No, the runner was not me… and I can’t believe I haven’t posted here in a year! But I thought this might be the best place to put my little recap of my recent visit to Michigan and a perspective from my side of the Ultra Marathon as a support person… also created a video to recap the event… link is at the end. Hallucinations… almost! LOL Hope you enjoy!
What was I doing in Michigan besides visiting my great family?
Besides a visit, I was here to be a support person for my brother’s first 100 mile ultra trail race… at the 3-Day “Woodstock” running festival. Thanks to my brother and his wife, Pam, who allowed me to share in this… and helped make it happen.
Arriving Thursday… Friday, we packed up and headed out to the festival campground to set up camp. Staying with the Woodstock tradition, we had to decorate! And of course, Pam wanted to stay in character, so we first had to pick Pam up out of the mud after her dive into it! (rated a 9.8, BTW)
Then, we started to prepare for the race start, which would be the 100 mile ultra. Starting at 4 pm, it would run all night and through the next day.
This was my brother’s race… and his fundraising cause. (Rheumatoid Arthritis, known as RA). My sister-in-law, Pam, and I were to run support for 24+ hours straight, so although we didn’t run… it’s a tough job on its own.
You may wonder what we did. Well, we drove the dirt roads to get close to the official aid stations. We cheered, we encouraged, we got him any stuff he needed… and then on he went, and on we went to the next one, or back to the campground for a quick refuel and then on to the next… to wait, and cheer, and try to supply whatever he needed.
Sometimes the grandkids, or another family member or friend came along; and sometimes one of his “pacers” when not running. He had three amazing friends who volunteered to come out in the middle of the night to rotate and run with him; and ran along with him on those loops where he was allowed to have a pacer. After the first two loops were in the bag – in the dark of night, and later as the miles piled up — well, that seemed to make all the difference in the world.
Each “loop” was just over 16 miles… mostly trails in the woods, some fire roads; dirt roads and a few rails to trails. The course was said to include some good climbs and challenging terrain. In chatting with those experienced in that sort of running… was coined a “challenging course”… and that was without the steady and occasionally torrential rain and resulting mud “bogs”. The race, the distance, the course was challenging enough… and the gotcha was that it RAINED almost the whole time… lightning included. Pictures show the race started with a peek of sunshine and ended that way… but we think it may have been a joke from Mother Nature! Otherwise, nothing but rain, some thunder, lightning, etc. with the trails turning into literal mud bogs and rivers… I continue to be amazed at all those who stuck with it and finished… as there were many “DNF”… (did not finish)… due to conditions… but “pressed on” , Chuck did.
So, we donned raincoats; headlamps and smiles and could have no worries about our fashion statement (Believe me, I was at my worst… and was reminded not to expect to be picking up any available men!) We organized and supplied his regime – mixed bottles; prepared other nutrition; packed glide for non chafing, salt pills, changes of shirts, shoes and socks… morale support and more. Sometimes we “served” from the car trunk, but many times carrying it and a chair for Chuck for a brief reprieve, or whatever was needed to where we would wait. Two of the aid stations had other things that he would also partake in, such as chicken noodle soup, baked potato, and coke. But otherwise, it was all his own supplied nutrition (Hammer Perpetuum and Heed to be specific).
The day almost didn’t seem real… sometimes we got a bit slap happy as we waited… lack of sleep can do that. And on one trip back to the campground; we confounded the fellow at the gate. We also got some chuckles when we noticed the bare running optional group who had gathered in the pool. (yikes!)
Other times we were quiet with concern if we saw his physical condition start to struggle with the challenge. It was interesting to see the ups and downs with each encounter… and for us, trying to figure out how to encourage, when you had no idea how to put yourself “in his shoes” and we couldn’t help but wonder what would truly be an encouragement and inspiration to him to “press on”.
Of course, he took care of that for us without realizing it… with emotional hugs of wife and their friend Lorrie, who suffers from RA… his “cause” for running that day. He had been inspired by her to run in order to raise awareness and money for Rheumatoid Arthritis — a prevalent and difficult disease to treat and one that turns many lives upside down, yet gets very little press. Lori’s perky attitude and smile; and the occasional emotional moments as they bonded over the cause created a tight chest and welling of tears for many of us.
Then, onward he would go… giving us a smile and thumbs up as he pressed on… depending on his pacer to keep him putting one foot in front of the other as the miles piled up… and knowing he could depend on us for words of encouragement, hugs and assistance as our aid assistance got closer together the last 25+ miles.
I know that sometimes his own anxiety, doubts, and interestingly, his fear of disappointing others seemed to inject into his thoughts at times right up until race day… but the reality, is that he had a deep well to draw on. And, the way he inspires others helped sustain him that day… everyone wanted to be there for him in some way… before, during, after… many friends were there and others that he had inspired along the way. But, of course, we all knew he had it in him… it was just a matter of reminding him!
So, that’s a little, but powerful slice of my brother… a big reason for my “vacation” and trip to Michigan and also from the eyes of a support person… I was a bit sore the next day and I didn’t run a lick! My desire was to be there to mark his milestone – his first 100, and Chuck and his wife, Pam, helped me realize that by getting me there with their generosity on the airfare. I also knew, as a result of the experience, I would be inspired in my own life… which has been one of more downs than ups the last few years.
In a nutshell, that is a very small part of what “pressing on” is all about… which has become Chuck’s mantra… and one that others have adopted, too! But, it’s not just about one race, or another. It’s part of the bigger picture of who Chuck is and what his belief system and philosophy is all about – Sure, he is my brother, but in my eyes, he is an amazing “person” and a man I’m so very proud to know and love.
So, how did it end? Well, he finished… Wahoo! And of course, that is the first huge accomplishment… rain, mud, and all. Only about 27 of the original 86 who started, completed the race. The frosting on the cake… he finished with an overall 4th place at 24:06 – and an AG 1st place… a 2nd major accomplishment. Third, and probably most important… he was successful in starting to bring more awareness to RA. I doubt it will stop with this one event.
When the race was over… first euphoria, then total exhaustion. A day later, lots of sore spots, stiffness and some fatigue… but still wired enough to prevent solid sleep. And, likely more recovery needed then he realized … but the same attitude and fortitude remain… forever “pressing on”. Thanks again, Bro!
I CREATED THIS VIDEO RECAP... It’s a bit long, but worth the watch… hope you enjoy it as much as I did making it. I didn’t post it on YouTube due to some of the music I used. 😉
READ MORE…Recently, he was front page in the local news as a result! Check it out here >>
AND… please visit the Facebook page that was set up for this whole challenge and working toward the culmination of this event…and a very fun INTRO VIDEO is located there, also… hope that you check it out!
DONATE… please consider a donation to help further the cause and awareness for RA... if the link is no longer valid, please contact Chuck via his blogspot and he will advise you. (Plus, some great reading there, too!