Dancing Shoes

It's become the Growler tradition for Nick and I - he races Saturday in the Half Growler and I take on the full Growler Sunday. That way we can be out at Hartmans to provide support for each other. The first year, I could only meet Nick in one place, since I was also babysitting Matt and Lonna's little boy. But since then - especially as my comfort driving the van has increased, I've been able to get to a few more places on course. The first year I drove the van out into Hartman, I didn't wear my running shoes - after missing a handoff and having to sprint across the sage to meet Nick, I've worn my running shoes ever since. I've been able to move along the course quickly and get a short little run in as well. Sure, a bike ride might be a little better for opening the legs, but it's easier for me to move around on foot and then I don't have to worry about my bike.

View from my run across Rocky Ridge - those clouds would become something later...

Making the turn onto Main Street!
This year was no different. Nick and I discussed our plan the night before. In the morning, he peddled to the start and I piloted the van into the Sage. Found a parking spot for the van near the first transition point and then headed out for the first part of my run. Across Rocky Ridge to Becks, down Becks to Main Street with a few minutes to spare. I heard the riders on Kill Hill, accompanied by the waves of cheering. Brian Smith had already taken his flyer off the front - into the lead where he would stay. I took some photos and then bolted down the road. I had a mile and a half to run to get back to the van and I wasn't sure how much time I had to get back! I had to grab Nick's camelbak and find a good spot on Broken Shovel to make the exchange. The plan was that he'd stop and take the camelbak, so I was looking for a wider spot in the trail so he'd have room to pull over. At least that's what the plan was! I was also counting riders so I'd be able to tell Nick where he was in the field. Not gears this time - total riders. Nick was racing gears for his last Growler in the 30-39 age group. When I saw Nick, it was pretty clear he wasn't gonna stop. Time for an on the fly handoff. We've done it before, but hadn't practiced this year. Luckily, we nailed the handoff and he was off. Time for me to head off to the next location!
Nick after I got him his camebak - not sure which trail
Photo - Dave Kozlowski http://www.davekozlowski.com/

Storm clouds were brewing to the north over CB as I drove down to the bottom of Luge. Nick had warned me about the potential for mud, but it looked clear. This time, I was taking bottles up to the end of Josie's. I'd take his camelbak and bottle and then give him a new bottle. So lots of stuff to accomplish in a short period of time. But I had plenty of time to wait once I got out there - I figured I wouldn't see the first riders until about 2 hours into the race. Brian was ahead of my schedule, rolling through about 1:50 - with nothing but daylight behind him. Not a rider in sight. As more riders rolled though, I cheered and offered encouragement. Then I saw Nick's helmet on the rock gardens. Time to get organized. I didn't know what Nick would want - so I had everything ready. He tossed his bottle and then got ready to ditch his camelbak. But he wasn't really slowing down! He shouted what he wanted, so I grabbed the bottle. I could see the train of riders behind him - no wonder he didn't want to stop! I shoved the bottle in his cage, and he was off again. It took me a bit of time to find his bottle in the sage, but then I was gone, running back to the van.

Dancing shoes! A moment of calm, watching the clouds building over CB before the riders came through
This clouds were looming closer as I started getting the next round of bottles organized. And then it started spitting raining. Harder and harder. The rain coalesced into tiny white pellets, whipped against the van by the wind. Hail! I put coke in Nick's camelbak, mixed up bottle of of tea and dug through my clothes for my tights and rain coat. Thank goodness I'd left my clothes bag in the van! Then out into the maelstrom I went. I wasn't going to let a little water keep me from delivering bottles. I was more then a little worried about getting back out after the race though. The bottom of Luge is where Nick got stuck three years ago when the the Growlers faced the mud. Luckily it was already blowing over by the time I got to the mini aid station. Even better was it had taken the riders longer then I'd anticipated to get there. Despite my mixup with filling things and needing to get my warm clothes, I was still there with plenty of time. The riders coming through that point were shelled. It had been hot for most of the day - minus the little hail squall and people were suffering. Good thing that aid station had almost everything! From water, to electrolyte drink to gummy chews and sandwiches. And a bottle of tequila... There were a few takers for a shot of tequila while I was standing there! Mid race, in the front of the pack! Lots of riders stopped to refill water bottles as well. It was only 4 miles left to the finish, but it was one of the hardest chunks of trail left in the races. Some long climbs and some really techy rock gardens. When Nick came through, he tossed his empty bottle and took another bottle. I jogged along side for a minute to make sure he didn't need anything else. Then, my job done - it was time to head back to the base area to wait for him to finish!

Nick on Ridge Trail, near the finish
Photo - Matt Burt, http://www.mattb.net/

Nick had a decent race - not as strong as he would have liked, but his stomach didn't bother him. It's something he's been struggling with for a while, so that was a success. It was also his first (and only?) time racing with gears at Growler.


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