Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A new perspective

A serious Q&A with elite ultra marathon crew chief, Gaby Duran-Gorman, that definitely will not- under any circumstances- make the pages of UltraRunning or Trail Runner Magazine.

Tails & Trails: What do you like most about crewing ultra marathons?
Gaby: The aid stations.  The food is really good.

Tails & Trails: Wait, isn't the food at aid stations for runners?
Gaby: Yes, but don't tell anyone.  People might copy me.  Seeing all the runners at Aid Stations is a lot of fun, too.  They look so bad, especially after night fall.  I like to tell the runners just how bad they look and ask them if they're ok.  Like, if they're seriously ok to continue.  It really motivates them.  And that, for me, besides the food, is what I like best about crewing at ultra marathons.

Tails & Trails: I see.  Well, how many 100 mile ultra races have you crewed?
Gaby: Eight.  Pretty amazing, huh?  But if you count the number of races I should have crewed it would be several dozen or in the hundreds.

Tails & Trails: What do you mean, races that you "should have crewed"?
Gaby: Well, I crew really well.  Ask anyone.  I should have crewed for a lot of runners at past races that came in 2nd or 3rd place.  If I would have crewed for them they probably would have won.

Tails & Trails: So, you're kind of like an elite crew person then?
Gaby: Duh.  And I prefer to be labeled a 'crewer'.  Crewing a race is sometimes harder than actually running a race.  It is so mental.

Tails & Trails: Really?  How is crewing a 100 mile race harder than running a 100 mile race?
Gaby: For starters I almost never have cell reception at 100 mile races.  And that sucks.  Second, it gets cold at night.  I like hot weather and wearing gloves and a hat in August is hard.  Period.

Tails & Trails: Tell me about your preparation for crewing a 100 mile race?
Gaby: Usually I prepare by getting very little sleep the week before a race.  My feeling is to crew well you have to understand what a runner goes through during the race.  So, that means being really tired along with the runner out on the course.  I also throw up a lot while crewing.  I see other runners do it sometimes and it looks cool.  I admit, I do come to a race with a crew plan but you know how it goes... it is a 100 mile race and anything can go wrong.  It is easy to fall off the plan and hard to get back on.  Another thing I do sometimes before a race is take a few cold showers the week before- but only for a minute or two.  I do this to mimic night time conditions out on the course.

Tails & Trails: Those are unusual practices.  How do you combat fatigue and hunger while you're attending to your runner?
Gaby: It goes back to what we were talking about before: the aid station food.  Being the competitive person that I am I usually get to aid stations before other crewers and runners.  That way I know everything on the food tables is hardly touched.  And for that reason I don't mind taking a few pulls from Coke 2-liters.  The caffeine keeps me alert.  Then I usually flip through the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and find the one that looks the prettiest.  I don't like crust so I eat around it and then put it back on the plate.  I am not down with wasting food.  So, as long as I get a little caffeine and a few carbs in my system I am good to go.

Tails & Trails: Have you ever considered resting more the week before a race and bringing your own food to the actual event?
Gaby: Can you repeat the question?

Tails & Trails: Never mind.  What sort of advice do you have for other crewers out there who say crewing a 100 mile race is simply too much.  That they don't think they could finish.
Gaby: I like to quote what the Leadville 100 tells us crewers: 'You're better than you think you are but you're not better than me'.  Wait, that's wrong.  I would tell them 'you're better than you think you are but you can't do more than me'.  Hold on, that's still not right...

Tails & Trails: You know what, forget it.  Let's move on.  What sort of electrolytes do you provide your runners?
Gaby: Sodium intake is kind of overblown in my opinion.  In fact, I am determined to prove the whole thing a myth.  Sometimes I even give my runner placebo-type salt pills.  Doesn't seem to make a difference to me.

Tails & Trails: I would disagree with you but I don't have the energy for that right now.  Let's wrap this up.  Real quick, what about calories?  What do you like to feed runners?
Gaby: Runners always like high-calorie, fast digesting carbs, fat, protein blah, blah, blah.  Something about needing the energy to keep going.  I think being an athlete means watching what you eat.  I sometimes empty out my runner's drop bags, usually filled with carb blocks and gels, and fill them with more sensible foods like celery sticks and cucumbers.

Tails & Trails: Gosh, um, thanks.  Uh, it was great speaking with you and learning a bit about your style of crewing.  I am sure many crewers out there and their runners will gain a great deal knowledge from your feedback.
Gaby: You're totally welcome!  Thank you.
Gaby.  The day after crewing her 8th 100 miler.  So much wisdom.


  1. that is hilarious! ~joan

  2. It is obviously hard work to crew at such a high level. Thank you to Gaby for sharing so many of her personal tips!

    Too funny. :)

  3. We are hiring! ;-)

    After this summer, Gatorade is my new BFF.