Last weekend, at the Greenbrier Ultras 100 Mile outside of Boonsboro, Maryland, I had the opportunity to serve as the solo crew member for my good friend Adam Weiser. Adam was attempting what I called a “bounce-back 100 miler” after an unfortunate DNF at the 2021 Eastern States 100 Mile. He was well trained, had a solid pacing and nutrition plan, and came into the race with a positive attitude. All signs were pointing to a successful day — and night.
The Greenbrier Ultras, of which the 100 miler is the longest distance, is the brainchild of legendary U.S. East Coast ultrarunner and race director Kevin Sayers. The longtime race director of the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile (MMT) in Virginia, at Greenbrier, Sayers has produced an accessible ultramarathon that is great for first-timers and veterans alike.
Consisting of 13-plus loops of a 7.5-mile singletrack trail, the course is both a physical and mental test. At the beginning and end of each loop, runners pass through a large, heated tent staffed with one of the finest aid stations I have ever seen in ultrarunning. All in all, it’s a well-organized and well-managed event.
Adam brought his motorhome to the race, so that served as our crew station and a nice place to grab some catnaps through the day and night. With a 2 p.m. Friday afternoon start, all runners are forced to run through the night and often far into the next day. Adam began his race sensibly and by the time I arrived at around 7 p.m., he had completed four laps.
He made quick work of the next several laps but around midnight, his pace slowed and fatigue set in. That was the first time I used the crew-member trick of waking him up from a little nap just a minute or two after he fell asleep and telling him he’d been asleep much longer. It works every time!
The morning of day two was when the real work began. We fell into a routine whereby I would walk/jog out of the aid station with him for a mile or so, each time forcing him to eat food, checking on his feet/quads/stomach, and generally working to bolster his energy and enthusiasm.
Being a solo crew member was quite interesting. On one hand, I had total control of the process of crewing and could work with Adam based on that control. On the other hand, I felt a burden of responsibility being the only crew member, which forced me to pay closer attention to detail than I might otherwise.
As Adam closed in on his finish, his lap time slowed considerably. On his second-to-last lap, he came back to the motorhome tired and a bit discouraged. I was worried that he might ask to take a nap and was relieved when he just grabbed a new water bottle and we headed to the aid station.
There, awaiting us, were several boxes of hot, fresh pizza which was just what Adam would need to power him through the last lap. Knowing that he had been eating less and less with each lap, I suggested he stay there and eat as much pizza as he wanted for as long as he wanted. With that, I knew he probably wouldn’t need to choke down any gels or sugary foods to get his last lap done.
As we left the tent for the last time, I decided that I would run with Adam for a couple of miles to the top of the first climb, both to keep his spirits up and to make sure he wasn’t lagging on the pace. After the two-mile mark, I returned to the motorhome and prepared for his triumphant finish as this was to be Adam’s first-ever 100-mile finish and one that would certainly exorcise the demons of his DNF at the Eastern States 100 Mile last August.
In the end, Adam finished his first 100 miler in a time of 27 hours and 40 minutes on a challenging course with tricky conditions. Reflecting on the experience, I came to realize that there is a unique joy that comes from crewing a 100-mile runner, particularly in their first. I felt that joy this past weekend with Adam.
Supporting another runner who is striving to do something that is very hard, and trying to say or do just the right thing at the right time is both humbling and motivating, and I came away from my weekend at the Greenbrier Ultras feeling both.
AJW’s Bryon Powell’s Beer of the Week
A standout nonalcoholic beer, Athletic Brewing Company’s Lodge Life is aptly described as a “fireside brew,” especially a well-stoked wood stove on a cold and snowy winter’s night. Smoked malt and cacao nibs come through more than the vanilla or coffee mentioned on the label, although there are hints of the latter two.
While completely lacking hops — unlike most Athletic brews — the smoked malt/cacao nibs combination gives the beer a pleasant, mild bitterness that makes it reminiscent of a porter to me. So, too, does that lighter body for a dark beer. All in all, this is a flavorful sipper rather than a brute-force stout that’ll put a smile on your face.
Call for Comments
- Can you share a story of crewing or pacing someone to the finish of their first 100 miler?
- Do you have a memory of your crew during an important-to-you race?
- If you are thinking about your first long ultramarathon, who would you like to have on your crew team and why?