Monday, October 26, 2015

My 2nd Ultra-Marathon Crewing Experience

As most of you know, the first time I did support for an ultra-marathon was for my brother at the world championships for the 24 hour race in Italy this past Spring. I had never been to an ultra-marathon before much less "crewed", so I virtually walked into an ambush. It was embarrassing (see my "notes" from April of this year), so in an attempt to redeem myself, I signed myself up to help [crew for] my brother at The Fall 50, which is a 50 mile ultra-marathon in Door County, Wisconsin.

In the weeks leading up, as my brother talked about how his training was going and the effects it could have on his race performance, I was worrying about how my crew skills would effect his outcome. Believe it or not, providing support for a long distance race is somewhat of a science.

Let me give you the layout....
First of all, every ultra is very different from what I have gathered. Everything from the competition to the course to the race organization is different. At the 24hr world championships, the course was comprised of an inner loop and outer loop about a mile in total length, whereas The Fall 50 was a course starting at the tip of Door County and working its way down the peninsula. So, this time, we drove to each of the 10 different gates to meet Isaiah for a quick hand-off instead of being in a stationary location the runners passed every lap.
The top runners don't stop running, so they need nutrition and hydration easily accessible when they need it. Kelsey and I would arrive to a gate, prepare drinks and a gel shot, stand about 100-200 meters away from each other, then wait 5-10 minutes to see Isaiah. After a quick 30 second cheering/hand-off, we headed back to the car and on to the next gate. The day went pretty fast for us because we always had something to do except for the few minutes before seeing Isaiah appear in the distance. Navigating, refilling bottles, finding gel shots, parking, finding ginger gummies, finding clothing articles, etc, the van looked like we had been living out of it for a few months I'm sure. Isaiah, on the other hand, said it got really lonely and boring in between gates with no other runners or spectators.

This was the hand-off at gate 7, approximately 36 miles in.

Isaiah ended up finishing at 05:54:33, in 4th place, reaching both of his goals. Considering the rain and head winds on Saturday, he had an amazing performance and I am thrilled to have been there. Congrats again Isaiah!

Lessons Learned: (Mostly specific to my brother)
-Practice makes perfect....Even though this was only my 2nd time crewing, I learned SO much the first time that I did way better this time.
-Organization! You can't crew if you're discombobulated.
-Each water bottle is for a specific drink. Don't mix them!! I.e. Water, Gatorade, Pom juice, and coconut water.
-Communication. This could be a blog post of its own. I'm talking about communication between crew members & communication with your runner. If there is more than one person crewing, roles & responsibilities need to be discussed/defined. Like having a child, at the end of the day, the runner is most important. Communicating with your runner is most important and most difficult. In USATF certified courses, the rules are pretty strict, so you basically have one chance every 1-6 miles to talk to your runner. Meaning, the rules only allow you to provide aid at dedicated aid stations (AKA gates) or defined areas, so you can't stop anywhere on the course and hand-off beverages/food/etc. Some are even strict about when/where you can communicate with your runner. At the competitive level my brother is at, these runners DON'T STOP, so you don't have time to have a 30 second conversation and get what they need. You have about 5 seconds as they are flying by at 8-9mph. So, Isaiah comes by and says "pom juice and ginger". The next time you see him and have those things ready, there is a good chance he already wants something different. After all, he's had ~10min to think about it. Example; it was raining and he wanted his hat so he says "hat next". Mistakenly, I grab his skull cap, not the baseball cap he wanted, not to mention it had stopped raining & was sunny by the time he got to the next gate, so he didn't want his hat. This situation happened nearly every 6 miles, fortunately, I learned to prepare and have multiple options so I had what he needed.
-HAND SIGNALS!! Attention ultra-marathoners! Isaiah uses hand signals, which are SO helpful! When he is about 200meters away from us, he throws up 1, 2, or 3 fingers which each represents something he wants. That gives me about 20 seconds to get what he wants and he doesn't use energy talking as well as not getting miscommunicated.
-The pickier your runner can be, the better. I am talking about before the race as you prepare all the stuff for your runner, the more detailed and specific they can be, the better. Like wanting 6oz of water, not 10 and not 4.
-Help pack the supplies. When Isaiah packs, it is like a treasure hunt to find what he needs, which can be time consuming.

Room for Improvement:
-GPS tracking. It would be SO useful if Isaiah had some sort of tracking because we would arrive to a gate and not know whether he was still 10 minutes away or had already passed. Thankfully we never missed him, but it was definitely likely. For the first half, we kind of calculated his pace and distance so could figure out approximately when he would be arriving, but that got time consuming and less important after a while.
-Liquid ounce labeling. Isaiah would ask for a specific amount of liquid and quite honestly, it is SO hard to get the right amount, at least for Isaiah. Too much, not enough, etc. etc. Maybe in his head he can eyeball 6 ounces, but I can't. We already discussed upgrading his bottles for the next go.
-Better communication. Like headphone walkie talkies or a watch that has 10 options and he can just press a button 1-10 so we would know a little before what he wants.
-Cheering team. Two people crewing is good. One person could have the liquid and one could have gel, one can drive and one can navigate, two ears to hear Isaiah's requests, etc. However, it would have been nice to have more people there cheering for Isaiah especially along the parts where there weren't any people, because we didn't know if we would have time to stop or where to stop.
-Visual identification. Isaiah said he would get confused if we took off a coat or put on a jacket throughout the day because he wouldn't be able to pick us out. Next time we should wear bright vests that can be put on over any clothing independent of weather conditions and stick out from other people.
-I need to prepare for myself! Meaning, I could afford to have a spare bag for snacks/food/water and clothing. Weather changes during the day/night, so one set of clothes doesn't really cut it and food and drink sources are unpredictable. Not to mention the guilt I would have digging in to some of Isaiah's supplies.
-Since hand-off zones are regulated, we should communicate in between laps/gates. At a checkpoint, we would try to tell Isaiah how far behind the next guy he was and he was trying to tell us what he wanted to drink next and we were trying to was just a lot to say in a few seconds.

I can't wait for next time!!!

Final Results:
Male Participants
1.Zach Bitter5:17:25
2.G Anthony Kunkel5:38:13
3.Christopher Denucci5:38:35
4.Isaiah Janzen5:54:33
5.Tim Stieber6:26:58
Female Participants
1.Camille Herron5:38:41
2.Michelle Kurnik7:22:40
3.Jessica Garcia7:24:25
4.Erin Zerth7:36:19
5.Jessica Lemere7:40:49

Thank you Kelsey for putting up with me all day, navigating, being there for my brother, and keeping me company.Thank you to the Chocolate Chicken in Egg Harbor for the food stop! Thank you to Zach Bitter, Anthony Kunkel, Camille Herron, and Chris Denucci for being more of a motivation to me than you know. Great race to all of you, I really enjoyed watching/cheering and congrats to each of you, especially Camille for setting a world record. Thank you to the poor guy working at the bait shop about 6 miles south of Egg Harbor that had to deal with me running in like a nut job asking for hot chocolate and hot water and a cup. I'm sure I looked like a whack-a-doo (anything for Isaiah!). Thank you participants, volunteers, and friends who did not steal my sunglasses that I left on a boulder at the 7th checkpoint in Murphy Park for 4 hours.  Thank you to my parents for letting us borrow their van and lastly and most importantly, thank you Isaiah for being so awesome and doing things like this. I am certainly living vicariously through you, keep it up!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Re-Meet Berea

Hey guys!

Thanks for stopping by. I am writing today, because my post with the most views, Meet Berea, was written over 6 years ago, so I decided I need a re-introduction. When I checked this morning, it had more than 350 views and is the top result when you search google for "Berea Janzen". Regardless, I have changed and grown in the past 6 years, so here is my update.

I am a Senior Manufacturing Engineer at ABB, one of the world's leading companies in power, automation, and electricity. In layman's terms, if you have seen Iron Man 3 or Terminator Salvation, the big orange robots that make an appearance were built/designed by my company. I work mainly with production and operations to improve efficiency at our plant which assembles motor drives, along with some other electrical control products. I have worked here almost 5 years, starting with my first internship and holding 3 other titles.

I am a 2012 graduate from MSOE (Milwaukee School of Engineering), and hold my B.S. in Industrial Engineering. Getting my degree from a private engineering school was by far the hardest thing I've done, but worth the unspeakable amount of debt I am in because of it. Looking back, I am honestly shocked by how everything worked out considering in 2007 I would have never expected to now be an engineer. I have aspirations to go on for my MBA, but am beyond terrified of taking the GMAT. I have a hard time justifying paying $250 for a test that might not go well. So, that is a work in progress.

I get asked weekly where my name comes from, so if you do not know, maybe you are curious. Berea is a city in Greece, but no, I am not Greek. The name Berea comes from the bible and is now called "Veria". There is also a town of Berea in Ohio and Kentucky in the United States, which I occasionally get asked about, but my parents did not know about them when they named me. After stating Berea is a biblical name of a city in Greece, I usually get asked if I am Greek which turns into a conversation about me actually being German.

My immediate family consists of my parents (married 33 years) and my older brother, Isaiah. Together we lived in 5 different states during my childhood, mainly due to my dads career development. I have a very small extended family, consisting of 2 grandparents, 3 aunts, 3 uncles, and 4 cousins. One grandpa passed when my mom was 14, the other when I was a baby, and my grandma 4 years ago. My other grandma re-married, so I also have a "step" grandpa, but as far as I am concerned, he is the only one I have known, so there is no difference. Then 2 of my 4 cousins were adopted at a young age, but I grew up knowing them as part of the family also.

I also have a cat that I call my fur baby, Mika, a medium hair tuxedo love bug. I have had her about 4 years, so she is now 6 1/2 years old. I really try refraining from being a crazy cat lady, but there are not many better things than holding her after a long day, with her nails sunk in just far enough to say, "don't leave me", with her soft fur, and loud purr box. She has helped cheer me up many times.

Apart from the basics, I also have aspirations to move to a warmer climate sooner than later. I never thought I would stay in Wisconsin past college, so each year is a little surprising and depressing mid-winter when it is 0 degrees out with 10mph windchill and 3 feet of snow. It would be much easier to relocate if I did not have an amazing job. Until then, traveling will have to do.

Hope you have enjoyed reading!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Maybe it's the weather...

Maybe it's the weather, the season, the people. Who knows.

We are in the weird part of the year between Summer and a slew of holidays. Everyone rushing to get some time off to enjoy some peace in between tourists and Winter weather, which means reconnecting with friends because Summer months have been packed with activities.

I finally started reading a book my mom gave me YEARS ago about insecurity, a topic I am no stranger to, and it has certainly put me in a certain mood facing some personal issues. I am caught between looking out for #1 while not hurting everyone in my path and how to change without changing. I guess I go through these "who am I phases" like a roller-coaster and over-analyze aspects I've never paid attention to to a fault. I know I'm being extremely indistinct right now, so my apologies if you aren't getting anything out of this other than my vaguely scattered mind. I guess my best attempt at being more clear is to say, I'm feeling guilty about not spending time with people in my life, past and present, that are important to me. Along those lines, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the relationships I am keeping up with to get a better sense of self. Kind of like football players watching their past games to see what they can improve on and then trying to change some aspect of muscle memory.

In other news, something happened to my iphone that made it inoperable for about 36 hours, while I took it in to get fixed. Can you remember the last time you went nearly 2 days without a phone? I guess after a slight panic attack, I decided how pathetic it was the reliance I put in my phone, that I needed to get over it. Every time I thought about something I "needed" from my phone, I took a second to remind myself that I would be fine if I never had that thing again and use my resources to improvise. Ironically, the most crucial items I would have missed if I didn't get my phone back were the sentimental things like; pictures, voice recordings, etc. Now that I have my phone back, I'm a little disgusted every time I open it up and think about how it is one of those things that easily gets taken for granted.

I also got the days of the week confused last night and made an entire batch of homemade tomato soup in a crock pot for a grilled cheese pot luck we are having at work Friday. I didn't have room in the fridge, so it didn't get saved.....:-\ So frustrating.....I'm too young for this.

Friday, October 9, 2015


"At the end of the day, they will always be there for you."

At least, this phrase is often spewed from my brothers' mouth about our family when his little sister wants to skip an opportunity for a family dinner or holiday.

Sometime in high school, I vividly remember being told, to my face, that my family was weird. At the time, I was very hurt and probably even cried about it, but in hindsight, maybe I agree more than not.

Uncanny, abnormal? The Janzen's? Okay, yeah.

My dad? A pastor. My mom? On a mission to save the world. My brother? An aerospace engineer, ultra-marathoner, Everest hopeful, and much more. Me? A princess engineer.

Which of those left you speechless, judgmental, or very inquisitive?

My response if you were;
speechless - We aren't normal, but you aren't normal to us either. There is something to learn from everyone.
judgmental - You can't judge a book by its cover. Wait to judge until you meet us, we will surprise you.
inquisitive - Let me answer your questions before you ask. My dad is a LUTHERAN pastor, therefore he can have a wife and kids. (After all, God gave Adam, Eve.) No, he was not that strict with me growing up, my mom was more so than he, which balanced each other out quite well. Since he didn't become a pastor until I was a child, we moved a lot so that he could to go to seminary, do his vicarage, and then become settled, so my mom was never able to become established in her career of teaching. She is saving the world because she will do anything to help another human. My mom is the most giving person I know. As for my brother, he does everything. I can't even start a list because it would not encompass everything. He is incredibly humble however, so he would rather talk about you than himself and has a tendency to  underplay his many feats, so do me a favor and give him some positive compliments the next time you talk to him. Lastly, myself. I could talk for hours about myself, so just read the past 6 years of my blog posts.

Why would one think we are "weird"?
Yes, we had family dinner every night at 5:30pm (and I mean every night, until I moved out), we go to church every week, we joke about "Berea's mountain emotions" and my mom "shooting up" (in reference to taking insulin for her diabetes). We didn't have alcohol at any family function until after I turned 21, saying "oh my God", "OMG", or "Gosh" is not acceptable in our house, it is not uncommon for my brother to casually mention having been out of the country last week, or spending a family day together in an art museum, or getting Christmas presents from my mom that she got free with rebates, and the list goes on.

So, maybe we are weird, but I wouldn't trade them for anyone. It is certainly ALWAYS interesting in our family and I like it.

My dad has taught me about every aspect of life; from baptism, to marriage, to funerals. Like; being conscious of how not to slam the communion wine like a shot of alcohol, the only answer to why you want to get married is love, and how to deal with loved ones who have Alzheimer's. My mom has taught me a lot about life in regards to the morals she wants to teach me. Like reminding me that beauty and outward appearance is not important to God. My brother has taught me how to take care of my body and to "live your life".

So, thank you family. I love you.