Bring your A-team to your A-race
A dialed crew and pacer team can make a big difference in your 100-mile or any ultramarathon success. As you put together your A-team, consider what you need and who is suited for each role. This post specifically covers crew duties.
CREWing an ultrarunner has been described as dealing with Cranky Runner, Endless Waiting. Your crew will probably be awake as long as you, driving to remote locations with no cell service and limited to no restaurant options, all while possibly taking care of your kids.
Then they only get to see you as you either blow through an aid station in a blur or when you’re in your lowest slump at your darkest hour.
It is a daunting task, so set them up to be as successful as possible. When you cross the finish line, the accomplishment will be theirs as well as yours.
Provide your crew with the following written information. A team meeting a day or two before the race is a time to connect as a team and review the plan.
Your bib number: This is useful for retrieving drop bags and may help with runner tracking.
Which aid stations they will visit: Be sure to respect all race parking and aid station rules. Sending your crew to “non-crew” aid stations can seriously jeopardize the future of a race and may result in your own disqualification.
Driving directions: These should be printed and consider where your crew is coming from. Don’t count on cell phone maps to work.
Pacer and transportation plans: Your crew may be doubling as your pacers. Regardless, you need to make a plan to get people and cars to where they are needed.
Best and worst case timing scenarios: Provide your team with realistic timing projections. That being said, everybody (crew and runner included) needs to be flexible and take the day as it comes. Prepare for the best, but plan for the worst.
Drop bag locations: Tell your crew where you are sending drop bags. Never send your drop bag with your crew – if they have a flat tire, you may be left without essential needs. Your crew should collect your drop bags along the way and bring them to the finish, possibly saving you some wait time at the end.
What to do: this is the most important part! What, exactly, do you expect your crew to do at each aid station? Consider their experience and capabilities. If there are special requirements at certain aid stations (re-apply sunscreen, get night gear, take medicine, etc…) be sure to write that down. This list is best kept in the drop bag in a waterproof manner, but include it with the crew instructions, too.
If your parents and/or kids are crewing you, it may be wise to limit their role to simply retrieving your drop bag. Your family’s most important role is moral support. A more experienced crew can do everything from mixing your sports drink to full pit-stop style handling of you upon arrival.
Prepare a drop bag that is specifically for the crew to carry. This should include non-essentials that still might be handy: spare shoes and socks, blister care kit, fresh clothes, special food, etc…
Lately, this is what I like from my crew, which typically includes our kids:
1.) Retrieve my drop bag. Open it, but keep the contents inside so that I can find my own stuff.
2.) Also have the crew bag open and ready if I want to look for anything there.
3.) Mix my Tailwind.
Your goals: Tell your crew your primary and backup goals (time or otherwise) and how they can help you if things go south. Don’t underestimate the power of having your people there to support you. If you hit a low, their positive energy will be crucial in moving you forward.
Finally, ensure that your crew has the gear they need to take care of themselves, including food, water, chairs, weather-appropriate clothes and footwear, flashlights, entertainment while waiting, to name a few items. As on an airliner, they must “adjust their own masks first,” before helping others.
This article is second in a series of articles ultra marathon preparation and logistics – in honor of my husband’s first 100-mile race (Pine to Palm 100) in September. Click here for the first post, “Ultramarathon Pace Logistics.” Or see all posts about running ultras by clicking here.