By Lee Maggot Mitchell, crewchief for Anne Snail Darter Schneider, 1998 finisher
Anne Schneider is doing the 508 as the Snail Darter (no numbers, just totems). Needs a crew. Lots of talk. Let's do two vans, allows flexibility, more friends to be involved. Somebody has to have time to buy out all the ice in sight! ! She does her training. We have a couple of planning sessions—who does what and when, who brings supplies. Lots of lists to be checked off. There are no supply places in the desert. We load the SNAIL DARTER van and the BikeVan the Wednesday before the race. A few last minute corrections and additions. Off we go down I-5 to Valencia on Friday AM. Last minute shopping for perishables for Anne and the crew. Logos put on the vans, lots of hugs and handshakes as we see riders and crews from years past, brevets past. WE ARE READY!!!
Nice dinner and introductions, more friends in the ultra riding community. More than 75% there are crew people. Genuinely real sponsors. Crew gives highest honor to crew 'chief' Mitchell—show up at dinner with shorts and red socks!!
Anne and Lulu are the first and only 50 plus women to attempt the Furnace Creek 508.
7:00 AM, Saturday, lots of nerves wary, both riders and crews. OFF they go on the hour. Mitchell, in the real competition of the weekend, races off and is the first to arrive at the first wide spot where we are allowed to meet our riders. We sit and cheer riders as they go by. In the ultra family, competitors are friends and to be cheered and helped. Have seen wheels loaned out to competitors without hesitation.
Patsy Inouye, Susan Gishi, Ann Lincoln, Lee Mitchell, and Ellie Olsen are the crew for Anne. Are we excited! ! First riders fly by, testosterone pumping. Cheers to them. Anne does stop, privacy sheet up, no penalties. Onward. We are towards the rear, so what? A long race ahead.
We hand off food bottles. Oops, use the other hand and trot along the roadside. No out of window contact until dark, when we start following with lights flashing for safety. Anne stops for Camelbaks, no accidents here. Stops include food and water replacements, adding or taking off clothes, the need to pee, and at least three times, since she is the Snail Darter, a very small fish, a group "school" hug by all.
Conversations by the two vans via FM radio. Very handy, cuts confusion. We leapfrog along with Anne until after Trona, the second time station and nearing dark. Then we are allowed and required to pace behind her, lights flashing, etc. We are so very lucky that we have riders in sight both front and back for almost the entire race. Lots of times it gets rather lonely out here. First woman is way off in front of us, competing with the men, maybe. She lasts just over 200 miles and then drops with aches, pains, and stomach problems.
Too fast? Not us. Anne listened to her coach-John Hughes-and her crew- "it's a long race, don't go out too fast". No worries there. We also learn that Lulu, the other 50 plus female rider has dropped. Not happy with that. Good break at top of Townes Pass. Hot soup, change of clothes, and the usual. Watched the big guy 'Shrimp' Bubba Stephens pass us at the top—actually less time at the top. Huge guy—over 220 pounds. Faster downhill, not so fast uphill, but we were within sight of him for almost 500 miles!!
Crew is very efficient. Each does specified things, decided before we stop. Crew very efficient, cheerful the entire race. Any booboos immediately corrected and that is one of the keys to being good crew. Supportive of Anne and each other. Even made Mitchell an honorary woman for the duration, an extreme honor, he says. He did mention having difficulty peeing while squatting, but took notes and photos on technique. He also feels that the crew was one of the best he has ever been involved with.
Daylight to Baker, past 300 miles, now. Anne tired, crew too. Keep on keeping on. Gas at Baker, only a 200K to go. Get close to female 24 year old rider, who ate 3 HUGE plates of food at the dinner the night before. Rats, youth wins out, she pulls away. Some of the riders who we passed in the night while they slept come by, but not many. Long way to Amboy, Anne getting pep talks, trying to stay awake on 15-mile down hill. After Amboy a really discouraging ten-mile climb up Sheephole. Anne is weird! She is stronger than anytime in the last 12 hours! Pounding UP the hill. But she stops with two miles to go to the top, blasted. She had been trying to catch the 24 year old. We regroup, refeed, rehydrate, repee, rejoice, rehug and Anne is on the road again, the long 28 miles to the finish in front of her. Also a silent zone, no music and no PA allowed. So we shout out the window. Confusion at the last stop sign, but we get her on the road and in the right direction, only four miles to go!
Dennis Brown's van appears (an official of long standing) to lead us to the finish. Anne rolls in. Toilet paper ribbon. Lots of hugs, cheers. A couple of tears at least by bearded one and a few others. Very tired, but pretty darned happy:
It is 1:31:45 AM, we have finished in 42:31:45, the first and only 50 plus female rider to finish, a new record of course, and Anne Snail Darter Schneider has qualified for Race Across AMerica, RAAM. WOWWOWOW!!!!!! Ellie and Lee clean up the two vans for the long and happy ride home on Monday AM. We have the opportunity to cheer for the next two riders as they come in—more hugs.
Anne was about 39th overall at the second/Trona time station and about 17th at the finish. Something to think about. Anne slept only about seven minutes while we worked on her legs. She did as she was asked to do in terms of pace, and most of the time in terms of eating and drinking. Her hydration and salt levels were great throughout, a bit low on calories sometimes. Her crew was excellent in motivation, attitude, and effort to keep Anne riding on down the road. Mitchell has noted that crew interaction was very good throughout due in large part to being friends before, and most importantly, after the race.
It has been said that riders are done without a crew and that the crew has no reason to do these rides without a rider. It is called a team effort. This race by Anne and crew is a superb example.