PART I- Volunteering & Crewing
This was my second year crewing/pacing at Virgil Crest ultras for my boyfriend Jim Porter. This year I was also able to help at 2 aid stations which made me very happy. I do not like to sit around doing nothing. I also have experience helping and participating in ultras as well as CPR and first aid certification. As a runner, especially a trail runner, most of us know it is important to take our turn giving back and helping because others do so for us when we are at events.
Saturday morning we were up at 4 AM, quick coffee and some bacon and off to Hope Lodge at Greek Peak. I helped Jim get set up and organized, hugged a few friends, and watched the runners take off with their headlamps at 6AM.
As soon as the runners left I met Gilly and we loaded up her car and mine and off to Tenkate Aid station. A little confusion at first as to exactly where the spot was, but we found it and set up. Tables, food, drop bags, camping stoves, water jugs, wipes, vaseline, a tent for the aid station, a tarp for the drop bags, and a few stadium chairs for runners. The runners coming through were all looking pretty fresh as this were still early on in the event. There was a combination of the 50 and 100 milers. There were runners of many shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities. This is one of the main reasons I love trail running. It’s a different kind of challenge for everyone.
Jim came through smiling and feeling well about 9 AM. I helped him with his drop bag and food and away he went. Gilly had plenty of helpers so I left to go to the next meeting point - - Rock Pile.
I had all the aid stations coordinates preloaded into my GPS. Drove to Rock pile and then hiked in the 2 miles. Rock Pile is the 25 mile turn around for both races. As I was hiking in I was passed by some fast runners in both directions. I got to see Kristina Welts twice. She was smiling as usual and flying along the trails as if it was nothing.
Had a mini reunion at Rock Pile with my friend Todd Baum- aid station captain extraordinaire. Todd was our knight in shining armor last year when Jim was having a melt down at 75 miles. We will always hold him in high regard. Since I was super early for Jim they put me to work as the beverage girl. We kept busy filling hydration packs and making sure people knew their names. I like to make sure people are lucid and safe to continue. At 25 miles it’s good to have people around to remind you to take salt, drink, eat, or put on dry clothes. I like to see the different kinds of hydration packs people use and the different magic potions they mix for endurance. Pickles, Bacon, chocolate, potatoes, PBJ sandwiches, hot soup, fruit, salt, HB eggs, candy, and cookies. An assorted buffet of sweet and salty, carb and high fat foods.
Jim came through looking very strong and happy after the first 25 mile loop. Filled his pack, gave him some bacon, some beef broth, a kiss and off he went. I stayed a few more minutes to help and then hiked out to the road to my car.
By then I think it was about 2 PM so I drove back to the hotel room near SUNY Cortland to have a little lunch and a rest. Slept a little, washed up and back to Hope Lodge. Hung around and watched various runners come through for their 50 mile finish or the 100 mile turn around. I ran out past the lake into the woods about a mile or so to find Jim. He came through about 8 PM. He stretched out on the floor and put his feet up for a bit as we had planned. I had saved him a warm cheeseburger. Got his pack set up for the long night of running and expected rain. He had a really good waterproof jacket and brim hat. I ran him out about a mile and on my way back to the lodge the heavens opened up.
The rain was strong and the drive back to the hotel was not fun. I was feeling some concern about Jim running through the night in the heavy downpour but I knew he was prepared and he was most likely with Jim Lampman. I got back to the hotel about 10 PM. Got my gear ready for the morning and was able to fall asleep about 11 PM.
PART II – Pacing
I woke up before the alarm at 4 AM Sunday morning. Had my coffee, got into my running clothes, grabbed my drop bag and hydration pack, and back to the lodge. I had made arrangements ahead of time with Nick Kirk to drive me to meet Jim at Rock pile for 6 AM. Nick was all set and ready for me at 5:30 AM! He drove me to the trail head and gave me a hug. I thanked him about 25 times and he drove away. It had stopped raining and was about 50 degrees but it was still dark. Had my headlamp and poles and I made the little mile hike into the woods solo to the aid station.
The men at this aid station had been there all night and had a fire going. I went out to meet Jim on the course and he was moving well and seemed in pretty good spirits. He stretched out on a cot and put his feet up and took a little 5 min nap. I filled his hydration pack, got him some broth and chocolate and waited for him while he was resting. The lack of sleep and running through the night is a challenge for him so I didn’t want him to sit for too long. Dan Lopata, the sweep, also joined us here.
Got him standing, a dry hat and gloves, and away we went. It was about 6 miles to the next aid station. He was moving pretty well. We were mainly fast hiking. The next aid station was TrailsRoc which was sponsored by a local Rochester running group. Amy Lopata and Dave Justice welcomed us like we were celebrities. Jim was feeling hopeful as he was still ahead of the cutoffs by over an hour.
We had some hot broth and some bacon and off we went. We both had poles. I was letting Jim lead and he was moving well. We got to Tenkate in plenty of time. I had helped set up this aid station the previous morning so they also knew us. So far he was in good spirits and we were having fun. About 12 miles to go and plenty of time to beat the cut offs.
Somewhere, somehow after Tenkate Jim got his math wrong and started panicking that we were not going to make the cut off. He was yelling that we couldn’t do it and after all the training and time once again he was going to be longer than 36 hours. Now Jim is a PHD scientist and I am a math phobic musician. We missed one little turn and he started flipping out. We only missed the turn by about 2 feet so no time lost. I then went ahead of him to get him moving and give him some space to calm down.
I started counting on my fingers and realized we had plenty of time to make the cutoffs, even at 20 min miles. I tried telling him but he wouldn’t listen.
Then the colorful language was flowing often and loudly. We flew into Hitching post like a New Yorker trying to catch a taxi in the rain. The folks at Hitching post-Maria Costanzo and Joel Cisne were trying to calm him down but he was on a mission. I fled after him and forgot to fill my pack. We both didn’t fill our packs.
Once we got on our way he finally realized that my math was actually correct and he calmed down. Then I yelled at him for not letting me fill my pack up and because he loves me, for a few minutes it took his mind off himself. I was a little nervous about the lack of water but I figured I’d be fine if we didn’t get lost.
Now it was pedal to the metal. I got in front of him and kept him moving, asking him to run a little on the flats. I kept lying and saying we were almost to the lake. Yes you are allowed to lie when pacing.
We finally did get to the lake and there were two men sauntering along in front of us. I realized that if we hauled ass we could get in at just under 35 hours- before 5 PM. I kept saying to Jim just run a little honey, just run a little bit more. Like Mary Poppins, as we went by the two runners, I apologized for passing them but said Jim was always last and for once we wanted to not be last. They were all cool with that. When we got to the grassy part I ran ahead and could see the clock. Then I started screaming to Jim to push it to beat the clock. He dug deep and got in in 34:59!!! That was HUGE for us!! An hour and 20 minutes better than last year. I was leaping in the air and Ian was right there to congratulate.
Did you know that Virgil Crest has about 42,000 feet of elevation up and down the entire 100 mile course? That is a LOT of very steep inclines and descents! The winner finished in a little over 24 hours. When the winner was done we were just starting our last 25 mile loop.
When Jim finished there were several of the front runners still hanging around to wait for the last people. What a classy group of runners! Special thanks to Jim Lampman and Erin Klinkman for sharing dry clothes with my Jim. As always BIG BIG thanks to Ian Golden for making everyone feel like they matter. Scotie Jacobs- you are a very special person and we so appreciate your support. Trail runners are the best!!!