The ultra world seems to be growing in ways of races and racers. With that comes the need for good crew members. Having a good crew can make a huge difference in someone’s race. Having a crew that melts down or blows up in the middle of the race can be disastrous. Whether you’re looking for good crew members or wanting to be a crew member there are a few important key factors to focus on before you take on this member or responsibility.
My first experience crewing was for RAAM with an all rookie team. I was scared to death of what would happen once I got tired, and we had no idea what we were about to encounter. Everyone is ready in the beginning and anxious to help. Once the work begins and you have 12-14 people spread out from the RV, 2 vans and a truck things can get confusing as to who was dealing with the stress of no sleep by consuming way too much caffeine to the point of “tweaking” or those who aren’t able to sleep while on break just waiting for the big meltdown to the point where they can’t add or subtract let alone drive a vehicle behind a racer.
Without going into the ugly details of what happens to the circle of crew members when they start to melt and tweak one by one let’s focus on what you can do before you go into a situation that is going to have you staying awake for longer hours than you normally do in a given day or days.
The first thing to realize is that we are all creatures of habit. Whether you live regularly on 4 hours of sleep a night or 8 hours of sleep a night it’s your normal existence and it is what your body is used to. Going into any crewing opportunity will strip your normal away from you if it’s more than 24 hours long. At some point you are going to get tired. You are also about to go into a situation where you may not know anyone and you don’t know how someone else may act once they reach their point of melt or tweak. Looking back on things you may be able to laugh about it, but when you are in the middle of it things can get pretty ugly. It can also put a lot of stress on your racer(s) when this happens. Staying neutral is key.
So, how does one prepare to be the best crew member? Hopefully you have a good crew chief that has prepared well and has the experience of managing tired people well. Knowing yourself and being honest with your own limitations is important. Spending time prior to the event doing some quiet time can be valuable to everyone for the time that you eventually get tired. Even a well managed crew that does everything right gets tired and possibly irritable.
The first and most important thing for everyone on board is to remember that it is about the racers that we are crewing for. Safety is absolutely the most important factor, so if you have one crew member that is either going to fall asleep at the wheel or just reaches the point of not being able to function they need to lay down no matter what is going on. One person on the crew can create enough havoc that it takes away from what the other crew members need to be doing in assisting the riders or runners on the road. If the crew chief has you taking “down” time and you’re not tired there is no option, you must take the time allotted for your rest. Even if you’re not able to sleep, take your down time and close your eyes. The best crew is a crew that works together and looks out for one another as well as the riders. Let the crew chief do their job and if they get to a point where they need someone else to take over you will hopefully have a plan B as to who will do this. A well managed crew will have down time for the chief as well.
Finding a way that will allow you to keep the cycle of a day in place can be tricky. Rather than slamming caffeine while you’re on duty the entire time try to consider doing what you normally do in a day to day routine. If you normally only have 1-2 cups of coffee in the morning it may work against you to keep doing caffeine all day long and into the night. Stick with your normal routine the best that you can. Even while your sleep hours may be shortened and be at a time that you are normally awake use the down time the best you can. When it’s time to get up, go about your routine as though it were the beginning of the day. Try washing you face, brushing your teeth and doing your normal coffee routine as though it were the beginning of your normal day. The little things that you normally do will help you develop a routine in your crewing world that should help you keep a better balance.
Dealing with personalities that you may have never met and perhaps may not get along with once fatigue sets in can be one of the most challenging and damaging things that happens to a crew and it’s racers. This is something that you need to address before hand and it has to become your issue, not theirs. Fighting gets nothing resolved. It only creates more tension. A good way to address this is to do some meditation before your event and spend the time relaxing in your mind while you focus on staying neutral throughout your entire event so that you don’t compromise your crew or your racers. Often times the issues that become problems between crew members are minor, but seem major because of the fatigue that exists. Going into your event with a clear mind and knowing how you will handle every little “issue” can be the difference between a good or a bad experience for the long run. One meditation that is helpful is to visualize mirrors on your entire body, and letting them reflect all of the energy from the other individual back to them (if it becomes negative) so that they can keep their energy and you can keep your energy. Using meditation before an event can be very helpful for you and help keep a balance throughout an event. Things can go wrong and often there is something that will create at least one stress if the day or night gets long enough. Doing your part in keeping your own balance is as important for the crew as it is for yourself and will help to make for a better race as well as a better overall experience. Staying neutral takes work when there are several personalities that come into play and working together means keeping an open mind so that everyone has one common goal with that of the racers.
Crewing takes a lot of work and a successful ultra racer often has a great crew behind them. If you’re wanting to crew make sure you do your own homework so that you can stay as balanced as possible throughout the entire event.
About the Author: About Kellie Moylan - Moylan Training Kellie works with athletes throughout the world with online training. She has been involved with cycling, triathlons, running and strength training for over 20 years. She is a Level 1 USA Cycling Coach, USA Track and Field Coach, is certified with the National Strength and Conditioning Association and USA Weightlifting. Her knowledge of how to apply a training program specific to the needs of an individual along with her understanding of keeping perspective of a healthy lifestyle are what make Kellie successful.