Blue Lake, it’s now a tradition for us. We first attended 6 years ago, in it’s second year of running.
Small and grassroots it has now grown and become more and more ‘festival’ like (but still totally weird and wacky with the usual suspects showing up).
In previous iterations Kerry undertook such challenges as ‘Don’t let Kerry win (where he decided to ignore Chris Townleys rule, running 100 miles and running further than everyone else out on course that day) and ‘A beer a lap’ (this one I was not so proud of).
This year he decided he wanted to take on the ‘Lap an Hour’ challenge. 24 hours 24 laps. A new endurance challenge that he had never experienced before.
He dusted off his shoes and started training again.
Rhys offered to loan his caravan to us.
Race day rolled nearer.
We did a big supermarket shop. It’s one of those things we seem to do before an event. Buy a heap of stuff that you don’t know if you will need but if you want it on race day then it’s great to have that option there.
I went through the schedule of the event and suggested Kerry set alarms as warning countdowns to each lap. The day hours he had a 5 minute ‘get ready’ window and the evenings were 8 minutes.
Friday evening, Rhys parked the caravan up and we headed home to bed. Organised and tired.
Saturday arrived. Blue Lake Day!!
I made Kerry coffee and breakfast and let him relax whilst I got the final bits sorted.
We hurried off to the lake arriving with about 10 minutes until start.
GPS satellites found, and off they went.
I set up the caravan with everything you would need in different areas.
Caffeinated race fuel in one area, drinks ready to roll, other race fuel delights on a platter and ready to grab. Water ready.
27 minutes later Kerry arrived back.
Rest, rehydrate and refuel.
Get ready and go again.
This continued. He settled into his rhythm (with me telling him off for running his laps way too hot).
After the first few hours I headed home for a bit of a rest.
When it comes to crewing I have learnt, you don’t have to be ‘on’ the whole time. Save your energy for when it is most needed. I figured that he would want me more later in the evening and potentially pace him for a few laps when it is dark so I went home for a bit.
I arrived back in the early afternoon.
He was still happy and ticking along.
I’d made him a lunch and a cool drink because it was one of those ‘hey it’s warming up’ Spring days.
He continued on. Lapping and resting. Lapping and resting.
Take off shirt, towel off any sweat, put on dressing gown and then lie down.
Joe popped by with dinner and after one more lap I left Kerry there to continue lapping whilst I caught some all important zzz’s.
After many jokes about daylight savings, and saying I was going to do a naked lap at 2:30am that joke backfired on me. My alarm set for 2:45am didn’t go off. I woke up and thought ‘that’s strange my alarm hasn’t gone off’ at first I thought I’d go back to sleep but then thought better of it. 3:03am yikes! I better hoof it.
I arrived at Blue Lake in the dark of the night.
Kerry’s loop finished not too long after my arrival.
One of the funny thing about ultras is that they’re like a roller coaster. I’d seen him when he was up but now, well he was definitely on a bit of a downer.
At some point in the early hours Kerry reported feeling ‘blocked up’ (down there…). He was still moving okay but mentioned that he wanted to “go home, put those 4 green kiwifruit in the blender – skin on, skull the resulting mix then crawl into bed with a towel and wake up in a pool of faeces” ….desperate times I suppose.
Gastrointestinal distress is something ultrarunners try and avoid but sometimes it sneaks up out of nowhere. Kerry has been dubbed ‘the insinkerator’ by me many times but this time his tummy was proving to not be as machine like as we’d have hoped. The laps from 4am through to 8am were punctuated by projectile vomiting and me counting down telling him how many minutes were left whilst putting on his shoes, buff, headlamp, or readying his mask or other piece of equipment needed. He’d finish up and I’d push him out the door, whilst trying to give him the mental props he needed.
Then I’d clean the sink whilst he was off running, and I’d head out to the final km or so of the trail and run back in with him.
An entertaining aside was also Kerry asking for lube. A day or two earlier, he’d informed me that he’d done some ‘manscaping’ to which I’d looked at him, started laughing, and then told him that it wasn’t the wisest idea. His response was to ask why humans have hairs there anyway. I unashamedly googled ‘why do humans have hair down there’ and Google kindly informed me that it was to prevent chafing. ‘Oh no’ Kerry said with wide eyes.
Fast forward to 3:30am and Kerry is now lying with legs spread and applying ‘Sutercream’ in a happy baby pose. He was pleased that nobody walked in during that vulnerable moment.
These more challenging moments are when crew really make a difference.
When an athlete isn’t functioning at full capacity you are there to help pick up the slack where you can.
It’s not fun seeing someone not at their 100% best, but this is also where the beauty of the challenge lies too. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
I knew that he didn’t want to, nor needed to, stop.
We’d keep him moving and keep trying to get liquids and fuel in where we could.
He was running really strong, it was just the rests that were a bit of a battle, but this challenge (lap an hour) was a new mystery that he wanted to explore. So he continued.
Daylight was getting close, company was getting close, and the end of the event was nearing.
The end of the 23rd lap was the least pretty. He was vomiting with 2 minutes to go and toileting with 1 minute to go. I’m calling through the door telling him it’s time.
Last lap. 5 People still standing. Such an impressive effort! We knew this lap would be a hot one, and it was.
James and Kerry were throwing down.
James came through the feeder track and onto the beach with about 20 seconds on Kerry and looking really strong. If someone had told you he’d been going for 24 hours you’d have never have believed it.
An awesome result to a guy who seemed like a really nice person. Kerry rolled through not far behind running beautifully and craving a lie down. With words for the team saying that he was so sad and glad that Blue Lake was over for another year. I know what he means.
Pick him up, take him home, clean up, washing.
Tired but happy.
Full of witnessing the resilience of many endurance athletes, filling the bucket and wondering what’s next for everyone.
Below are a few words of advice for anyone crewing:
It’s their day but with moments of you looking out for you in it. Always consider your needs and plan for these too. The right clothing, food, drink, and rest breaks.
You will likely deal with every bodily fluid possible during your time crewing. Be prepared and have things to clean with.
Accept things, find the way forward to help achieve their goals (or not because health takes priority).
The better the set up the better prepared you’ll be to look after them and you for a long period of time.
Your goals go out the window. You are there to help someone achieve their goals. Your goal should be to do everything in your power to help them (safely) achieve what they set out to achieve.
Make sure you eat, and remain hydrated and have all of the gear you need to keep cool, or warm, or protected from the elements.
Your mindset helps to steer the ship.
Be prepared for moments of doubt, or questioning why they’re doing this, it’s absolutely part of the sport. Alex Hutchinson says “endurance is fighting the rising desire to stop” and you are arsenal in that battle. Be supportive, listen, keep calm, and positive. Recognise that this sport is a roller coaster and they could well experience a change soon. Just keep on and control the things you can.
Have fun! Bring some sunshine to your runner’s day/s.