Monday, June 13, 2011

Western States 100: Why I Seem to be More Nervous Than John

As many of you know, John is less than two weeks away from his third annual 100-mile race, the Western States 100.  John has been trying to get into Western States for several years now, and finally, thanks to his sponsor, he has secured a spot amongst the 415 runners competing in the 2011 event.  Here's a little description from the website:

"The Run is conducted along the Western States Trail starting at Squaw Valley, California, and ending in Auburn, California, a total of 100 miles. The trail ascends from the Squaw Valley floor (elevation 6,200 feet) to Emigrant Pass (elevation 8,750 feet), a climb of 2,550 vertical feet in the first 4½ miles. From the pass, following the original trails used by the gold and silver miners of the 1850’s, runners travel west, climbing another 15,540 feet and descending 22,970 feet before reaching Auburn.
Most of the trail passes through remote and rugged territory, accessible only to hikers, horses and helicopters."

Sounds like your kind of fun on a Saturday morning, doesn't it?

John's first 100-miler was three years ago in Vermont.  As I discussed in a previous post, I crewed the race (at 17 weeks pregnant), along with John's brother, Mike.  There were parts of the race where I was crewing alone, trying to make my way through the mountains on tiny dirt roads in the middle of the night.  It was incredibly stressful, feeling completely responsible for John's upkeep and well-being.  This year, I won't be alone.  I will have our good friends Mike and Alexis and Nathan and Jackie along for the ride, and Mike and Nathan will be running 20 miles each with John.  I am responsible for the last two miles.  I think I can handle that.

John and Mike post-training race (aka, a marathon).

And yet.  Yesterday, Mike, John, and I sat down to discuss John's plan for the race.  I think I sort of annoyed Mike and John, who are both ultra athletes and consider this sort of thing to be "normal."  But even now, after several years of this nonsense, I still don't consider it normal.  When John told me his plan to spend two minutes at each aid station, I sort of freaked out.  In Vermont, John spent 10-15 minutes at each aid station, eating grilled cheese sandwiches while I refilled water bottles and checked his vital signs.  Two minutes is nothing.  It's the amount of time it takes me to apply mascara.  To one eye.  It's the amount of time it takes me to change a diaper.  How on earth am I going to take care of John in two minutes!  I'm not a Nascar pit crew for God's sake!  AAAAHHHH!

Okay, so perhaps I over-reacted.  Perhaps I was a little too focused on things like backup plans in the case of serious injury (you know, since most of the trail isn't accessible by motor vehicle), instead of things like how many baby food squishers John is planning on consuming at mile 73.  I know John is prepared for this race; I know that he knows his body inside and out; I know that Mike and Nathan are serious athletes who will take care of John for the hours where I won't see him.

But perhaps the most comforting thought of all?  I know that I'll have the wives of two more ultra athletes with me, ready to commiserate about the ridiculousness of our husbands' "hobbies" and the complete and total non-normalcy of the whole endeavor, for at least nineteen crazy hours. 


kerry2642 said...

Mara.. I am in total agreement with you as far as the ridiculousness of John's endeavor.. when he sets a goal for himself.. he achieves I admire that.. consolation?? you did say that the one area he will be in helicopters can reach it!! whew! Maybe at the end of this you can apply for a job in the pit of the Nascar races.. you will be definately hired lol..I give you all the kudos.. for "keeping up" hugs.. "AK"

Leila said...

Wow, you did that at 17 weeks gone? That's devotion.I don't blame you for being nervous. I read a book last year about a guy doing Western States and it was shocking and amazing. How do they do that? Personally I will be very surprised if John is able to spend only 2 minutes at each aid station... not that the guy's not superman. Just from this account by the ultrarunner it sounds like you really need time to recoup at points in this run. So if he's looking at around 19 hours from his past races, then he may come away with one of those snazzy silver buckles from this race! Hope he makes it the 24 hour mark Lots of luck and love to John on this endeavor, from all of us. And of course to you and Jack.