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Ultra Crew 101

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My husband wrote a race recap about SD50 a few weekends ago.  That is from his perspective which is very introspective.  You should read it.  His race report made me want to write a how to for those of you who are helping your runner.  Some tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the past few years as a crew member.

I want to break this down into 3 parts, before the race, during the race and after, so I’ll probably make it 3 separate posts to keep from being overwhelming.

Before the race, your runner should be doing training.  I have found it a good idea to take note of what my runner is taking to eat and drink on their long runs and try to remember what they said worked and what didn’t work.  While most people are pretty good about knowing what works for their stomach, its a good idea for the crew to know also, just in case things go down hill for your runner mentally.

If you can, try to be conscious of the time it takes for your runner to complete their long runs.  It will give you a good idea of their pace so you can gauge how soon to meet them at aid stations during the race.  I would err on the side of quicker rather than slower, especially in the beginning of the race because of race jitters and pack mentality.  It doesn’t seem to be too uncommon for people to start the race faster than ending.

Pay attention to the “other” things your runner does to prepare for a race.  Do they apply sunscreen or body lubricant?  Do they always put tape on their heel to avoid blisters?  All those things are important to know to double check before the race.  A lot of times those things start super early and pre-race nerves can make it easy to forget, so being able to double check that your runner put a bandaid on their pinky toe will go a long way to making sure its a “comfortable” race.

Things not related to your runner that are helpful.  Pack your own crew bag or make sure you are there when the bag is packed.  Nothing is more frustrating than trying to find things when your runner is trying to get in and out of the aid station quickly.  Take a look at the crew access points along the race.  Map them!  Have a good understanding of how long it will take you compared to how long it should take your runner so you know if you have to rush or if you can take your time.  For some of you, it may be helpful to study the actual course also.  Know where the big climbs are or how long between aid stations.  Your runner may find that helpful during the race, being able to get that kind of information quickly.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn being a crew member is that I’m not only responsible for my runner but for me also.  I have to manage meeting my runner, taking care of their needs and making sure they have the best race possible, but that is really hard to do if you’re hungry!  You have to make sure you have what you need also.  The two biggest ones are something to do while you’re waiting and food.  If you don’t think there will be places to stop or you won’t have time to stop, buy snacks or keep a cooler with you so you can have food.  I know the aid stations have food, but that is for the runners to get them through the race, so I never ask them for something to eat.  If the crew is having a bad race, that can directly effect the runner, I know from experience.

picnic

Stay tuned for part 2, during the race!