Adventures In Running

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Pacing Challenges

I have paced at two races this year since my foot has started to heal. Both have turned out to be very challenging. I have gotten to know a race director (RD) as a result and I really like the guy, but he needs to step up his efforts at race organization if he wants to continue to succeed.

The last Friday in July, my friend, Leslie Petersen agreed to pace the 3:00 group for the Provo Midnight Half Marathon starting at 10 p.m. (Why can't these races start at 9:30 p.m.? It's fairly dark and no one is going to complain about finishing a little earlier). I asked the RD prior to the race why he didn't require headlamps and he said it would be bright enough with moonlight and he couldn't require them. Really? Have you not read the articles about women being attacked on the Provo River Parkway Trail? And we were running at night out to Utah Lake and back? I really wish I had ignored Leslie's wishes and carried my .22 revolver. At least we were together and had good headlamps.

The race started and it was a hot night, so I knew it was going to be a struggle to be on pace. At 3 miles in, we were running with a woman that was having a hard time getting her foot to loosen up. We pondered whether one of us was to stay on the 3:00 pace and one with her, but I had already decided at that point in time we were not leaving a woman to run alone at the back. Running through the trees I was really grateful for the headlamps because that trail has lots of bumps from tree roots and most of the trail is in deep woods with no light leaching through. Shortly after 3 miles, I declared that we had switched from pacing to sweeping because I felt that was the way we needed to go.

A little before the turnaround, I saw another young woman without a headlamp struggling. I told Leslie to go ahead with her new running pal and dropped back with this woman. She had bronchitis and was really struggling, but wanted to finish. I told her I would hang with her. I'm glad I did. There were a few points on the way back when we were startled by noises in the bushes of either large animals or humans. (I was later told that other pacers saw people watching them from the trees – glad I didn't know that then). I started telling the aid station people that they could close down after we passed through. I also started picking up all the glow sticks and throwing them out. Since we were moving slow – it gave me something to do to pass the time.

We didn't finish until about 3:45 (1:45 a.m.) and I spoke with the RD about my concerns. He was grateful for the decisions I had made and admitted that he had underestimated the trail. I did get a free race entry into another race as a result and he contacted me a few days later and asked if I would sweep the Legacy Moonlight Half Marathon in July.

Recommendations: If he does this race again – ALL runners should have to have headlamps or flashlights as a requirement and he should have one to two men on bicycles as protection at the back of the race.

Late night, tired, heat, stomach upset all night. I did count it as good training for ultrarunning during the night.

Three weeks later – the next race came up. I hadn't planned on having a big push at work that same night – so it added a little to the stress. Finished up testing and raced up to Farmington to make sure I didn't miss the last bus.

This time they ran out of bug spray. RD – more bug spray please? Especially if you keep us standing next to a stream/river where the mosquitos like to hang out.

The race started and I jogged along picking up hundreds of glow lights. I had a fanny running pack on and by the first aid station it was overflowing (and glowing) with all the lights I picked up. People were so kind to throw them way off the path and I had to chase them down. RD – another suggestion – some garbage cans the first and second mile for people to toss them in instead of just on the ground.

At mile 2 we came upon a couple that was walking slowly. The woman was in pain and had hurt her foot. I found she wanted to drop out, but didn't know how, so called the RD and he agreed to send a car to the mile 3 aid station and get her. Once the husband was assured I would hang with her, he gave into her encouragement and took off running. Once the aid station was in sight, I ran ahead to let the volunteers know the situation and ran alone until the mile 5 aid station. About mile 5.5 I saw a woman standing by the side of the trail and stopped to talk to her. Her hip had given out with arthritis and she was waiting for someone to pick her up on the road to the dump. I didn't feel comfortable leaving her alone, so waited 15 minutes until her ride arrived. Couldn't get hold of the RD on the phone, so left a message. RD – need to have a way to make sure phone calls go through in the middle of the night.

Another 2 mile run and I caught up to the last two women. One was very nauseous and sick, but wanted to continue on with the race. I hung with them to the end. My headlamp died about then – so I was glad there actually was moonlight. At the mile 9 aid station, I chewed the teenage boys out because there were cups all along the ground. They said there wasn't enough garbage cans and I told them to gather them into piles at a minimum – but they pretty well blew me off. I could tell them hadn't bothered trying to clean up at all.

Cows in the dark can be pretty scary. Just saying? Luckily I didn't run into any skunks, but the women I was with saw one earlier.

Mile 11 aid station was abandoned before we got there. I could see them loading a van a quarter mile away – but no drinks were left – just a big pile of garbage.

About mile 12 – I called in because I knew we needed to turn – but not where. We got back on course for a little while, but got lost. I finally said we would follow the road and come out in the front. I ran the last half mile to let them know where we were and that we were finishing. It was 2:07 when my stragglers finished.

The RD mentioned it had been a rough night. The 5K and 10K were long (significantly long). How hard is it to mark even 1.5 and 3 miles from the finish and put aid stations there? I think he did the turnarounds based on where he could get aid stations and that was problematic. No aid station should have closed down before we passed through and if the people marking the path were leaving – they should have left some kind of signal/marking to show where to turn.

Final suggestion – there should probably be a realistic cutoff time and a method to get runners off the course if they miss that cutoff time. I understand that people pay for a race and want to finish – but they also need to consider the staff and worried family.

Two pacing jobs done for the year. Both a challenge. But lots of training for running after a full days work and when tired.

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