Chiken Soup for the Ultra Runners Soul: Umstead 100 Crewing

So I find myself writing most often about gear reviews, taper plans, race reports, and training, and have left out a really important part of the ultra experience; the giving back…the crewing!

Think about how many people it takes to organize and hold an ultra?  The coordination, the volunteers, the aid station workers, and the crew.  Even if you run your races crewless there are people who give up a day or two days, or more to host wonderful events for us to take part in.  There is cooking, and marking, and permitting that has to happen behind the scenes.

This year I am volunteering or pacing at as many events as I am running, maybe even more as a thanks to so many people that donate their time to events that am lucky to run.

This year of giving back started with packet pickup for Little River Trail Race, a local event our running group hosts yearly.  More recently this, this weekend, I switched gears and crewed for Jen Edwards at the Umstead 100 where she took first overall for women!  It was so exciting!  I crewed for her last year as well, so this year it was great to see her back for revenge on the course and with her eyes focused so intently on first place.

Umstead is a looped course, so the runners run past you every 12 miles, rather than you driving to them to crew, which makes it a really great ultra to spectate.  There was quite the back and forth with the men’s race, as well as the women’s for 2nd 3rd and 4th.  Hal Koerner was there for a second year in a row, dropping at mile 50 again.  I was kinda hoping for a CR or something exciting when I saw his name on the entrant list.  Either way it was fun cheering for him, and he was a gracious ambassador of the sport, smiling and thanking people as he ran by.

The main aspect of my crewing was to keep an eye out for Jen and letting her know where all the other runner’s are; ahead or behind her, how they look, how long they stay in the aid stations, and their general demeanor.  I often enjoy this for a few reasons.  The first is because I do actually like watching ultra’s and seeing how people perform as the day wears on, and how they react to the fatigue and pressure. The second is because I am competitive by nature so it excites that part of my personality when the race is on!

Not only is it fun to watch the runners, its also great to meet all of the people at these events.  Everyone from spouses, kids, coaches, and other runner’s helping friends accomplish their goals.  I got to chat with several VHTR runners, and even met Ray K and picked his brain for an hour or two…what a fantastic, exuberant, smart and inspiring guy!!

The day was chilly, with a breeze, so I never really warmed up.  Jordan (Lynx) kept her on pace, so like clockwork she come by us every 2:05 hours.  As the day wore on you could see the the pain creep in, but she kept her focus, and we kept her hydrated, fueled, and appropriately dressed for the temperature drop.

By sunset several runners had finished their 50 mile race, so only the 100 milers were left on the course, Jen being one of them of course.  This always makes crewing easier, and is also a boost to the runner when several people ahead drop out!

By 11pm  I had on every layer I brought, and was standing under the red Christmas lights awaiting Jen’s finish.  It was her boyfriend’s first time at any ultra event and before he paced her last lap his nervousness was palatable.  He spoke of not knowing what pace, if he could keep up, or thought perhaps somehow he would screw it up.  I knew he would be just fine, so with some words of encouragement he set off for her final lap.  Just at 11:30 he was back by my side again…”how did you..” I didn’t have time to finish my thought.  I turned my head just in time to see her come across the finish line, grinning ear to ear!  First place, what a great way to finish off a long day!  Even though she did all the work, somehow I still felt like I shared in her pride.

I know people run ultra’s with out crew all the time, but for me, part of the experience is to be crewed and share that joy…as well as sharing in the triumph on the other side of the event.  It just makes my soul happy.  Its the spring and races are popping up every weekend, be a part of the great ultra experience and get out there and crew or volunteer when you can!

As for my training, earlier in the week I got in a lot of my workouts that I felt were necessary so I could focus on Umstead, knowing I wouldn’t be running all weekend.

This is what my training week for 3/23-3/29 looked like;

  • Monday; 2 mile warm up to gym. 51 min climb @15% 1 hour of cross training after. 5 miles running time 1:15 xtrain 1 hour
  • Tuesday; Stadium workout.  First time around running each step, second time around running every other step, followed by plyo’s up and down the steps, run there and back.  11 miles or 2 hours.
  • Wednesday; Recovery on trails 7.2 miles.  1:11 running time
  • Thursday; Trail miles with Nate and Jordan, 23  x-train in the afternoon :45
  • Friday; Stadium workout again, plus more plyo’s at the end 12 miles.
  • Saturday; Umstead Crewing, 0 miles
  • Sunday; slept in till 9am after being awake for 26 hours straight, ran easy 5 miles in the woods with friends and dogs!

I hope I have inspired some of you to get out and help at a race you are not participating in!

Happy running!


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