How I accidentally ran my first ultra

Arizona Daily Sun (January 19, 2020) by Anne McGuffey

I woke at 4:30 a.m. to discover the bivvy sack was torn open down the side — no wonder I’d been feeling cold. After four hours of sleeping on the ground beside Helen Galerakis, it was clear the support crew wouldn’t reach us at this challenging access point near Superior in the Sonoran Desert.

I woke Helen and said, “It’s getting colder, and the bivvy is ripped. I think we should get moving.” We could either retrace our steps back 8 miles or move forward 29 miles. I knew going back was a terrible option for Helen. She asked, “How do you feel about progressing forward?”

I said, “Yeah, I’m up for it.”

By the next evening, I had accidentally done my first ultra run (37 miles). That was my introduction to being on the support crew for Helen’s successful Fastest Known Time on the 800-mile Arizona Trail in October.

When I agreed to crew for two days, I was naive about the realities and challenges of supporting an ultra runner. Helen had briefed me ahead of time, but the best learning happened “on the job.” The crew welcomed me into a close community that was united in supporting Helen to achieve her goal.

Everyone was willing to do what was needed to help Helen and each other. We drove on rough, remote dirt roads to meet Helen as she progressed south. We unpacked and repacked the vehicle repeatedly. Helen was fed, hydrated, and her pack restocked for the next stretch. While she rested, we cleaned her feet and applied salve, and helped her put on fresh socks and a change of shoes.

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