This weekend I will be pacing my friend Amanda from mile 80 to the finish at the Rocky Raccoon 100 in Huntsville,TX. I feel very fortunate to have been asked to pace her. I know we'll have a great time reaching her goal to complete her first 100 miler.
Pacing a friend in a race is very rewarding. To me, it can also be a little nerve racking. Only because I put pressure on myself to make sure I am prepared and can keep my runner entertained and motivated. I can honestly say my best race running memory is when I paced my friend Liza at the Leadville 100 in 2010. Leadville was one race I always wanted to be at. I was very nervous the week leading up to that race. As it turned out, I had a wonderful time with Liza at Leadville, Even though She snapped at me (never in anger) a couple of times. And That's OK! She offered apologies, but I assured her, no need to. It's expected. As a pacer you need to take it all and still keep in mind that your job is to get your runner moving towards their goal, and knowing it's not personal. It made me feel more like a close friend too (and quiet moments are not uncomfortable among friends). Also, these flare ups make for a good conversation topic on a group run.
I have great memories of my pacers helping me complete races. Memories that live forever in my mind. Memories of Cactus Rose 100 every time I run at Bandera. Marissa having flashlight trouble, Liza pointing out the constellations and taping my feet, Kelli ever so cheerful, and Kelley's none stop banter as she pushed me up Lucky peak at mile 97.
Then there's John at Bandera 100K last year. My legs felt dead when he picked me up. I didn't want to run any more. John tried to get me running. He persisted and I rejected. He kept it up but was a little easier on me as time went on, sensing I needed time to emerge from a bad patch. I've never told him, but I wanted him to leave me alone. Go away! He did keep me alert and kept reminding me to take in fuel. It took some time, and quiet moments, but I came around appreciating what John was doing for me. I began running again and finished strong setting a 100K PR.
There are many ups and downs in trail races. As a pacer you need to realize this and keep your runner engaged. Reminding them to take in fuel, expect the fact that they may not always seem pleasant, and consider yourself privileged to be helping a fellow runner and friend accomplish their goal.
I'm looking forward to creating lasting memories with Amanda at Rocky.