Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Pacing Western States
The words I heard most while pacing, "this sucks." Of course they only came from Tony (aka Joseph D'alessio) once, maybe twice, but I frequently heard them from other runners we were close by. Before I even began pacing, I thought just the walks to the bathroom were painful in the heat and knowing that people were out there running was crazy or better said, insane. The heat makes me want to just crawl up and go to sleep. Then again, I always want to crawl up and sleep. I was so pumped up even before Tony came into Foresthill. In fact after the race started, I couldn't fall back asleep. I had my pacer bib pinned on and shoes laced well before it was necessary. I was more nervous and excited then when I am racing.
The journey of pacing the last 38 miles at Western States is something everyone even slightly interested in the race should do. It is not easy seeing what the runners go through over the last stretch. Part of it scares me from ever doing a race that far and of course a piece of me also craves to have the experience first hand. When I was at the finish and Tony's sister informed me he had gained 12 pounds and that he was getting hooked up to an IV, I seriously thought, ultrarunners are a bit fucked up (and I would include myself in that generalization). Anyone else who just happened to walk up to the finish and see the medical tent full of folks, seeing others hobble in to the finish, etc, would simply be like how the hell is this called fun? It is a little weird. I mean, people admire what their bodies do, but then push them until their bodies basically give out on them. One thing is for sure, if I ever do a 100 mile race, I am making sure I have health insurance.
I really enjoyed pacing. I laughed every time volunteers and other runners encouraged me. In fact coming into the mile 85 aide station, one of the volunteers said, "wow you look amazing." I said, "I am pacing." He replied, "oh, well, you look better than most the pacers." Not quite sure what he meant by that, but he wasn't alone. At least a handful of people thought I was racing. Pacing is a lot like being a doula although I've yet to be confused for the woman in labor. In fact, if I could pace for a living I would. Unfortunately I didn't have a baby to distract Tony with when he finished. In the end, whether someone is having a baby or running a race, it is clear that you can't plan everything and that ultimately you have to be open to whatever unfolds. Easier said than done, I know, but life is unpredictable.
So the best part of pacing at Western States in no particular order:
- Being out on the trails
- Hearing the crickets and water once the sunset
- Being positive and supportive (at least I think I was)
- Running and walking past 9 pm (I am usually in bed by 11 pm, at the very latest)
- Wearing my headlamp longer than I ever have
- Getting to know someone by pacing them for 38 miles
- The river crossing
- Cold water with ice
- Sponge baths
- Seeing beer and almost having some (next time, I'm having it)
- The dirt, dust, and rocks
- The moon
- Being grateful that I hadn't done the 62 miles before
- The orange feet and conversation over the last mile
- Getting a little lost (good thing you have a good sense of direction Tony otherwise we'd be heading back to the start)
- Seeing Tony get to the finish and learning from his experience
- Realizing that I am still not sure if I'll ever do this race and that is ok
- Knowing if I do run this race or another 100 miler, I'll ask Tony and his crew to support me (they are all really great and amazing people)