Monday, April 13, 2009

Pacing the Pacer

That's pretty much what Valeria (the runner) was doing for me (the pacer) during the last 15 miles of her 100K!

The inaugural Zumbro 100 was a major success. Thanks to Larry, Colleen, their family, the volunteers, spectators and of course, the runners, it went down as a weekend to remember. Even the weather cooperated - quite the change from this same weekend at Chippewa last year!

Val picked me up Friday afternoon and we set off for Thielman. I'd been down there twice last year - for the early April fat-ass to run on the snow packed trails and then in June to run on the muddy trails. So I was really looking forward to seeing what the trails would be like given the recent dry weather.

And we were not to be disappointed. We arrived around 6pm, got the tent set-up and caught up with other 100K runners, 100M pacers, crew etc - hearing good reports on trail conditions and on the race in general. The 100 milers had started out at 8am that morning and for the most part things were going well.

Val slept (sort of) for a few hours while I hung out at the bonfire. Several others showed up as the midnight start drew closer - Maria, Matt, Kim and others I had not met before but some I knew from the blogosphere. The temperatures were dropping but the moon was rising which made for a picture perfect start. As Larry was giving the pre-race briefing, 100M runners were coming from either side - the 5+ mile loop in one direction and the remaining ~15 mile loop in the other. The 100K runners started out with a mile out and back to get that out of way before 3 full loops.

I hit the sack a few minutes after seeing them pass back through the start/finish area, setting the alarm for 4:45am. I was planning to run with Val from mile 22. It turned out she got done with the first loop just as I was beginning to stir so she continued to the short loop and I caught her on the way back through the start/finish area (mile ~28) just after 6am. She was in good spirits and we chatted easily for the next several miles. I could tell she was tired from lack of sleep and her knee had started to bother her, but she was making great progress.

We passed Scott between the 2nd AS on his last loop - he was moving pretty slow so Val suggested I offer to pace him which I did but he said he was doing ok and wanted some time alone. Knowing what a strong runner he is having enjoyed his company for several miles at Sawtooth I continued on with Val.

The 6 mile section between the AS on the loop started to take it's toll on both of us - Val with good reason - but me - I couldn't figure out what was going on with my leg. I've been experiencing some numbness in the sole of my right foot since Terrapin but hadn't really thought about it much as it only bothered me slightly when running. However, it was definitely spreading and my foot soon felt heavy and dead, and then my calf started to ache. Once we passed back though the start/finish area and to the relatively flat 5 mile loop I had to stop several times to stretch it. Running fast to catch back up with Val actually felt good. But that's not exactly how you pace someone! I also managed to lose my runner during one of these catch-ups - Val had taken a wrong turn and I went by as she was making her way back to the trail - so I ended up back at the start/finish area without her - to much laughter from those gathered there! A few minutes later we made it back together and got ready for the last 15 mile push.

I was a bit worried about how Val was doing - while her knees were bothering her less, her turnover had slowed a good bit on the flat section so I was thinking the hills would be tough. Not so! We took off from the start/finish and literally within yards she was running stronger than at any point while we'd been together. John also caught up with us along here as he started out on a recovery run from hill repeats the previous day. John's normal recovery pace is probably well above what we were doing but he decided to stick with us anyway. I had to stop several times along here to stretch my leg so I was glad he was there to run with Val as she was keeping a seriously good pace for the last miles of a 100K. Not only was she running the flats and downhills with no problems - she hardly walked any of the uphills in the final 10 miles! Seriously impressive.

We rolled into the final AS and Val zipped right through it and up the hill for the final push. She didn't let up the pace at all through this section and reached the finish line in a strong 14:43 for her first 100K trail finish.

Congrats to all who participated in the event. It was one tough course - and get this - next year Larry plans to make it even tougher - no 'sissy' flat section for the first 5 miles!

Key Rules of Pacing

Do offer massage at every AS...*

Don't arrive at the AS sans runner...**

* Jen Pierce Photo
** Londell Pease Photo


Matthew Patten said...

It was quite easy to get off course out there.

Bill, my pacer, on the final lap was trying to get me to focus on catching up to the guys ahead. I kept saying "I am more worried about Val and John behind me"

You were not far behind.

My body is somewhat okay, but my sleep is really out of whack.

It was great seeing everybody down there.

Londell said...

Did you know there is the picture of you holding the empty beer can... not sure if I put it out there but it made me smile (recall, you were picking up trash while you ran... It was fun and Val sure looked strong... Nice to see you both.

SteveQ said...

Oh, to have been there when you arrived without Val! That's priceless.

The calf pain is just from trying to compensate for what sounds like a minor peripheral neuropathy in the foot. If you develop "drop foot", where you can't dorsiflex, you can't run trails at all - it takes a long time of rest to recover, so take it easy.

Kel said...

I'd love to run that course again about mid-October when the fall colors are peaking.

You coming in to the AS asking if we'd seen Val was priceless (I've got pictures of you sans runner and then coming in with her after you went back to find her).

Scott Mark said...

It's so fun to recognize people from Superior in all these photos! I didn't know her name, but met Val at the Sawbill aid station last Fall. She came in strong but panting and when I asked her race number, she answered in Spanish. We had a nice little chat in Spanish before I sent her off - she looked strong in that race too.

Good times at these races!

Zach said...

Great report. I'm scared to think of what Larry has in store for next year, not to mention the fact that the weather leading up to and on race day is only going to be this nice about once every 10 years. I might count my blessings and volunteer next year :)

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