I'm finally able to sit down and get my final Crew Chief duty done. The crew recap. Friday before my run, they opened up the Pacer booth. Got my bib so I'd be ready to go at mile 62 and anywhere beyond if needed.
We all sat around the kitchen table the night before the race triple checking everything. We were a highly prepared crew with laminated spreadsheets, clip boards, and maps. I assigned everyone a "subject" so I knew who's bag to go to when B needed something. GH gets shoes, socks, and salts. EJ had the technology. Kim had meds, large food and bottles. I got energy food, clothes and all the directions to navigate. GH was able to attend the crew meeting on Thursday (as I was arriving into town) to gain some great insights from past experienced crews. You can do a Crew A and Crew B to hit more aid stations, but we all voted to stay together. Based on all the information we received, we made our plan to see B: Robinson's Flat (all), Michigan Bluff (Kim & EJ), Bath Road (GH), Foresthill (all & family), Green Gate (GH & me), Hwy 49 (all), Robie Point (who ever was still alive), and the finish. I was not happy with the limited crew access for this race. I get it based on the terrain and locale, but I didn't like it. Not at all. At Leadville I feel like you see your runner constantly. Here, just 4 times until mile 99. It didn't sit well with me all day.
Woke up at 3:30 am and slept better than expected. Made sure the rest of the crew was up and we hoped in the car around 4:10 to drive 1 mile down the road to the start line. First order of business was to get the bib and chip. Since I was already wearing my crew chief hat, I had to weigh in on B's pin positions for the bib and help with the timing chip. I wanted everything to be just right!
The start of the race was anticlimactic. No fan fare. Basically just a bunch of dudes in shorty shorts shuffling around trying to stay warm in the unseasonable cold start this race was going to have. There was a count down clock at the start, so around a minute to go, B shed the sweatshirt and was left with his singlet and arm panties. He purposefully sat back instead of toeing the line which made me very happy! He crossed the mats just before 30 seconds had clicked off the official clock and became a black blob in the sea of runners going up the trail. We wouldn't see him again for 6+ hours and he will have already run over a marathon. I didn't like this fact at all even though he prepared a drop bag during this stretch.
The crew headed back to the house to pack up the car and get moving on our way. My crewing motto, you can never arrive too early. I gave us just 1.5 hrs back at the house before setting out for the long day. This race is full of shuttles and those can make or break you in a race like this.
Robinson's Flat (all crew) @ 29.7 miles
As we drove west down I-80, it got nasty. Raining, fog and ominous clouds were rolling in. All I could think about was B out there freezing his no-ass off. We hadn't really planned on rain. This race is typically hot as balls. Not today. Luckily EJ had an extra rain jacket and GH had some killer ponchos in the truck. We arrived at Robinson's Flat, suited up, then waited in the shuttle line.
Such a good look...
The shuttle ride to the aid station was on an old school bus up a winding road on a cliff. Glad the windows were fogged so I couldn't see how close to death we may have been.
This race is very particular about where you can crew for your runner. You can get them disqualified for doing the wrong thing. I saw a runner being crewed in a spot I liked, so I shimmied my way behind the crew and took over their spot as soon as they left. Now we were left to wait for #190 at mile 29.7.
It really started to rain as we were standing around. Then hail. Hail. Really?! I became frozen. I couldn't use my fingers. It was miserable. I look happy in this picture, but I really felt more like EJ looked behind me.
All I could think about was B shivering on the trail somewhere because he was soaking wet and freezing. Images of Power Line and Pipe Line from Leadville bounced in my brain. While I held our spot, the rest of the gang went to the aid station to watch, cheer and capture footage. Our guy came charging in and looked great despite the weather. We made use of the poncho as a seat for him since a sock change was in order.
We got him some dry clothes, hot food, bottle exchange. I stuffed his pockets. Traditional pit stop of us.
I wasn't sure how this next part would go down. I wanted him to take his coat. The thing only weighs like 2 ounces but I wanted it to protect him from what ever else Mother Nature had in store for us. He didn't put up a fight at all! I was relieved.
While B headed out...
...We packed up and had more shuttle waiting. More rain. More hail. Come on?! I was visibly shivering at this point. Teeth chattering type of shivering. It seemed easier than try to use my energy to stop. A lady in line tried to give me her husband's long sleeve t-shirt. I told her "Thanks but I shiver. It's what I do." She didn't know I had 3 top layers on already. My face expresses it best.
Again, we wouldn't see B for HOURS. I would have to wait 7+ hours at mile 62 at Foresthill. Ugh. He had another drop bag to help out. We went straight to Foresthill to grab lunch and wait out the day. We had nothing else to do! And since everything was soaked, we made a drying rack out of the truck since the sun was out and it was now about 90 degrees. Hail be gone!
After 2 false attempts at small restaurants by the car, we opted for the bar food scene across the street. I swear the lead singer of the band was Robbie Hart's older heavier brother. It was here we also met up with B's official pacer, Footfeathers himself. I felt terrible sitting there knowing B was out running, but there was nothing I could do about it. I didn't even want to eat. I had a turkey sandwich in the car anyway. The rest of the crew chowed down. Especially TL. The man can eat. All 3 of these plates are for him. And him only.
23 minutes later...
I was a bit baffled how all that on one's gut was going to help my brother finish this race. Normally I worry about my brother's bowel movements during these races. Now I had 2 guts on my mind. Gross. I should mention the race had text/email alerts at all the aid stations. This was great, when you could get cell signal. So we had been watching B hit 24 hour pace give or take 5 minutes at each one. Kim commented that she wished he'd make up a little more time for some wiggle room. I disagreed. I knew the wiggle room would come when TL took the reins.
As we left lunch, we got to see the leader Tim Olson strolling through 25 minutes ahead of schedule with the buff pacer Hal Koerner. I was not the one staring at Hal as he passed by, but someone
EJ in my crew was.
Ok, maybe I was a little.
Michigan Bluff (Kim & EJ) @ 55.7 miles
At Foresthill, you can take a shuttle back up the course to Michigan Bluff. The crew meeting warned you should be able to get back to Foresthill to meet your runner again, but this crew was not taking any chances. B had told us pre-race he was thinking he might want his Hokas at this point. We knew he needed the watch charger. I thought he might need the iPod change too. So I loaded up Kim and EJ with 1 of everything he might need including the Hokas and sent them off. I reminded EJ to tell him "If he doesn't take the Hokas or the iPod now, he may be stuck without them until Green Gate! Make sure you make that clear!" Here's what they found at Michigan Bluff...
Good news bad news. He did switch to the Hokas because a blister started forming. Kim and B played doctor and got him back on the move after a good rest. Got a text from EJ prepping me for what our boy needed at mile 62 where I was waiting.
Bath Road (GH) @ 60.6 miles
I sent GH up on foot to the aid station before Foresthill, at Bath Road. He was to bring him into Foresthill and call me at the aid station so we knew when to pay attention. He successfully completed his mission.
Foresthill (all & family) @ 62.0 miles
Before B arrived, I took an opportunity to photo bomb my nieces. Love it!
Here's Team Shart eagerly awaiting our runner!
Once I got the phone call, I rounded everyone up. Momma passed out the cowbells and we yelled for our "naked runner" to come through.
He was still hovering at the max 24 hour pace.
We got him changed to something warmer as it was 6:50pm. They took the gear that would be needed during the dark hours and we switched B to the water pack to free up his arms. I was able to hustle down Foresthill to quiz him a bit on food and what he'd been doing at the aid stations, weight check, etc. Told him GH and I will see you at the river crossing. We figured he'd need a change of clothes at this point. Again, I didn't want a shivering carcass on our hands.
Green Gate (GH & me) @ 79.8
Since we had another 4.5 hours to kill, the whole family and crew drove over to see the finish since B was pacing to finish in the wee morning hours. As we pull up and park, we hear the crowd erupt. The leader, still Timothy Olson, was finishing 90 minutes ahead of schedule. WTF? Unbelievable. 14h:46m. I'll do the math for you... 8:52 mile pace for 100 miles in the mountains. Insane. The announcers were telling the crowd what runner was leaving the last aid station at mile 98.9. Once I heard Nick Clark was in 3rd, I had to watch him finish. I met him a few years back in Leadville and he's a running bud of B's in Colorado. He was in 6th leaving Foresthill and pushed to 3rd. Killer job.
Back to Green Gate. The crew reorganized the truck and headed back out to catch another shuttle. We got a barrage of texts at one point and they had B gaining time. GH and I took about everything possible from the truck, strapped it on our backs and went to the shuttle. Except, the shuttle was broken and we were told to go wait in line "over there". Holy shit. The line was 60 people deep and it was a short bus shuttle. We thought we had enough time to get down to the river but quickly realized this was not going to get us there. So I started yelling "Anyone have a runner coming in in the next 30 minutes? We need to get on the next bus!" No one in the line answered. A-holes. But a random dude slyly walked next to me and said he'd give us a ride. Turned out he hitched a ride with another group of crew that took a car to drop people off where the shuttle did. Giddy up buddy! He dropped us off and GH and I took off. We were motoring in the darkness with our headlamps to get to the river. It was about 3 miles down. The terrain sucked. Lots of focus trying to not sprain an ankle while carrying a 15lb backpack. Once we started seeing runners come at us, we turned on our red hot poker sticks (glow-lights) to indicate to B we were his crew. We were ALMOST to the river, when I see a white long sleeve shirt coming at us. Then I hear in a very jovial-kid-like tone, "I think that's my family!" We found him!
We hiked up with him to Green Gate. He was in great spirits. I asked TL how those onion rings were feeling!? He admitted they may have not been his brightest idea. B didn't need hardly anything from us. The aid stations were stocked well. I don't even remember if I even gave him a gel. But it didn't matter. GH and I were prepared with the kitchen sink if needed. B was crushing it at 20 minutes under 24 hour pace. Short pit stop with only 20 miles to go. GH and I had to make the trek back to the shuttle, or what we thought was the shuttle stop. We tried calling Kim and EJ to get them to come get us so we didn't have to wait. Straight to voicemail. Shit. We were in the middle of no where and had service. They were waiting in a church parking lot with none. Especially since B was speeding up, we were just nervous wanting to make sure we were at Hwy 49 in time.
Hwy 49 (all) @ 93.5 miles
Another shuttle to get to this aid station. We were getting pretty steady text updates at this point. We knew B was hammering the splits and gaining time each leg. At this aid station, they would announce the runner number as they came down the hill. We patiently waited til we heard "#190 Brandon Fuller from Colorado!" He was over 40 minutes ahead of schedule. Sweet Mother! I let the aid help with B while I bent TL's ear to see how our runner was really doing. B had chugged some IBuprofen to help with the legs. He was taking salt and food at all stations. B said he was tired of eating. Ok, fine. I would be too at this point. But this stop solidified for me, B had this in the bag! I think I shoved some fresh blocks at him and said we'd see you at Robie Point. He and TL blew us off and said we might not make it in time, just go to the finish. Who the F do they think they are?! GH and I wanted to run again!
Robie Point (who ever was still alive) @ 98.2 miles
The crew decided we'd make the call once we arrived at the finish/track. If we had time, GH and I would run back up the course and meet him. We arrived in PLENTY of time, so I was stoaked! I took the GoPro from EJ, strapped it on my head, and we followed the orange shoe prints back through the course. We arrived at mile 99 to find a huge tailgate happening. Christmas lights in trees. Flags and banners everywhere. Bonfire, coolers, they had it all. This mile marker is in the midst of a circle of houses who's owners were welcoming in all the runners to the finish. GH and I decided to stay here to meet B instead of at the actual aid station .08 miles away. Kind of a way to surprise him and plus, these people were more fun! As other crews and volunteers came by, they assumed this was the aid station. Once they heard it wasn't, it was a "WTF" look and they kept on going.
One of my favorite parts of the race happened here. One of the neighbors asked me "Who is this Brandon that we are waiting for?" Well, sir let me tell you! I got to brag about my big brother. Not only about his running but about how smart he was and his dedication to his family. After that, every runner that we could barely see they'd go "Is that Brandon?!" Once I saw the long white sleeve shirt, I cue'd the neighbors for our welcome party! They erupted!
To the finish
I tried filming with the GoPro on the side of my head but felt a backwards shot would be better. So I ran up with TL in front of B, while B trotted with GH. Turned out, it wasn't the most exciting or greatest video. It was hard judging how far behind me he was with the growing shadows on the ground. I didn't want to keep turning to look. That last mile went by so very fast. Too fast. I wanted to selfishly stay in that moment with him. We rounded the last corner to finish on Placer High School's track. And cue tears. I'm such a sap sometimes. It was an awesome feeling getting to be on the track with my big bro! I peeled off on the last turn and gave him a low five then screamed my lungs off! I gave TL a swift ass smack and a big thank you! Watched my bro cross the line at 23h:22m:26s! Silver buckle dream accomplished! You can check his site for the killer finish line photo and some video. I'll post this one...
My brother nailed this race! He did the 2 things we failed at last year at Leadville Trail 100. Eating and hiking. I think that is burned into his brain now. Eat. Hike. Eat. Hike. We didn't hang around the finish very long. Long enough to point TL towards his car with a beer or 2 as another thank you. I knew we had a long ass drive back to Squaw Valley. I had EJ take over the wheel while I navigated. More post race info later. This post is way long and I'm way tired now :)