My good friend and running partner, Pigeon toed the line at the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile endurance run last weekend. While the details of that race are not mine to tell, I can share with you what Be-Well-Run and I experienced from a crew’s perspective.
It all started when Be-Well-Run (BWR) arrived at my house from Canada last Thursday evening. She came to visit knowing that a large portion of our time would be spent heading to Tahoe to crew Pigeon (I do not think BWR minded in the slightest).
When I arrived home from work on Friday, we quickly packed the car with our gear, some food and hit the road. We immediately started listening to Ultrarunner Podcast, one of my favorite (LOCAL) podcasts. These interviews always get me excited to run trails.
Our first stop? Squaw Valley! Squaw Valley is the Trailmomma family’s home away from home. Near and dear to hearts, I wanted to show BWR where we spend most of our days/evenings when we are in Tahoe. As an added bonus, the Squaw Valley Wanderlust Festival was going on at the same time!
Hippies, tie-dye, malas, yoginis and vegans were everywhere! BWR and I were in total Wanderlust heaven. We were also starved when we got there so we grabbed a free SoDelicious Almond Milk Mocha Ice Cream Bar followed by some amazing local kombucha. That’s how we roll.
Soon it was time to hook up with Pigeon and Missouri at the condo. We caught up on events, introduced BWR and Missouri to each other and soon started discussing what was going to happen the next day when Pigeon started her race.
We also laughed endlessly about some of the adventures Pigeon and I have had on the trail together. BWR and Missouri sat there and listened to Pigeon and I laugh about who did what, who fell where, who got scared by turkeys (okay, we all know who that was) … and I realized, while finishing the race was Pigeon’s goal, the journey to get there was probably my favorite part.
Pigeon went to bed early. She had a lot on her mind and an early wake up call. BWR and I sat up and just soaked in the fact that we were in Tahoe about to be part of Pigeon’s journey. I was also a little bit sad that I was going to miss the Peanut’s last home swim meet. She had been called to be an alternate on the relay team which for her, is a very big deal.
Still, I knew that I needed to go to bed and get a good night of sleep because BWR and I were going to wake up and hit the trails to see Pigeon pass through the 11 mile and 17 mile marker in the race.
With a restless night of sleep, I woke up completely energized and ready to show BWR the Tunnel Creek Trail that leads up to the TRT course. She has seen photos of this trail for the last few years on my blog but has never set foot on it until now.
Just three and half miles long (completely up hill) is all it takes to hit the Tunnel Creek aid-station at TRT. This aid-station is the 11 mile and 17 mile marker for all 3 events (50K, 50 mile and 100 mile). However, the 50 and 100 milers will pass through this aid-station numerous times on their journey.
BWR and I finally made it to the top and just in time as we saw Coach Nikon coming in at mile 11 and heading out on the Red House Loop.
I could tell BWR was pretty stoked. More and more runners were coming in and since it was so early in the race, most of them were happy and in good spirits. I tried taking a selfie of BWR and myself and before I knew what was happening, this super cute runner dude asked if he could jump into our selfie!
We’d see this guy a few more times throughout the race but he was never as smiley as he was in the above photo.
While sitting and waiting for Pigeon to come through, we saw quite a few runners come in. We would cheer and shout encouraging words. I even saw Boo come through! She was running the 50K race with zero training under her belt (and she placed in her age group too!).
Finally we saw Pigeon come through. We were not allowed in the aid-station so we had to sit tight and wait until she got what she needed and came out.
We knew that we’d see her again in less than two hours so BWR and I just hung out and cheered runners on totally loving every moment of it.
Eventually Pigeon came back through at mile 17.3 of the race and per the rules, she had to weigh herself to make sure her weight was stable.
BWR and I made sure she had all she needed and that she used the porta potty. We told her that we would see her at Diamond Peak (mile 30) next. Overall, she looked great. The only thing that I noticed (and no one else would have) was that she was walking back up towards Tunnel Creek after the Red House Loop whereas every single year past, she’s run that hill. Still, I just assumed she was pacing herself.
When Pigeon left, BWR and I took off down the trail back to the car. What was 3.5 miles up hill, was also 3.5 miles down hill. While I knew better than to bomb it, I couldn’t help myself or BWR’s excitement running down the hill towards the most beautiful views of the lake.
We got to our car and headed back to the condo for some food and quick cat nap. Soon it was time to pack the car and head to Diamond Peak (which was just up the road) with Missouri and all the gear in tow. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this little side story here.
Missouri drove Pigeon’s car to the bottom of Diamond Peak. With the new crewing rules, parking was limited at the ski resort. We unloaded the gear onto a wagon and made our way up the huge hill towards the aid-station. A gentleman in a car stopped to tell us that there was tons of parking up the hill. Missouri didn’t want to have to unload the cart again and sort of dismissed it. Finally, after enough pestering, she agreed to let me move the car closer. So I hopped in, drove up quite a ways and then turned back down the hill and ran towards Missouri and BWR who were pushing this massive wagon of gear up the hill. We even PASSED the car and I pointed out the car’s new location. This small piece of information is significant, so remember it.
We set up our mini aid-station at Diamond Peak and began socializing. I was sad to hear that Coach Nikon had dropped but he seemed okay with it. BWR got to see Gordy Ansleigh, the man behind the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. She may have stalked him just a bit.
Pigeon came into the aid-station right on target and the whole crew jumped into action.
I refilled her pack. Missouri got everything out that she needed. We all just jumped into doing whatever it was that she needed as fast as she needed it.
She had expressed some discomfort but she seemed so together mentally. This Pigeon was a whole new runner compared to the runner who came through this same aid-station in 2013.
Soon it was time for her take off up the massive Diamond Peak hill. One of my favorite photos is the one below. Pigeon had asked myself and Kuni to pace her in this race. Kuni had just run Hardrock a week prior and has tons of ultra experience under his belt. He was also Pigeon’s pacer during the American River 50 miler this year and brought her back to life. The following photo says a lot.
Once Pigeon was gone we loaded up the cart again and headed to the car … which was dead. Yup. The battery in their car had died. The blame was put on me since I was the last one to touch the car and MAY have bumped the hazard lights (which were not on when we all walked by it earlier). My heart sank a little. I knew how much the car meant to Pigeon … I also knew that if she knew what happened, she would have flipped.
Luckily, Kuni came to our rescue again and gave us a jump start but the car would prove to be a problem all day and so we moved all the gear to my car …. (take note, again, this is important later on).
We had a few hours to kill so we went back to the house. We ate, we napped whatever it was and soon found ourselves getting back into (my) car and heading towards Spooner Lake where Pigeon would come through at mile 50 and also pick up Kuni as her pacer.
I am not sure why, but I never once looked up at the sky to see what the clouds or weather was doing. In hind sight, yea, we should have looked at the sky.
We arrived at Spooner Lake, parked the car and set up camp. Pigeon was predicted to come in at a certain time and we were there quite early which was fine, we were chatting it up with other runners and crews. Spooner Lake is a happening spot in this race as it is the finish line for the 50K and 50 Miler runners and the half way point for the 100 milers who were about to head out on a second loop.
I cannot recall how long we had been there but before we even realized, the sky had turned dark dark gray and we heard a roll or two of thunder. All of a sudden the sky opened up and the rain came down in buckets! Then it started hailing on us! Huge giant pieces of hail were pelting us left and right. Lightening was blasting all around us and seemed way too close for comfort. We got word that they had to evacuate one of the aid-stations out on the course.
All of a sudden I remember that we had MY car! I turned to Missouri and told her that I had a tarp in my car. I ran to the car in the storm. It was raining so hard that I even got a little turned around because I couldn’t see and the parking lot was quickly flooding!
I found the tarp and raced back to the crew. We used the tarp to cover ourselves as well as the gear of Pigeon and a few other runners that we knew. Now who saved the day huh? I went from the girl who killed the car to the girl who had a tarp in her car! Wait … why do I have a tarp in my car? (cough cough murderer?)
The weather was dumping on us. Runners were still coming through the aid-station completely soaked and shivering. All we kept thinking about was Pigeon and the fact that she was probably on Snow Valley, a peak so high up that she would have been in the thick of the storm.
We must have stood there for what felt like days but in reality was only hours waiting and praying for Pigeon. We wanted her to come in so that #1 we’d know she was safe and #2 we could dry her up and get ourselves out of there and back to the condo where it was warm and dry.
She finally came in, almost 2 hours off her scheduled time. We knew the weather would slow her down (how could it not) but when she came in, I could see in her face that things were not well. Still, as a crew should, we jumped into gear and raced to get her warm broth to sip, some dry clothes to change into and a place to sit down.
Unfortunately Pigeon had to make a decision. She was about an hour and 45 minutes ahead of the cut off at this aid-station but her running ability was limited. She could chase the cut offs all night long or call it. She decided to call it. I could see the disappointment in her eyes. She apologized to us crew profusely and we just shushed her. We would have been by her side no matter what she decided. Nothing would have stopped us from being her crew. We were honored to part of her team. We would do it all again in a heart beat.
So while the outcome is not what Pigeon envisioned for herself, she has many things in life to be grateful for and she knows this. She has an exciting future ahead both on the trails and off. I have no doubts that she will get a 100 miler under her belt and while it may not be TRT, it will happen. With every race she does, Pigeon gains so much knowledge. She matures before your eyes as a runner each and every time she toes the line.
I look forward to seeing her conquer her goals and she will conquer them. I have no doubts about it and when she does, she will have one kick a$$ crew behind her.