I’m nothing if not selfish. Isn’t life just too short to spend time doing anything that isn’t bringing you closer to the Life Bus, or finishing off that bucket list? Work is compromise enough. Why would I waste any more of my life on anything that I just don’t want to do?
Which is why I was so surprised to find myself saying yes when a good friend asked me to pace her and her husband in March in Tri Cities, Washington, as she attempted the Badger Mountain Challenge, a 100 mile trail run/race. Spend vacation time, money, and hard earned frequent flyer miles to get her to the finish, with not even a t-shirt in it for me? Absolutely–no wait, what?
Even worse, it was an out and back, so I had to find a ride to my starting point. It is hard asking for help, especially with nothing to give in return. Luck was with me, though: I’m darn good at navigation and there was an incredibly sweet Canadian who wasn’t. Dawn had never crewed before, and her son was an intense guy hellbent on a 24 hour finish. She had no time to get lost.
We made a great team. I kept her on track, and she kept me entertained with tales of growing old. I now am dreading incontinence, womanly dryness, and, worse, their respective “cures”. We made time for a side trip to a winery, giggling like school kids getting away with skipping class.
Most runners there were from Canada, and Canadians are drawn to each other, as well as being some of the friendliest people I’ve met, so Dawn and I quickly made many new friends. Another racer was an equally intense runner, hellbent on her own goals. The group of her friends had road tripped down just for this race. They kept us laughing and well fed–chairs, beer, and burgers enough for everyone. I mentally dubbed them Crew Team of the Year.
We quickly learned the runners’ names (there were only about 50) and cheered like crazy for any runner coming through the aid station. If we didn’t know a name, we made it up. I’m sure Green Shirt and Hot Chick secretly appreciated our zeal, their bemused looks just making us cheer harder.
Did I mention “CREW” stands for “cranky runner endless waiting”? These are the true heroes of a race. Watching their attention to detail, their concern, their eventual fatigue, I could only hope the runners had a true appreciation. I have some amazing friends who had crewed for me, and I know I now do.
The aspect of crewing that truly impressed me is the lack of discrimination and competition. The runners might have had their agendas, but if a crewer lacked anything for their runner, another would certainly come up with. One even lent me shorts when my runners ended up about three hours ahead of schedule, meaning part of my run would be much warmer than my leggings would allow.
Then it was time to begin why I had come.
Along with selfishness, I claim the description of overachiever. I had spent the weeks prior to the race compiling stories and motivational quotes to keep my friends distracted through the long, dark hours of their run. Prior to sunset, it was easy. They were well ahead of schedule and feeling really good. I was mildly panicked when I found myself barely able to keep up.
The miles continued under our feet as the dark and cold closed in around us. It became harder to turn myself out of my own misery to keep them moving. I talked about work and my trip to Denali. I talked about my cat and my plans for future adventures. I told them what had kept me going at LT100. I told them all about my new crew buddies. I told them about the perils of childbirth and incontinence. They were tired. They were cranky. But they didn’t stop.
Soon the dark gave way to the glimmer of dawn. The miles remaining were down to the single digits and our spirits started to drag themselves back upright. We began the final descent with our drunken sailor stagger. We crossed the finish line. They got their buckles. I got their post run clothing from the car.
I was hoping that I could say that I’m cured of selfishness, but what I got out of this experience is so much more than what I put in. I might be more game for something I normally wouldn’t do, but I will still at least secretly be looking for what’s in it for me. My friends made me feel like the greatest person on the planet–after waking up hours later. I have new friends. New memories.
And best of all, I have a new adventure. Two of the Crew Team of the Year will be in Arizona in May, another road trip to another adventure. I’ll be joining them for part of it.
Stay tuned for my next Life Bus adventure.