I love my sleep. But how can you sleep at a 100 mile trail race when your friends are out there running through the night and coming in to the aid station where you're hanging out? At this past weekends Rocky Raccoon 50 and 100 miler I hung out with our great group, the rockhoppers, while waiting for Amanda Alvarado to come in at mile 80 and pace her to the finish on her first 100 mile run. I felt I needed to rest to be alert for my runner.
I was able to catch a few Z's on a cot next to the transition tent set up by Jeanie and Rich who are so nice to provide support for all in our group. Sleeping outdoors on a damp cold night was not too comfortable until Lalo, Amanda's husband, brought a sleeping bag and pillow for me. At 12:30 AM Lalo wakes me up. We expected Amanda very soon. She came in just shy of 3 AM. Her previous pacer Patty pulled me aside and filled me in on Amanda's condition. With concern in her voice, Patty asked me to watch Amanda closely and to take good care of her.
We left the aid station for Amanda's last 20 mile loop. It was dark, muddy,damp,and cold. The night before and through the morning, including the start of the race, it poured as thunderstorms roared over the piney woods of east Texas. Amanda was now walking more than running. I tried to keep her moving and occasionally got her to trot.
It is a fine line you must walk, pacing someone in an ultra Marathon. You must keep your runner moving while keeping their spirits up when they are hurting and/or questioning themselves and trying not to hurt them emotionally. MY runner was doing great! And I tried to keep telling her that. She walked some, ran at times, and shuffled her feet at other times, But we kept moving towards her goal. Since I have not known her for very long, I really enjoyed telling her many of my stories. Stories I know I've told a million times. Sometimes more than twice to many of my friends.
Many things occur on a 100 mile run. Runners, at mile 80, do or say things they otherwise would not in the company of others. My runner pointed out that because of this, we now are best of friends. Best friends keep "special" moments between themselves. I recalled experiences pacing others and those times others paced me.
I have witnessed many physical and emotional highs and lows. I saw some pacing Amanda. I enjoyed every minute on the trail with her and was so happy as we were near the finish. She recognized the last turn onto the trail to the finish line and began to sprint screaming with excitement. We passed other runners. One with two people by his side saying "great job" and another saying to his pacer, "I Can't run"
Amanda reached the finish line smiling, jumping for joy, and basking in the congratulatory tone of all around her as she described her run.
The "I can't run" guy crossed the finish line and broke down crying. He was quickly embraced by no less than 4 of his supporters. I can only imagine what was going through his mind.
Running and completing a 100 mile trail run can not be described fully. You must run one. Or go out and support one, crewing or pacing.