"I must get to my crew. I must get to my crew. Those 5 words have ruminated and uttered through my head during most of my races. At the moment, I am not always sure what that will mean when I get there, but remembering I am not alone in a trying time activates something within my brain and allows me to put one foot in front of the other.
I can't say I truly understood the importance of a crew until I was one. I always knew asking individuals to crew was a big ask and required a lot from them, but it is hard to understand the intensity until you are actually part of a crew. On race day, the role of the runner is clear: get to the next aid station, keep moving, listen to your crew. The crew on the other hand is in for a wild ride, especially as a first timer. After spending many years crewing, as well as having a pretty intensive summer of crewing at the big dogs, I want to offer some cruicials lessons to support you and your runner at your next big event!
1. Have a pre-race meeting! Do not expect your crew members to know what to do unless you have prepared them. When getting ready to crew my good pal at Western States, we had multiple pre-race meetings. My friend does an amazing job creating spreadsheets with information and time goals for each aid station. She is one of those runners that is in and out of aid stations and I treated it like a racing pit stop: how quickly can we meet her needs and get her back on the course while still prioritizing being calm and precise. In your spreadsheet: SPELL IT OUT, say what you are going to need and anticipate that for your crew.
2. Provide the GPX file for the race and hand-written directions. There is a potential that there may not be cell service on the course and if your crew has never been to a race, they wouldn't know to do this!
3. If you don't know your time goals, that’s okay too! With longer races, it can be difficult to anticipate. You can ask your crew to be in charge of that as well. For instance, they can be tracking how long it has taken you thus far.
4. Discuss what will be helpful to say to you! You crew doesn't know and the more you can share with them, the easier their job will be.
5. I often set a specific amount of time I want to be in the aid station for and ask my crew to be on top of that.
6. Discuss what potential problems could happen and how to manage them before you start! Discuss how you feel about naps during the race and/or sitting down.
7. Discuss what food and drinks you want, what should be ready when you get into the aid station, what food you might be interested in and what food can be a backup if your stomach is upset.
8. Have warm clothes at aid stations, have other clothes prepped as needed!
9. Discuss DNF's (Do Not Finish) - When is it appropriate to discuss this? What are signs that your crew should be concerned?
10. Crew - Make sure to take care of yourself. It is a really long time to be awake and on your feet! You, in your own way, are also in an ultra - and if you are not taking care of yourself, you are not helpful to the runner!
11. Have fun! Races are super important to your runners but also, one error on the crew's part should not make or break your runner's race. They should also be prepared to manage what comes up.