This was an easy run. It was meant to be part of my training. It was meant to be easy since I was running with folks who had already run 55 miles even as I just started. It was meant to be simple and flat -- not much elevation, nor altitude. But, NO, those reasons didnt make it easy. In fact, turns out that, matter not the reasons and justifications, no 45mile run is an easy run. This run was easy for two special reasons -- the two runners I was pacing, and the incredible crew that had turned out to support them.
The run, for me, began at mile 55, at the Rattlesnake Bar. After a hard time locating it (despite accurate directions from Anil Vaidya, and persistent phone support from Anurag), the never-tiring Rashmi drove me to Rattlesnake Bar aid station just as Anil and Rajeev got there. We negotiated a rather tricky 12miles back to the school through multiple ribbon-less forks. Lots of folks apparently got lost in this stretch, including Gary (one of our runners, Char was waiting at the school to pace him), who lost nearly 4 hours.
The scene at the school was incredible. Reminded me of the scene at the start/finish line at Sunmart. It was loaded with Asha folks (apparently they were only 12, but the excitement and entertainment made them seem like 40). This was nearly 67miles into the race, and the runners had a longer recovery break, and also changed gear for the chillier night. We were also joined by Mouli who would pace with us for the next 10miles.
Couple of miles before Hazel Bluff, I spoke with Cory on the phone. She was at Hazel Bluff and sounded very anxious. Apparently Alan had not checked in at Hazel Bluff, and had past the Folsom Dam station a very long time ago. One look at her face at Hazel Bluff we knew all was good, there was relief written all over her face. She told us that Alan had missed checking into that aid station and had gone ahead to the turnaround. Alan was having a very hard race being unable to keep anything inside him from very early in the run. The strong runner he is, he walked and ran through it all, and got to a strong finish.
Amidst much singing and joking, the next 10miles went by faster than the previous 12 (in the mind only, the clock told a different story). We arrived at the Hazel Bluff aid station to be greeted by more Asha folks. Some refreshment, light banter, trading Mouli for Chakri later, we moved out for the final 12miles out and back section. We managed a 10minute sleep in this section at a picnic bench, while Chakri watched out for the three of us. Spent minimal time on the turnaround and as we got back to Hazel Bluff, Nattu caught up with us. He had also gotten lost in the Rattlesnake-School section and had spent some time at the school aid station. Soon he had past us, the bridge, and missed the downhill towards the aid station and had set out charting his own course on the freeway shoulder. I ran behind him to get him back on course, while Rajeev, Anil and Chakri shouted out for him before he saw us gesturing and returned.
Swapping Chakri for Anu at Hazel Bluff, we sauntered our way back the last 11 miles, walking almost all of it until the last couple of 100meters into the finish. Anil seemed much stronger than at TRT, and Rajeev was fresh as ever. We met Chihping a little before the finish. We had first met him in the night at the turnaround and he seemed to be hurting really bad. But the new dawn seemed to have done its bit, and when we met him Chihping seemed to be his usual self. Of course this was his 5th hundred miler in less than 2 months!
Pacing is great fun. You get to run a fair bit, plus the crew also takes care of you, as they do the runners. Essentially you get the benefits of the 100mile runners while doing the work of a 50mile runner! Minus the buckle, of course!
I have to repeat this. As Asha runners, we are a privileged lot. I've seen this in multiple races. We are the envy of all other runners, for the crew we have. I've run a fair number of races without the Asha crew, and the difference is incredibly stark. Blessed are we to be running these mountains and these distances, but to be cheered and crewed by multitudes of Asha crowd is very heaven.