“You have two choices: Run now or be ready to sprint later, your call.”
The last time I wrote about the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile endurance race was back in 2015 when Pigeon was attempting her third TRT100.
You can read about that event here (excuse the weirdness of that post, my blog has since been updated and there are all kinds of migration errors in it).
Needless to say she didn’t make it in 2015 and she didn’t make it again in 2016 when she attempted the race for a fourth time.
Fast forward to the present day; I wasn’t overly surprised to see her name on the entrants list for 2017. I know she has quite the vendetta with this race and a desire to conquer it because she knows (and I know) that she can finish it.
But some things had to change in order for that to happen.
This post isn’t about her run per se, I will let Pigeon tell that story as it is hers and hers alone to tell. You can follow her here: Pigeon’s Blog. This post is more about crewing and what we saw from our side, which if you’ve ever run an ultra, you know there are two sides/adventures for both runner and crew.
In years past, I’ve missed my kid’s last swim meet of the season, taken off of work and headed up to Tahoe to help Pigeon get ready. This year, I couldn’t do that. I wouldn’t do that. Vans suffered an injury and is out of swim meet rotation. I also had told Pigeon early on that I wasn’t going to give up vacation time and my kid’s last swim meet again. She understood. I sound like a terrible friend but crewing is a huge commitment and it wasn’t that I didn’t believe that she could finish, I just had to put my family first this time.
That was the start of some of the “changes” that occurred. Pigeon’s wife also left town and would not be crewing. That meant, Pigeon had to find a whole new crew.
If you’ve followed my posts this year, you know that I’ve been running with some new trail friends. Not Chris is one of those friends. He’s been running with Pigeon and I for quite some time now and even though he is fairly new to ultra running, he’s proven himself to be a superb runner, friend and planner.
Miss P is not a “new friend” but she is a consummate bada$$ on the trail! I’ve never heard an ill word about her in the 7 years I have known her and she is one helluva runner.
That rounded out our crew. Myself, Miss P and Not Chris all ready to finish this. Miss P and Not Chris had to take on the Friday and Saturday duties while I attended my kids (very hot) swim meet.
Not Chris was unfamiliar with TRT100 before meeting Pigeon. As soon as he was asked to be part of the crew, he studied the rule book, website, cut-offs and maps. He was on top of everything.
He was also excited to be a back up pacer and to also finally go up Tunnel Creek!
Even though there is little you can do at the Tunnel Creek aid-station (miles 12 , 18.5, 35, 62, 68.5, 85), it’s enough to have the moral and verbal support. I know Pigeon truly appreciated him being there for her.
When Pigeon came into Diamond Peak (mile 30) early Saturday, she was ahead of schedule. I was getting the play-by-play texts from Not Chris all day. She looked good he said, feet looked good, she was not much below the 30 hour runner cut-off! What!? That’s awesome!
I finished my swim meet which was a good 40 minutes away from my house. I raced home, cleaned up my kids, myself, made sure Vans was okay (remember he’s out of commission and essentially has the use of only one leg right now), did some house items he requested I do before I leave, shoved food in my face and then jumped in my car and drove to South Lake Tahoe.
I made it to Spooner Lake by 5:30 pm. Pigeon was expected (if she was still on schedule based on her day so far) to be in anywhere between 6:45 pm and 7:45 pm.
Not Chris and Miss P were at Spooner by 5:45 pm. We set up our crew aid-station in a completely different spot than years prior (again, to change things up).
Miss P was ready to pace Pigeon through the night to Diamond Peak (30 miles). Originally I had hoped to pace her all 50, but with my swim meet obligations, I had to back down to only the last 20 miles. In the end though, that turned out to be a great and perfect plan.
There was quite a bit of carnage at Spooner and the mosquitoes were in full force. Not Chris and I waited on the trail for her just down from the aid-station.
Around 7:15 pm or so we saw her! She was still ahead of schedule! I had not seen her yet today, so I ran to her gave her a half-assed walking hug and then pummeled her with questions: What have you eaten? How do you feel? What do you need? What’s working? What’s not working? How are your feet? You get the drift.
She seemed quiet but verbal. She mentioned she had tummy troubles so I said to stop what she had been eating, we’ll try something new.
When she came in through the aid-station we got her settled. She changed her socks and looked at her feet. So far so good it seemed. We refilled her pack and replaced all the food she had. I don’t honestly recall what she ate while she was there … bad crew person!
Soon she was up, with headlamps and ready to run with Miss P. Off they went and that was that. She barely stayed more than 10 minutes in the aid-station.
Not Chris and I packed up everything and made our way back to the condo. We discussed what our plan should be for the morning. She’s doing so well and moving so much faster than expected that Not Chris and I were nervous about getting to Diamond (mile 80) in time to crew and exchange pacers.
Around 10:30 pm Miss P texted me their status .. all seemed well she was almost to Hobart Aid-Station (mile 57).
I woke up at 2:00 am ready to roll. I just couldn’t sleep . By 3:30 am Not Chris and I were at Diamond. We set up inside the doorway of the lodge (you are not allowed to set up outside before the sun rises) and waited. We waited some more and waited some more. We were fully entertained by the hum of all that was happening around us. A lot of runners (and pacers) looked quite haggard after the long night’s run.
Another text came from Miss P at 3:30 am. A few “issues” had occurred out there, she slowed down her pace considerably but was moving. They were just at Tunnel Creek (mile 68.5).
6:09 am another text “Hope to get in by 7:15.” Time wise the night (and blisters) took their toll on her and she was inching closer to the 35 hour runner mark. 7:03 am she came rolling into Diamond!
She was an hour and 53 minutes (roughly) below the 35 hour cut-off for that aid-station. I was okay with that, I thought that gave us a decent cushion. I was wrong.
We had her in and out of Diamond quickly. She only managed some veggie broth and a few pieces of potato. She didn’t eat very much which concerned me as we were about to start climbing to the top of Diamond Peak.
As we climbed we chatted. She seemed quiet but fine. She said she was tired (duh) and that her legs hurt (double duh). Then, she dry heaved. “What the?!”
Me: “How long as this been going on?”
Pigeon: “Oh since before Spooner.”
Me: “Say what?”
I went into correction mode trying to figure out what we could do to alleviate this problem. I gave her ginger. Nope, that came flying out. I gave her salt. Nope, that came back up as well. I gave her three (yes 3!) jelly beans … those stayed down. Okay, we got something to work with. Jelly beans and coke are what is going to get us up this hill.
Then, she stopped and bent over.
Me: “Stand up. You can take a break but you can’t get air into your lungs if you are hunched over.”
Pigeon: (Death glare) “I am TRYING to relieve the pressure off my legs!”
Me: “Okay, okay but try and stay up as much as possible you’ll feel better with more air in your lungs.”
Up and up and up and up we went. She kept stopping. Finally I tried the, “let’s get to that flag up there in the shade” method. It worked but not good enough. It took us 30 minutes to go one mile. The climb is steep but we were moving slow. It took us another 30 minutes to go another mile. Uh-oh. This had me nervous, our little cushion was quickly disappearing.
We made it to Tunnel Creek (mile 85) at 9:51 am, about an hour under the 35 hour finish cut-off. Okay, this is okay.
Pigeon was a celebrity at Tunnel Creek. The volunteers erupted in cheers and hugs when she entered. She must have had 3 or 4 people helping her so I left to use the restroom and take care of myself. She had her own pit-crew like at a Nascar race!
Volunteer: “What does she want? We have quesadilla, bacon, sausage …”
Me: “No dairy no meat!”
Volunteer: “No dairy no meat??!!”
(Everyone staring at me like I am a crazy person).
Me: “Pigeon, they have Oreos, can you stomach that?”
Pigeon: “Can I have those?”
ALL eyes turn to me … volunteers, other runners all listening … waiting to see if I will let my runner have Oreos! LOL
Me: “Yes, they are vegan.”
EVERYONE: “OOOOOHHH!! She’s VEGAN!” 🙂
Back on the trail moving and eating. I was happy that everyone was able to get her to eat at Tunnel (despite them looking at me like I was a food-nazi).
We rounded a corner and BOOM! All that she ate, made a reappearance. Uh-oh, well on a brighter note, she should be feeling better but now we’re close to the cut-off AND behind in calories.
Knowing my intense dislike for anything puke related, she started profusely apologizing to me! “Dude, it’s ok!” As I rubbed her back and stared off into the distance focusing intently on a tree. 🙂
I started texting Miss P. She texted back some tips and tricks to try. Pigeon was overheating so I grabbed the extra bottle I had on me and started hosing her down from behind as we moved.
The heat and the sun was relentless. You can tell in the photo above, there is no shade, no place to hide. It was starting to break her. No matter what I said, she wouldn’t move any faster and was stopping quite often.
Finally I turned to her and said, “Okay, no more sitting. You can stop but you can’t sit.”
I thought she comprehended what I said, but then we approached a rock and rare shady area and she made a motion like she was about to sit …
Me: “No sitting!”
Pigeon: “I WASN’T GOING TO SIT!”
Oh boy. I got to keep her moving. I didn’t see any of the Pigeon I normally she in her at all. No sense of humor, no light.
She asked me to go in front of her and I think that made all the difference in the world but also, made her pay the price too.
With me running in front, I started a game. “Let’s run this flat stretch right here! Come on, just a little to that shady area.” She followed.
Pigeon: “I can’t do this. I can’t, I am done.”
Me: “No. No you’re not. Besides we have to move forward, we can’t go back right? One foot in front of the other, that’s all we have to do.”
Thank goodness for cell service too. I texted her wife who sent videos of their son chanting, “Go go go!” Her cousin sent me a video rooting for her. It was all I could do. I was digging and reaching to keep her moving.
Me: “Remember how at Quicksilver and at AR50 you came back from the dead and ran like a mad woman to get me? Come on, do that now! Follow me!”
Then I saw a runner, “Okay, let’s go get that runner! I know how you like to pick people off in races, now is your chance, come on!”
She did. One by one we were picking off runners. She must have picked off 5 runners! We were running all the downs, letting gravity pull us while hiking the ups. She was moving. She had some really great stretches of running.
Me: “Come on! You got this. We’re in good shape!”
Pigeon: “No, we’re not! (stopping) You know we’re not. I have a watch.”
Me: “Ignore your watch. Let me worry about time. Your job is to keep moving. We have to keep moving. Hands OFF your hips and swing your arms. Come on! Let’s go!”
I’d text Miss P that I was struggling. Miss P told me to tell her, “If it isn’t happening today … IT ISN’T HAPPENING!”
That made her move a little more. We had a couple stretches of 14 minute miles on some of those downs. I could tell, she was chasing me, trying to keep up. The hot sections though would just murder her and her spirit.
Pigeon: “I have nothing left. I am completely depleted.”
Me: “I know. You have to dig deep. Deeper than you ever thought that you could. We can’t stop. You have two choices: You can run now or you can sprint later. Your call. I will be damned if we miss this by minutes. We are that close.”
We ran. Finally I could see Spooner Lake. I have never been so happy to see a leach infested lake in my life!
Me: “Look! Look it’s the lake!!! Come on girl! Come one, I can SEE the finish! You got this, but we can’t stop!”
I was looking at my watch. I could see the lake but I couldn’t really tell how far it was. I know it was less than 2 miles but we had 50 minutes left to run to get in under 35 hours. 2 miles any other day would be a walk in the park, but not today, not the way she looked.
She was moving and then, she was down … like down down. Sick again. I quickly looked to my right and saw that Spooner Lake was just a few yards away.
I jumped a burm and ran down to the water and dunked my bandanna. I ran back up the beach to the trail and tried to cool her down. By running in front of her, I was able to get her moving but then I wasn’t able to spray her down with water for all those super hot miles.
The heat, was destroying her.
Me: “Come on. We can do this. If we have to walk in, we can, we have time (I was hoping).”
Pigeon: “I can’t, I don’t think I can. This isn’t right. Something isn’t right.”
Me: “I know. I know. You will be okay. There are medics at the finish. Let’s just get you there. I promise you that you will be okay.”
She started walking. We saw the turn that leads towards the finish line. I was cheering for with tears in my eyes!
We made the next turn onto the single track that lines the lake and brings her right to the finish. Everyone was cheering for her.
Me: “Do you think you can run? You want to run into that finish?”
She shook her head, “Nope” is basically what she said.
Me: “That’s okay, we can hike it in.”
BAM! In true Pigeon style she started running!
Me: “YAY GIRL!!!! GOOOOOOO! You did it!!! You finished!!”
She finished in 34:30:23! 20 minutes to spare!!! So dang proud of that girl!
She ran through hell and back to get that buckle, numerous times. She dug deeper than anyone I have ever seen and I couldn’t be more proud of her.
I hated that I had to be the “bad guy” out there but I wasn’t about to let this slip away on my watch but I was unbelievably happy and grateful that I was the one to be with her those last grueling 20 miles, puke and all.
Seriously a phenomenal group to work with. We all had moments of worry I think throughout that race but I think we all agreed internally, that there was only one choice, and that was to get her to that finish line no matter what. Truly a pleasure working with Miss P and Not Chris. Two gems in my book.
To Pigeon, my dear friend, I am so proud of you. Despite the insanity that is toeing this race five times in a row, I commend you for your grit, determination and unwavering drive to finish what you started five long years ago. Every year I told you I had no doubts that you would finish, but I think, something about 2017, it just had to be THIS year. 😉
And to all of you that actually read that monstrosity of a Pacer’s recap, I reward you with my favorite photo of the weekend. Somewhere between aid-station/crewing duties, Not Chris and I caught this sunset … no filter, no editing. Tahoe is that beautiful. It can be harsh and unforgiving (especially when running 100 miles), but it is heaven on Earth.