Monday, July 26, 2010
Crew = Ambassadors
I get asked quite often at Ultra's who I have for a crew. Usually the question is asked in the context that someone is trying to figure out whom they should ask to be their crew for an upcoming race. This is after all a very important decision to make. Who do you choose to be in your crew? We often joke that CREW is an acronym for Cranky Runner Endless Waiting. This isn't too far from the truth, but crewing isn't all about dealing with a cranky runner, it can be so much more than that. But before I dive into the opinion I'm sure you're waiting with bated breath to hear, I'll answer the question you're asking right now.. who do I have as my crew?
I have to tell you that I consider myself to be one of the luckiest runners in ultra-running to have the crew that I have. I very carefully chose who I wanted on my crew and just as carefully choose who I do NOT want on my crew. My wife Sarah is a must. Sarah knows my in's and outs, she knows my buttons, she can read my without hearing me speak. She knows exactly what I want and when I want it. She knows what to do and what not to do. This of course did not happen over night. Sarah has been crewing for me since my first ultra in 2005... she still makes mistakes. But it is her unwavering positive and supportive attitude and that same drive to reach that goal... the finish.. that I have that makes her such a valuable member of my crews. There is no fighting, she doesn't take anything personally, when she is crewing at a race she is on the clock. Crewing becomes her full time job, around the clock, until it is that I am done. The word quit or drop has never come out of her mouth... NEVER. This is ESSENTIAL. There is a reason Sarah is the Crew Chief for Team Sherpa Ultra-running.
After that, I have an amazingly supportive group of family and friends who show up from time to time. Josh Robert has been running ultra's for over 10 years now. How could I not have someone with a mountain of ultra-knowledge and know-how on my crew? His girlfriend Leah is new to the sport, but she is forever smiling, fun, funny... and quite a party person from time to time to keep the mood light and fun. Then there is Loni, an ultra-runner herself, always aspiring to achieve and inspired to be a part of something bigger then herself. She shares a wealth of support, knowledge and tricks herself. Steve VanOrden, the guy met me at Eastern Mountain Sports when buying a pair of shoes. I told him about ultra-running, the guy wanted in. Since then, he's been there through thick and thin. Always willing to lend a hand whether it be training at home, helping with gas money to get to a race or just coming out to take some phenomenal pictures. Steve has paced me at the VT100 as well, he's run a few 50K's along the way.. the guy is a breath of fresh air. He gets it... it's not about being the fastest, or the most accomplished.. it's about the journey.. it's about being positive and having fun. Steve is Fun.. all of these people are fun... I have arguably the most amazing support crew in this sport and I am forever grateful for their effort.
Nothing makes me happier then to come home from a race and have quite a few e-mails of thanks for me to give to my crew. From cheering other runners, to cheering on and helping other crews "get it." From the sharing of our Long Trail Ale to just being great people, my crew not only acts as great ambassadors for myself.. but ambassadors for the sport. Not once have I heard a tale of my crew bragging about my success in a race. No once have they burdened another crew or another runners with tall tales of how my race is going. My crew sticks to the basics, having an amazing time drinking beers, placing frisbee, having one hell of a party and when I come into the aid station... they're right to work helping me accomplish our goal of making it to the finish line. Notice how it's OUR goal and not MY goal. Running ultra's with a crew is a TEAM effort. Never once will you hear my crew bashing a runner on the course, or not even in attendance. Not once will you hear my crew bragging about how my run is going. I am proud to know that after all these years, I have a crew that always acts with dignity, respect and class towards runners present and absent... and they're always willing to help all reach their goal whatever it may be.
So as you move forward in choosing your crew in the future... remember that it's much more than filling bottles, mixing drinks, popping blisters and dealing with your tired cranky ass. They are YOU when you're not around. What they say and do reflects on you... for good and for bad. They're not just there to help you, they're there to help other runners... they're there to make a PB&J at an aid station that lacks race volunteers... we're all in this thing together. Your goal should be their goal and everyone else's goal. This sport has a community rich in support of each other. When the going gets tough, they're tougher then you. When you're down and out, they should be there to keep you up and in. Quitting is not an option.. and their positive energy should flow freely through you.