On Jun 6 & 7 I crewed for Sean when he ran the San Diego 100 mile ultra race. This was my second time crewing for Sean, although this experience was much much different than when we were in Hawaii. Read about crewing the HURT 100 here.
I was out of town most of last week or I would probably have gotten things prepared a bit earlier in the week. Fortunately Sean’s co-worker and friend C was going to crew with me and she is an experienced camper with lots of supplies. I on the other hand have only ever camped at a Ragnar Trail event and I would really call that roughing it, lol.
I did however make Sean go get his drop bag supplies on Thursday so we weren’t up until midnight on Friday night only to have to get up at 3am to drive over to Cuyamaca Park (about 45 minutes from our house). He doesn’t take a ton of stuff with him, mostly beverages, like Monster, Ginger Ale, Mountain Dew & Ensure. Food wise, he only brought Starburst, M&M’s, Oreos and a few granola bars, none of which he ate.
Sean ran this race last year, I remember it being the week after we met and he put up a link to track him and I tracked him all night, it seemed so exciting to me that he was running so far and so long.
We got up around 3:15am, I got all the gear in the car, got gas and waited for Sean to get ready to go. I drove us up to the start at Lake Cuyamaca, we arrived right around 4:50am, in time for Sean to get his bib and goodie bag. While he did that, I put his drop bags in the appropriate piles. They had a nice set-up where you put all the bags into bins for each of the 5 drop sites. It was a beautiful morning.
We saw a few of Sean’s friends, including one of his pacers from last year who was running his first 100 this year. The ultra community is still pretty small so it’s fun to see people you know at each race.
The runners made their way over to the start and they requested that we, spectators & crew, move to the side since there were over 200 runners in the race. I was able to get an awesome video of the start and then they were off.
I didn’t really read the paperwork that well, because apparently crew wasn’t supposed to see the runners until mile 23. I got lucky though because one of our friends offered for C & I to camp out at one of the sites they had so I just headed over to the camp grounds, parked & walked over to the Paso Picacho area. I met up with Smita @runningwithsd on Instagram (her photo below) and some others who were volunteering with the Runningskirts ladies. We would see them a lot over the next 26 hours as their runners were right around the same time as Sean.
I would see our friend Jeff come in, then not too long after Sean came in right in front of the women’s winner, who incidentally, was wearing a iRun hat, I saw Mark the owner of iRun as well. It was quite the party and cool to see a bunch of people that I knew. It was only mile 7 but Sean was looking good & strong. I said hi, he grabbed a few pieces of watermelon, filled up his bottles and was off heading up Stonewall.
After watching & cheering everyone on, I decided to go for a run myself since I would have some time before meeting Sean at mile 23. I hiked up Stonewall Peak, it was getting pretty warm by this point and it was only 8am! I got to the top, took a few photos and then ran down. There were a ton of rocks, which made me wonder how Sean was doing because I was having a hard time and my ankle was in great shape.
I made it over to mile 23 just in time to see Sean come into the Sunrise aid station. We’d be back here at mile 79. There was a ton of parking at this aid station and it was pretty much a party. I got Sean some Monster from his drop bag, he got an ice water soaked Buff from the Running Skirts ladies and then was off again.
Right after I got back to my car, as I was posting photos of Sean, C texted to let me know she’d arrived and was at the finish area. So I headed back to pick her up and then we would meet Sean at mile 30 Pioneer Mail 1. We got super lucky and a spot for a small had opened up so we could park in the lot vs on the street at the top of the hill.
By this point the sun was up and it was hot. There is not much shade at all on this course and I heard people saying that this part was like a desert. We again saw our friend Jeff come in and then about 20 minutes later Sean came in. He was doing awesome, but he was asking for Ensure and unfortunately we didn’t have enough for all the drop bags and there wasn’t any in this bag…He was chowing down on watermelon and orange slices and getting more water in his bottles. The aid stations are packed with all sorts of snacks but he didn’t want to be weighed down with the heavier items.
We saw him off and then headed to mile 44 Red Tail Roost. We would get here so early that we weren’t quite sure where to park and they would change the entrance to the aid station while we were getting set up. We found an awesome spot at the entrance to the aid station, set up our chairs and waited. We were able to see the 2nd male come thru and then it was kinda slow going for a while.
At HURT, pacers didn’t have to wear a bib, but they did here so I was a little concerned on how to get Sean’s first pacer the bib, since he was going to park at the campsite and we were quite a ways from there and needed to get back to see Sean at the next aid station (we wouldn’t be able to see him for 21 miles after that), fortunately Jeff’s brother just happened to be arriving at Red Tail Roost at the same time I was texting him so I was able to get him the bib and could relax a bit :).
While we were waiting for Sean, I would meet a girl who went to grade school with him. She recognized me from Facebook and there crewing for her husband who did awesome! Jeff came in and then after a bit, Sean was there. We got some pics of him running in, got him some more monster, told him we’d see him at the next aid station, where even though it was early, we would have to give him his night gear because we wouldn’t be able to see him again until mile 72, and then got him going again.
We got to the mile 51 aid station, which was a bit strange in the fact that the runners would run past the actual aid station to a fence, run back and then they could stop. It was hear that I would see Mark from iRun come thru and unfortunately drop as he had broken a toe and could barely walk – he still did amazing!! We saw Jeff come in and helped him get more water and got him out to the next station – we texted his brother who would be pacing him for 32 miles from mile 56 so he knew he was coming.
Soon, Sean would come in, we got him his headlamp, his Patagonia vest, Northface jacket and a few long sleeve shirts. He was still wearing his Altra Superiors. There weren’t any drop bags at this location so he just got some more water and headed off. He was quite disappointed that we wouldn’t see him for 21 miles. Especially since it was thru the hardest part of the course and most of it would be in the dark.
Brian, Sean’s pacer didn’t have good cell signal so we wouldn’t really hear from them during this stretch. We knew we would have quite a bit of time until we saw them next so we headed back to the start/finish area to get our sleeping bags and some food for dinner. C had so much camping gear, she really was awesome, I was so not prepared, lol. She had a little propane burner, like the ones we used for the omelet stations when I worked in hotels.
We made it back to Pioneer Mail (mile 72.1) where we were super early, it was still light out when we got there so we were able to get a spot in the lot by the aid station and set up our camp. We had a great dinner of soup, salad, rolls and then oreo’s for dessert :). We were able to watch a few people come in before it got too dark. At this point, I figured it was going to be close to midnight by the time Sean got to us and since I didn’t have a great cell signal, I would set my alarm periodically so I would be up to see what was going on. We sat on our chairs in our sleeping bags attempting to sleep, I know I didn’t sleep well, I would hear noises and see lights periodically as the runners would come in. I think I was so worried about missing Sean when he came in I didn’t sleep much.
C would take a bathroom break and see Jeff come in, he was doing awesome. It was probably close to 1:00am when Sean would get there – this was a really tough section that was really technical and had a ton of rocks. He did great but his feet were really beat up and he would switch to his Altra Lone Peaks for the next 7 miles. He was looking pretty tired and a bit loopy, but we forced him to eat some food and got him going again. And away they went…
We headed off to mile 79 (Sunrise) where we would try to get a bit more sleep, I got really cold during this time so I was pretty much half asleep. Surprisingly it was actually warmer outside than it felt like in the car. Sean’s second pacer, Kat, the amazing @smushtush was going to pace him the rest of the way so we met up with her and waited for Sean to come in, which would be around 3:40ish am. We’d change his shoes again, this time to the Altra Olympus which he would run in the rest of the way. He was walking a lot during this section and really babying the ankle. It was right around 4am when he would leave this aid station with Kat.
We weren’t able to see them again until mile 88 but we had to take Brian back to his car and then we would head to Chambers 2 the next aid station. Since it was about 8 miles, we figured we had a few hours to try and sleep. I did actually sleep for about an hour or so during this break, but I woke up in a rush thinking I had missed him. We headed down to the water where we would wait for them to come in. It’s pretty cool at this point because you are seeing a lot of the same people and you can get an idea of when your runner will be there based on who is coming in.
Sean & Kat were walking when they came in so I wasn’t sure how things were going, but he went to the bathroom, got some more Monster, pancake & bacon sandwiches and we gave him a clean short sleeve shirt and he was feeling a lot better. When they left us, he was running, slowly, but he was running and they had plenty of time to get to the next aid station even with a few climbs to go.
Next station would be back at Paso Picacho (94.4) which was the same as the first aid station. They would be coming down Stonewall to the campground. Kat texted us to say they were about 1.5 miles out and then 2 minutes later was like oops, we are actually here. She was like he ran the entire section which was awesome. Amazing what some sun and bacon can do!! He filled up his bottles, got some ice in his hat along with some cold water on his neck wrap – ate some more bacon and then headed out. They were only 7 miles away!!
Back to the finish area we went. We had a few hours so we sorted the gear in our cars, got everything packed up and headed to the finish line to wait for them. It was so awesome seeing the runners come in at the finish.
We figured they would be coming relatively soon as we saw some of the other runners a little ahead of Sean come in so we went down to the trail to see if we could get some photos before going to the finish line to get his photo. Kat texted us when they were about 2 miles out so we had an idea of when they would be there. It was interesting because there weren’t any runners for quite a while so didn’t know where they were coming from. Finally we saw someone come out of the trees and we knew where to watch.
Kat took some photos of Sean during this section which was awesome since Sean didn’t use his phone at all during the race.
It wasn’t too much longer and then we saw them coming out of the trees! I ran down to get a few photos and then sprinted up to the finish line so I could get a finish line photo. And there he was…I’m so incredibly proud of him. This was not an easy race and was made even harder due to the ankle sprain 2 weeks prior.
We took a few photos, Sean got some awesome finish gear and then sat down to relax. I think he deserved it – lol. They had some hot dogs, chili, soup and cookies as post race food. We got Sean some and watched some more runners come in before heading home.
Fortunately for Sean, I really enjoy crewing for his races, because while it is a fun, exciting and rewarding experience, it does make for a long weekend of hurry up and wait and little to no sleep. But seeing your runner come in and finish after running for over 28 hours is priceless. If you have the opportunity to crew &/or pace, do it! And if you want to crew or pace with Team Nakamura, I’d love the company, lol.