Monday, July 13, 2009

Notes from Putnam Aid Station

John and I decided to volunteer at the Hardrock 100 this year, so we signed up to run an aid station. Based on our willingness to hike and our lack of a 4WD vehicle, we ended up at the Putnam aid station. It's 6 miles from the finish, so we could take our time setting up but we would be out there for over a day (no problem for us! Except I ate way too much aid station "junk" food). Another bright side is that we could pay a lot of attention to each runner and mostly not rush in giving them whatever help they needed.

Our friend Ann came up from Austin to help, and we were also joined by another John and a guy named Pete. Rounding out the Putnam Crew was a family of ham radio operators, Mark and his sons Randall and Jacob who did all the reporting back to Silverton. We all got along great, helped each other out, and had a fun time in our remote location.

We were also given several sets of trekking poles from Black Diamond, courtesy of Roch Horton, since we were a "Pack-In" aid station - thank you Roch!

Friday afternoon we all drove up to Little Molas trailhead to meet Mike and his pack horses. Mike loaded all the aid station food and gear plus some of our backpacks on the horses, then we walked in about 3.5 miles to our aid station location on the Hardrock course. After a few hours of sorting everything, roping up tarps, digging a pit toilet hole, setting up the radio, and running out to the truck and back for a box of food we had forgotten, we were more than ready for some sleep.

At 3 am Mark groggily called Silverton to ask the status of the lead runner. No one had made it through the previous aid station (called KT), which was about 2 hours away if you're a super fast runner. Sweet, we can get more sleep. At 4:30 am we learned that Karl Meltzer had come through KT and we had about an hour before we should expect him to arrive. Excellent, time to get moving.

We were also told that Karl had requested some hot broth - that was the best news we could have gotten. We had been debating what to have ready (besides regular and hot water), but now we had a definite plan. The only question was whether he would prefer chicken or vegetable broth, so we decided to make both (answer = chicken was fine). Something to remember if you're ever leading a race - put in an order for the next aid station!

Mark went up the trail and called back on the radio when he found Karl, running down with him and chatting a bit. Karl stopped and talked for a couple minutes (John noted that he was carrying poles) and we enjoyed getting a chance to meet him like normally we never would. Very cool. Then he was off, headed for the finish line and the 2nd-fastest HRH time ever (and a course record in the CCW direction) - awesome!

Eventually we sorted out who to expect next, and when. When we heard it was Troy Howard, whom John and I had met during course marking up from Telluride, we were very excited. It was his first HRH and he was in second place, going on to finish in the third fastest time ever - what a showing! He came through the aid station pretty quickly, but we did have time to congratulate him and cheer him down the hill. Way to go, Troy!

As if that wasn't excitement enough, the next runner was a woman! Diana Finkel came through (and finished) in third place overall, smashing the women's course record by 2 hours and looking great doing it. Her pacer came through first to let us know she didn't need anything, so we were able to stand and cheer while we watched her run through. Incredible run, Diana!

Mark kept hiking up the trail to meet runners, take their order, and let us know they were coming. It was fun knowing what to put together for each of them, although eventually Mark had had enough training for the day (until the last finishers were on their way down).

The next three guys were pretty funny. Scott Jaime looked pretty beat, and his main concern was that Andy Jones-Wilkins was "right behind me". He seemed to want to sit, rest, and eat, but he couldn't bring himself to stay long - he got up and pushed himself to move out.

We expected Andy to come running right in, but it was another 20 minutes before he arrived. HIS main concern was that Jared was "right behind me". He looked in better shape but also didn't stay long.

Finally Jared showed up 10 minutes later, seemingly unconcerned about anything. He had a big lead over the next guy and he knew he couldn't catch Andy. He was friendly and seemed happy to be almost done.

I don't remember all the rest of the runners, but here are some tidbits from various folks that made an impression:

We got to thank Roch for the trekking poles :)

Ricky Denesik had a strange gait going on but managed to hang onto 9th place.

We recognized Ted Mahon from somewhere but couldn't place him - finally John (the other John) realized he had been on the Everest reality TV show a few years back - of course! And we had met him in the Geneva airport once and he was nice enough to chat with us then. Good to see you again, Ted! Nice finish!

Philippe Verdier was from France but only wanted to speak English with us. Ah well, we tried!

Tyler Curiel was really friendly and talkative. His son was pacing him, and they got us to take their picture with the aid station sign. Nice job on your 10th HRH finish, Ty!

Jamil Coury, with his brother Nick pacing (Nick finished in 4th last year, I believe the youngest finisher ever), wasn't quite as excited about his placing, but still looked great after 94 miles. They had run all over the place before the race, and they are probably running again as you read this.

Ronda Sundermeier made us think she was pregnant, which made us all gasp, but she was just joking.

Scott Eppelman cruised through without stopping - he got a big cheer from the Texas contingent.

Betsy Nye was the first of the two Betsy's - she said normally it's the other way around. Betsy Kalmeyer came through soon after. Both of them looked great.

Fred Ecks might have been the first finisher amoung the trail marking crew (unless I missed someone, and not counting Troy Howard who is in a class of his own). It was fun greeting someone we knew. Way to go, Fred!

Mohammed Idlibi's pacer ran up to let us know that his runner was going straight through. That allowed us to just cheer him on, which got Mohammed all pumped up, which made us cheer harder. Awesome finish!

It was fun to watch Blake Wood and his daughter - they seem so nice and easy to talk to.

Patrick Fellay from Switzerland didn't speak a lot of English, but he did talk with us in French. I forgot a few key words (I think I called his water bottle a bidet instead of a bidon), but he humored me and we got along well. Presque la!

Chris Labbe didn't stay long, just long enough for us to cheer on another trail marking cohort. Go Chris!

Kirk Apt is quite a character. I can't remember why, but it seems like he made us laugh. Amazing - 15th finish for Kirk!

We had gotten to know Jeff List quite well during course marking. He looked really good coming in, but he decided to sit and treat his feet. We got to marvel at his homemade foot treatment concoction, and we met his buddy who couldn't believe we are such fans of Jeff's rain shorts (they are really cool). Not to mention the umbrella we didn't know about before. Awesome finish, Jeff! Send us your gear list please :)

James Demer was another course marking guy we had talked a lot with. He had gotten off course on the way to KT, taking the Ice Lake trail down to the parking lot (not good!). He climbed back up to the course and had recovered by the time he got to us. We hugged him and he looked very happy to be there. We're so proud of you, James!

Julian Jamison was at Putnam at about the same time as James, so it was one big happy trail marking family for a few minutes. Way to go, Julian!

Ryan McDonald came in a short time later, raving about his magic trekking poles (he had tried John's on the day up to Virginius and decided to buy some of his own). Ryan may have been the only person to go to every single trail marking party. Nice finish, Ryan!

Andy "the Australian" Hewet staggered in, telling us about all the hallucinating he had been doing. He had "seen" some silent aid station people and called out "where are you guys?" but they didn't answer. He then started to worry that he had missed the aid station. He was still in a daze when he got to us, but he bravely continued (and continued to hallucinate). Glad to hear you made it to the finish line, Andy!

We met Michael James during trail work, and his stay at Putnam was memorable. He came in proclaiming he was "half dead" so we gave him a log to sit on for a while. He tried eating/drinking some things, all the while deadpanning jokes, telling us he had fallen over a couple times and making us laugh while his pacer didn't look so amused. Finally when he left he was only "quarter dead" so I guess we did something right. Glad you stuck with it, Mike!

Jim Campiformio looked great - John told him we had used his shovel to dig our pit toilet. Thanks Jim, and way to run!

Liz Bauer-Walker looked awesome on her way through Putnam. She has such a great attitude and we were happy to see her. Nice finish, Liz!

Somewhere around midnight we started noticing lightning and thunder. Then it began to rain. Rain at night seemed a bit strange (based on the previous 2-week weather pattern - what do I know?), especially rain that didn't just stop 15 minutes later. Especially pouring-buckets rain.

I was glad I'd taken the time earlier in the day to move everything under the cover of tarp. We had to move a table slightly since it was under the gap in two tarps, but everything mostly stayed dry and there seemed to be enough space for the runners/pacers gathering under our shelter. We moved back and forth trying to keep up with requests for hot soup, hot chocolate, hot broth, and water refills. Runners did continue to leave in the rain even as more arrived, so we never got too overbooked. We just felt bad for their wet, bedraggled selves. Good thing they didn't have far to go! Only a couple-three more hours on the course.

One guy came in with a story of getting hit by lightning on the upper slopes - but he felt great now! Whoa, that's crazy. Apparently he got knocked back and then scrambled to get lower until the storm moved on. That was one of the bigger stories at the awards ceremony. Amazing.

Olga came in with very few clothes on, soaking wet, and really cold. She was one of only a couple runners that decided to go sit by our campfire. We got her a blanket, some warm drinks, and threw a jacket around her until she seemed to warm up a bit. She wasn't completely happy when she left, but she stuck it out and got down to the finish line. Way to go, Olga!

One woman asked if we had any gloves. We were thrown for a minute by the request, then I remembered that we had some thin plastic serving gloves, so I threw those on her and added a couple hot-hands. It's always nice to be able to at least partially solve a problem.

I heard a woman's voice that I recognized and turned around to see someone I didn't really know. It turned out to be Liz Hodges, but without her normal headgear on. She was pacing her husband Rick, and she was giving him heck about NEVER pacing him again. Finally we figured out who it was - and she smiled and laughed with us. Always a character!

Finally the rain slowed, although the runners were still wet when they got to us. It rained off and on all night, which can't be fun up in the mountains with miles to go.

Here's a story about Coca Cola... we started with 2 bottles, but Mark had told us we would quickly run out. So we went up to Cunningham aid station on Friday morning a couple hours after the start, watched a few runners come through, and then acquired 2 bottles of Coke that they didn't need. Packed all 4 bottles on the horses. Got to Putnam, unpacked everything, said adios to Mike, then realized we had only 3 bottles. That kept my mind occupied the rest of the day. We rationed the Coke (yes, a large % of runners drink Coke at the end of a long race!) but finally did run out. Turns out the bottle was hiding inside a saddle bag and Mike didn't find it until Sunday morning when he came back to collect our stuff. Sorry to everyone who wanted Coke but didn't get it!!

John DeWalt came stumbling in, and I mean really stumbling (but apparently that's normal!). I jumped up to locate the packet of Miso soup we'd been given specifically for him. Then he asked for No-Doze, so I went for my adventure race med kit to find some Vivarin. His pacer came up with No-Doze, John swallowed it, then the No-Doze came up on him. He was wretching and asking for salt. We should have salt! While scrambling to find that, his pacer came up with a salt tablet. We were like a bumbling pit crew. John got up and stumbled out of there, strange gait and all, heading on down for another amazing finish at 73 years old. Wow, is all I can say.

Not many more runners out there - but not much time left. The clock was ticking, after 3:30 am now. Many people would take 2.5 to 3 hours to cover the last 5.9 miles, so obviously we were concerned.

At 3:36 am, Gerry Roach and possibly another pacer hurried in and made preparations for their runners. Rick Pearcy and Jennifer Roach appeared, both moving as fast as they could through our aid station and on a mission for the finish line. They both made it before 6 a.m., with 12 and 6 minutes to spare, respectively. Congratulations!

At 3:58 Leonard Martin showed up, moving well and looking strong. He also made it in time, with 5 minutes to spare. Apparently it's his first finish in about 5 tries - congratulations, Leonard!

At 4:13 Margaret Heaphy's light came through the darkness. No pacer, but still moving, she looked focused and determined. We didn't see her long before she disappeared again into the night. She had a fast final leg, finishing with only FOUR minutes to spare, earning the "caboose" award and some train tickets. Amazing!

We knew Joe Prusaitis was still out there, the final runner on the course between KT and us. We waited and hoped, knowing that he was good enough as a downhill runner that he still had a chance. John P. went up the trail looking for him, but when he saw the green lights they were still a long ways off. Bummer!

Joe and George reached us at 4:41 a.m. We waited to see whether he was hoping to move quickly by or whether he wanted to rest up a couple minutes. He sat down because he knew he couldn't make it down in time. He asked for soup, but when I went to pour hot water into a cup he asked if I actually had to make it? He didn't want to wait, he decided to get up and go. I had the broth to him as he was getting ready to go and he took a couple swigs. Then he was outta there, aiming for a warm bed. He made it to Mineral Creek by 6 a.m. and the finish line 40 minutes later. Way to finish the course, Joe! We're so proud of you!

Our Texas aid station, with some Shiner Boch, tequila, TX flag (topped off with Vermont cheese and maple candy) seemed to go over well. No one gave us too much grief over being from the Lone Star state, and several runners did actually drink some beer. No takers on the tequila, though!

Congratulations to ALL Hardrock runners - you are inspirational and amazing. Thank you for letting us share in the incredible journey.


James Varner said...

thank you so very much for all the stories!!! it's so good to hear about everyone, this is the first year in the past 5 years i haven't gone to hardrock and i really really missed seeing everyone!

Anonymous said...

Hi Marcy and John,

We just love reading your reports and hearing how you are doing!! So cool!

Marcy - Did you get my email about September?? Kathy

Lori B said...

Marcy and John,

What a wonderful sight you were after that scary lightning storm. We were cold and tired and you were our light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks for being out there for us. We will do the same for you one day soon. All the best! It was great to meet you and let us know if you ever get to the Tetons, you have a place to stay.

Lori and Chris
Jackson, Wy

Steve Pero said...

Great report, Marcy....thanks for posting. You don't know how much we appreciate you aid stations!

Steve Pero

julison said...

Thanks Marcy - I was so happy to see you and John out there! James and I used the maple candy kick to speed (relatively speaking) all the way back to silverton.

Great to get to know you earlier in the week, and I look forward to overlapping at another race soon!


LK said...

Marcy & John:

Olga and I are very grateful for your aid station after surviving the storm. Seeing the campfire was a very welcome site. You all did an incredible job of taking care of Olga and bringing her back to life. Thank you!

-Larry King (Austin, TX)

Joseph Lea said...

Thanks for being out there guys!

joe lea

Sultonic said...

Hey Marcy and John!

Thanks for being out there and supporting the event. Next year I promise to stop by and spend a minute to two at the aid station!

To the summit,


mucklechumps said...

Hi Marcy and John!

I cant tell you how special you helped to make my Hardrock experience. I dont think I would have been able to handle the scarier sections of the course if it werent for your help. If I can help you guys make a demo vid for a show please let me know.
Thanks also for such a wonderful and thoughtful aid station report. You certainly put a smile on my face with the maple sugar candy! WOW!!! I'm going to Burlington VT tomorrow and will most certainly think of you Marcy.
I hope I have the opportunity to service both of you at an aid station someday. Big hugs from Maine! James Demer

Whippetman said...

Hi Marcy and John,
Thanks for the link to your blog.
It was cool spending time with you guys at Hardrock. And yes I thought you guys were a mirage in the twilight. But then I was seeing all manner of weird things out there. So glad you turned out to be real and really appreciated the broth.
Hope to catch up at another ultra down the track.
Cheers Andy

Jennifer said...

Marcy and John,

I didn't have a second (really!) to stop in at what should have been the best-loved aid station on the course this year. The final one! Nope, just had to keep chugging along and make every effort to get my tired butt across that finish line before 6 AM. I did it thanks to the help of many people, including the hard work from all the aid stations. Hardrock runners are so dependent on each and every one of you wonderful volunteers.

I won't soon forget John Prater chasing me down the trail with a bottle of Mountain Dew in hand for me to gulp, sending me off with the shout to find my strengths and get the last 6 miles done.

Thanks for a great aid station!