Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pacer's Report: 2013 American River 50 Mile Endurance Run

Me, David and Torrey in the Yuba River Canyon
I invited Torrey to submit a report on his experience pacing me the last nine miles at AR50, and he jumped at the opportunity. Torrey is a Nevada County runner who is dabbling with ultra distances and trail racing, having run Steep Ravine Trail Marathon, Lake Chabot 50K and American Canyon 50K so far this year. His report:
Ken has generously invited me to write the pacer's report for his blog. It'll go on my new blog too.
Here are four pertinent facts of the day regarding my duty as pacer:
  • I hadn't ever paced before.
  • I only had a rough idea of what was involved.
  • I am in my first year of running ultra distances.
  • My approach to distance running started off at the far other end of the spectrum from Ken's and there's still a chasm.
    • Bonus facts: It was a gorgeous mild spring day- and I was sober as a schoolboy.
My thought process leading up to the putting on of shoes to run that day was as follows: I'll show up early, watch some runners working hard, drink a couple of beers and BS with Ken's lovely wife and David's family, then do an easy ten mile jog with one or the other of my buddies in the race, followed by hanging out for more post race beers and food.
For better or worse, the first part didn't work out quite that way. I neglected to study the map on my phone like I should have and ended up taking a 45 minute detour through suburbia. Because I was late, I didn't stop for beers. I got to the aid station in the freakin' nick of time, two minutes ahead of Ken and then off we went. There were a few other things I didn't do. I didn't think about the psychology of motivating my runner through exhaustion, injury or unexpected difficulties. I didn't read up on the course or history of AR50. I also didn't talk to my runners pre-race about their goals, strategy, expectations, etc.
I think most of the reason I didn't do my homework was because I was pretty darn sure both my guys would do just fine. Also I assessed that having a pacer for a 50 is a nice perk, but some fifties don't even allow it. The impression I get is when you start running into the night and the following day is when a fresh pair of legs and brain running with you becomes more vitally important.
According to Ken I started things off with all the right questions and concerns. I figured I'd run just a tad bit faster than the pace he was going so he'd be motivated to catch me and see how that worked. Here is where I should explain just how different our styles are with distance running. I don't have a GPS watch. I have an old Timex Ironman and half the time I don't set the chrono at the beginning and most of the time I don't remember to stop it at the end. Side story: Our first race together, where I met Ken and Twirly, was the 'Other Half' marathon in SF. I thought whoa. This guys a pro. He's talking all sorts of words I barely understand about the race we are about to run. I didn't "get" in my pre-race over-caffeinated and excited state, the little timing chip thingie you put on your shoe. I just tossed it. I thought it was swag. So when I finished they didn't record my time, and I only glanced at the clock after a couple of minutes of being done. That's how little I gave a crap about the tech. Ken was sort of aghast when he asked me what my time was and I gave him a rough estimate. I'm competitive, but my approach is total hippie barefoot guy. I ran my first few races in minimus shoes. I don't pay attention to splits or pacing, I start strong and fast and gradually taper down toward a painful finish. This is in stark contrast to Ken. If you read his reports, you know he's in the majority camp- the data junkies. If it's measurable, it gets analyzed and considered and factored in. I'm coming around. But slowly.
So back to the pacing. It went easy. Ken seemed to have a pretty decent amount of wind in his sails. I couldn't talk pace or data with him so I stayed clear on his calorie and water intake. It was hard to measure the water because he wasn't using bottles- I guess I could have checked the weight of his water pack but it didn't occur to me. I was just out for a jog. He seemed to get faster as we came up toward the dam. faster than I probably would have been. It was fun. Pretty too. I was abashed by the cheering onlookers. It's not me, I wanted to say.
I'm pretty sure I'm running it next year. It has two things I really, really like: A point to point course and a single dedicated distance. While I'm thankful for all the multi-distance trail runs offered in Northern California I get thrown off by all the different paces and distances. I don't know who to try to beat. For a guy with no GPS racing other people becomes the fixation. Events like AR50 are my favorite.
I look forward to pacing Ken again, but only if it's a 100k or 100m. Next time I'll have my fancy Garmin watch that talks to NASA satellites, and I'll be ready to chop up the numbers like Billy Beane. Thanks to Ken for asking me for a report. I've learned a lot. And thanks to everyone thats made AR50 happen for twenty plus years. Glad to have caught on. - Torrey

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