Saturday, October 17, 2009

My Turn to Pace

Two weekends ago, if you read the blog, my incredibly gifted outdoor gear writer friend, Sarah, of Marathon Moms, paced me the last two miles of Portland and had her friend pace me the previous 3. Okay, I should revise that to say that Sarah did not really "pace" me as I was no where even close to running an 8:45 min/mile by mile 24 when she jumped in and relieved Ellison, even though that was her official job title. I've never had anyone pace me before (though let me give credit here where credit is due: my dear, DEAR friend Randy, whom lives in Dallas and I've know since my freshman year in college, has planted himself at various points along the course of the Dallas White Rock marathon each of the 3 times I've run it. He ran with me a bit here and there and see how I'm doing, offer whatever assistance I may need. He's awesome! But he's never run more than a half mile or so with me) since I really don't enjoy conversations lasting more than 3 1/2 seconds when I physically hurt so much, I wasn't sure how I was going to fare with this pacing thing of Sarah and Ellison. Quite frankly, I was pretty nervous about it. These woman didn't know me and didn't know my mannerisms, or lack thereof, and I was afraid they were going to think me some wack-o woman. Especially since we met the night before for dinner and I was starting to get really nervous - nothing like trying to impress a couple of amazingly smart women when you're stomach is doing somersaults and all you really are focusing on is getting your mind de-tangled for tomorrow's run.

Nevertheless, all worked out well with the pacing thing in Portland. Ellison, with eagle eyes, found me at exactly mile 21, even though I was clustered within a large group of 3:45 Boston qualifier hopefuls. By this time, I was starting to falter and the first thing I told her when she asked me how I was doing was: I'm quickly tiring. She offered a few words of encouragement and then she just ran. No lots of questions, no yelling at me to pick up the pace; I did my thing and she just ran beside me. At one point, she asked me if she should talk about something. I was so beyond any sort of "zone" by now - you know, that happy place your legs and mind unite and you feel like you're just floating out there and every part of the marathon is going well. I lost that zone once I got over the bridge at mile 19 and I tried to get back into it but just never quite could; I had lost so much ground on that damn bridge and suddenly my zone was overtaken with "time" and how much I had lost and how I had to quickly get the legs to turnover faster. This is never a good place for me to land; when a finish line time starts to consume every second of my mind, it overtakes me and sets me up to fail - quickly! So the diversion of Ellison's story of her marathon and making it to Boston was welcomed; I enjoyed listening to something other than the bad words formulating in my head telling me I was overly tired and trying to tell me that walking would be a better alternative than trying to run this thing. I hate those voices! I generally try to drown them out by blaring my iPod as loud as it will possibly go with an upbeat sappy song my daughter would deem "lame." It doesn't always work - the mind being ever so powerful!

But by the time Sarah found me at mile 24, I couldn't sustain anywhere even close to a so-called pace and was relieved when she started talking to me about the areas we were entering at each turn, about her husband and kids exiting Mass that morning and how she ran into them after her rowing match, and about her first marathon in San Francisco and how it was disappointing for her. It's amazing to me, now that I look back, that she could tell so many stories in our brief 2.2 miles (2.2??? It honestly felt like 12.2!).

But I love it - having someone out there for me, focusing on nothing but ME. For once, I wasn't doing a thousand things for someone was my turn and they were there to help!

I enjoyed my pace buddies so much that I offered to do the same for my good friend, Jim Clawson, as he runs his first marathon tomorrow at the Denver Marathon. Jim's a pretty private person, he rarely ever talks to anyone about what he's doing but it didn't take long for me to figure out what he was up to: he was doing longer and longer runs that were timed perfectly with Denver and he did this 10-mile race on Labor Day where the courses follows part of the Denver Marathon ... there really aren't many people who run 20+ mile runs just for the fun of it; those runs generally have a purpose behind 'em.

But Jim, being the private person he is and all, didn't seem all that receptive to the idea of me there, thinking it wasn't needed, and I'm not one that's going to force anyone to do anything they aren't comfortable with ... plus, he wasn't being very direct on whether he was doing it (even seeing him running the 'hood on Thursday, he was not committed to running it) but he was coming around and seeing the perks of maybe having me there.

So I'm in! I met at his house last night for a couple hours and we discussed where to meet, what to bring, and of course, got side-tracked by a hundred other things non-marathon related, but I think we covered all our bases for tomorrow and are ready to go and I'm racking my brain about things to talk about in case he gets in that frame of mind where he wants my endless chatter and not the dangerous voices in his head. But I'll be completely honest here - I had a really crappy 11 mile run today and I am more than a wee-bit nervous that I'm not going to be able to haul my sorry ass at his hopeful 8:15 pace! Though this pace is really doable for me in 1-2 mile stretches, or when my legs don't feel like lead still from Portland, but the last stretch I'm doing with him will be about 5-6 miles and well, it MAY be a bit ambitious for me in my current heavy-leaded-legged state. I'm having a few aches and pains, too - mostly the front of my hip, likely the tensor fascia muscle, and my glutes. Trainer-man thinks the hip happened in yoga and that I just strained it. I don't really think it was a direct yoga injury, I think I "strained" it running 26.2 miles in Portland and exacerbated that strain with yoga since my body parts never have really been in those positions before ...I don't know, but it's there and I need to be diligent about stretching the crap outta it. I pray I don't slow Mr. C. down tomorrow. But if that's the case, I'll just pop off to the side and let him do his thing - he doesn't need to hear his daemons speaking to him on top of my wheezing gasps for air. I also think his 14-year old son, Will, will chime in about mile 23 for the tail end to pull his dad in also. A glorious moment, for sure!

Will is the connection how I met the Clawsons some 8 or so years ago when my boys were in grade school together with him. Jane (wife) is a fellow Iowan (Dubuque) and I just love these guys...we've shared many laughs and drinks and good food with them. Jim fought like hell to get me out for martinis after I got home from Boston, the only offer to celebrate my victory. I had so many races and long runs planned that it was late June before it ever panned out - each time we tried before and I couldn't, Jim would say: there is not a weekend where you DON'T have a run planned. Yes, that was true so it was time to find the time. Jane and I drank so many martinis when we finally got together that I vowed to never have a lemon drop martini again and I think dear Janey lost a box of Cheeze-It's the next day. Maybe that's something that one shouldn't blog about ....but we had a blast and I'll always remember their generous and gracious hospitality. Jim's also given me tons of upbeat music for both Boston and Portland playlists, saving me tons of dough by not having to iTune it. There's countless other great things that their friendship has provided over the years so I am deeply honored that I now get to return the favor to him. I even get to get up at 5:15 tomorrow to do so - woohoo! To show my respect, I'm even nervous with my own stomach issues on his behalf!

btw, last year I intended to pace my running partner, Dennis, a bit here and there on the same course. This was ONE week after I ran St. George and Dennis runs about a 7:20ish pace. Enough said. I met Dennis at mile 7, which was uphill, and I was sucking on a lung to get to the top of the hill with any sort of sentence longer than 3 words. But when I met him again at mile 17, his calf had popped and wobbled over to me where I massaged it and applied Icy/Hot. He took off with another friend and I, encouraged, quickly cut across the park to meet him at mile 20. Mile 20 never happened; his calf was so bad and he had to quit. I felt incredibly bad! Here, I just BQ'd and he was aiming for the same and he had this happen. My heart was heavy (but he just BQ'd last weekend - hooray, Dennis!). Anyway, I hope I'm not a jinx as a pacer for the Denver Marathon!!

Also, good luck tomorrow to Emily, a teacher at Smoky running her first marathon Denver and to FB friend, Stephanie, whom I believe is doing the Denver half! Run like hell, girls!

So here's to you, Jim: may you run like the wind, may I not jink any injuries and may my legs and glutes keep up with ya. Thanks for letting me be your pacer tomorrow - I am deeply honored! Jim and I drinking a green beer post-St. Patty's day 7K run in March.


Brian R said...

Great post Jill.I hope to have friends that enjoy running as much as I do.So far my wife runs with me sometimes, but other wise solo.

runningcommentaries said...

I love having a pace buddy at the end of the marathon. I lose my mind a little bit and get so, so tired and it just takes the edge off. But I don't like to talk or have anyone yell at me either!