Back in 2000 when I ran my first 100 miler at the Angeles Crest 100 Mile, I was crewed by my wife Shelly and my two sons Carson and Logan. (Tully, alas, was still just a twinkle in his daddy’s eye.) Aged three and one respectively, Carson and Logan spent most of the day and night being carted around by Shelly in a stroller and a backpack. But, to this day, they consider the 2000 Angeles Crest 100 Mile to be their first-ever crewing experience.
In subsequent years and over more than thirty-five 100-mile races, my family has crewed me through good times as well as bad, and some of our most cherished family memories are from those experiences. And so it was with a great deal of enthusiasm that I offered to crew my son Logan, now 21 years old, on a 250-plus-mile gravel bike ride from Harrisonburg to Roanoke, Virginia. Accompanied by his good friend and training partner Ryan Hagen, Logan was seeking to improve on the fastest known time (FKT) for the RockStar Gravel Route which was held by legendary Virginia cyclist Jeremiah Bishop. Logan, not surprisingly having grown up with me as his smack-talking dad, spent a good part of the week leading up to the FKT attempt smack talking with Bishop and calling the FKT soft. Little did he know what he was in for.
We hooked up with Logan in Harrisonburg on the night before his ride and had a team meeting. It was clear, from the outset, that Logan was not entirely organized for his journey and we spent a fair bit of time locating aid-station spots, sorting gear, and replacing batteries in lights and power meters. I was already starting to think that Logan might learn a hard lesson.
Our plan was to meet Logan and Ryan for the first time at the 63-mile mark of the course in an area of the George Washington National Forest. When they rolled in a good two hours after their projected split, we knew a story was coming.
“I hate creek crossings!” said Logan. “I can hardly feel my fingers. I crashed bad.”
As any experienced crew would do, we spent the next 10 minutes putting Logan back together, filling him with fluids and food, and generally attempting anything possible to lift his spirits. By the time he rolled out of the aid station and back up the next climb, he was back in a good frame of mind. And by the time we greeted him with hot egg, cheese, and potato burritos at the 100-mile mark, he was back on his game.
In the lead-up to the ride, Logan was keen to tell all of his friends and rivals that his plan was to do the ride “ultra style.” He was going to eat lots of solid food, take time to re-group at aid stations, and make sure his gear was dialed before heading out into the unknown. Knowing what he knew about ultramarathons and knowing that Shelly, in particular, was quite experienced as a crew certainly helped. As Ryan said a few days later during an interview with Jeremiah Bishop, “Having Logan’s family there was like having a traveling band of sports psychologists with us!”
By the time the boys reached the 180-mile mark shortly before nightfall, they knew that Jeremiah’s FKT was likely out of reach. However, that did not deter them from venturing into the dark woods once again. We plied them with fresh pizza, hot coffee brewed specially for the occasion in Tully’s AeroPress, and warm clothes as well as the promise of a warm bed when they finally finished. They forged on, determined to finish what they had started.
In the end, Ryan and Logan managed to cover the route in a little over 20 hours and missed Bishop’s FKT by an hour. But that wasn’t the point. Rather, what both guys realized is that these crazy-long adventures are fun. They may not always be enjoyable but when you reflect on them a few days later, what you remember is the fun stuff. And, for me, as Logan’s dad, I felt particularly happy about being able to crew him. Over the years, goodness knows, Logan has washed my feet, stuffed gels down my shorts, and watched me puke on his feet. I figured, in this case, the least I could do was to return the favor two decades later.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Turkey Hill Brewing Company in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Turkey Hill’s Barn Dance Blonde Ale is a crisp and light Kolsch-style brew with a surprising burst of maltiness and a gentle touch of sweetness. Not your typical Blonde Ale, Barn Dance is a lot more complex and hearty than most.
Call for Comments
Have you experienced a crewing or pacing role reversal with one of your family members or friends over the years? Can you share what that was like?