7.23.2013

Your Pace or Mine?

This weekend I attended my first 100 mile race. It was so inspiring to be amongst such greatness. However, I did not run the entire 100 miles. I was a pacer.

A pacer, if you are in a marathon, can be the difference between your making your goal time or not. They keep you going at a steady pace, not too fast, not too slow, in order to finish at your desired time. I suggest you use one if it's your first time, or even if you have a time goal that you are not certain you will make.

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Got my race bib on

However, in an ultra, pacers can be just that, someone who helps you keep pace, but they can also be much more. In the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile race (TRT100), you are allowed to have someone run with you for the last 50 miles. Like I said, it's to help you keep pace, as there are strict cutoffs at each aid station, but it's also to keep the runner safe, make sure they get enough to eat and drink, monitor whether or not they are getting woozy or tired or loopy (and all of these do happen) and to be there as company for someone who has probably been out on the trails for around 24 hours (or more). You don't want them to get stuck in their own thoughts too much!

The guy I paced was a friend of a friend; we had never met before. By the time I met him, he had already been running for 80 miles and about 26 hours. I don't know about you, but that would probably not be the best time to meet ME for the first time! I would be Grumpy McGrumpster. And nevermind trying to carry on a conversation with me!

Which is what I expected of him. Here's how I saw it going. He would be super tired, grumpy, negative and silent. I would have to keep pushing him to run faster, and would try to be cheerful without being annoying, all while talking non-stop in order to keep him awake, and not expecting him to say anything back. I thought I may have to force him to eat and drink while listening to him complain of blisters and sore feet and tired legs and blurred vision and hallucinations. Okay that last thing was a joke.

But seriously, I thought I would have to be a one woman cheerleader, and I was never a very good one of those. However, things were not like I thought. Here is how it went.

We met at 7 a.m at Diamond Peak, which was the 80 mile aid station. Fuel there included pancakes, coffee and soup. I had sat there for about 2 and a half hours waiting for my runner and had seen many people pass through who were absolutely exhausted. Others, on the other hand, were chipper, laughing and seemed like they had only run a few miles rather than a few dozen. My runner was one of the latter. After getting him some food and drinks, a change of clothes and a bit of sunscreen, we started up the hill. We left the first aid station 15 minutes before the cut off (7:30 a.m.).

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Diamond Peak hill with Lake Tahoe in the background.

As always, the first couple of miles were all uphill. My runner was in good spirits; he was talking and seemed to actually be enjoying himself. We stopped to take in the view a couple of times, which was gorgeous. After we got to the top of the hill, we met up with the Tahoe Rim Trail and headed south. The trail was great. It was fairly level and it went along the edge of the hill with a great view of Lake Tahoe and Marlette Lake. At Tunnel Creek, the first big aid station, we fueled up with quesadillas and coffee (for me, sprite for my runner) and got back on the road. We left about 40 minutes before the cut off.

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Marlette Lake view

Eventually we got to the very top, which was at about 9,000 feet. Getting up there was a little difficult, as we were starting to get near the tree line and the sun was beating down pretty hard. At this point it was about 12 o'clock and the temperature was in the 90s. When we got to the top of Snow Peak, the aid station there was manned by boy scouts who filled up our bottles with ice and gave us a nice cold sponge on the head before we started down the hill for our last 7 miles. At this point we were about an hour ahead of the cutoff.

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High Sierra wildflowers

For the final seven miles, we jogged along, not talking too much. We even passed a few other pairs of runners, although we had been leap frogging with a couple of pairs all day. We arrived at Spooner Lake, where the last mile or so goes around the side of the lake and man was it good to see the lake. We could even hear the cheers coming across the lake from the finish line. It was just the boost we needed. We ran the last quarter of a mile and crossed the finish line together.

We made it across the finish line in 33 hours and 17 minutes, a whole hour and 43 minutes ahead of the cutoff, which means my runner got his coveted buckle! I was so proud of him; he didn't complain or lag at all! He really was quite an inspiration! I don't know how he did it! I was really happy to be a part of his successful race.

Are there specific times when you like to have company to boost your spirits? Have you ever been a pacer for a race? Have you ever used a pacer/pace group?

15 comments:

  1. I know you were a little nervous about this, so I am happy to hear it went so well! I can not even fathom running 100 miles. One of my coaches in Minneapolis does those once a year, and my good friend paced him this summer and they had a great time together (well my pacer friend probably more than the coach who was beat from all the miles!).

    In my final stretches of CFA studying, I really needed to be around people to try to lift my spirits as I was so exhausted and needed a distraction. Unfortunately, I was new to Charlotte and could not for the life of me find people to go to dinner with me, so I spent a lot of time alone, which just made my feelings of depression and anxiety worse... It was out of my control, though, and I am just happy that experience is over. Hopefully for good.

    I have never really used a pacer or pacer group. I was going to for the Des Moines marathon but when they passed me in the final 5 miles, I could not for the life of me stay with them.

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  2. What a cool experience! I have never had nor been a pacer but I could use some in my longer races! I tend to go out too fast and then just die off. I would love someone to just stick with me and make my race consistent!

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  3. That's a very interesting opportunity. I didn't even know there were pacers in ultras, although it certainly makes a lot of sense. I'll never run an ultra - just thinking about marathon mile #22 is enough to turn me off! - but I might consider pacing if I ever got into trail running. Right now me and my city slicker self would just be a liability.

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  4. Oustanding! I love pacing people at the Umstead 100, it's one of the highlights of my year. so cool. Glad that you got to pace a fun guy too. The aide stations at those things are stocked! It's so nice.

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  5. That sounds awesome! I would love to pace someone in an ultra one day! Good for you - I bet it really helped him to have you with him those last 20 miles.

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  6. Wow- what an awesome experience! I cannot imagine running 100 miles... sounds like he was well prepared to still be talking and enjoying himself at the end!

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  7. What a wonderful experience! I'm sure he really appreciated having you there for the last 20 miles.

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  8. Awesome experience! I am sure a lot of fun there.

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  9. What an amazing and rewarding experience! I'd love to do this one day, or volunteer at such a race. But then I'd be even more inspired to run one myself! Are you planning to do an ultra?

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  10. Wow that is really inspirational, how awesome! I bet it was a lot of fun to do and he probably really appreciated it!

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  12. I'm sorry. I'm still stuck on the fact that people run 100 mile races. You runner people are crazy! :-)

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  13. That is such an amazing experience - him running 100 miles and you getting to run the last 20 with him. The photos you took are stunning - I'd happily run out there (ok, more likely that I'd hike, but whatever - ha!). When I trained for my first marathon, our coaches actually advised against using pacers if it was our first race. They told us you never know what's going to happen on race day and your one and only goal should be to finish, regardless of time.

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  14. Wow! What an amazing experience. How awesome that you got to run with him across the finish line. And OMG, he ran for 33 hours. That's crazy! Congratulations to him and you.

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  15. Oh my gosh that is amazing!!! I've never done a big enough race that there are pacers- but I can imagine they make a huge difference... Especially on a 100mile race! Well done for helping those runners!!

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Thanks for commenting! Any suggestions, tips or praise you have is always welcome!