We pack up on Friday morning, and drop Ash off at his Nana's house before driving up to Payson. Along the way, we get a phone call from Olga - she made it in! But doesn't know where she's going. A few phones calls back and forth, and she gets on the right highway and Johnny and I check into the hotel, where we promptly get into the hot tub, followed by an ice dip in the unheated pool.
Catra and Julia make it in, and we all head over to the pre-race dinner, where we chow on Italian food (everything was slathered in butter, uh-oh!). After the RD gives the requisite talk, Johnny takes Olga back to the hotel room, and I stay for the volunteer meeting, where I meet Joe Dana, the person with whom I will be sweeping the final 17 miles of the course. I explain that I'm crewing two runners, and once they make it through mile 44, the last aid station, I will be free to help. But since the cut-off time for mile 33 is 3 p.m., and Johnny and Olga expect to be through 44 at 4 p.m., I will not make it back to mile 33 in enough time to start the sweep with him. He agrees that it's a good idea for me to run up from 44 towards 33 to meet him, then continue back on through 44 to the finish.
With that taken care of, I head back to the hotel room. We set about five alarms to make sure we wake up at 3 a.m., and go to sleep.
We head to the starting line, and Johnny, Olga, Catra and Julia check in, then pile back into the car to stay warm. Finally, at almost 5 a.m., the runners line up at the start. At the sound of the horn, they are off!
I head back to the car, slip in the newest Posies CD, and follow a car with New Mexico plates to the first aid station, hoping that the out-of-towners know where they are going. Thankfully, they do! I unload all the gear - Johnny's, Olga's and mine, and set up to wait. The Tucson contingent is in charge at aid station 1, mile 8, and I have fun taking pictures and getting ready. I introduce myself to the New Mexico folks, who are crewing for Kyle Skaggs, who Olga told me about the night before - he attended college in OR, and ran with Olga in the Pacific Northwest area. Finally, the first few runners come through. The first woman through was Melissa Heggen, from TX. It was freezing cold, and she was running in her sports bra and shorts, brrr!
Johnny came through with a bunch of other runners, many of whom were part of the Tucson contingent. He was ahead of schedule, and looking great. A few minutes later, Olga came through. Her heart rate was elevated, and she had taken a few falls, but seemed okay. After she headed off to the next aid station, I packed up my stuff, and headed to Washington Park, aid station 2, at mile 17.
I made it with plenty of time to spare, and watched the top runners come through again. It's so much fun to be able to watch the race unfold. Johnny came through ahead of schedule again, looking strong and feeling good. Olga hit her split just perfectly, and was feeling much better - her heartrate was where it should be and she was looking good. I stayed to cheer on Catra and Julia, then headed to Fish Hatchery, aid station 4, mile 33 (crew is not allowed at aid station 3, Hell's Gate, mile 25).
It was getting hot, and I was trying to stay hydrated and fueled for the sweep I would be doing later on. Runners were coming through, but there was no Johnny. I waited and waited. A radio guy was roaming throuh the parking lot, calling out for "Amy." I paid no attention. I chatted with Patricia (the newlywed from the awesome trail runner wedding from a few weeks ago), and Billie, the girlfriend of a fellow Tucson trailrunner, who had manned aid station 1. 20 minutes ahead of schedule, Olga appeared, totally startling me! Where was Johnny?! Olga was looking great, she changed her socks, got some extra water, and was on her way, when I asked how long ago she had seen Johnny - and she hadn't! We were both surprised that Johnny hadn't come in, and Olga didn't see passing him.
Olga took off, and the radio guy came by again, this time calling for "Amy Lyons." Hel-lo! I called to him, "you mean Angie Lyons???" and he came over. Double-checked that I was with #25, John, and proceeded to tell me that Johnny had been pulled from the race at Hell's Gate, aid station 3, mile 25. What?! He was doing GREAT! The radio guy wouldn't tell me anything other than Johnny's okay, he's just fine, and he's coming to mile 33 (where I was). He instructed me to NOT leave mile 33 until Johnny arrived.
I panicked. Olga was ahead of schedule! How long would it take for Johnny to arrive? I can't miss Olga at the last aid station! What was wrong with Johnny? Oh, this threw off my carefully planned logistics!!
I paced and paced and paced, getting hotter and hotter. Wayne came through and Patricia took care of him, then took off. I tried to find some shade under a tree, when finally, a radio truck came through. I watched Johnny's shoes pop out on the other side of the truck, and ran around to meet him. He looked a little tired and dazed, but otherwise okay. The paramedics took him to the chairs under the tent, and immediately began tending to him; they didn't have all the supplies at mile 25, Hell's Gate, and had to bring him to 33 to check up on him. Apparently, between 17 and 25, he started getting very cold and dizzy and tired. He stopped about 2 miles out from mile 25, to fertilize a tree. When he realized he couldn't get back up, he crawled under a manzanita bush and fell asleep. Awhile later, he realized he needed help, and got out from the manzanita bush, to find Tommy "danger boy" Gormley on the trail - the same guy who he ran with at Old Pueblo. So he tagged along with Tom to get to mile 25, where he sat down and shivered for awhile before the nurse finally realized that Johnny was suffering from hypothermia (we think it was brought on by the wicked cold he has). They put him under a wool blanket and some sleeping bags, while trying to hydrate and fuel him. He was doing much better by the time they got him to 33 - his temp was back up, and he was feeling stronger.
So, we decided that Johnny would head to mile 44, Christopher Creek/See Canyon, aid station 5 - the last one, to take care of Olga, while I would stay at 33, and just start the sweep from there with Joe - which was perfect. Johnny took off, and I waited. And waited. And waited some more, while the aid station volunteers were duped by a passing runner into thinking that the cutoff time was 30 minutes later than it actually was. By the time they finally confirmed with the RD that the cutoff really was 3, and not 3:30, five more runners had passed on through. They didn't let the rest go, and sent Joe and I on our way.
Joe was an excellent running partner. We got along great, and had a blast talking about the joy of finishing last in an ultra, how beautiful the alligator junipers were and how incredibly rocky the trail was. About 20 minutes in, a runner had turned around and was heading back to mile 33, where everyone was leaving. Joe and I hesitated - we had already removed the ribbons, and there was no one coming back behind this runner to assure he arrived safely. But the runner refused to keep going to 44 with us, and so he headed back. About an hour and 20 minutes in, we came across another runner who had turned around. At this point, we knew everyone would be gone from 33, and the radio crew was only about a mile or so ahead. But the runner had helped flag the course, and knew a wicked steep hill was ahead, and refused to go on. Once again, we had to let him go. I was so worried!
We made it up the wicked hill, and let the radio crew know about the two runners. I felt better knowing that someone knew to look out for these guys, and we continued on our way. The views were incredible, the air was gorgeous, and the run was just spectacular. We had to pull the ribbons, which meant our pace was slow, but we were having fun. Then I was ready for mile 44, but it seemed to never come. We kept going and going and going and going and going. We ran into some of the radio crew, so we figured we were close, but it still seemed so far away! Finally, exhausted and weary, we made it to 44.
We changed into our warmer clothes, donned our headlamps, ate some food and took off. This was my very first night run - wow! I had fun picking the glow sticks off the trees, and wearing them around my neck. I couldn't really run, because the trail was so rocky, and I was afraid of twisting an ankle. We started up a steep hill - it seemed to last FOREVER. I was thinking, "It's the night of the never-ending hill." It was like I was on a hill treadmill. Same pace, same incline, same rocks I was stepping over and over and over again, like it was just a giant, rotating treadmill! I couldn't see beyond the 10 feet of light provided by my headlamp. It was strange and eerie.
I was scared, but Joe did a great job sticking close and using two flashlights, so we had plenty of light. A few times, we turned out the lights to enjoy the stars and the crescent moon, which were incredible. Amazing.
Time flew. The steepness eased, and I collected more glow sticks. We joked about turning our lights off and walking into the finish with just the glow sticks. I knew we were going to have an even slower pace for this section, so I kept reminding myself that I had a lot longer to go - I didn't like being stuck in the situation earlier, when I kept thinking mile 44 was sooner than it actually was.
Joe stopped me at one point, and told me to turn off my light. In a hushed voice, he tried to point out some lights moving through the trees to our right. I didn't see them, but he said they looked like headlamps. Either the trail took a sharp right, or there was another trail out there. I knew there wasn't another trail, and I also knew that the trail took a sharp right at the end...but we weren't at the end already, were we?! A few minutes later, Bob's voice rings out, "Hey there, looking good!" I yelled back one of the phrases he'd been using on the runners all day, "You look like new mon-ey!" and he responded, "You look like you went downtown with no money!" I smiled, knowing we were close.
Bob yelled ahead, which meant everyone knew we were coming, so we had no chance to turn out our lights and walk into the finish line with just the glow sticks :) I handed off the trash, and as I bent my head over to take off all the glow sticks around my neck, I saw Johnny's feet. He made it to the finish line! I thought I'd have to get a ride!!! I was so happy, I gave him a great big hug and kiss, and then saw Olga!!! She made it too!!! I was so excited, I was laughing and jumping up and down. I did my longest run since Pemberton - 17 miles, and over 3000 vertical feet of elevation gain! Woo hoo!!!! I ran at night!!!!! Olga took my arm, and I limped to the car. Geez, you'd think I had done the full 50, and Olga had done the 17 :)
We had fun exchanging stories on the way back to the hotel room (radio crew with runners in truck hits elk; runner encounters bear; Angie thinks she saw fresh mountain lion pee; Olga finishes in 12:15, fourth woman, 1st in her age group! (go Olga!); Johnny meets "Massanutten Matt" - the guy who set a course record for MMT in 2005 - and who recognized Johnny, because Matt reads his blog!; etc.), then dropped Olga off and went in search of food.
After eating Subway and showering off, it's off to bed. Whew, what a fun, exhausting day! Johnny is still sick with the wicked cold, I think I'm coming down with it and Ash currently has it, the house is a mess, I have tons of work stuff to do this week and I'm overwhelmed, but I'm so happy that we had such a great weekend, and what fun with Olga!