This past weekend, I got a chance to do something really, really cool. I served as "crew" for my brother-in-law as he ran a 12-hour ultramarathon. I've written elsewhere how close we are, and how much he inspires me. We have shared interests and been "friendly competitors" for almost 25 years now. His story leading up to this run is amazing in itself. The funny thing about MY involvement is that I almost didn't go. I made numerous excuses as to why I didn't think I should go along--most of them involving my distaste at spending 24 hours awake over New Year's Eve in the freezing cold. Finally, my wonderful wife, who is much smarter than me, convinced me to go along. It wound up being a high point of the whole year. I had figured that my main job would be to hand out water bottles every couple of laps (the course was a 1-mile loop) and maybe jog alongside a couple of times and offer encouragement near the end when Adam was in "no man's land," beyond his longest previous training run (which, by the way, was 50k, or 31 miles). Knowing Adam's mental toughness, it seemed a foregone conclusion that he would show up, run well, and meet his goals.
As it turned out, there was a lot more to the whole process than I had thought. Just the nutrition-management side was daunting; he needed about 260 liquid calories per hour... more than that meant swollen hands and feet, less meant running out of fuel and "crashing" midway through. There were two of us on the crew, but the other guy had to head back to our hotel to sleep between about 1 and 6 AM (so at least one of us was fit to drive home). Once I was on my own, it was pretty busy just getting the next dose of carb/protein/electrolyte mix ready each lap. And the "jog alongside" part went from being a very easy mile every 4 laps to eventually every other (and eventually an average of every third). As I got past my own endurance limits, I began to just barely experience a taste of what Adam was feeling. There were three "gentle rises" on the course (here in the flatlands, we call them HILLS), and as we hit the inclines, all I wanted to do was quit. But I knew that I would get the next mile or two to recover, and Adam was bravely keeping on every single loop. The effort to keep going was hard for me to muster, and near superhuman for him.
At the end of the race, he had completed 55 laps, without a single break (most of the participants in the race took planned breaks... Adam only stood still to drink his carbo-concoction). I was perversely proud of my own 18 miles, but overwhelmed at how that paled in comparison to his more than double-marathon. (As an aside, this made me think about my attitude towards God's grace... getting all proud of what "I" have accomplished, sacrificed, etc., as if it matters even a bit in comparison to the big picture of what has been done for me.)
Anyway, the weekend was awesome. Being a part of something amazing, sharing a great weekend with a kindred spirit, and sleeping the honest sleep of earned exhaustion. What a way to ring in the new year!