I am a girl who loves mountains, changing seasons, running, true backpacking, strong coffee, and knitting with high quality yarn.

When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

The purpose of life is to discover and develop your gift. The meaning of life comes from sharing your gift with others. - David Viscott

Monday, January 23, 2006

A word about pacing at a 100M.

Team Ragan asked me for a few words about pacing at a 100M, getting ready for his duty at RR100 in 2 weeks. Having finished 6 100M and a 100k (and DNFed one more 100M), I had been paced by 6 different people. I also paced at two 100M myself, and that was the best most exhilarating and fulfilling experience in my life! The first time I did it at VT100 for Nick Palazzo (in case anybody saw “Running on the sun” movie about Badwater 135, he was the famous “where is my f* soup” guy), and the second was for Rob’s CCC last year. These two people are quite different in experience (Nick has been running ultras for over 25 years, it was his 10th Vermont, and Rob had his first attempt at the distance), but basically I approached it quite the same. May I add that Nick PR-ed on a course, and Rob finished at least a couple of hours faster than planned:)

First of all, I think it’s important to crew for a runner before jumping into pacing. It gives you a heads up on how he is doing, what’s hurting, what went wrong and if plans changed. Discuss plans of finishing ahead of time! Whether the goal is to finish, break a time barrier or place, everyone has to have a goal! Stick with the plan. Unless the injury is involved or the plan was unrealistic, everything is doable! As a crew, you’ll be driving around like crazy, and you have to make it to the aid stations with enough time to prepare runner’s foods and drinks of choice. Have a spare change of clothes and shoes near by always, but don’t necessary make him change. Fresh socks are crucial, as well as a choice of grease! Ask a runner what he likes to drink/eat, all the alternatives, and be ready for anything. In hot weather, when the stomach doesn’t tolerate much, an hour of drinking iced-cold water makes wonders. Make sure he drinks/eats in-between aid stations. Be a police, ask how much was consumed, look at the bottles and refresh them. Don’t let him sit down! Unless it’s a life and death situation, chair is not acceptable! I prefer, if I do need to sit (say, change socks), I rather get on the ground - it’s quite uncomfortable, so it’s easier to leave than a nice chair. Don’t forget to say how great he looks and how fast he’s going, then kick him out! For a female runner it helps to make a complement - cute and sensitive creatures we are. Eat, drink, encourage! And don’t forget - you need fuel too, as you are about to undertake on a very important task!

You’ll probably start pacing when the night comes, so get ready a flashlight for yourself and your runner. Pack your bottles and gels, and get on going. Carry a spare battery or a light just in case (Nick gave me his while mine went out as the wires disconnected, and he had to fix it on the run). Force-feed your runner! By then most likely he will not want anything at all - push it! Oleg, Mike and Gail all did great job at making me gag, but it helped! Get at the aid station a touch ahead of him and refill his bottles while he is eating. Refill yours later, even if it means you get out late and need to catch the runner (not to late though). Ask a runner where does he want you to be - ahead or behind, and prepare to change it anytime. I like the pacer behind, but when I paced, I mostly ran in front. Scout the terrain as far as you can see and make corrections for footsteps - Jason did a great job at it (rocks/roots, slanted sides, trail marking). Watch for trail marking!!! There is no worse fear than getting your runner off course. Entertain. You still need to lie about pretty looks, strong stride and fast times, so learn ahead of time! Keep them moving! Don’t take “I am tired” for an answer. Everybody’s tired. It all hurts, it’s normal. Learn to differentiate real problem from aches and bad mood. Most often a gu will lighten attitude - sugar to the brain! So - feed! Don’t get disgusted by natural processes - peeing, #2, burps and farts. What else do you expect? Don’t be shy yourself either:) Be prepared your runner can get nasty, hello, he had just run 50-70-90 miles! I believe I never did so far (and neither did Rob, though Nick said a few words of choice), but just in case when I pick up my pacer I say “I love you and thank you”. You have to SENSE whether your runner wnats you to talk or to shut up. He may not say anything, even if you discussed it before. Feeling is important! Gail sang to me in Austarlian (and I didn’t understand a word), Liz at VT and Nick at my first WS told me their life stories and Nick was quiet at second (I really raced there, so I didn’t care for the talk), Jason kept me moving by making me run in a proper form (for what I almost killed him, but it helped to take a focus away from nasty painful feet). David almost ended up off the cliff for his honest tries, but I was seriously bonking and loosing my presious time, and he tried very hard. Oleg reminded me how competitive I am and pushed beyond pain. Mike was just a sweetheart with flirty nature, and until I went hypothermic, I responded quite readily:) Don’t take anything personally! At the end you’ll be the best friend, noone else!

Most importantly - enjoy and make your runner to have fun despite the pain! With Rob we saw a moonlight in a lake and the most beautiful sky filled with stars - I told him it was my best date. Nick paid great attention to the illumination at the No Hands Bridge (even though I didn’t). Gail loved the soft trails. Mike - the big mountains and the sunrise. Jason had fun running in his backyard. What can be better than bringing your runner to the finish line? I’d say not even coming yourself! This is the greatest experience, and I would do it over in a heartbeat!


robtherunner said...

Great post and very complete on the duties of a pacer. And you are the best pacer I could ever ask for.

psbowe said...

Oh my, I think that would be superb if I had you as a pacer for Portland...that's if you don't have a race yourself some where else. I need someone like you to keep me on track. Your posts just got so excited now vs nervous. :)

We'll talk more as time gets closer...sound good?

Anonymous said...

You almost convince me that running for 100 miles can be fun. But first I have to learn to go longer than 10 miles.

You help me see that it's not just the joy of running that makes ultras meaningful. I can tell there is a real bond that is built between those who participate in the sport.

Johnny Lyons said...

Beautiful details! I know who I want to bug if I have questions now! Maybe I will have to do a 100 miler this year, I'll just try to get a good pacer. After your post I'm already thinking about people I would and wouldn't want to pace me.

olga said...

What drew me to ultras was exactly this - a special bond. You share the trail, the passion for running, the endurance - and it builds the best friendships. Little is about competing. Lots is about helping.
Johnny, look into AT or JJ, good timing. Rio del Lago is good for the first one too, logistically and terrain.

Team Ragan said...

thanks a bunch, this was totally helpful. u mentioned some things i would never have thought of, especially some ways you communicate with the runner. i really appreciate it!

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