2 weeks ago I had the privilege of crewing & doing a little pacing for Sean while he ran the Tahoe 200 for the second time.
So let’s start from the beginning, that week, which was Labor Day week I had to be in Atlanta for work from Tues – Thursday. I was on the last flight thru Phoenix bound for Reno and then lightning struck, literally. We were on the plane on the runway in Atlanta bound for Phoenix when I started to see lightning in the distance, well as you can imagine they grounded all air traffic until the storm passed, which actually wasn’t very long.
We were so close to making it, when our plane pulled up seconds from the runway in PHX due to a plane still being on the runway, not sure how that happens, unfortunately that meant I wasn’t getting to Reno that evening.
Thank goodness for wifi because I was communicating with Sean & his pacer Greg through the whole flight. I was able to find a flight into Sacramento Friday morning vs not arriving in Reno until evening. Greg agreed to pick me up on his way to Tahoe & then we would meet Sean at mile 62 – Sierra at Tahoe that night.
Obviously I was disappointed as was Sean but you can’t control Mother Nature. And as a very nervous flier I definitely would rather be safe.
I made it to Sacramento on Friday morning & worked while waiting for Greg to arrive. Once he got there we headed out to Homewood, CA, where I needed to pick up our rental so I had all Sean’s gear.
Sierra at Tahoe wasn’t until mile 62 and we weren’t expecting Sean until the wee hours, 4 to 5am based on what he did last year. So I hit up Burger Habit for a yummy burger & some fries while I did some more work. I stayed there for a while before heading to South Lake Tahoe to meet up with Greg to pick up a sleeping bag & chat through the game plan.
After which I headed to Starbucks for some coffee & more work. I was working on a huge project & having some issues finishing it up so you’ll see I worked a lot during this weekend. There’s a lot of hurry up and wait in ultra crewing ;).
Finally around 8ish I decided to head up to the aid station. I don’t enjoy driving in the dark especially when I don’t know where I’m going and on mountain roads, so I wanted to get up there before it was too late. Sean had told me earlier that there was a gate that we would have to open & if it was too late at night call the aid station captain to have it opened. I knew I was close when I got to the gate. It was quite large & fun to open ?.
I was there pretty early and there was a cell signal so I was able to check on Sean’s spot GPS & the ultra-live site too. I got a bit of sleep in the car, although I swear I always picked the parking spot with a light right in front. I pulled out my Buff and put it over my eyes like a sleeping mask.
I set my alarm for about 1:30a because I wanted to check the tracker, etc. I’d hate to be too late or sleeping when he arrived. About 2 I texted Greg that he was moving a lot faster than we expected & that he should start heading over.
And then around 3:40a on Saturday morning Sean arrived. He looked great & didn’t seem nearly as tired as he usually did at that time of the night. We got his feet worked on, after I cleaned them for him, got him some food & his bottles filled and after about an hour at the aid station, they were off.
I waited a few minutes, got all Sean’s stuff together and then headed to the next aid station, Housewife Hill at mile 70.5. The directions were spot on to get to this station and when I got there it was still dark so I set my alarm & headed to bed.
My alarm went off around 6a and it was really quiet, not much going on, except I saw Sean’s friend Noe working with his runner next to me. I was watching for them since there was no cell service at this aid station, and then at 6:56a they arrived.
My job as crew is to make sure Sean has everything he needs, which mostly meant filling his bottles with water, adding CarboPro &/or Monster, getting him to drink his Ensure and eat something at each aid station. He did that and then he & Greg headed out. This was one of his quickest stops as they were back on the trails 20 mins later. And I would see them again at mile 88, Armstrong Pass.
I decided to go back to South Tahoe after this to get some coffee, cell signal, gas and some food. Not necessarily in that order ?.
When finally got back on the road I was following the directions they gave & I got all turned around. Finally after driving around aimlessly for hours or so it seemed I decided to head back to the last aid station and ask. On my way I saw Noe’s car and followed him. There were a few signs but I thought that they were for the runners not the crew.
This was a crazy drive, it was a dirt road with lots of ruts and rocks. We seriously didn’t drive over 15 mph because of how bumpy it was.
We finally made it and then to wait ?. Again no cell signal so we couldn’t tell where anyone was but I knew it would take him a while to go 16 miles. So I ate, took a little hike, worked and then cleaned up the car. I was able to finally finish a major part of my project! Yea!
And not too long after I finished, they were there. It was 1:27p when he arrived. At this point I thought Sean looked a lot more tired. He asked for a lot of stuff, new socks, Ginger Beer, and at least one more thing that was in the car that I had to run back for.
He got his feet looked at again and got some more food & then he was off 40 mins later. The section between Armstrong & Heavenly was the only section after mile 62 that he did solo. Greg & I would meet him at Heavenly mile 103 and I insisted that he get some sleep at that point, which would be over 36 hours into the race.
I left there, took Greg to pick up his car at Sierra. By this point the smoke from the Napa/NorCal fires was really thick & strong. Before I headed back to a very crowded Starbucks to charge my devices & get more work done. I was shocked at how many people there were on a Saturday afternoon. Apparently it’s a happening place.
I hit up Tahoe Pizza Company to get a pizza before making the trek up to Heavenly. It was still light out so I just watched all the runners coming in and waited for Sean.
I saw him running down the mountain at 7:11p. I got him some food & he ate the rest of my pizza. Funny enough he told me he was hoping there was pizza at the aid station the whole section ?. Good thing I know him well, huh.
Then it was time for him to get some sleep. I set the alarm for 1h45mins and we got some sleep. Now Sean will tell you he only slept for like 15 minutes, but I’m pretty sure it was closer to an hour or even a little more.
My alarm went off and I got Sean up & moving. He changed shorts, we filled his bottles and then 3 hours after he arrived he & Greg headed out. I would meet them in the morning at Spooner Summit. The plan was that if they arrived early, I would go with Sean to the next aid station and if it took a really long time then his other pacer Eric would take him from there.
I got to Spooner Summit which was in an area I was familiar with having passed nearby by many times during TRT100. I got there pretty early so I was able to get a few hours of sleep. When I woke up, I was checking the spot and it showed him a bit away from the aid station so I took my time getting my gear together. Then before I knew it and before I got out of the car, I saw Greg’s red jacket and was like, what?! and raced over to get Sean set up. This is the only time, I wasn’t waiting when they arrived. This was around 4:30am. I got Sean set up and then got my own gear set up and about 40 mins later, we were off.
It was really awesome to be able to pace Sean during this section especially since he ran a lot of this portion during TRT so I was able to experience what he did there. I wasn’t planning on pacing him because of the others being there, but I’m really glad it worked out the way it did :).
While we saw the sun rise and got to be on some beautiful and not at all technical trails, it wasn’t quite as beautiful as normal because of the fires. Fortunately the smokey smell wasn’t too thick, but the hint of it was there along with a very overcast sky.
We made it to Tunnel Creek Aid station, a place I am very familiar with where Greg & Eric were waiting. I immediately got Sean some food, filled his bottles and got him new socks and Greg had brought over his change of clothes from the car.
Sean & Eric took off thru Incline Village one of the only sections on the road up to the Power Line Mountain and would meet us at Brockway Summit in 15 miles. During this time, Greg & I ate and then headed back to Heavenly to get his car, then I headed over to Brockway, where I would wait for Sean & Eric. I talked with one of the other pacers, a guy currently from somewhere in Canada, who had paced the winner last year.
It wasn’t too long after that Sean & Eric would come through the aid station, they made great time, but it would be dark once they got to the next aid station in Tahoe City so I wanted to make sure he had his night gear. I ran back and forth between the car at least a dozen times getting him all the gear he wanted. We got them sorted and then we were off.
Greg & I had to go get Eric’s car at this point, so we headed back to Tunnel Creek. This was the first time I’ve had to drive around shifting multiple cars, but it worked out. After I got to Tahoe City, the aid station was in the parking lot at a restaurant called the Bridgetender. I still needed to finish up some work so I headed inside and got some food. I had a really yummy Avocado Bacon Bison Burger and of course fries, my fav 😉 while I worked. I finally finished everything and went to the car to get some sleep.
I was expecting them around 11p/midnight based on how things were going on the previous legs. Unfortunately it started raining, the only time during the race it rained and Sean’s spot got really off track. It kept telling me he was off course and then it showed him at the finish but it was so off. Finally I was able to somewhat see where he was based on the actual GPS signal.
While waiting for Sean around 1:30am, I heard someone talking and it sounded like they were Italian so I said hi and started talking with this really nice older gentleman. Turns out that he came to crew his son, Alberto who was running the race. They are from near Florence. He was super nice and so sweet to tell me that my Italian accent didn’t make me sound like a foreigner so I guess all that time I spent with my cousin Elena helped my Italian accent. Thanks Ely!
When Sean got to mile 175 at Tahoe City around 2:30/3am he was not in a good place. It took them about 8 hours to go 20 miles and he felt like it would never end. He gave me the longest hug, I felt like he was going to fall asleep while hugging me, lol. I got him in the car, took off his shoes, got him to drink an Ensure and then went to check with Eric & Greg, he didn’t want me to leave. I came back and he went to sleep immediately, bright lights and all. I set the alarm for 1h45mins and tried to sleep as well. The crazy thing this whole time, I could not find the car key, I knew I had it, but I couldn’t find it so I couldn’t turn on the heater or anything, when I started getting really cold, he had a sleeping bag and was using my North Face jacket as a pillow, and I didn’t want to wake him so I didn’t sleep much, oh well.
My alarm went off and I told Sean it was time to get up, he wasn’t ready so I gave him another 15 minutes and then I was like, it’s time to get up. I went out to see if Eric was up and he was like, Greg’s doing this section, which surprised me because he had planned to go the rest of the way with Sean. He was like I need sleep, that 20 mile section felt like 100 miles, lol. Fortunately Greg was up for another leg.
I was pushing Sean to get ready, getting him food, his gear together and a walking with him over to the bathroom, which was quite a ways from the aid station. If I could have found the keys, I would have driven him over, but I didn’t find them until later.
It wasn’t too much longer and then they were off. It was about 6am at this point and so I cleaned up the car, found the keys (YEA!) and looked for a coffee shop. There wasn’t a Starbucks on this side of the lake which meant that I ended up in a local spot, which is perfect, but they didn’t open until 7 so I hung out for a bit and then headed over making it just in time for an amazing sunrise. I was able to get caffeinated and get some more work done before meeting up with Eric at mile 190.
Once I got there, we were discussing that the weather was thought to change, rain and extremely high winds up to 60 mph were forecasted. Greg texted me during this time and I told him to try and speed Sean up because we wanted him to finish as quickly as possible. Funny enough, Sean started going faster on his own, without any encouragement. They made it to mile 190 around 11:30am. I already had Sean’s extra bottles filled and ready to go so we could move him out as quickly as possible.
He and Eric took off, so Greg & I headed back to Homewood, where the race would finish. We got lunch and I was able to use the resort’s wifi to get some work done. Gotta love free wifi. We watched a few other people finish, before I saw Sean’s orange shorts & blue shirt flying down the hill around 3:30p. They were flying down the hill behind another runner, it was funny, because I’m was yelling Go Sean, and then Don’t Fall! Lol! They finished with the 2nd fasted time for this last section of anyone in the race.
It was so exciting seeing him finish and finish strong. I’m so proud of my love for finishing his second 200 mile race, but also for finishing it 17 hours faster than last year! He had an amazing race and while I didn’t get to see him start, I’m so glad that I was be there for him for the majority of the race!
Thank you to Greg & Eric for being a part of #TeamNakamura or #TeamSexyCalves as it was renamed on that 3rd night. It would have been a whole other ballgame without you guys. If you aren’t already, check out Greg & Eric on Instagram (click their names for Instagram links). And for all you racers out there, Eric makes the most amazing elevation profiles for trail races, you can check them out here.
I know this was a long, long recap, so if you stuck with me to the end, Thank you! And thank you to Candace Burt and her team and volunteers for putting on an awesome race! I’m sure we’ll be back.