Oct 22, 2012

Pacing a 24 Hour!!!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to pace a friend, Adam Weber at the St. Pat's 24 Hour trail race. About a month ago I pulled out of this very same event because of lack of training, fractured left big toe, and achillies tendonitis issues. I thought I might as well still take part in the event one way or another.

So, I used social media. (Face Book) to be exact and let Adam know that I would be willing to pace if he needed it. That was about 10 days before the event. I didn't hear back until the night before the race, when I got a message on my Wall asking me if I still was looking to pace. Immediately I said I'm on board. I told him I'd be out at the park (St. Patrick's Park / South Bend, IN) before 8 PM when they allow pacers.

Well, I got antsy and showed up at the park about 12:30 PM to check on things and get an update on how Adam was doing. They were roughly 4 1/2 hours into the race at that point. I spoke to the RD, Sara Miller. And to my delight, she said I could start pacing whenever I felt like it. Nice!!! I hung around a bit and waited for Adam to finish another 3 mile loop. A little history on this loop. I know it like the back of my hand, I've run it so many times. I know where all the roots are, the bad spots, etc. Adam came in and I introduced myself to him. Yes, we'd never met but on Facebook! It didn't matter. We are runners. That is what we do. Immediately I helped fill his bottle, he ate something, and I told him I'd start pacing around 4PM. He was excited. In the mean time, I spoke with a few New Leaf Ultra Runners - Joe Ventura & Joeliezer Ventura, Matt Treter(crewing/pacing) for his wife, Tiffany Treter, Jeremy Eldrige (running the 12HR), Jen Birkner and Rita Tijerina (running the 24HR). And Eric & Leah Harold even showed up to crew/pace. Nice! We had a full house :). I probably met other runners/crew/pacers, so I apologize for leaving you out :).

Jen Birkner (Matt Treter crewing) - At the aidstation

Joe Ventura - At the aidstation

Barn: Staging area. Start/Finish

After a bit I drove back home and gathered up my running stuff needed for the evening. I already had a drop box nearly ready from previous events, so there really wasn't much to do but plan for the weather. At times it looked like rain in the afternoon, but it never came. It stayed pretty much in the 50's, with patches of sun to the evening. And I was off back to the park. Nice that I only live 15 minutes from this place.

I arrived at the park, and before long Adam came strolling down to the start/finish area and we were off. The first thing I asked was how he was doing? Anything can happen in these races. He had already run 8 hours and 42 miles, so I wasn't expecting much other then I'm hurting somewhat. Two things were aching. His quads and his foot. I asked if he had changed shoes yet? He said, no! Well, when we get back round you are going to change shoes/socks. I took charge :). We ran that first 3 mile loop in 30 minutes. Too fast. Time to slow it down. He went into the barn/staging area and I handed his bottle off to a volunteer for a refill. He changed and we were off, chatting away. We'd run, walk, run, walk. Depending on his comfort level. I'd encourage him as much as possible to run. And came through mile 48 in roughly 35 minutes. Good. Slowed it down. His high goal for the day was to get 100 miles in the 24HR's. Doable, but anything can happen in these event.
And I don't care who you are.

Another few loops went by. Adam would go through many ups/downs. One loop he is feeling great. Another not so much. Night was fast approaching, and there was no sight of rain. We finished up another loop around 7:20ish PM and I ran to the barn, grabbed his headlamp while he was refilling (eating), and we walked fast out of the aidstation. The temperature didn't waver much. I know because I hadn't put gloves on yet, and my hands are usually the first to go.

We kept cranking along, talked about many things. As much as Adam may have wanted to take a break around 9-10PM, I kept him going, made sure he drank fluids every mile or so. Word of warning. Just because it is a 3 mile loop doesn't mean you don't need to drink/eat. You do because for some that 3 miles could take an hour or more, depending on how much you are walking. The majority of our loops stayed in the 40-45 min range.

Around Adam's 20th loop or 60 miles, I made sure he drank some Coke and ate something substantial. Pizza was the choice at the time. I slammed half a RedBull and ate some potatoes. And we were off into the dark. The sky was bright with stars and a crescent moon. Every once in awhile we come across another headlamp/runner fighting just like we were to get it done. One loop at a time. We'd gesture or say a hello and push on. With 6 Hour and 12 Hour runners already done for the day, the trail was pretty depleted of runners.

My goal now as 10PM approached was to keep Adam upright, and on trail. Through the next few hours, the leader would pass us at least 3 times that I recall. I believe he finished with 124 miles. For this course that is pretty stout, considering the amount of roots and variation in terrain. And I don't mean hills because there really is only one on the entire course. The course has fields of grass, tree covered sections with so many leaves that you can't tell what's a root/rock/leaf. And a nasty trail section along the river that is loaded with roots at every turn.

We are on our last loop. It is past Midnight. Adam at this point is wavering between taking a nap or pulling from the race. He is at 78 miles with less then hours to go. I am 8 hours into pacing him. We made a decision coming into the aidstation that he would lay/sit down for the first time all day. My job was done. Adam would take a nap, get up and run an addition 7 miles to set a new PR (85 Miles for 24 Hours). Awesome!!!!!

I had a great time!!!!

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05/17/08 - Berryman Trail 50 Mile (Race Report)

My training partner Brett and I signed up for the Berryman Trail races back in late March. I would be running the 50M event while Brett would be running the marathon (his first trail race) or the "fun run" as the website stipulates. I was excited for him and excited for as well as I hadn't run a race since Louisville's Lovin the Hills 50K back in February. I was way under trained for that event, but finished and knew I had alot of work to do come May 17th. Sure, training can be fun, but there comes a point in time when you really need to get back in the game, back where I feel most comfortable and that is racing.

My biggest issue coming into this race was a bout with ITBand irritation in my left leg. It would come and go, but at times it was excruciating following some runs. Come late April I even emailed the RD to ask if it was possible to move down to the marathon distance as I wasn't entirely sure I would be adequately trained come race day. She said that I could once the race starts, but wouldn't be eligible for any awards. So, I completely pulled myself off the road and concentrated solely on training on the trails. In the past when training for ultras I would use a combination of road marathons/trail running. Leaving the pavement behind helped. Even during trail tempos I experienced no problems the following day and was able to bounce back. I was ready for the challenge. From this point on I wouldn't second guess my decision to stay in the 50M race.

Brett and I set off for our destination, Potosi, MO. A small town about 74 miles southwest of St. Louis. Not far from where we'd be racing at the Berryman Campground inside Mark Twain National Forest. This area of the country is quite beautiful and hilly. I did a little research on the course, but one never knows until they actually get out there as to what it’s like. Sometimes it is best not knowing what you are getting yourself into.

Course: Two loops (24.8M per loop) for the 50 mile, 1 for the Marathon, plus a short out and back for each event on a gravel road. There is one crossing of Brazil Creek per loop. The course crosses many other stream beds that may or may not have water in them depending on recent rainfall. Aid Stations will be approximately every 4 to 5 miles apart.

After arriving in Potosi we dropped our stuff off at the local Super 8. A great place to stay for the race and cheap$$. Plus, they had a great breakfast buffet. And the fact that it is located only 15-20 minutes from Berryman Campground. So, we headed out to the campground to pick up our race packets and found they were just getting things set up. It was pretty low key, so we gathered our packets and headed back into Potosi for a bite to eat and some rest as the race would be starting at 6:30AM. We did notice however that the temperature was a bit warmer than northern Indiana and they were predicting start temps in the 50s with a high in the lower 80s. That concerned me a little, but what could we do. At least we'd be running under the canopy.

Going in I really had no expectations as far as finishing time for this ultra. Brett said he'd like to run right around 5hrs. Not knowing what the course was like I through a time out there late on Friday evening prior to the race of 9hrs, but "finishing" was what I was really after.

We turned in somewhat early for a 4:00AM wakeup. I slept about as well before a race as I probably ever had. Everything was ready and we headed toward the campground. The day finally arrived. It was a cool morning, but the sun was slowly rising over a ridge. There wouldn't be a cloud in the sky on this day. We arrived at the campground as others were pulling in. Each of us put a drop bag down for the 16 mile mark after crossing Brazil Creek.

After a few late instructions from the RD, Brett and I wished each other luck and we were off on the short out-n-back section on the gravel road. The 50 Milers would cover .4 miles on the road and the marathoners 1.4 miles before heading back into the woods to start the loop. I started right off the front as did two other 50M runners and a few marathoners. I didn't know these two runners, but by the looks of it they were seasoned trail runners. I stayed close behind them from the start as we entered the trail and was right on their heels. The beginning of the trail is made up of rocky/root covered sections. There were a few dry creek beds, but most had water running through them. The cold water felt pretty good, but my goal was to stay as dry as possible. I stayed with the lead runners just before the first aid station at 4.45 miles. They were going a bit faster than I wanted to go this early and my heart rate was telling me to back off. About that time, just before AS#1, another 50M runner came up behind me and passed. I stayed with him as we headed into AS#1. We left as soon as we came in not wasting any time. I was close behind him. Not far from AS#1 he caught his foot on a rock and rolled it pretty good. I asked him if he was alright and told him to walk it off. Don't run on it immediately. This would plague him all day. Most if not all of this section was very runnable aside from navigating the rockier creek areas.

In 3rd place again, a few of the lead marathoners were making their way along the course. I graciously ran to the right side of the single track letting them pass as their day would end way before mine would. Staying with them would be a huge mistake. I would have no part of that. Over this time as I headed into AS#2 and AS#3, I made sure to power walk nearly every hill. I ran some of them, but it made no sense to waste quad strength that I would need late in the race. By this time the 50M runner who had rolled his ankle was behind me once again and I let him pass. He was running all the hills, but was having a heck of time on the downhill portions where I would trade places with him again and again. I was feeling really good. As we headed into AS#3, another marathoner came in as I was leaving. He caught me going out and we ran together, chatting it up. This section to AS#4 at Brazil Creek ended up being more horse trail then single track. Quite muddy at times, but nothing that stopped me from running through and around it. We headed down the rocky section to Brazel Creek at mile 16 on the course. You had no choice but to jump into the cool water and across. I actually didn't mind it. As soon as you get across and run through a bit of sand, the course veers to the right to the aid station at the campground. I grabbed a glass of coke and filled my hand held with half gator”barf”/half water and grabbed a handful of gummy bears. To this point I was eating Sharkey's and Energy Beans from my belt and the occasional GU.

We left AS#4 through a small clearing and out onto the only paved road section on the course. I decided to walk half of it before heading back onto the trail into the woods. Soon after I would catch the marathoner I had run with prior and we chatted awhile. The pace felt comfortable so I went with it. He told me there are days when he'll mountain bike this course and then run it. I could probably do it but when it comes to biking I'm a green horn and would probably hurt myself on this course. From this point on we would run together until he finished. Most of the bigger (long) hills were from 16 miles on until the completion of the first loop. I would continue to power walk the hills as fast as I could while the two runners I was with would run them. Again, after the hill I would catch them shortly after.

We made it into AS#5 (19.5M) and filled up. I chose to stay away from any solid foods. Nothing looked good to me at the time. I was drinking well and popping an S-cap nearly every 1hr-1.5hrs. One of the volunteers told me he'd have ice and popsicles for the 2nd loop. I told him I'd hold him to it and laughed as we headed out toward AS#6. More climbing ensued, but alot of this section was easy running.

We headed into AS#6 greeted by two lovely ladies, filled up quickly and were gone. One more longggg climb remained and then some rollers back to Berryman Campground to end the first loop. I was feeling good as I came through the start/finish area in 3:49. Maybe a little to good as the temperature was rising. Here you had the option of dropping to the marathon distance by running an additional out-n-back if things weren’t going as planned. I filled up quickly and was out of there. Now I was thinking that maybe I had a shot at setting a new PR. Two other runners came in behind me at the end of the loop and quickly caught me. The guy who rolled his ankle early on and another runner I had not seen to this point in the race. I let them both by and stayed close behind the runner hobbling on his ankle. He quickly pulled off to the side as we headed into AS#1 and I wouldn't seem him again until the race was over. The other guy took off down the trail.

From this point on I would run solo the remainder of the race aside from coming up behind a few late marathon runners. I think at the time I was in 4th place. It was getting hotter. Each time I stepped out of the shade on the trail into the sunlight the sun seemed that much warmer. I kept moving forward. Just before Brazil Creek I came upon 5 horses and their riders on the muddier section of the trail. I quickly moved off to the side not wanting to spook them as they went by. I crossed the creek into the Brazil Creek AS and joked with the two girls volunteering, asking them if this was a school project or were they just giving up their Saturday for us. I thanked them and quickly left. Things were still going well. As I excited Brazil Creek and out on to the small road section I chose to walk the entire length of it until reaching the woods and took off once again. More climbing would ensue. To this point I still had my legs and had no problems running without having to grimace in pain because my quads hurt like in past races.

For some reason with like 5-6 miles to go I kept thinking about the lead female catching me. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it is my competitive nature or something. The funny thing is that I didn’t know who it was and didn’t see her all day. I suppose this motivated me a bit to push on harder. I had two more aid stations to go to the finish. With 6:35 on my watch I headed into the 2nd to last AS. Low and behold they had ice and a lime freeze pop. Just like the guy said that he would. I filled up my bottle and walked out of the AS. Man did that freeze pop hit the spot.

Within a quarter of a mile leading into the last aid station I noticed the runner who passed me at the beginning of the 2nd loop was limping. I asked him if he was ok as I went by and told him to walk it off to the next AS. Now I was in position to take 3rd overall and a new PR was within reach. I entered the last AS and quickly exited after a fill up. I knew there was one long climb to go. I knew I would really have to push myself at this point. I wasn’t struggling, but at this point in the race with it being over 80F, I felt depleted. I could feel the salt hanging on my face and arms. I knew the finish was near. After power walking the last climb, I took off only seeing a few late marathon runners ahead on the trail. I exited the woods and across the gravel road and could nearly see the finish area. I picked it up a bit as they rang the cowbells with people cheering me on. It felt good to be done although I would have pushed on had the race been longer. I met Brett at the finish. He had finished his first trail marathon in 5:17. I was happy for him.

Finish: 3rd Overall (8:30:09PR) - (Old 2006 PR: 8:43:55)
1st Place – 7:37
2nd Place – 7:54