Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Ghost town 38.5

If you just want to see results - here's the link: http://www.journeyheretothere.com/race_results.htm

AND here's the report:

Wow, what a weekend! I think I averaged 4 hrs. sleep/night for the week, but things went really well.

I think I left you with the craziness of Thurs. Friday I spent stuffing packets, organizing the studio and cabin, making calls, fielding last minute questions - including a runner from NC who called late Fri. asking if she could register Sat. as she'd found a flight from Atlanta...there were one or two similar emails. My only request was that if people were registering late, they had to do it on Sat....no 3am registrations would be processed on Sunday! (I can be a tough director if I have to be.)

Friday night my first runner showed up. She was very excited, had traveled with a friend, and I took the ladies to the registration center in the studio where all the rules were explained - Rule #1 - don't leave the course without checking out through an aid station; Rule #2 - a strict cutoff would be enforced - 12 hours to my place (about mile 30) and 6:00 pm to the finish (14 hrs. - our start was at 4am and if you want to know the reasons, I'll be happy to share but I won't unless you ask).

I think I got to bed at a reasonable hour on Fri. but honestly don't remember. Things are a bit blurry.

Sat. we were up early, getting more organizing done. And then registration opened for real. People came, it was fun to match faces to emails and phone calls. The lady from NC arrived, tired but excited to have pulled off such a last minute trip. The guy who'd emailed really late Fri. actually came and so my field grew a little. Then the team from the Alamo Res. arrived...3 runners/walkers had to drop out as they had a relative on a deathbed, and my runner from OK just never showed up. So out of the 44 registered,40 were here.

Shortly after 6 we headed to the cafe that offered a pasta buffet on their menu. This was special for the racers, as this cafe is not usually open in the evenings. The owners knocked themselves out. All special dietary needs were taken care of. I was told by more than one participant that they felt spoiled. It was a great atmosphere.

The three from the reservation were sleeping in my studio for the night. There were two other runners in campers parked at the back fence. We hurried and moved from the studio to the cabin everything I'd need for the early start the next morning. I spent a couple of hours organizing gear drop bags into bins and boxes, making sure I had my stop watches properly set, and generally flying around doing director stuff. I actually got to bed by 10pm.

The alarm was set for 2am as the runners were arriving between 2:30 and 3:00 for the usual prerace foods: bagels, bananas, my homemade muffins, coffee, tea, hot choc. etc. The shuttles would load at 3 and we were scheduled to depart at 3:15 for the 40 min. drive to the start. I had a couple of runners who were late arrivals - one from DC had called - he'd had flight problems and had to fly into Tucson and then drive 4 hours to get here. He was actually coherent, but did tell me he'd gotten here just in time to change clothes in his car and drive straight to my house. Ugh! The second runner lives in El Paso, TX and had asked to pick up his packet on Sun. morning to save driving over an extra time...I felt it was right to accomodate him, he was already registered so it was just a matter of handing him a packet, a waiver to sign, and his bib.

I got them loading into the shuttles at 3. One guy from FL protested - he was still tagging his gear bags "but you said be here by 3:15"..."No," I replied, "I said be here by 3, we pull out at 3:15...and gear drops were supposed to be made yesterday, so move it". I wasn't rude, but emphatic (at least I hope that's how it came across). If I'm not on time, I am usually early, and we pulled from the drive at 3:13am.

We arrived just before 4 at the start, I ran and unlocked the potty there, and hustled everyone to the start line. A few had managed to get themselves there so they checked in with me. All were impressed that I'd managed to have a full moon for them. In the desert, out here where there are no lamps of any kind, I have to say that the landscape is amazing in the shadows of light that fall from a full moon.

One last person needed the potty, and ran to the start. I blew the whistle at 4:01 and away they went. It was great seeing headlamps bobbing, though that big ole moon made it possible for many to go without flashlight or headlamp. Too cool!

I stopped at the first station, stayed til the first runner went through - at that time it was Bobby Keogh from Ablq. and then moved up the line. I promised the volunteer at station between markers 15 and 16 that i'd keep him company until the first runner came through, as this volunteer was the lone soul at his spot. We had a great visit, but the temps. had dropped from the balmy 41 we'd had when we left my house into something that was beginning to get very uncomfortable. I kind of lost feeling in my feet from standing in the cold, but eventually a very relaxed runner without light came up the hill and around the bend. It was eerie seeing the dark shape moving along the dark road...we were between two hills and were definitely in the shadows. I called out and asked if that was indeed a runner and got a gentle reply 'is that you susan'? I knew the voice of that first runner - Joe Gaebler, age 28, from Reserve, NM. He'd taken the lead, something he'd keep right to the end of the race! And he was moving smoothly but fast!

From there I checked on the next stations, stopped at the cabin to eat something between 7 and 8 am. I realized I was beginning to drop into some serious shivers from the cold....so wanting to avoid hypothermia I took off my hiking boots and wool socks and stood barefooted in front of the furnace with my socks hanging from my fingers so they warmed as well. After about 15 min. the worst of the shivering stopped and I shoed-up once more and headed out to check the rest of my stations. I traveled with a portable station in the back of my truck in case some volunteer overslept. I had enough goods to serve several runners should the need arise.

There was a glitch with setup of the finish line so after quick consult with hubby it was decided that I'd stay there - at the finish - and he'd patrol the course for me. I had a good friend to assist me, once her station closed. She is also one of our first responders. By 9am I was set up and ready. I would stay there the rest of the race...cheering each runner in as he or she arrived.

Joe Gaebler was the first in - in very fast time - he completed his 38.5 miles in 5:28:01. I was wowed. He's a humble guy who apparently had some great times in big races a few years ago and then pressure to do better and better got to him and he quit running. He came to the Ghost Town run to try and recover some joy of running. His grin at the finish said it all! He rec'd his medal and his handmade dark chocolate truffle and then I gave him his "trophy" - an antique Union Pacific Railroad spittoon. I had come up with it some months ago - just seemed appropriate to the theme of the run and the place.

Second runner in was Joe's buddy Russ Roberts. Russ is 52, his time was 5:59:36. I don't know a lot about his background except he's paced winners at Leadville. And he's a pleasant guy.

But then they were all great. So many diff. backgrounds and experiences, but one of the nicest bunch of people I've met at one time. This little village I live in was bowled over with their fitness and cheerfulness and general enthusiasm. Ours is a great sport and people sharing the passion of it are pretty much delightful.

And so the runners came in. Third in was Marty Duchow. Marty's 43 and from CT and done many-a-race. I loved what he had to say when he arrived at the finish. You've heard me talk about my roller coaster hills. They were at about miles 27-30. Marty was a little blue in the lips when he arrived and announced, "Well, I got through those hills coming into the village and realized I was out of legs...then I headed up the last 8 miles (they're a climb of 1100 ft.) and I realized I was out of oxygen." He just grinned and shook his head and began to say how gorgeous it all was and that it was an amazing course.

Joe, btw, had said that he would have loved to run the last 8 miles back the other direction just to soak them up from the other side...he called today and asked me to make the event a 50 miler for next year. My husband asked me to hold off for at least 48 hours before beginning the planning for next year, he's still recovering!

The wind was now up and was very cold. If it was still the day was lovely but eeee, I had to keep adding layers. Eventually I gave up trying to feel my toes and pulled my hat on a little lower, but the sun shone and I have a little sunburn and a little wind chafe. I was asked today how I felt about the event and I had to answer that I am really happy with how it all went.

There were no injuries, no emergencies, and everyone was happy at the finish. There were a few funny/interesting stories from the course. I loved the little 2 yr. old girl running through the finish 'gate' forwards onto the course because her daddy was coming in. She ran with arms held out happily calling to her dad. He was about 20 ft. from the finish when she got to him and she held his hand to the line. His running buddy held back so girl and dad could cross together.

My last minute guy...the one who registered Sat....realized Sat. night he'd forgotten his running shoes and had to squeeze into his wife's tennies. She was stumping around in his leather shoes, and he finished in hers, but I think with some pretty serious blisters. Talk about dedication to the run!

Everyone made new friends, the bbq after was great. A number of locals donated door prizes, we have way too many leftovers, but no one went away hungry. I've been giving food away all day! There are a few 'lost and found' items that I will mail back to their owners. And today, after 8 hours sleep, I am feeling relieved and happy that all went well.

I've been thinking a lot about Joe, my first place guy. When he called I got to visit with him a little more - he'd stayed out of town and not come to either party. Sort of an elite runner deal some speculated. We talked about the pressure he's felt in the past, how one of his friends kept telling my other runners and volunteers all of Joe's stats etc. Something about all those stats struck me...you may or may not agree...but to me, statistics simply show what you can do, they're not what you are.

Anyway, my last two finishers were my youngest and my oldest participants. I gave them each a prize. People choked up when the 13 yr. old ranch kid got his. Such a little guy, yet with such a big heart. My 78 yr. old had used trekking poles the whole time til that last half mile down the straight stretch and then he came in swinging them from one hand. He was so tired that he couldn't hold his spittoon and a volunteer had to carry it into the lodge for him. But he came to the bbq, so he was still had something left in him!

Lots of comments were about how beautiful this area is. People crossed the finish with something of awe and anguish in their faces. Even the most experienced 100 milers commented on how tough the hills were. I told them I was glad I could share! I was even told that of the 10 ultras one guy has run, mine got #1 for both tough course and friendliness. I can live with that!

And so today the phone calls started early....someone about to leave town was looking for a lost 'most valuable dad' sweatshirt - could he stop by? Of course, just give me 10 min. to dress. And then the owner of the b/b called ... two of the runners had tried to book rooms for next year, but she encouraged them to wait until I had my dates set. No problem, same weekend next year.

There will be some course changes...I want to run them into the Gila Forest on trails a little bit. And with my slowest runner finishing around 12 hours, I think we can opt for a couple more hours of sleep before the start. And who knows, requests are flowing in for a 50 mile big brother to the original 38.5...so two distances may run simultaneously. I've got some great ideas for "dressing up" my finish line. But there's no doubt the race will run again. I didn't know this, but mine is the only ultra in New Mexico and if things go as well in the future as they did this year...well, a director couldn't ask for anything more!

Oh, I almost forgot...several of the runners also requested I find a good dirt route for a 100 miler....I've been offered oodles of help...actually "anything you need" is how the offers went. These people are serious! It won't be in 2006, but I think there's a pretty good chance in 2007 that it just might happen.

Cheers! susan

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