If you were following along with my FitBloggin’ adventures last week, you probably already know that I was stuck in the Denver airport for a few hours en route to California to crew, support and pace my friend Andrew to a big Western States 100 mile finish.
Thankfully, after a very stressful standby situation, I got the very last seat on the plane with about one minute to spare before take off. No joke. Casey picked me up at the Sacramento airport and we made our way to Rocklin to drop off Abbie girl with my parents before heading up to Foresthill to check me in as a pacer and meet up with friends who were also spectating.
For those of you who don’t already know my friend Andrew, he’s not only the awesome person who inspired the name of this blog, a total badass on the trails, and an accomplished joke teller, he’s also a Western Sates 100 miles FINISHER y’all…woot woot (yeah, he’s kind of a big deal)!
Andrew came out to pace me during my first attempt at the Born To Run 100 where I DNF’ed at mile 80 after an endless stream of purple vomit. He’s the very same person who dedicated himself to running 100 miles with me just one year later at Born to Run and got me through the finish line in one vomit free piece.
Out on the trails for 100 miles, I learned a great deal about Andrew. Not only his amazing joke telling ability but also how inspiring, supportive and encouraging he is. Not to mention how selfless. He made sure I was consuming enough water, calories and of course kept me on pace and from sprinting ahead at the beginning of the race (harder to do than it sounds…).
And ever since we crossed that BTR finish line together in 23:17 hours, I knew that the time would come for me to return the favor and help Andrew to his own victory. And while he got into Western States in 2014, it just wasn’t our year. For starters, I was getting married that weekend so really couldn’t be there to support him (the nerve!) and he had a rough go at it. So when we found out that he got in for a second year, I knew it had to be his year and that I was going to be there to help him in anyway that I could. And nothing would stand in my way, not even a long security line at the Denver airport.
Anyway, back to the race…
After visiting with friends and checking in at Foresthill, Casey and I made our way to Michigan’s Bluff (mile 55.7) and found the rest of Team Mitchell (AKA Andrew’s crew).
It was hotter than hot out (I don’t know what that means exactly, I just know that its true…) and I was silently worried and anxious about the heat. Was he drinking enough? Taking in enough salt? How was he feeling? And how the hell was he running in that heat?!?!
Despite my anxiety, I kept thinking positive thoughts. And by the time I had the rest of our awesome crew outfitted in pink and blue #TeamMitchell cat hats, I was confident that 2015 was Andrew’s year. He came in to mile 55.7 right about when we were expecting him.
He was still moving really well but we could all tell that the heat was getting to him. Shelley (his wife) and Gail, his long time friend and running partner attended to all his fueling needs and like a Nascar pit crew had him back out on the trail with his first pacer Kai.
We walked back up the long, steep hill to our cars and loaded up before making our way over to Foresthill (mile 62). It was just about 10pm when we pulled into the Foresthill aid station (felt like 11 pm to me given I was still on MT) and Casey and I realized we still hadn’t eaten dinner. Nothing seemed to be open so we made do with what we had – I mixed up some SOS Rehydrate in my hand bottle, ate some Wild Friends peanut butter (cinnamon raisin – deliciousness) on an apple and consumed a giant granola bar that I had stashed away in my bag from FitBloggin’. And Casey ate the remainder of a giant meaty sandwich he’d picked up somewhere (I’m assuming a gas station?) on his road trip (I also nibbled away on his bread….).
We found the rest of our crew (Shelley, Gail, Charlene, and Erin) parked along the road and camped out waiting for Andrew and Kai. Charlene and Erin jogged down the road so they could run Andrew and Kai in and almost passed them out of surprise at how early they were! They came in looking strong, moving well and in good spirits (I think the sun going down was a VERY good thing).
After watching Andrew getting rolled out with the “pain stick” (thanks to the very talented Charlene) and fed, fueled (thanks to Gail & Shelley), Kai and Andrew were off again. We loaded up to get ourselves to the next aid station – perhaps the most fun of the aid stations – the crazy river crossing! We parked and then walked a ways down a dirt road to the aid station area and left some of the crew with the gear. Charlene, Casey and I walked another 2 or so miles down a long hill towards the river where the runners were crossing the river in nearly waist deep water (in the middle of the night, no less).
It was pretty cool to witness the river crossing – some runners cheering all the way across, others a bit unsteady and unsure on their feet -all the while the very confident and amazing volunteers helping them across. We sat on the rocks for awhile and watched as volunteers instructed runners where to place their feet, got them in and out of life jackets and paddled rafts around as a safety precaution. I saw Desiree, a fellow ultra lady from Portland cross and cheered her on as she made her way up the hill and then it was Andrew’s turn.
We saw him almost right away and were ready to snap some photos and cheer him all the way up the hill to the aid station and the rest of our crew. We did our very best to tell him jokes and keep him smiling all the way to a dry shirt and some coffee (aptly named Caffeinated as Fuck).
Again with the precision and speed of a pit crew, the amazing crew (led by Shelley and Gail) got Andrew back out on the course with Erin, his next pacer. We wished them well and then made our way towards Highway 49 (mile 93.7). As we drove towards the aid station where I’d be pacing Andrew next, I couldn’t help but drift off. Poor Casey had to slap himself awake a few times before pulling into the parking lot, setting our alarm for a wake-up call in an hour’s time and then sleeping a little in the car. The alarm finally went off around 6:15 and we made our way to the 6:30am shuttle.
We posted up on the grass and “enjoyed” some instant coffee and crackers. We were all pretty giddy from the lack of sleep and the littlest things like finding a packet of Saltine crackers under the Ritz was enough to cause some excitement. Ooohhh saltines….just like Ritz, only more crunchy, salty and no butter! HA!
At one point, the entire aid station broke out into happy birthday for an incoming runner (which was amazing) and we watched runner after runner come and go with so much emotion…only 7 miles until the finish. I got myself ready and strategized with Shelley and Kai for the final push.
My goal was to keep Andrew moving and push the pace a little bit so that we could finish with plenty of cushion. He came through – both he and Erin looking strong and in good spirits – we got him just what he needed and then we were off.
I could see the tightness in his legs, his back, his whole body. I could tell how hard he had been working for this race and could not have been more impressed by his persistence and determination. When I would say, let’s pick it up for a bit, he’d dig deep and just do it. I did my best to stay chatty, telling him silly stories in an attempt to distract from the miles and pain. And it seemed to be working – since we managed to move pretty steadily for the first couple of miles until we hit the climb.
Once on the climb, we agreed to take it in little parts. We even ran some of it. I could see him digging deep. The determination was all over his face. And by the time we were closing in on the top of the climb, I suggested we run it in. I had started to really pay attention to my watch and realized with just a little over a mile to go, we were going to make it to the finish in under 29 hours.
As we neared the top, we could see a long line of happy #teammitchell cat hat wearing crew ready to run the last mile in. It was just the boost Andrew needed to make that last mile happen in less than 8 minutes. He was flying down the last parts of the road, all of us cheering him on until we were on the track. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes – so inspired by what he was about to do – finish Western States!!!
It was seriously the most amazing feeling in the world to see him finish. He had worked so hard for that race. And I was so honored to be able to be a part of it. And am so inspired by his performance out there. Casey and I both agreed that there was no better (and more inspiring) way to spend our first year anniversary.
After the race, we found Travis and CJ and Racheal and made a plan to meet at a swimming hole. So on our less than 2 hours of sleep, we made our way to the river (picking up Abbie dog from m parent’s house along the way) and enjoyed the sunshine, good company and friends. Not sure if anything we said that day out on the water made any sense….but out friends are runners so at least they understand… 😉
We crashed hard after returning to my parent’s and prepared for our long drive home and early morning on Tuesday (for me, a yoga double header).
ANDREW – thank you for including us in your amazing weekend. We are so proud of you and so honored to have been able to be a part of it.
Look out tomorrow for more ways that I’m feeling inspired this week….hint hint, it’ll be the start of my woman crush Wednesday posts….
How was y’alls weekend?
Stay sweaty friends!