One week ago today I was excitedly preparing for a new adventure. It was going to be my first time to crew at a race. While following Ed Ettinghausen around the course at Silverton in September, I told him that I would gladly help out if he and Martha ever came to races in Utah. He mentioned that one race this year he was considering was the Pony Express 100. I told him that I would be happy to host him and crew him for the race. (Note: Pony Express 50/100 is a race that requires runners to have a crew and a vehicle assisting them at the race).
Ed finally decided he was definitely coming to the race only the day before and I rushed after work on Thursday to purchase supplies and get my vehicle set up. Ed was coming in late at night and we had a 2 hour drive out to the race where he had an early start. He then needed to push through the race in time to finish, get back to the airport, catch a flight back to California and then run another 100 Mile race on Saturday. I wanted to make sure everything was packed so that we wouldn’t forget anything on only a couple of hours of sleep.
As luck would have it, Ed got stuck an extra hour in Las Vegas – reducing the sleep we would both get. I decorated the windows on my Highlander with Jester images and messages until it was time to go and pick up The Jester at the airport. For those who are not aware – Ed runs in full Jester outfit and is known far and wide as The Jester.
We got back to my house after midnight and each crashed for some sleep. I think I only got about an hour before it was time to get up and head off to the race. Ed was able to sleep while I drove out to the race. I don’t know how he could doze on the bumpy roads, but he seemed to be able to do so. There was a bit of consternation when we hit Faust and found a train sitting at the road crossing with no sign of movement. After trying a side road, we turned back and another train passed, then our train moved on and we were able to get the last 10 miles to the race start. I picked up Ed’s packet allowing him to sleep as long as he could before the race started.
After a short speech by the race director, Davy Crockett, the first group of runners headed off. I was happy to have not only run a good portion of this race, but have driven it and volunteered on the course, so didn’t have to worry about where we were going.
For the first half of the day, I leapfrogged Ed by 3 miles. I would prepare a bottle of drink (water, gatorade, starbucks, boost) for Ed and any desired food. When I saw him in the distance, I would walk out to meet him so I could not only trade off bottles, but find out if he needed any other supplies that I could grab before he ran by. He would also tell me what he would need at the next “aid station”. Ed was running fairly fast so that I didn’t attempt to stay with him for long so that I wouldn’t slow him down. I knew that when he got down to race walking I would have plenty of time to keep him motivated and moving.
Shortly after Ed passed through Simpson Springs the sun started to come up. He started to shed layers and was keeping a good pace down the road. I noticed that for the most part he was trying to stay near the center of the Pony Express Trail road because there were less ruts and rocks and he could move more smoothly. I saw two herds of wild mustangs with 5-7 horses in each herd during the early daylight hours.
When it came time to go over Dugway Pass, I walked down the pass and speed walked up the pass with Ed and Nichole (another runner he had been trading places in the lead with). Ed enjoyed a few good miles of running down the hills on the back side of the pass.
It was about this time that it actually crossed my mind that when Ed finished this race (number 29 of 100+ mile finishes for the year) that he would actually hold the men’s world record for most 100 mile finished in one year. This added another amount of excitement to the race.
We soon saw Blackrock in the finish and I rolled in to order some lunch for both of us and prepare them for the first runner coming through. Took some time to talk to Davy Crockett, Craig Lloyd and Pablo – the chef extraordinaire. Ordered a cheeseburger for me and a chicken sandwich for Ed and then went to get his next food drop ready. Ed raced through the checkpoint and I told him I would meet him as soon as our food was ready.
Once I caught up with Ed, he told me to go one more mile and then he would take a break. I got out my camp chair and he actually sat down for the first and only time during the race. While he inhaled food, I used The Stick on his legs carefully trying to get some relief for his muscles.
As we passed into Fish Springs, I went ahead to the turnaround point. Ed came in and grabbed some food and told me to meet him one mile down the road. At this time he asked me to leapfrog shorter times because he needed to get rehydrated because he had run out of liquid. I also noticed that he was slowing down in his running, so would go farther out and run with him to the vehicle.
Ed had me get out his cowbells because we would soon be seeing other runners on the “back” portion of the race. He is great about cheering on other runners. People would see the words and images on my vehicle and ask – is this “THE JESTER”? I assured them it was – don’t know what they said to Ed when they met him. I also started talking up his World Record that would be set that day and his overall World Record quest.
Passing through Blackrock again, I picked us up some more chicken sandwiches for another solid meal. We had a really good rhythm going for the crewing and feeding/hydration efforts. Ed amazed me in his non-stop forward motion. I could hear his breathing getting harder as he had to work more and more to keep up the pace he wanted in order to finish and get back to the airport on time. He was still hoping to break his previous PE100 time of 21:30 and was trying to be competitive and stay in the lead. (We really didn’t know his position because there were four different starting times).
As daylight started to wane I prepared nighttime gear for both of us. I was really worried that vehicles leaving after the 50M race might not see Ed in the dust they kicked up and in the dark. I was now down to leapfrogging only 2 miles ahead and Ed was keeping up a steady pace of racewalking. The batteries in his flashlight were too dim, so he asked me to try to find more and I was able to find a new set in my car. But heading back to Ed I was really worried because he only had his nighttime Jester hat to make him visible until I got the flashlight to him. Lots of scenes of dread and dire straights filled my head until I saw the flashing lights of his Jester hat and got him a flashlight. As we started up the hills towards Dugway Pass I dropped down to 1.5 mile leaps and probably walked about halfway back until I met Ed and kept him company until we passed the vehicle. I hoped that having someone around would help him in his quest since he had been alone a good portion of the day.
Once we hit the top of the pass, Ed took off running down the hill. He passed me at my next stop and said he wanted to keep going while he had some momentum, so I moved ahead until the course flattened out and resumed my pacing duties. I think his stomach went south sometime around here and he only wanted water for a couple of hours until it settled down again. By around 11 p.m. I figured that he wasn’t going to beat his previous PE100 time, but was easily going to meet his time constraints for getting back to the airport. We were finally back in cell service areas, so I could update Martha on his status and let his Facebook followers know where he was and how he was doing.
The weather for the race was downright perfect. It didn’t get too hot during the day or too cold at night. Not much wind either. As we approached the darkest part of the night, neither of us had on gloves or a heavy coat and I was still wearing my kilt and didn’t change back into sweatpants.
Ed kept telling me how much he appreciated my assistance. I don’t think he realized how much it means to me to have made friends with him and Martha this year and be able to help him out. I said hello to him at the Buffalo Run in 2013 and gave him some high fives at Across the Years – but in 2014, I added the Ettinghausen’s to my fold of friends.
I was getting pretty excited to see Ed so close to a WR and he admitted he was pretty excited too. If the overall World Record is his goal, this was really the completion of part 1, then beating the women’s record is part 2, and pushing his limits of finishes for the year is part 3.
I drove ahead to the finish and told the three men waiting for the first runner that Ed was coming in and dropped off my camera and mentioned this finish would be setting a world record (hey – its my one chance to be part of greatness). I met Ed back at the turnoff from the PE trail and told him he was almost there. He started running for a minute and then we decided to walk it in most of the way. As we came over the last little dip, Ed said, “Let’s take it in”, grabbed my hand and we ran across the finish line. I gave him a big hug of congratulations and then he dragged me back to the finish line, made me hop on his back and he gave me a piggy back ride back across again (because running 100 miles is not enough for him).
Some photographs later and after getting his belt buckle, I loaded a tired Jester in the car and started the race back to the airport. I had spend some time the last hour or two packing up all his gear so we wouldn’t have to worry about that at the airport. I did have to do some crazy maneuvering to get around one motor home that decided to go 20 mph at 3 am. down the middle of the trail and didn’t want to give way to me. Once I got past him it was smooth sailing to get a sleeping Jester through Tooele and to the airport and hug him goodbye as he headed to California for his next 100 mile race.
Thank you, Ed for letting me be a part of your journey. I will not forget this experience for a long time (and hopefully never) and have rededicated myself to getting in shape and getting a belt buckle.