Saturday, June 18, 2011

TW 100k Brisbane: Crewing

On Friday I spent many hours sitting in the sun, on the grass, in the forest, doing nothing. I spent many minutes running/walking at a ridiculously slow pace, and very few minutes preparing and giving people food.

Libby and I were crewing for the team entered in the 2011 Brisbane Trailwalker 100km, comprised of the Nobles; Mandy and Chris; as well as two gun runners from Sydney; Toby and Paul.

Their goal was to win the mixed teams division.
Well, that was out of the window right from the start, as Mandy and Chris had some sort of stomach bug which emptied their stomachs and drained their energy.

Nevertheless, they came into the first aid-station (41km at Lake Manchester) right on target pace - five hours into the race. Mandy was not in a good way at all, and neither her nor Chris would eat anything; not a good sign with some 60km to go. We still managed to get them in and out of the aid station fairly quickly - they were in for seven minutes at most.

Libby and I then drove over to Gold Creek and had our only stressful moment of the day; the race info said that no crew cars could be driven into the Reservoir's car park, and that they would have to be bussed out from the Brookfield Showground. We went to the showground, and there was no sign of a bus or TW staff. So we drove out to Gold Creek; no one was there either. We headed back to Brookfield, panicking a little before winding our way through a car park to find 15 portaloos and the rest of the TW staff. In little time, we were on the bus and heading back out to the aid station. We had a very long wait at Gold Creek, but it wasn't that bad as we chatted to other crews and watched the leading teams come in.

Eventually, I walked up the climb from Gold Creek to the intersection with South Boundary Road, down SoBo for a little while, then waiting on an embankment for the team to come past. I was getting pretty worried, as they seemed to take a ridiculous amount of time - had Mandy and Chris dropped out? It was interesting to see and give encouragement from the other teams, most of which recognised me from when I had run up the trail at Lake Manchester to lead Endurance shop in. Finally, they arrived, in pretty poor shape I might add. Everyone was cruising the downhills well, but a slow walk was the best that could be mustered on the ups; Mandy and Chris must have had no energy. I took orders for sandwiches as we neared Gold Creek, before speeding off to prepare them. This time, we were able to stick to the five minute in-and-out schedule, even with the team's condition and the fact that the Nobles had started eating again.. I walked up a small section of the climb with them, allowing Mandy and Chris to sip on tea, before returning to the checkpoint to pack up and then wait some more.

Back to the showground on the bus, and then waiting for a while before setting up the food platter and walking up the road. I felt sorry for Libby, who didn't even get the excitement of running small sections of trail with the team.
I went as far as the junction between the trail and Boscombe Road, chatting to a race official before seeing the familiar headlamps and hearing the familiar voices.
Another slow run down the road then ensued, before a four minute stop in the aid station. With about 9km to go, there was no point in wasting anymore time.

We then met them near to the trailhead at Greenford Street in Chapel Hill. It was amazing to think that there was a major race with 1200 people going down a quiet suburban backstreet that I run along a few times a week. I went with them for the length of the street, before hopping back in the car and racing around to the bottom of Mount Cootha for the finish.

It was then just a matter of opening a few Coronas for the team and sitting on the esky in preparation for their finish. But even this was not without some drama; we saw four lights coming up the trail, assuming it was them - the announcer even started their spiel ("here comes team in 15 hours, etc..."). The lights then disappeared, and we waited and waited before going up the trail in search of them. No sign at all. Libby then figured out that it must have been another group of four unrelated to the race, and sure enough, they came sauntering up the road in little time.

They had finished in about 15 and a half hours. 1.5 hours behind the goal time and, in my mind, three hours behind what they would have done on a good day. Not to be.
In any case, it was a huge achievement for Mandy and Chris to finish, considering their inability to take in food. I think Mandy survived on five gels and five rice-cakes. Incredible.

On another note, Libby and I were the most dialed crew of the day that we witnessed. Even the leading team spent a good 10-15 minutes in each station, Endurance Shop was in for 7 at most. No one else led their team into and out of any aid station and had their desired food prepared by the time the team had checked in. And no one else had the incredible platter of food prepared equally by the team themselves (the night before) and us, even though most of it was left by the end! Although they didn't achieve their goal time, I am deeply satisfied with their performance under the circumstances. It was a great experience, and alot of fun to be thinking solely about someone else for a good 17 hours.

The course for TW Brisbane is truly my home ground - I do 90% of my running on or within 10kms of it. I can't wait to get a team together and do it next year, but wont mind at all if I end up crewing for someone again; it was that much fun.

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