 3:30 we had ourselves a severe thunderstorm rolling outside complete with lights flickering on and off. The dinner began and 4:00 and we quickly said a prayer which consisted of Michael saying “please let this food count!” We mowed down our food and decided to wait at the lodge for the rain to let up. I checked the weather again and it appeared to be moving out and I didn’t see anything else on the radar.
We got back to the campsite at 5:30 and it was still sprinkling. We hung out in the car and got it a little more organized and I put on a movie in our dvd player. By the time the movie ended we were ready to go to bed and luckily the rain had stopped. I love going camping, but I have a terrible time going to sleep while in a tent. So I popped some tylenol PM and I think I fell asleep by 9:00. Luckily it didn’t rain anymore that night, but it did get pretty cooooold!
We had set our alarms for 4:00 and I could tell that it was going to be a cold day. Michael got out of the tent and brushed his teeth and started making coffee. Thursday night when I told Michael to bring his tights, I went in and packed my fleece pants. I put those on to sleep in and I actually didn’t take them off until Sunday afternoon! I was having difficulty trying to get myself out of the tent and into the cold, but managed to do so. We got cleaned up and piled ourselves into the car and out of the wind. I started mumbling about possibly putting the tent up so we wouldn’t have to worry about it Sunday. Michael didn’t say anything, so I didn’t push it. About 30 minutes later Michael asked if we should put the tent up and I said sure. So we scurried around and took the tent down and then he got dressed for the race.
We arrived back at the lodge at 5:15…check-in time was 5:30. I looked at the radar while we were up top, and it looked pretty clear until 9 or 10, and it wasn’t much…but it was forming right on top of us. As he was checking in, I had my camera out taking pictures of Michael and his number. A race director was also taking pictures and pulled me aside and asked if my camera would film video, I said yes. So he asked if I would film the beginning of the race. I said okay, but that I didn’t have any lighting to see anything. He said that was okay and to use my headlight for light. I said alright…
6:50 is the call to the start line…we heard the call and Michael and I walked up hand in hand to the start. The director told me to walk 50 yards down the road and stand in the middle of the road and record the runners…I later told Michael that that sounded like a terrible idea. I hugged Michael tight and kissed him and told him I love him…and to not quit, just run…and most importantly have fun. I then proceeded to walk down the road and when I got to my spot flipped on my video and started recording…the gun went off and before I knew it I had runners running fast at me. I heard Michael holler my name and towards the end of the pack I was freaking runners out…I nearly got ran over 6 times…I kept saying sorry…sorry. I had my headlight fixed on top of my camera. Luckily I recorded it without getting knocked down…and they were off…and I was all alone!
I went back to the lodge to give the guy, whose name was also Guy…his camera card back. He asked if I got it and I said yes, but I think it was mostly runners hollering and headlights going by. I gave him my contact info and he said he would contact me later with a proof of the video and a permission slip for them to use it. I was like, um just use it…I don’t care! They are redoing there website for the race to try and get more people out for it. They had some college kids lined up for it but at the last minute had to cancel. I was glad to help out. Just not sure if it was anything they wanted!
I hiked up the hill and got back in my car and went back to our empty campsite. It was still dark outside. I decided to really organize the car as I would be in it for the next 24 or more hours. I had one side of the car dedicated to “sleep” which consisted of two sleeping bags, two thermarest, two pillows, and two blankets. The other side had all of Michaels running gear, my snack bag, entertainment bag, and cooler. I put my lantern on top of the cooler for light. On the passenger seat I put our camping container and on the floor I put our tent, my shoes, and my bag of clothes. It was a pretty good setup. I stashed things in the car that I considered important items…headlights, advil etc. Then I laid down and stared outside the back window for about an hour and watched it get lighter outside. I was suppose to be at the first aid station around 9:00, no later. At 8:00 I started getting things ready, gatorade, his black bag, visor etc. At 8:20 I flipped out about what if I end up missing him or something crazy..and decided to leave. The first aid station is at our camp ground. He wanted a chair, his black bag, and his water bottles filled with whatever at every aid station. So I got all that and walked over to the aid station and sat for 10 minutes. Then I realized that I forgot my camera…great. So I ran back to the car and grabbed it and ran back. Runners had started trickling in and I sat in the chair and listened to music, checked the radar, and played with my camera. He arrived at 9:05! He was about the 15th runner in. Yay! He beat his previous check-in times at this aid station…so we cheered when we saw each other. I gave him his gatorade, visor, and asked how he felt and he said he felt great! Then he was off!
While we were planning for this race we decided that I would immediately leave each aid station and go to the next one. The first year I went we did a ton of lolly gagging and even went to Walmart once which caused us to miss him at an aid station. We thought this idea would be the best just in case something happened…meaning I got lost.
So I booked it back to the car and kinda hung around to see if anyone else was leaving, but him being quick to check in…not many others were leaving. So I left and tried calling my mom when I got service on my phone. Turns out both of my kids got sick…EK of course with an asthma attack. I tried and tried to call at this gas station, the only one for miles and miles…and I knew I could get reception there. Everytime I called it wouldn’t go through. I saw a woman I had seen at the previous aid station and she was pulling out. I gave up on the phone and decided to follow her since I didn’t really know where I was going. About 15 miles into our travels she realized I was following her because she pulled over to let me and a truck who was riding my bumper pass…and I pulled in behind her and waved. So we continued on and found our next aid station…Lake Winona.
I waved at the lady when we got there and said thanks, her husband was actually in second place for a good part of the race. At these aid stations, there are certain ways you have to park and you need to use good judgement at which way you face…these are pretty much one way roads, that’s why you park on one side…but it doesn’t matter if you are facing the right direction. Having a runner who gets to aid stations firsts is a good thing for crew. You get good spots at the aid stations and its less trouble turning around with 60 cars around. So I got my business turned around and hopped in the back and started up a movie. I decided last minute to bring EK’s portable DVD player and rented some redbox movies on Friday. About halfway through the movie…it got dark, super dark outside. Have you ever noticed that hearing thunder is different than hearing thunder inside your house? I questioned myself if that was thunder…and it was confirmed when it started raining…and raining, thundering, and lightening…hard! I said oh great! I shut the movie down because I couldn’t hear it anymore. Then I tried reading a book. Then once again I got anxious and started watching the road for runners. Michael’s 2008 race he arrived at 12:08ish and his 2009 race it was 12:30. 12:10 passed and the rain let up. I didn’t set up the chair because I didn’t want it getting wet. But I had everything set up for him in the car. My hands started to sweat because he wasn’t in yet…and finally he showed up at 12:19. He said he was running through the forest and he would see lightening and would start counting 1 Mississippi 2 Mississippi…and lightening was striking all around him…luckily he was around 2 other runners and he figured if he got struck or they got struck someone would be able to help. Luckily, no one got struck. We chatted a little bit more, he was glad that I didn’t get lost. The weather was terrible…raining, cold, and windy. The temperature on my car said 42. He wanted to add his fleece vest and gloves to his attire, he was getting cold.
He left and I left to head to powerline aid station. This is an AWESOME drive during the day. The first time we crewed Michael in 08 we were hauling straight ASS on this road because we were going to be late, we didn’t realize how far out it was…and that it was a one-way fire road…and curvy. We were all hanging on to the oh poo bar of the car while Holly was driving. It takes about 22 miles to get there, but about 30-40 minutes to get there. I stopped several times and took pictures. There are about 3 spots where the forest opens and you can get a panoramic view of the mountains. I also noticed that while on top of the mountain I had excellent cell reception, so I called the troops and updated them on Michael. I was finally able to get in touch with my mom to find out how that bunch was doing. Both kids had fevers, EK a full out asthma attack, and Addison was stuffy and hoarse. Great. Sorry mom! I got to Powerline and set up the car. I mowed down a sandwich and got out and went and talked to the guy, Guy. I asked him which way was to Copperhead to make sure I was facing the right direction to leave. Then I got back in the car and stared out the window and tried to sleep. Didn’t happen. I sat up and started watching people and listening to music. I kept hearing a noise and I opened the door and asked a lady if that was thunder and it was. Luckily it didn’t rain while there. Michael rolled in and rolled out pretty quick. He handed me a bunch of trash and I noticed that he smelled like pickles when he left. He had mowed down a ton of pickles and gave me his pickle bags. So that coined him a new running nickname from me. Run Pickles Run! I told him I was going to make him a shirt at the next aid station.
I headed out to Copperhead and caught up with Michael on the road and told him I was going to beat him to the next aid station. I did. He arrived and I didn’t have to give him much as I had just seen him an hour earlier. He grabbed his flashlight and some more gatorade and powered out. He said his legs felt awesome and I slapped his but and said if he didn’t see me out when he came back my car was 5 down. The next leg was a loop so stayed put. It started to drizzle a little. I decided to go ahead and make dinner which I got some mad compliments on. I got a ton of basil from our CSA on Wednesday and made a bunch of pesto. I put the pesto in a mason jar and froze it. I packed a bag of noodles. I got out my supplies, boiled water and put the noodles in. The pesto had thawed and when the noodles were finished I put them in the mason jar and straight up mowed it down. A car full of people behind me were watching me do all this and later told me how impressed they were with what I was doing…and what I was eating. I told Michael when I saw him again and told him I was going to start writing a book on camp food and mason jars. He laughed. By the time he got back to Copperhead it was straight up dark outside. He didn’t stay long and said his legs felt fantastic and wanted to go quick while they did. So I packed it up and went back to Powerline.
The Thursday before we left, when I was doing all the shopping…I grabbed two glow sticks to put on myself, or the car, or the chair he was to sit in. He instructed me at Copperhead to have a new pair of shoes and socks to change into. I got my chair, black bag, and his shoes out and sat at Powerline and waited. I got out my phone and checked for service and had one bar. I texted a few people and actually was able to talk to Holly. I busted out my glow sticks and hung them around the chair. There were two guys watching what I was doing and came up to me and said what a good idea that was. So your runners know where you are because its dark, there are lots of chairs and people…and its hard to recognize people. At 8:35 I saw a runner with a flashlight in his hand and knew it was Michael. Most everyone runs with headlamps but Michael has this bad arse flashlight that is super bright and tiny…he doesn’t like running with headlamps because of the tunnel vision. I cheered him in and he sat down and hung out a little longer than previous stops. He changed his shoes and socks, weighed in, mowed down two cups of soups and told me what he wanted at his last aid station. 8:35 at mile 67.7.
We were both pretty stoked when he left, he was ahead of his pace…I told him he was at about a 22 hour pace. I packed up the car and headed to Lake Winona, the last aid station I would see him until the finish. So as previously mentioned, Powerline road, one road, narrow, curvy, rocky. Not fun AT ALL in the dark. All the rain had caused FOG….and TONS of it. I was going about 10-20 miles and hour. I could only see what was directly in front of my car. I had a death grip on the steering wheel and the whole time on the road I was praying…praying for the fog to go away, praying that no deer would jump in front of me, praying for no flat tires, and praying that I would stay on the road. I was severely freaked out. I almost took two wrong turns but on the way up I tried to pick out something at each fork…which helped greatly. No way did I want to get lost. It took me almost an hour and 45 mins to get back to Lake Winona.
I was one of 10 cars back to Lake Winona and got a prime parking spot. I got in the back and tried to sleep…but I was parked almost right in front of the aid station and a generator and couldn’t sleep. So I just laid there and looked at this neon green palm tree that was outside my window. I had one more Tylenol PM to take. I was going to take half of it, but I couldn’t find it. I started getting Michael’s stuff together…and he banged on the window. I got all his stuff out. While I was “sleeping” I stuffed his cold tights under my clothes so they would warm up. He said he was slowing down, tired, cold, and starting to hurt. He took off his shoes, popped two blisters on his toes and taped them. He put on his tights, took his bottle of water told me this would be a slow leg. I told him to take it easy, do what he needed to do and just finish. Didn’t matter what time…just run and finish!
He took off into the dark and I passed him in my car…praying for him the whole time!
I had another eventful ride back to Lake Sylvia…finish. This road was paved, no lights. As soon as I turned onto the highway…I saw eyes. Lots and LOTS of eyes! There were hundreds of deer along the drive back. I was like great! Deer everywhere! My dad had stuck a deer whistle on my car many years ago. I don’t know if it is still there, but I was hoping it was. So I decided to drive 20 and honked when they were close to the road. So I was driving slow, honking, and praying for these deers not to run in front of me…all at 1 in the morning.
Luckily no deer was injured on the way back to the finish. I found a good parking spot and tried to judge when he would be back. Friday we actually made a plan that I would run 2 or so miles with him. Well the two miles actually turned into 4…I would have to walk where I was to meet him and then run with him. I told him I wasn’t sure about it and immediately vetoed it when I parked. I didn’t know how long I would be standing there waiting on him. So I laid down in my car, set my watch for 4:45 and didn’t sleep. I got up at 4:20 and sat in the front seat and watched some runners come in. I then freaked once more and said what if that was him? I got out and went down to the finish and went inside the lodge and looked around. I didn’t see him. I hung around for a bit and then went outside and I heard his voice. He said “there’s Claire!” I said Michael!! You did it!! Look at your time! 22:59:33!!!
He was so excited and delirious! And man did he stink! We went into the lodge and he sat down and drank some ginger-ale and ate a peppermint. He talked to a girl who had finished right in front of him. He also told me that he made a mistake by changing into his road shoes, he had kicked a huge rock with his toe and his toenail was throbbing. We made a plan and decided to get his gold belt buckle and go ahead and go home. The awards ceremony was at noon and we needed to get back home. I told him that I had not been to sleep, and that I probably wasn’t going to go to sleep. So I took him to the campsite where he could shower…and we went on home!
I am so super proud of Michael! That is his best time at this race! It takes a lot of time to train for these races, a ton of time away from us and I do give him grief sometimes…and that is why I think it is soooo important that he finishes these things…to make it worth it that he does spend so much time on the trails and away from his little girls!
He is turning his application in for the Western States 100 the weekend before my birthday. Around 4,000 people enter and about 400 are selected. So…we shall see!
The week after we got back I called the awards place where Patrick had two trophies made for him finishing and had a third one made. We were going to the Avett Brothers with a bunch of our friends Friday night and to dinner before him…I said a tiny speech and told him how proud I was of him and handed this over…
and had to fight back some tears!