Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"Great" Pacer I am not...


I have a friend I met last summer who means a lot to me!  I mean a WHOLE lot!!  Her family has done so much for me and my family when my life was really pretty bleak this past winter.  I owe her so so much.

A couple weeks ago when I ran the Colorado Half marathon and found myself ridiculously tired for a solid week after, I knew I would be an idiot to try to run the full Colfax Marathon this past weekend with no solid marathon training in my tank (like that's stopped me in the past :) ).  Even treated as a slow training run, as I originally intended to do, it wasn't worth it for me to suffer through the last 10 miles in a death march shuffle then take many weeks recovering.  I have too much on my plate to let a really crappy marathon ruin many weeks of future training.

At one time in my life (you know, before that *#$# heel fiasco), I was fit enough to throw myself into a marathon with a little tweak here and there, just to use as training; and if run slow enough, I'd always come out on the other side A-okay.  As much as I wish I am currently at that point with my running and my conditioning, I'm not.  Whaaaa!  

So when my friend, Janet, mentioned a few times how much she wanted to run a sub-2 hour half marathon (her current PR was a 2:03:30) but didn't know if she could do it, I knew I had the best thank you gift for her: I'd pace her to that illustrious first sub-2 hour marathon she so desperately seeked.

Well, you know... it all sounded good in theory, as all plans do.  I just ran a half two weeks ago with many minutes to spare to that 2-hour mark, surely I thought I could pull this little task off with ease.  All I needed to do was maintain a 9:09 pace.  Simple!

But simple it wasn't.  I think Janet should have asked for my pacing credentials before she agreed, because I really sucked at my job.

Race morning couldn't have been better race weather.  Seriously gorgeous blue skies and about 50 degrees.   We arrived early, like 5am early (for a 6am half marathon start...a bit overkill if you ask me, but surprisingly no one bothered to).  We did all the pre-race necessities, lined up in our corral, and off we go.

We didn't bother with a lot of small talk, I'm not good at multitasking the run/talk thing; the silence of good company around me is golden however.  I was so happy to be here.  Doing this with her.

Mistake 1:  I set my watch's 3 data fields to: 1) pace, 2) average pace, 3) time.  This was stupid.  I was going mental within the first mile not knowing exactly what our distance was.

I had a mission to know what my pace was at every mile, and I couldn't tell where I was.

I thought about changing one of the fields en route, but my wiser side (aka: less used side) thought stumbling with my watch while trying to maintain a pace and not trip or drop my watch in a sea of 5000 runners behind me was probably not a good idea.  My watch was set to auto lap so this would have to do.

Mistake 2: I knew I needed to bank some time at the start, in case things started to take a nose dive towards the end, but I may have started us off a bit too fast (hum....me?  Too fast at the start?).

The first 6 miles are run along "colorful" Colfax Street.  Colfax is known for its vast array of ethnic restaurants, neon signed pawn shops, drug lords, and oh yeah.... prostitutes.  NICE!  Colfax Street was also really one long gradual 6 mile long incline which really added to the fun street decor.  But I was so busy looking at my watch, I missed out on a lot of the street's kaleidoscopic scenes.


Mistake 3: I was so fixated on that damn pace, I forgot to hydrate.  Whoops.


We finally get off of Colfax and wander around some of the neighborhoods and find our way to about mile 7.5 where we run through a fire station.  I mean, we run through the actual fire station.  As in run in one end and out the other.



All the firemen were standing along the side and high-fiving runners.  It was actually pretty cool and Janet was smiling (and thus not telling me her quads were sore and she was tired from our fast early miles pace) so I tried to just take it all in and momentarily stop obsessing with the watch.

But when we got back into our race pace preoccupation, I saw our once 8:56 overall pace slipped to a 9:01 .... and worse, I started to feel really icky.

As in I wanted to stop and walk and vomit and quit icky (see above: mistake #3).

But I couldn't stop.  I couldn't do that to her.  I absolutely couldn't, it was not allowed!!!   I started drinking more water and at mile 9,  I remembered Janet was carrying a gel of mine I brought and I downed that, despite knowing I had a 50/50 chance of having a major colon blow down the road due to the gel.  But with only 4 miles left, chances were good I'd made it to the end without an incident :).  Within a half mile, I started to miraculously feel much better!  The scenery changed to affluent tree-lined neighborhoods and I resumed concentration on the task at hand: don't fail!





Mistake 4:  This was the biggest.  I was so concerned with the little "overall pace" displayed and feeling pretty damn good this magical number was getting me out of doing a lot of mental math.....but I didn't take into account that the course was long.  It registered in my head it was long because my watch was beeping "lap" long before we hit the mile markers, but I wasn't logically computing how this issue was going to make our time longer and thus that little 9:01 displayed across my watch really didn't mean anything at all.  Crap.

Around mile 11, a woman came up on us who had a 2-hour bib pinned on her back.  Janet wanted to know if she was the 2-hour pacer; but she wasn't.  The pacer dude was carrying a pink neon sign, which I had spotted at the start line, and I was about 98% sure he hadn't passed us....so I knew (ish) we were still good.

The last two miles seemed to drag on for eternity, as they always do.  There must be some sort of law about this: sign this wavier knowing that the last two miles in any half marathon will suck.  They will seem twice as long as they are; they will hurt; your legs will be filled with lead; and you will hate every single second.  Sign here please:______  I looked at my watch a least a hundred times and each time I did so Janet would ask me if we were "okay".  I was reassuring, always.  But secretly I was starting to get a little nervous.  What if this course grew longer by each mile, as they tend to do.  If so, we're so screwed.

We were so close.  One bad move and it was over.

The last mile Janet started to slow down so instead of running along side of her, as I had been, I moved slightly in front of her so she could keep me in sight and not fall back.  Our last mile was the slowest, but not drastically and as we passed the 12-mile marker and time clicked, I knew she could do it.

Janet has a wickedly strong kick.  She's a sprinter, by nature, and that sprinter inside her wanted to take off when we could see the finish line.  She wanted me to go with her, but I had nothing left and I told her she had to go.  And go she did.

1:58:57

Her smile says it all!!!

Thanks to her and her family's generosity, there is now gainful employment in our family; my son helps her daughter with trumpet lessons; and I found an occasional running partner and more importantly, someone I call a friend.  I don't have a lot of those, really...not enough locally anyway.

I'd gladly sacrifice a few minutes of a finish line time occasionally for the gift of learning, stumbling, encouragement and laughter to help someone reach their long-time goals.  I'm happier for her finish than I have was of my finishes this year.  That's a true statement!

I'm just not putting great race pacer down on my resume quite yet, but the job got done.

And I am smiling.  And Janet's still beaming.  There is nothing quit like being a part of someone you care about's sheer delight.

No race for me this weekend, if you can believe that.  Twin #1 is running a 25k trail race in the mountains so we are brewing a little road trip away for a few days, but I am not racing it myself.  I just want a race break.  I can't wait to share our adventure with you, though.

Until then....

Run Strong!

56 comments:

abbi said...

You still helped her get that sub-2 so I wouldn't call your pacing efforts a failure...looks successful to me! :)

Kandi said...

It's fun to run with friends. Glad you were able to come through on the sub-2! If you ever want more practice, I am in need of a sub-2. I know I can do it but it just hasn't worked out for me so far.

Emz said...

soooooooooooooooooo
freaking
awesome!!!!
Sub 2!!!!

I love this.

I LOVE that photo with the fire fighters! AWESOME!

Tara said...

Haha! Thank god for no colon blow from the gel! And congrats to your friend Kathy, nice job on her first half marathon!

You are right, her smile says it all and that is exactly why I am still "racing" the races even though I can't do much right now. Seeing someone smile at their accomplishment is absolutely priceless.

I think we must have put our race reports up at the same time because your post came up on my blog right after I posted. Love ya girlie, miss you, we need swim time (or nacho time) soon!

Andy said...

Thank you for a great account of your efforts with / for your friend. So good that the race came good at the end. A post that really put a smile on my face this evening :-)

2 Slow 4 Boston said...

Probably good to be a better friend than a pacer. Having 3 data fields on a screen isn't enough. You didn't mention switching screens, but the Garmins that I know of have like 3 or 4 screens to toggle between, so 3 x 4 = 12 fields to look at. (Still not enough for my liking)

I felt the drama of the morning. Glad you were able to make it under 2 hours with time to spare. Guess you're not that bad of pacer.

A 6:00a start time? Holy Hell. Who thought that one up? I guess they wanted most runners done by 9:00.

bobbie said...

Great Job "Pacer"! I am a terrible pacer even for just myself!

Generation X (Slomohusky) said...

fun, the third Colfax Marathon race report I have read this morning. Sounds fun. Do the pro's and drugies work the street during the race? ;) some day i need to find a race out there and join all of ya. keep kickin!

Shawn said...

Way to stick it out....that is why we do this stuff...that little high at the end.

Terzah said...

You know you're in a sick sad place when hearing about prostitutes and a 6-mile incline make you wish you had been on a course, too!

I think you were a very successful pacer (as well as a good friend), given her awesome final time. I can't wait to hear about the adventure in the mountains too. I'm coming to appreciate spectating races--I did it again w/ the husband last night (it was HOT--for once I was glad I was hanging out on the docks with the kids instead of running).

Kathy said...

You are the BOMB!!! I love this report - WOOT WOOT!!! Nothing like running for a cause to force you to push through almost barfing!!

BTW - I'm volunteering for Mt Evans - got a few friends running it. I'll be at the top laughing my a$$ off at you circus freaks (and probably complaining about being cold). I'll also be running Slacker (never miss it).

K

Teamarcia said...

Hey sub 2 is sub 2. Who cares how you did it, you got her there. It was Janet right? Tara said Kathy. I'm too lazy to go back to the post and check.
Enjoy the long weekend! xo

Julie said...

Sounds to me like your a great pacer! And as usual your posts make me laugh all the way through. Between you Tara and your race reports today I've had a very entertaining lunch hour!

bobbi said...

It would only have been a fail if you hadn't accomplished the goal. But you did! So i say WIN!!! Great job!

Jen@runfortheboys said...

This is awesome. What a great friend AND pacer you are! I can only imagine how happy she was to break through that 2 hour mark....and I can only hope to work hard enough that one day I will too! You are a trooper!

hiker mom said...

Sounds like you did a great job to me! She made her goal time and you helped her cross the finish line! Great job to both of you:)

SupermomE12 said...

After reading this post, all I can think about is how much I want Ethiopian food. :) We have four kids from ET and LOVE Ethiopian restaurants. :)

I think you did a great job as a pacer!! And how awesome to have such a good friend. You are both lucky!!

Enjoy the adventure this weekend! Can't wait to hear about it.
Hugs!

Christie said...

Sub 2... SUCCESS :) You are a racin' maniac! Love all of your race reports. I wish I could join you in CO sometime!

pensive pumpkin said...

wah!!! i wanna run through a fire station!!!

Char said...

You had me hanging off every word of this post. Were you going to make the time?? Well done.

Christy MyDirtRoadAnthem said...

Nice job! I would have been nervous trying to pace someone too! I love that you ran through a fire station!

Betsy said...

Loved the pics. I was out there running the half. But I'm with you...if the out section was a long gradual uphill why did the return route feel like crap?!? I fell apart at about mile 7.5 too. It was kind eery reading your race report as our times were almost identical and we felt the same!

Congrats to your friend tho!

Jennifer said...

Cool! You got to run through a fire station!

ajh said...

You did it! Doubts and all you helped your friend! Awesome. I love ten milers as yes the last 3 in my case miles of a half stink! And I am doing a 10 miler soon! Guess where? The Garden of the Gods. Woot Woot!

Are you there? It is going to be a quick trip but a great one!

brg said...

nice work getting your friend to a sub 2! I'm sure she was super stoked!!! GREAT job!!!

C2Iowa said...

The picture of you two says it all!

Heather said...

Looks like you did a pretty good job pacing to me! What a great finish pictures, says it all. :) Whenever we visit my brother in Denver, he tells us not to drive on Colfax during our little adventures. :)

Mike said...

Being a pacer sounds stressful! What an awesome thing to do for a friend. Glad you and your friend made it!

XLMIC said...

I'm not really understanding how you are a lousy pacer...you got her in under 2. #winning as a pacer in my book :)

Kate said...

Oh, Jill! It sounds like you did a great job. Just too hard on yourself for not being perfect...girl, you need to hang with me and see just how good you are. :)

Awesome sub-2 on a long course! Woo hoo!

Johann said...

Great job Jill...even though you made it a bit harder.:) Your experience pulled this through and it is great! I'm quite good at pacing but that's because I do it without a Garmin or other fancy thing. I'm just a start-stop watch guy and it makes it more simple...for my slow pace brain. Friends are so important and I must admit I have more virtual good friends than real ones...sad I suppose but I'm happy. I'm keen to hear about the 25k trail race. All the best to your son!

Jamoosh said...

You met the goal, so you are not a total failure. Pacing is almost an art and it takes plenty of experience. It's not just about numbers, but also motivation and being a good psychologist.

Tasha @Healthy Diva said...

Jill you didn't fail because you ran a sub 2:00 which is great! I don't think I could ever pace anyone, I already know that I would be awful at it.

Happy Runner Girl said...

That was a great story!!! You did great job I think! I love the last 2 mile law :)
Are you doing the slacker in June?

Christi said...

Congrats to the both of you! You did a great job Jill. Will you pace me to a sub-two?

Fyi, I miss you lots. Wanna meet up soon?

Julie Arts said...

I chuckle.
You cracked me up with this one, Jill.

What a great friend you are - and I'm guessing a great pacer in training ;-)

Liz said...

You paced perfectly! Well under 2 hours! I love the idea of pacing someone one day, I just have to persuade my husband or a friend to do a race...

Jason said...

I am missing all the mistakes here seeing as she went sub-2 and broke her PR by 4 minutes......c'mon lady give yourself some credit.

You had a job to do and you did it.

Congrats to you and to Janet.

Deb said...

I bet she thinks you did great! And, it had the desired result. :)

Being a pacer is a big responsibility. I don't know if I could do it yet.

funderson said...

Aw...this is such a nice story. Your love for your friend is so apparent. Dig it. Also, SO SO true about the last 2 miles. Why...why do they suck so bad? Excited for your new ADVENTURE! Leave your watch at home...we don't need no stinking watches.

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Running through the fire station is just freaking cool

Coy Martinez said...

I thought this was gonna take a bad turn at some point but it actually kept getting better!!! You ARE a great pacer!! You should of had balloons on a stick!! :) I think you did a great job and you guys made it with time to spare!! Congrats!!! Plus, you got to share it with a person who means a lot to you!

Julie D. said...

oh my word, you had me nervous for awhile!!! You got it done, and I call that a SUCCESS despite the mistakes. I think pacing somebody would stress me out. You held it together, Jill. Nice job. Had to laugh about the colon blow out with 4 miles to go...I would have been panicking about that too...So glad it didn't go bad! :) Congrats to both of you. Good friends are few and far between.

Robin said...

Wow you did great! Congratulations to both of you.

Tricia said...

Well you got her in under her goal so well done! I think pacing someone else would be scary but I can barely pace myself.

Good luck to Twin #1 this weekend.

Chicken said...

See you in San Diego!!

Jenny @ The Little J-Bird said...

You're the coolest!! What a great way to help a friend!
Running through the fire station might be the neatest thing ever!
Great job & good luck to Twin #1! :)

Brian said...

Sounds like good pacing to me and a fun race, too!

Petraruns said...

Girl you are SO hard on yourself. She wanted sub 2, you got her sub 2! Come and pace me anytime!

lindsay said...

you make it sound like it was the worst race ever. drama queen ;)

congrats to your friend on her sub-2! just don't go offering to take her for any of your "trail runs". i can see it now "oh come on, it's just a little run up pike's peak, no biggie!" :-p

Bubble Boy said...

You look like a pretty good pacer to me. I(and a pretty pacer too).

Anne said...

Your post title is oh so wrong. You are indeed a great pacer.

Black Knight said...

You are a great runner and a great pacer! Congrats to both of you.
Good luck to Twin1!
The start at 06.00 a.m. is unknown here; in Italy the weather permits to run in better hours.

Adrienne said...

Um, I agree with everyone else on there-where's the failure in all this??! Sounds like you had a sprinting success (Go Ms. Janet!) and a tour of some very colorful areas to boot:)

Just think, next time you pace, you have all kinds of new things to implement.

Congrats girls, good work!

'Coach A'

On the Right Track said...

"great" is a very misunderstood word...you were there, and you kept her going...just like she did for you it sounds a while back...I think "blessed" is a better word to describe what you did for her and what you have in your life!

you are a very unique individual...and there for everybody, at least in the blogging world that I have
n oticed!
What comes around, goes around my friend...Yes, that pic at the end says it all!

mighty termitey said...

you're a good friend. :-) wonderful story, chica. xo