Sunday, February 7, 2016

Advice on Living with a Runner

I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this blog and the friendships with runners, made along the way.  The trail and ultra races are tough, but that is why we sign up.  Greeting friends at races is always a great moment and a significant aspect of why I keep going back to the various Ontario races.  I mention this in case this is my last post.  If you see something along the lines of "We Will Talk at Home" from Lee Anne, in the comments section, followed by my eternal silence, you'll know what happened.  For my epitaph, I'm thinking:

Brave and Stupid

Of course the epitaph can be applied to most trail and ultra runners...

Living with a runner is never easy.  In a shallow attempt to preempt an adverse reaction from Lee Anne, I would like to state that in our case, the above observation goes both ways.  I will grudgingly admit that I have a few idiosyncrasies.  There.  That should ward off her attempts at manslaughter.

From one perspective, we have it easy.  Both of us are runners, so we don't normally experience shock when one of us proposes some outlandish running objective.  Lee Anne likes running long and on road.  I have difficulty running long and prefer trails.  I have only run 50 miles once, a distance that Lee Anne considers "shortish".  Even though we have diverse running preferences, we typically sign up for the same races.  Even when we don't, it is usually no big deal.  I avoid marathons.  They are too short, flat and painful.  Lee Anne loves the marathon, because it is short, flat and on road.  Lee Anne is running Boston soon, whereas I would gladly pay to avoid running Boston.  Her daughter Lily will accompany her.  They will spend about $2,000 so that Lee Anne can run a marathon.  I'm not sure how couples with only one runner handle this type of objective.  It has to be a stressor.

My first bit of advice on living with a runner is to encourage them to reach their goals, but make it implicitely clear that they owe you.  Get it in writing.  If they are overly keen on their goal, they should grant you a big ticket item to reciprocate.

Crewing is a totally different matter.  Be very careful what you sign up for.  I typically crew for Lee Anne, because there is usually no need to crew for someone (me) running a 50K or 6 hour race.  Crewing becomes essential for races 12 hours / 50 miles or longer.  The idea of crewing your spouse is very romantic.  You are helping a loved one during their toughest challenge.  They will be filled with gratitude, right?  Right?  Hello?

I last crewed for Lee Anne in September, 2015.  We were extremely fortunate to have help from our good friend Sharon.  Lee Anne had a fantastic race, which means that there was less of the "ugly" that typical transpires during a long bout of crewing.  Even so, here is what I did:

Drive 16 hours to Tennessee.  Help Lee Anne prepare for a 28 hour run.  Set up a tent and Lee Anne's aid station.  Wake up at 04:00 on race day and get Lee Anne to the start.  Monitor her fluid, calorie, salt and electrolyte intake.  It was a hot day, so the sodium and electrolyte intake had to be monitored separately.  During the 26 hours and 34 minutes that Lee Anne ran, provide her with something that she would enjoy.  Keep track of her metrics, to provide her with up-to-the-minute progress reports.

Make no mistake, Lee Anne ran for 26.5 hours, not me.  All I did was keep her running.  Without Sharon, my task would have been nearly impossible.  I was able to catch an hour or two of sleep during Lee Anne's run.  A great quote, which I first heard in relation to Badwater, was that a crew cannot win a race, but they can certainly lose it.  I was also able to drive to a store to get hot food.  Fortunately, they sold ice at the race site, which was convenient as I was giving Lee Anne a bag if ice every mile.  However, here is my schedule for the race:

Wednesday night:  5 hours sleep (in Toronto)
Thursday:  06:30 to 23:00:  Drive (forgot our passports in Creemore)
Sleep for 5 hours (I don't sleep well after driving for 16+ hours)
Friday:  08:00 - 23:00:  Prep for the race, inspect race course, run 9K (it was HOT!)
Sleep for 4 hours (I don't sleep well before crewing for a race...)
Saturday:  04:00:  Set up at race site
05:00 - 21:00:  Crew for Lee Anne
21:00 - 23:00:  Try to sleep
23:30:  Buy chicken sandwich for Liz Bauer (a surreal moment!)
Sunday:  00:00 - 8:30:  Crew for Lee Anne
09:00 - 12:00 Try to sleep in the car, in the heat

12:00 until Tuesday:  Drive home

As mentioned above, Lee Anne's race went very well.  This means that she never reached the point where tantrums became the main theme.  The mental state of a person who has run for 20+ hours is equivalent to a cranky 3 year old.  They are not thinking rational or logically.  Continuous suffering starts to block out the world.  Runners are only thinking about how they can make their current status a bit better.  If they want coke with ice, you had bloody well better have it ready, even if you have no inkling that is what they want.  Conversely, if you provide the runner with something they had not expected and enjoy, it can dramatically improve their mood.  This aspect can be exhausting for the crew, always striving to think of something the runner would appreciate.  Especially if the runner passes the shelter every mile, in a 100 mile race.

My advice on crewing is:  Nothing longer than a 5K race...

Day-to-day living can also have its struggles, especially for spouses of ultra runners.  Lee Anne runs a back-to-back every Friday and Saturday.  Since I am also an ultra runner, I understand how critical it is to maintain your running schedule.  Missing even one day can throw a wrench into your training program.  This is different than what I tell people who are just starting to run.  They can easily miss a day or three.  But (think old testament here) NEVER TAMPER WITH THE SCHEDULE.  Lee Anne has asked people to reschedule their funeral, to avoid conflicts with her running schedule.

Yes, my sense of humour has made my life difficult, why do you ask?

Everything from washing clothes to diet is a bit upside down in running households.  We have 2 shelves in our medicine cabinet for Ibuprofen.  Although there are only 2 people living in our house, we wash a large load of laundry every day.  Most people consider pretzels to be the worst food imaginable.  Empty calories with a massive amount of salt.  Pretzels are so significant to ultra runners, they are considered a separate food group.  Winter running brings the concept of drying racks to a rarified level.  Although our dryer runs every day (the clothesline cannot dry clothes between runs), we still have 3 areas for drying running clothes, shoes, camelbacks, hip belts, hats and gloves.  A shelf in our fridge is for "in progress" water bottles and gels.  We are experts at rolling up 3 yards of toilet paper, so that it fits into a small ziplock baggy.

Our knowledge of weather patterns rivals meteorologists.  We are always aware of the phase of the moon, snow and rain forecasts, temperature, wind and humidity.  Sunrise is at 07:32.  I had to look this up because I thought it was early now (my guess was 7:25).  However, it is getting light enough in Creemore to run before 07:00.  On August 6 (Creemore Vertical Challenge), sunrise will be 06:15ish (I have not looked this up), but there will be enough light to run at 05:50, 10 minutes before the 75K start.  Okay, I just looked up sunrise in Creemore on August 6 and it is 06:13...

So, my advice for runners, regarding living with another runner is:  Go for it.  This takes 2 runners out of the dating pool and you deserve each other.  My advice for non-runners:  If it not too late, consider dating someone normal.  Or if you are brave and stupid, start running.


1 comment:

  1. This is one of your best blogs Pierre, it's hilarious at the same time as being very informative!

    I really enjoyed this read, keep it up!