Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Crewing 2013 Western States 100 - Team Tim

Back in January, shortly after my friend Tim Steele had been picked in the Western States Endurance Run 100 Mile lottery, I had offered up to come along as Crew Chief. He's one of the nicest fellows you'll meet, I'm not sure he even realizes what a strong runner he really is half the time, and it would be his first 100 miler. Tim trained hard all through the spring and the warmup into a Texas summer, and suddenly it was race weekend.

A Disaster with American Airlines

I could write 5000 words on the chaos, poor communication, and general lack of care or backup plans for their customer, but I'll be brief on the disaster with American Airlines. What should have been a simple direct flight to Sacramento early Thursday AM turned into a 23 hour travel journey, including flying into San Francisco instead and me driving in the complete middle of the night for 3 1/2 hours to arrive in Tahoe City at 4 am. In the middle of it, American Airlines also sent our bags mistakenly to Sacramento - the luggage that had all of our clothes and, unfortunately, ALL of Tim's race gear and apparel. They said it would come during the next day with a nonchalant "no problem" attitude.

Race Eve Should Be About Rest

Instead, the luggage seemed more and more delayed with every call I made. So inbetween weigh-ins and check-ins and a trail briefing that should have been an exciting time, I was on hold with lost baggage office constantly trying to track down his race gear and we were all starting to scramble to figure out how to replace all of his race items if the bags didn't come. Who is "We"?

Our team was:
  • Tim Steele - runner
  • Meredith Steele - non-running and EXTREMELY supportive wife of Tim who would be my companion through the race.
  • Ace Gallegos - pacer for miles 62-80 and Tim's good friend
  • Nancy Goodnight - pacer for miles 80-100 and Tim's good friend.
I'll say it now and again later - this was an amazing team!

We got Tim checked in and through the medical area.
Taking his blood pressure
JB Benna from Journeyfilm, the makers of the film "Unbreakable" about the 2010 Western States, was there filming.

Tim told him he loved the film. I further commented to JB, "It's my favorite running film and my treadmill movie of choice. I've seen the movie about 8000 times." JB told us he was working on another Unbreakable movie, which is really exciting.

Tim and I then chatted with the gal in front of him in line for the picture-taking step of the check-in process, and I said after she left, "That was Bree Lambert. Girl's a beast. Ran 8th place at Lake Sonoma 50 this year!" Add to it that she was really nice too.

It was amazing how worn out we were from the 4 hours of sleep we had the night before. We kinda stumbled around for the next hour before the trail briefing in the hot sun. While it was long, the briefing was fun because you saw Gordy Ainsleigh, the race founder. 
Gordy in blue doing chiropractic care DURING the briefing.

And then they introduced the top 10 favorites in the men and women. A lot of names that I knew and people I greatly respect in the ultra community.
Top 10 expected females

Top 10 expected males
We made a couple stops after the briefing looking for race gear for Tim. Running shoes were a bit of a worry, but Reno Running Company had his style and size in stock and they put a pair on hold. Meredith and I spent our race eve driving an hour each way to Reno where we picked up the shoes and found a Sports Authority where we could pick Tim up some clothes and an outfit for each of us too since we'd been wearing the same clothes for 2 straight days.

Another couple calls to lost baggage office, then an attempt at going to bed, where I kept getting up with each set of headlights I saw outside the window, and then paced incessantly. If the luggage didn't come before we left for the race, while we now had enough gear to get Tim through, the hotel would have to hopefully hold on to the luggage, and I would have to drive over an hour back each way after the race to get the luggage. So it was stressful.

12:30 am, after I'd dropped asleep for an hour, I woke up to a loud knock on the door. The front desk guy was there with our luggage. Such a relief!

Race Morning

2:30 am. Yawn. Yeah, 3 hours of interrupted sleep. We packed up the car and were on the road by 3:30. At the race site, they had breakfast and coffee for the runners, and a nice place to wait inside. 
One of the top 10 favorites, Nick Clark, in the blue jacket.

Tim did a great job of just staying mellow. And then it was time to go to the start!

Everyone counted down from 10, and then they were off! They headed up toward Emigrant Pass, an approximately 2200 climb in less than 4 miles. We watched these ants run up this mountain.

Robinson Flats - Mile 29.7

We hurried to the location, getting a great parking spot. We used this downtime to get our gear all set up, since again, everything had arrived in the middle of the night. Digging through bags and suitcases there in the woods, LOL. We took the bus up the 1.5 miles of seriously narrow dirt cliffside road to the aid station spot. Up there we grabbed a spot and went to lay everything out. Meredith said, "where's the orange I cut?" She had put it in the wrong cooler (we had 3 styrofoam coolers - one for just ice, one for all the cold stuff, and one for just the cold stuff we wanted to take into the aid station).

So I jumped up and said I would go back down. While going down the shuttle to the car and back up, I missed all the top 10 elite men. Sadly didn't get to see Timmy Olson this year. :-(

But I did get to see all the top women!
Megan Arboghast - she's my hero!!

We hung out, tried to ignore or dodge some of the biggest bugs of our lives, and started to get really really hot (when we left the aid station, we could feel the breeze again; aid station was in a total dead zone for air movement!). We cheered all the runners, I briefly got to meet a twitter friend Desiree, and we made friends with a fellow named Jeremy from Utah.

When Tim came in, he was in good spirits. We cooled him down, added supplements to his pack, and Meredith cracked a joke (at my expense, LOL, but worth it!!).

Michigan Bluff - Mile 55.7

We had a good bit of downtime, so we went to Sugar Pine Pizza in Foresthill to eat, then we scouted the Michigan Bluff location (where there was no cell reception), and then finally tracked down a shady spot in town where we did have cell service so we could see his live online updates as he hit the intermediate aid stations. I managed to get a 45 minute nap in the hot hot car. It would end up being the 2nd hottest year in Western States history, with temperatures over 100 degrees.

At Michigan Bluff, we saw friends Anne, Isabelle and Dale (who have both run my New Years Double race before), Shaheen, and Nick. Tim came in to the aid station, gave me his pack to refill, and headed to medical to treat his blisters. He was still on a consistent pace and feeling good.

It was now 8 pm, so runners were allowed a pacer at that time, whereas before that they had to wait until mile 62. While I was not terribly excited about dropping everything to run 7 miles to wear Tim would meet up with his pacer Ace, I was really excited to do whatever my runner needed at that moment. I asked Tim, "You are allowed a pacer now. Do you want me to run you to Foresthill?" He said, no, he really felt good, and to drive on with Meredith to Foresthill. I was kinda glad he didn't need me, and even happier that his spirits were good if he wasn't desperate for an emergency pacer sub-in.

We warned him they were about to stop running the shuttle to parking so we might miss him at mile 62, but we would try our hardest to be there. We packed in a flash and indeed, the shuttle was stopping. So I ran / powerwalked a 500 foot climb over 0.7 miles in a rush to get the car to bring it back to collect Meredith and our gear. THAT was a workout.

Foresthill - Mile 62

We made it to Foresthill with 10 minutes to spare. It was now about 9 pm. Subway was closed but thankfully Nancy and Ace had bought a couple sandwiches, so we each grabbed a small piece and Tim was happy to have some real food when he arrived.

This was the first time I jumped in to treat his feet as he wanted to change socks. I drained the first blister with Ace and Nancy standing over me in the dark holding headlamps, and Meredith caught my split second facial reaction of "Oh my gosh, what am I doing here?" That face wouldn't happen again. I just had that one moment of reality before the crisis management of "GET THE JOB DONE" would kick in. Meredith was totally willing to handle the feet, but in the middle of the NASCAR pit stop that is crewing, I would just jump in and handle it as one of the items on the checklist to get him in and out, and honestly, she was usually taking some great photos of the experience and who wants to interrupt that. I couldn't fill her shoes there.

He and Ace set off, and we jumped in the car to head to our next point in the game of "hurry up and wait."

Green Gate - Mile 80

We drove to Hwy 49 to the town of Cool, CA. This involved a short period on a super windy mountain road at 11 o'clock at night, and a deer just right by the road as we made these hairpin turns. Both Meredith and I were on edge. We parked at Cool, where Nancy would end up hopping in our car and leaving hers. Everyone slept for almost an hour and a half.

Then we drove to Green Gate where we were able to get a pretty good parking spot. Next came a 1.2 mile walk on a rocky dusty road in the middle of the night in the dark. The walk felt like forever, not helped that we were all exhausted.

We set up at the aid station, then Nancy and I headed down toward the river. We met Tim about a mile from the aid station. I was a little sad we didn't beat him to the river crossing so I could have seen him cross and taken a picture.

The strategy I had proposed to Nancy went off well - she went ahead with Ace and had candid pacer talk. How was his attitude, his pacing, all the details of the last 18 miles Ace had spent with him. I enjoyed this time walking with Tim, also checking in on his mental game and how he was doing physically. We were prepared for the worst because many runners break down and question finishing around this point. Not Tim. He was in great spirits, laughed at my jokes, agreed about how beautiful it was out here in the middle of nowhere at 3 in the morning, and chatted back through everything while we powerwalked up the big climb to Green Gate.

At the aid station, I sat to treat his feet where we had agreed he would change socks and shoes. He says now he'll never forget my intonation as I asked, "So how does your pinky toe FEEL?" with my voice on edge. He said, "Like it has a blister." "OK!" I said. It was actually one HUGE blister on the top and an equally HUGE blister on the bottom. I drained several blisters, wrapped spots in duct tape, all by the light of headlamps. And then he and Nancy took off.

Heading back to parking on the 1.2 miles, Meredith sent Ace and me ahead as we powerwalked our way back. Sadly, Meredith was suffering from severe hydration from the hot long day we had and she threw up on the walk back. Thankfully a volunteer getting off shift at the aid station gave her a ride, so we arrived back at the car to find her waiting there for us!

Hwy 49 Crossing - Mile 94

We dropped Ace at Nancy's rental car so he could go back to his hotel and get cleaned up and some rest. Meredith was feeling tired since being sick and just needed some good rest. I had trouble sleeping and lightly dozed and caught up on the world on my phone a little.

6:30 am we took the school bus to the location of the Hwy 49 aid station. After a long wait, we saw Tim and Nancy and heard the announcer call his name out.

He weighed in and then plopped down into a chair. I immediately had the backpack there refilling supplements in his pack, talking to see how he was, and Meredith went to grab him bacon from the aid station. Nancy got his hydration pack refilled with water.

I asked him, "Feet feel great? Legs feel great?"
He said, "No and no. Let's go."
I said, "And they won't feel better until you're done. Let's get you out of here."
And then we helped him up, and he and Nancy were out of there. 2 minutes in and out.

To The Finish

It was only 6 miles, but we knew it would take him a while. We didn't know what traffic would be like though. Parking was actually relatively easy, and we found a good spot. We went into the stadium where the track was and waited on the bleachers.

We saw fellow Dallasite Neil Smith first, and I cheered and got his picture.

Then 5 minutes later, it was Tim's turn. He looked great. He was happy. He had a big smile. And he enjoyed his victory lap around the track.

Tim finished in 28 hours, 33 minutes.

After a lot of hard work and hot conditions, he had finished his first 100 miler with 19000 feet of elevation gain and 23000 feet of elevation loss on the course that is the Mecca for many of ultrarunning.

And here's a brief video of him moving through the finish corral. Getting the medal (you get the buckle later), and a final medical weigh-in.

As he cleaned and soaked his feet and had the doctor check over his blisters, I was happy to see twitter friend Sarah with twitter friend Desiree as her pacer, and then to see my friend Kai finish.
Kai finishes Western States 100

It was a long weekend, with way more stress than it should have been (thanks, American Airlines!!) and way less sleep than most of us endeavor to get, but it was so worth it. And our entire crew had worked together seamlessly, never bickering in our exhaustive state. A perfect matchup of everyone wanting to do whatever it took to get Tim to the finish. He did what so many wish they could - kept a good attitude and kept extremely consistent splits throughout the full 100 miles. Way to go, Tim!!
Tim declared we need a "TEAM TIM" selfie right after his race finish. Love this team!
Finally, here's a great video that Tim's wife, Meredith, put together to show the whole weekend!

1 comment:

  1. I loved the twitter updates, thanks for putting them all together! Go Team Tim! What an adventure! :)