Keeping a schedule when your schedule has been CRAZY is so difficult. I’m going to try my best to get up early to get my runs in, but I know that if I choose to sleep in then I’ll find a way to get my runs in later (that’s training for you, right?!?). I also really don’t want to get sick, so I’ll listen to my body and honor it. So let’s dive right into my recap of my pacing for the Run Rabbit Run 100 mile race!
I was contacted about a month ago from a past MS Run The US relay runner asking if I would be interested in pacing someone for the 100 miler and I love to take advantage of opportunities so I said sure (having no idea how many miles I’d commit to or who this person was that I’d be pacing)! I ended up emailing with the runner, Kristen, who was ALSO a past MS Run The US relay alum and I knew I had to help her out. This would be her first 100 mile race and her biggest goal was to just finish (but also shooting for the 30 hour time goal so somewhere between 14-18 min/mile). I thought that I could definitely keep her around her goal pace and knew that pacers were allowed after the 50.7 mile marker (not before), so I offered to pace her during the overnight portion from mile 50.7-70.1 (I knew the trail systems pretty well on Emerald and Spring Creek so running them overnight was scary, but completely terrifying).
I also knew that my biggest challenge if I were ever to do a 100 miler would be the overnight portion, so I wanted to help her along during the darkest hours (despite the fact that it meant that I would have to stay up way past my bedtime ; ) ….). SO fast-forward to race day last Friday!
Kristen’s mom texted me throughout the day letting me know how she was doing and I anticipated meeting up with Kristen sometime between 7:30-9:30pm at Olympian Hall. I kept tracking her online and while the tracker sometimes didn’t seem to work super well, I saw that she was totally rocking it so far (staying in the top 75!). I was so confident that Maybe we’d start before it even got dark out and finish by 1am or so! That sounded perfect. Well, it didn’t exactly go that way.
I’ve never paced anyone (did I mention that yet?), but with my past experience volunteering at the RRR several years in a row and with the relay this year I had a pretty good idea of what a pacers duties were (plus Kristen and I talked on the phone beforehand just getting a general idea of what she would need from me to help her reach her goal). I waited around in my car from 7:30-9:30pm until I finally heard from Kristen’s mom saying that she had left Dry Lake at 8:20 and anticipated it taking her two hours before reaching Olympian Hall (yikes!). I shortly found her family (her support crew!) hanging outside at Olympian at 10pm and heard that Kristen was starting to struggle at Dry Lake (which would explain why the 6.2 miles were anticipated to take her ~30 minutes longer than I would think). She also didn’t have her headlamp or warm clothes yet, so I was worried!
She arrived into Olympian at 10:30pm (first time meeting her in person!) and changed, got her some soup, and then we were off! She was definitely starting to struggle a bit and the entire first 5 miles on Emerald are up hill, so we mostly hiked (saw a porcupine!) and got to know each other a bit. She confessed that she really hadn’t eaten anything most of the day, so I tried to get her to eat some Honey Stinger chews and reminded her to drink water every 15 minutes or so. At this point I knew that it was going to be a long night and just prepared myself. It wasn’t too chilly at this point (maybe 50s?).
Once we arrived at the first check in point at Lane of Pain, Kristen was definitely starting to struggle, but I tried to keep her mental game strong (the best I could do!) and once she refueled a bit we climbed up higher and then made the turn onto Stairway to Heaven and looped back around to the second check in point at Lane of Pain. At this point, she was experiencing a bit of nausea and dizziness so we slowed our pace a bit. I managed to get some more food in her and we were off heading towards the bottom of Emerald for 5.2 miles!
It was a slow descent and she would experience waves of feeling strong (mentally) and then completely down (mentally). It was really hard for me to find a good balance of staying positive, but also understanding (I’m such a positive polly to begin with! plus I still was trying to feel out how far I could push her before she broke…ahhh the wonderful duties of pacers!).
The lights and views of Steamboat below as we descended were so beautiful, I tried to take as many mental pictures as possible. At several points, I definitely heard some animals pretty close by, but I just chose to keep moving forward and to not look (ha - not sure if that is the best tactic or not?!?). Kristen started mentioning that she may be thinking of dropping out when we got to the bottom of Emerald (back at Olympian Hall) because she was pretty frustrated that she couldn’t go any faster and was getting passed quite a bit. I completely understood, but also tried to remind her that her biggest goal was to just finish and that it was dark so that could also account for her slowest miles too. I felt pretty bad that I couldn’t do anymore and just tried to keep a good pace and chat every-so-often with her to get her mind off of the pain (not sure if it was annoying or if it helped?).
With a mile left to go on Emerald, it got SO COLD. There was definitely a major inversion going on and I had taken off my ear warmers and mittens earlier because it was so warm, but we both could not get warm (so glad we both had the extra layers to pop on - they were a lifesaver!). We got back to Olympian Hall sometime around 3:30am. I thought for sure that Kristen may not want to continue on, but after 20 minutes and some soup, cheese and crackers, and coca cola, she was ready to go.
I was feeling pretty good (tired, but not nearly as exhausted as I anticipated) and happy that she wanted to keep going! The next mile or so went by pretty fast (it’s along the Core Trail and then lower Spring Creek), but it got super chilly out (we had to keep moving to stay warm!). After the first 1.5 miles, Kristen started to slow down pretty considerably. She was wanting to take a nap beside the trail (It was so cold and I was really adamant on her to keep moving because I was worried that if she took a nap and got too cold she wouldn’t be able to keep going and then we’d be stuck on the trail) and at some points her sentences were definitely incoherent. I just kept pushing forward at a considerable pace (but close enough to her so she could follow and I could hear her if she stopped at any point).
I tried to get her to eat something with caffeine (which didn’t really seem to help too much) and we just kept putting one foot in front of the other. She definitely started hallucinating a bit, which was pretty scary for me because not knowing her too well I had no idea what I would do if she hit her breaking point. I tried not to think about that and just enjoy the scenery. The sun was starting to come up and I was so thankful that we had made it through the night and also got to experience the upper portion of Spring Creek in the light! The fall colors were spectacular and around 6am, Kristen started making more coherent sentences and I was so relieved. I texted her mom letting her know that it would be around 7am when we’d arrive at Dry Lake (we originally anticipated it being around 6:30ish).
I know at one point, she was very hesitant to keep going after Dry Lake (she would be without a pacer for the next 31 miles until the finish), but to my surprise after 20 minutes at the aid station she was ready! I so badly wanted to keep going with her, but the way the course was this year I would have to do the next 31 miles with her (no other points for crewing or pacing to drop off because it was so remote) and I didn’t think that was in my physical capabilities.
It was so exciting to watch her head off and I kept tracking her throughout the remainder of the day (both excited and nervous - hoping that everything was going OK). She ended up having a small difficulty the last 5 miles of the race but finished 17 minutes under the 36-hour cut-off for her first 100-miler! I am so grateful that I got the opportunity to help her reach her goal and it really challenged me in so many (good) ways! I learned so much about myself in those 8 hours on the trails in the dark and highly recommend anyone thinking of pacing to DO IT! Life-changing experience for sure.
Have you ever paced an ultra? How was it?!?!
Ever ran an ultra?!? How far? What was it like???