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What a Pacer Shouldn't Do (Javelina Jundred/JJ100 Pace Report 2007, Part II)

The full photo album here

Angie's lessons in what a pacer shouldn't do:
- Offer to pace someone for more than you are trained to handle at the moment
- Tell your runner once you are out there that you are in pain
- Insist your runner take the two pain medication tablets that he has, then tell him that if you don't get any at the next aid station, you won't be able to finish the lap with him
- Show any sign of weakness

Kirk and Jess

As a pacer, you should be strong, allowing your runner to mentally lean on you to help them through that section. You should be talkative, funny, have enough brainpower to tell non-stop stories and enough fitness to not only keep up with your runner, but 'pull' them along as necessary.

Yeah, uh-huh, okay. Too bad I didn't take lessons before I volunteered.

Jess and I slept in Saturday morning. After stopping by Starbucks and Subway to get our coffee and food for the day, we headed up to the trailhead. On the way, we freaked out upon passing an accident scene with multiple police cars, a body lying under a tarp with the person's shoes sticking out from underneath and a mangled bicycle lying nearby. I've searched the news to try and find out what happened, but can't find anything. My thoughts are with the fallen cyclist's family. It was a sobering way to start the day.

Once at the trailhead, we set up in the shade and proceeded to spend the day cheering on runners: Michelle Barton, who came in second place; Jennifer, a runner who belongs to OCTR (Jess's trail running group), who has not completed a 100-mile race but was determined to, who decided to do JJ100 two days before the race and who also had stress fractures in her foot; Steve, who seemed to always be in a good mood and who the few bees on course and at headquarters were attracted to; Hippo, who was dressed in a pink girls outfit, complete with "brat" on his butt; Kirk, the runner Jess and I would be pacing later in the evening, who had DNF'd last year at mile 60; Chuck, a guy I met through my blog who used to live in Tucson but recently moved to Phoenix; and the Tucson runners - Matt, Chris, Wayne.

Hippo and Angie

Chuck fuels up

Steve at some point during the night

Joyce, Chris, Denise

It was nice to catch up with the rest of the Tucson runners' family throughout the day (Hi Joyce!). It was also cute to watch Jess in the throes of new love, giggling and laughing and sending text messages all day long. We talked about Eric Clifton's DNF, about the race between Jorge Pacheco and Andy Jones-Wilkens, about Connie Gardner blowing past Michelle Barton as Michelle struggled with the heat. Steve passed by both Connie and Michelle right after Connie passed, and he told a cute story, complete with facial antics, about the differences between the top two women - Connie with her head down, plowing forward, unaware of anyone else; Michelle with a faint smile and a tired "hi" as he passed.

Connie - the lead woman - gets sunscreen

It was hot out there. I was in the shade and not moving much and still I was sweating. With the washing machine loops and everyone having to run through headquarters, it made a nice spectator course, with there almost always being at least one runner there.

Angie

Jennifer marks off another lap

I made sure to hydrate well throughout the day in preparation for my pacing duties. I also tried to eat well, although I did snag one slice of cheese pizza at about 5 pm. Jess, Mark (Michelle's pacer) and I started talking about how Jennifer, the OCTR runner who was determined to finish a 100-miler, needed a pacer. Jess and Mark said Rob, another OCTR runner (who I met a Zane Grey this year), was planning on coming out to pace Michelle for another lap. Mark said he could take Michelle's second lap, and Rob could run with Jennifer. I also received instructions on how to prep Michelle's water bottle for the next lap, since Mark would be out on the course with her, Jess would be pacing Kirk and Rob would be heading out with Jennifer.

Jennifer

I was nervous - what if I messed up the bottle preparation? What if I didn't recognize Rob? Thankfully, when Rob arrived, I knew who he was immediately. I went over and (re-)introduced myself. He remembered me from Zane Grey. I told him about how he needed to go out with Jennifer. He asked me, "does Michelle know? This is okay??" and I assured him Mark was telling Michelle, and everything should be fine. He raced off to get his gear as Jennifer came into the station. I filled her in on what was happening and then went and sat down. Suddenly, I realized that I could really be screwing things up here. What if I mis-understood Mark? What if Rob wasn't supposed to go out with Jennifer? Was I totally screwing up the second-place woman's strategy? Ack!

Michelle and Mark get ready for lap 6

Rob and Jennifer took off and my stomach started gnawing at me. I sure hope I understood correctly. Mark and Michelle finally entered the aid station. I snagged Mark and told him Rob was out with Jennifer, and he was glad. I double-checked that he was okay heading back out with Michelle, and he was totally fine. Whew. I did do the right thing!

Sunset

Time to head to bed. It was about 8:30 by the time I was in my sleeping bag in Kirk's tent. It took awhile to fall asleep, and my stomach was making noises. Then an alarm went off. Then I needed to pee. Then I heard Kirk and Jess approach, and suddenly an, "oh shit!"

Turns out the pacer Kirk had lined up for lap 5 was not ready for Kirk, instead he was out pacing his wife. Oh shit is right! That meant I needed to get up and get ready ASAP. Thank god I had prepped some of my running stuff before I went to bed, and thank goodness I can get up and ready to run within 10 minutes. I raced through getting ready, and we headed out at 11 pm.

Angie and Kirk get ready for lap 6

My goal: get my runner in with a time of 4:30 for this lap. This meant 90 minutes between aid stations. Make sure he eats and drinks.

I was delighted that I got to go in the clockwise direction; this is the direction I know best, from running Pemberton 50k. I still had the distances between trail junctions memorized, and knew this trail like the back of my hand. I knew when the rocks would come, when downhils would come, how long it'd take me to reach certain landmarks. Good. I could do this.

We set out at a brisk powerwalk over rolling hills. The full moon was bright enough that I didn't need my headlamp, and soon Kirk turned his off. We chatted about how he was feeling, how the day was going. We trotted a few times (trot being our word for running, since we weren't exactly running), then headed up a ridge. This is the rockiest part of the course. I liked looking out ahead and seeing headlamps bobbing in the distance. The desert at night is beautiful. The temperature wavers between cold and warm, depending on whether you are on a ridge or deep in a wash. I offered my clif shot blocks to Kirk, because I could tell he needed to eat more. We saw the crazy fountain of Fountain Hills in the distance (yes, Jess, it does light up at night) at midnight, and realized it was now Sunday morning.

My stomach was upset with me. My digestive system was wanting to rebel. It was asking me why in the world I ate that slice of cheese pizza. Yuck.

We made it to the first aid staion, Coyote Camp, right on target. I snapped a photo of Kirk:

Kirk at mile 72ish

Then a volunteer said, "What about me?!" So here's a photo of Don:

Don - an aid station volunteer

I asked him his name so I could post it on my blog, to which he asked, "What blog?" Onepinkfuzzy."Oh!" came a voice, "You're Angie!" Um, yes, I am. "It's Angie!" The RDs for OP50 were at the aid station and came over - "Angie, will you be able to volunteer at the race again this year?" Well, I'm crewing/pacing a friend. But I can help stuff bags in preparation. "Thank you!!" was the response. We headed out for the next - the longest! - five miles.

I found it was hard for me to keep my mind, my mouth, going. I kept wanting to shut up and move forward. Finally Kirk says to me, "Tell me a story!" I realized it was my job to keep his mind off what he was doing. We had just been passed by the guy in the fairy costume (complete with a wand, I loved it), so I said, "Once upon a time, there was a fairy who loved running." Then I stopped. I couldn't come up with anything more!

Complete with wand!

I wracked my brain to come up with something - anything - I could talk about to keep him going. I started on Ash, and since he has kids, we spent the next five miles discussing children and parenting. That morphed into junior high horror stories, working fast food joints, and the crazy gypsy lifestyle of my late teens/early twenties. My digestive system was still in disagreement with me.

By the time we were about a mile out from the next aid station, my fears about my under-training were coming true. I was in pain. I was really worried about injuring myself. I knew that if I were the runner, I would want to know how my pacer was doing, so I chose to tell Kirk that I wasn't doing well. I asked if he had any ibuprofen, which he did, but he also wasn't feeling well. I told him to take the pills, because it was more important for him to take them and be able to keep going for the 100 miles. I was doing a measly 15.

But that measly 15 was wearing on me. I told him there was a chance I was going to need to send him on, because I wasn't sure I'd be able make it, especially at the pace we needed to get him in. If the next aid station didn't have any pain medication, I wasn't sure I'd be able to make it.

Oh boy, was that the wrong thing to say! I didn't realize how much he was relying on me to help him make it through. I could see it in the slump of his shoulders, in the slowness of his pace. It was like he deflated. Oh shit, that wasn't my point! I felt like smacking my forehead. Duh! I needed to stay strong for my runner!

Rookie mistake.

We made it to Jackass Junction, where I asked if they had any pain meds, which of course, they didn't (legal reasons, I suppose). However, a random person there heard me ask, and gave me two advils. Oh my god, YES! I also had to use the 'throne' - quite literally, a throne. The port-a-john was up on a trailer, making it out to be a throne. Embarassing.

Kirk at Mile 67ish

We set out for the last five miles. These are easy, slightly downhill miles. Kirk decided we could make it down in 1:15. I was a little worried about that. Sure, I got pain meds, but in my condition, I wasn't sure I could - or should - do that.

I decided my runner needed me, and I would buck up and do it. We continued our conversation from before. We had burping contests (two bites of a donut at the last aid station didn't agree with me) - and he clearly won. Mine were wimpy! We called out "Good morning!" cheerily to fellow runners - some of whom got the hilarity in the "good morning" at 3 am, and some of whom wouldn't even grunt in our direction. We took turns as to who was in front. I was silly and allowed my Angie tired silliness out to play, such as joking about the howling coyotes: they were feasting a runner who took a wrong turn!

We got in a lot of good trotting here, and I apologized for scaring him earlier with my "I might need to wimp out" stuff. We made it through the final mile, and ran it in - our time for the loop: 4:24. Right on.

Jess was unable to line up another pacer for Kirk for the next lap. Kirk head out, somewhat dejected. I was worried about him - lap 6, 35 miles to go, early morning when it'll be the coldest, and he was all by himself.

I chowed down on two lukewarm hot dogs, some soup and some oreos, then headed to bed. My stomach was so upset with me that I couldn't really sleep much. Finally, I got up at sunrise and snuggled in my sleeping bag at the finish line, listening to Steve talk about his run, listening to other Bay Area runners talk about their race. This was the first 100-mile race I got to observe in person, and it was interesting to wake up the next day and hear people talk about it, and know that there were people still out on the course.

JJ100 107

Angie is muy tired

Jess joined me, and we discussed when her flight would leave and when we needed to get back to my mom's to pack up. Suddenly, Kirk appeared - a full 30 minutes before I was even going to start expecting him! He was doing great! Only 10 miles to go, and by this time, a gentleman Kirk had met at a previous race was ready to go out with him. Yay! Jess and I wouldn't be able to see him finish, so we told him congratulations on finishing, and cheered him on as he left. (He went on to finish in 29:17, way to go!)

We headed back to my mom's, showered, packed up and napped (oh sweet joy - a real bed), then I took her to the airport and headed home.

At dinner last night with Chris, I talked about how I really feel no need now to run 100 miles. I've seen it done. I know the human body is capable of doing it. And I don't need to make THIS human body do it. Nah, I don't want to. I don't even really want to do a 50-miler! I'm fine with 50ks. Those are doable with my schedule, my life, my desires. I feel no need to prove myself by running even farther, like I've felt before. And I'm fine with that. Not just fine, but happy with that.

Last night, I also got a gym membership! I got a great deal at the gym Chris has a membership, and I'm looking forward to being able to cross-train on bikes, with spinning, with the stair-master (for ZG)!

Today, I need more rest. I'm still recovering from last week, from the exhuasting and sleepless weekend. I'm taking the day off from work. I've got loads and loads of laundry, dishes to do, the house needs to be cleaned. I have errands to run. There's no time in the rest of the week - work is too busy - so I will take the time now to nurture myself and make sure I'm okay.

Comments

Yeah, hmm, valid lessons indeed:) But still sounds like fun! We're buying tickets for OP50 this week - seems to be sale going on. I'll let you know details.

I think you did fine. For your first time pacing, you got your guy in on time.

I agree with Pat. You have to feel good about getting your man in on time. Excellent work, Angie! You can pace me anytime :)

Great report, Angie. Sorry it didn't all go the way you hoped.

Enjoy that gym membership ... now you've got somewhere to go to escape those harsh AZ winters.

I don't think I ever want to pace - too many things could go wrong. I'm the queen of getting lost, I'm too slow, too sensitive to heat and hydration. Those were good lessons you learned, and good that you got him in. Kudos to you for giving it a try!

I want to pace someone someday! Looks like it would be a nice way to try out the course, without having to do the whole thing! Great job, Angie. Are you sore today? Fun report.
Renee

allright! Thank you so much for this post!I was pretty disapointed I couldnt do this race but reading your post made it all better!

Hey Angie - you did just fine for your first time pacing!

It was DANG hot out there too! I knew 3 guys running in this race, and the heat just kicked their butts. I wish I had known you were going to be there - I was up there Friday night!

How did Connie end up doing? She's so fierce. Tough chick!

Sounds like you did the best you could as a pacer. I am sure he was happy to have you for as long as he could!

Looks like fun.

Angie's,
It's been a long while since I've commented, but I wanted to let you know that I still read and enjoy your blog.

You sure didn't make a rookie mistake with your comment about maybe not being able to go on. With lots of pacing experience under my belt, I said the same thing to Mike Mason about 15 miles into 50 miles of pacing at Cascade Crest in 2006. Sometimes you have to share your moment of weakness.. even if you are the pacer. I found a way to turn my weakness into a positive - as I felt like I could continue for various extra stretches and eventually was confident I could go the distance, I'd share that and it gave Mike a boost.

My biggest weakness as a pacer is my (lack of an) ability to tell long one-sided stories. I remember telling Andy J-W late at night/early in the morning at Grand Teton this year something along the lines of "Andy, I've got nothing to say." Fortunately, he was cool with that.... which brings me to the point of pacing a distance or person that you think you are not up to pacing. Well, I offered to pace AJW at Teton a few days he blew the doors of the Vermont 100... I was certainly not ready to pace him and at times during the run felt like he was going to drop me. I held on.

Then again, you can feel like your ready to pace and get dropped by a normally slower runner well within your easy distance range. Sometimes it just isn't the pacer's day. A racer should understand that and either be mentally prepared to go it alone or have a back up plan.

Anyways, I noticed I'm on your bloggers you'd like to meet list. :-) I hope to meet you as well. It looks like that might happen at Old Puebloe if you come crew Olga. An ultrarunning buddy of mine moved to Tucson and convinced me to sign up. Arizona, here I come!

Hey, he didn't tell you he wanted to be left alone or anything like that. So I say you did what you're supposed to do and pulled him through. I think I would have done the same things, rather be open and honest then surprise your runner by bonking in a split second. But then again, I don't have any pacing experience, sounds like a lot of pressure. I enjoyed your recap.

Great report, I felt like I was there. Take care of yourself!

Great report for a fun weekend!

You did great!

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