This is not a how-to. There are a lot of people who have more experience, knowledge, and instructional sense in this particular arena. I’m not one of them. But if you want a glimpse into the potential ups, downs, and sideways of crewing, then by all means cross the yellow caution tape.
After I DNF’d Pine to Palm I did not want to do another race. The only thing left in my year related to running was the interminable wait to see if I got into the Boston Marathon. I didn’t. Once the dust settled from the two week long registration process the magic number was revealed. If you were 2:28 under your qualifying time you got in. I missed it by 28 seconds. Receiving the rejection letter two weeks after Pine to Palm felt like pouring salt on a still open wound. It was polite and encouraging but it also made me angry. It sugar-coated the only message it could give – you are too slow, get faster, try again next year. I would have preferred that rather than the paragraphs of words to soften the blow.
My finish line interview with Devon Yanko, the 2015 Javelina Jundred Women’s Champion and 2nd overall. Her 14:52:06 time broke the course record by 48 minutes and gave her the 3rd fastest women’s trail 100-mile time.
We talk about doing scary things, her remarkable rebound from a 30-mile rough patch, the wonders of coffee, and firing herself from the night shift at the bakery.
Pine to Palm is a trail race that traverses west to east through the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon. It starts in Williams, dips its toe into California then ends in Ashland. All told the course contains 20,000 feet of vertical gain going from below an altitude of 2,000 feet to above 7,000. Or as my friend Ace put it – big ups and big downs. The words rugged and beautiful are often used to describe the race. After Javelina I thought I was ready to step up to the next challenge. But it turns out I wasn’t. I DNF’d (Did Not Finish) Pine to Palm.
I knew going in that this particular event was way outside my comfort zone, a mountain point to point with long, sustained climbs and descents. I’m a terrible climber and I can train really hard to improve to be a bad one. On the other side of that, I’m a decent descender and that’s usually where I can make up ground. There’s nothing like choosing a race that emphasizes your weaknesses to instill fear into your heart. I remember telling my friend Noé that I was doing Pine to Palm and that it scared me.
“Good,” he said, “it should.”
I was also interviewed for the Running Stupid podcast if you’d like to take a listen.
It’s nearing 6am, pre-dawn on November 1st and I’m in Arizona, specifically the Pemberton Tailhead in the McDowell Mountain Regional Park which was the main staging area for the Javelina Jundred. My first 100 miler was going to be over with one way or the other sometime in the next 30 hours. A blink compared to the many hours I’d invested in training for this race. I felt as ready and as confident as I’ve ever felt on a start line and yet somehow I found myself hiding in a camp chair crying.