For the life of me, I cannot come up with any sort of clever, cutesy name for the people with whom I spent this past weekend – Rac-backers? Raccoon Crew? The 101st milers? Meh…
Several of us did a short run on the trails Friday before RR100. From left, Adam Stauffer, Shane Naugher, Norene and Tim Prososki, David Murphy, Coach Jeff Kline, Dane Liebel, Ellen Losew (me), Jon Wilson, Mark Hebert and his adorable kids, Mark and Chloe.
Nonetheless, I took a couple days out of the office, packed up every piece of running gear I could think of, and dragged my husband 500+ miles to south Texas to crew/pace/watch a group of Idiots & PRSFit teammates at Rocky Raccoon 100. I’m sure my coworkers, friends and family think I’m crazy. It wasn’t even MY race. These were people I met ON THE INTERNET. Idiot. I don’t know why I wanted to do this, but I did from the first moment that Coach Jeff sent out the call for pacers. If they would have me (I’m a girl, not blazingly fast, and I’m a girl), I would go.
We met Dane and Coach for dinner at Chili’s. I had seen Dane’s Facebook pic, and we had chatted online some, so he seemed familiar. It wasn’t like meeting a stranger; it was like we were already friends. We hugged immediately. I would have the same reaction with each new Idiot all weekend.
We went for a quick run on Friday out the first three miles of the course. This was where I met most of the other Idiots. What an amazing group of people. Val Kilmer showed up (my husband looks like him), and we set up a tent and tables for the next day. Back out to lunch- “Hey, how about Chili’s?” We had the same waitress.
On game day, I actually slept in. I was anticipating running 20 miles that night, so we didn’t go out for the start. We ran a couple errands, but went out to the race by about 11:30. I couldn’t stand being away from the action any longer. Things were in full swing, and coach was pacing around with his fingers in his mouth. Nervous Nellie. He said he felt “like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” Turns out we timed it well, because the group was expected in for the 40-mile turn any time.
We didn’t know who would come in what order, then there came Dane covered in pine needles, dirt, rocks and debris. “I fell down a few times,” he said. No! Really? Dane looked great. He had a couple blisters that needed attention, so we dug through everyone’s supplies and I fixed them up. I was glad I brought a few medical supplies. A new bottle of GenUCan and he was off!
David was in next. It was hot and humid. We could tell he wasn’t exactly pleased- I asked if there was anything he needed. “A bullet to the head. Twice,” he replied. Coach gave the reassuring affirmations, David restocked his nutrition, pulled on a fresh shirt, and then he was off again.
Then we waited. We had no informatio on Chris or Shane. And we waited some more. Someone saw online that Shane had dropped, but we couldn’t find him. Not at the medical tent, not at any aid stations, he had disappeared.
Then Chris came stumbling in… And he looked awful. He couldn’t stand up straight, couldn’t catch his breath, couldn’t complete a sentence without gasping. The doctor in me kicked in. I asked him a few questions. Coach asked some questions. We conferred. Everyone fussed about – grabbing this, mixing that.… Aha. Chris hadn’t taken ANY electrolytes. It was somewhere around 95 percent humidity. He was drenched with sweat – couldn’t keep up with his fluids. We kicked into action. Jon grabbed electrolytes, I grabbed a cup, and coach grabbed– pickle juice. Yep, pickle juice. I didn’t say anything, but what the heck do I know? I’m just a doctor. I’m not questioning Coach Yoda. We got Chris to choke down a cup of pickle juice and most of a banana. Norene, Tim, and Steve helped with bags, clothing and gear, then he was stumbling off again. What is going on with these people? It wasn’t hot, but lawdy, it was muggy. They were miserable. Drained. I’m not interested in putting myself through this, EVER.
Shane came in a little while later. He looked about like Chris. Someone had transposed bib numbers so Shane had been listed as DNF. We helped him some, but he was more self-sufficient. We were glad he made it back out.
The pace crew had trickled in throughout the day. We were getting prepped, because we would head out with our runners when they turned at mile 60. We goofed around, cheered, bantered with teammates on FB, and posed some for the camera (the live stream camera was pointed directly at our tent most of the day). There may or may not have been a little dance party thrown in… I will neither confirm nor deny.
Dane was first back in, and he picked up David Pittman. David came in next, and he picked up Coach Jeff. Chris was expected to pick up David McNett. I left, somewhere about this time, with Jon Wilson and Mark Hebert to head to the Damnation aid station. We would meet the runners there and trade out pacers. We had all kinds of gear with us, as it was expected to turn chilly. It would soon be dark, so headlamps shone. I must say, I had the most impressive headlamp of all! I blinded everyone within a 100-yard radius! A small star on my forehead!
Damnation was one heckuva place! Music, food, lawn chairs, drinks. We found a log and waited. We observed the runners. The good and the bad. The leaders looked fresh. Everyone else, not so much. A few looked deathly ill. I sincerely hoped some would drop out. One volunteer was a makeshift podiatrist. He was practically performing minor surgery. He spent forever fixing blisters and toenails. I wondered why it took so long? A few runners were more than comical- one woman fussed and fussed about poison ivy, her pacer bouncing around like a little squirrel, retrieving soup, soda, water, chips. Another guy made very loud comments about his penis as he liberally applied some sort of salve down under. Oh, how we laughed. Some runners puked, some sat down, some shuffled, some were dazed and confused. It was like an anthill – organized chaos. This is where the “fist bump rule” was solidified.
We traded out pacers as the teammates came through. Shane came back through, but he looked worse. He rested awhile, then was off. I didn’t get to go out yet, as I had expected. I’m not sure if coach doubted me, or if he was worried about me, or if he wanted to be nice to me and not work me too hard. So I waited for my turn. We sat, watched the circus in front of us, and I drank more coffee. Then more coffee. I think I must’ve hiked down the road about six times to take care of that coffee. Hard to be discreet with the nuclear reaction shining out from my headlamp!
Eventually, David came back through. Coach had me go out on the 6-mile Damnation loop with him. He looked a little pained. He asked for another bullet to the head, then we were off. He told me we would probably walk quite a bit. I said do what you have to do, this wasn’t about me.
We talked and talked, lamps on, heads down. I don’t have a clue what the trail looked like, just roots. A couple bridges. Ups and downs. We kept talking. This was a guy I could hang out with. Good stock. We passed a few folks. We came upon the one-armed man, chatting still. David warned them we were passing on the left, and BAM! David was down on the ground. Crap. He turned around and said, sarcastically, “You tripped me!” I laughed, the one-armed man and his pacer made some sort of comment, then I said, “Yeah, settle down,” or something equally snarky/sarcastic. We laughed, after making sure he was OK. (I could’ve easily performed reconstructive surgery with the light from that headlamp.) He told me that was the first time he had fallen in two years, and that little event was going in the Idiots Running Club blog. Well, that’s fantastic. I’m going in the blog for tripping the founder of the IRC. Sheesh! Haha!
Our six miles seemed like it was over very quickly, but it took around 1:40. Then we were back at Damnation. Jon ran in the last eight miles with David. We hung out for Chris’ last trip through, then hiked down to go back to the start/finish. We heard that Shane had dropped. I felt terrible for him, to DNF after all that training. But it was a smart decision. We later found out that about half the runners dropped out – the most ever at RR100.
The finish was a party. My husband Steve had spent the last 8-9 hrs there without me, hanging out with Norene and Tim Prososki. Such great people. We all formed a bond. The cold front started through. The beer began to flow.
Dane came through somewhere around 21 hours! Awesome!! We cheered and laughed. Then David came through! More beer! Oreos! More cheering & laughing! It started to rain somewhere in there, so we picked up the stuff and prepped to pack out. Chris came in not too long after, sprinting the last part of the race! Such a great finish!
I think we left the park around 4:30 or 5 a.m. or so, I’m not really sure. Wet, cold, salty and tired. But I felt like I had made lifelong friends. When I was in medical school, my friends and I used to talk about how we would always be lifelong friends because of the bond we formed through enduring the same trials. Others who have not been to medical school just wouldn’t quite be able to understand us, understand that experience. I feel the same about Rocky Raccoon. I didn’t run but a tiny fraction of that race. It wasn’t my race to run. However, I witnessed amazing things. Chris said something about experiencing every human emotion during the course of that race. I didn’t doubt it one bit. I observed true strength and most of it was mental.
If I’m asked to pace/crew again, I’ll be there without hesitation. It would be an honor.
In the meantime, here are the top 10 things I learned spectating/crewing/pacing at Rocky Raccoon 100: 10. Fist bump. Do not hi-five or shake hands. Fist bump. Trust me on this one. 9. The “junk” everyone is referring to is NOT in the trunk. See #10. 8. Hand sanitizer. See #9. 7. The ‘stache is even more impressive in person. 6. Ultra runners are a different breed. 5. The human body can do amazing things. 4. Humidity. It literally sucks the life out of you. 3. Pickle juice can save lives. 2. A coach who cares about you is like a parent. They push, scold, comfort, suffer alongside and share immense joy and pride. 1. It is possible to develop a bond and care deeply about people one has only known 48 hours.