My first time pacing in a 100-miler at the San Diego 100 and it was a great, great experience. This report won't be too detailed as the experience was mostly a blur and I am still sleep-deprived even after a solid 8 hours last night.
My friends Ryan and Rachel decided to run it together for the first half (his 2nd 100, her 1st) and then Lori and I would start pacing from miles 51.3 on. We'd decide as the run wore on whether to continue to run as a foursome or split up into pairs. Lori and I met up in San Diego and then drove about an hour east toward the mountains.
We first caught a glimpse of our pair around the mile 44 mark. We met up with Alan, Rachel's kick ass boyfriend who crewed us from start to finish, and our friend Shacky from San Diego who came to lend a hand. They just got through climbing out of Noble Canyon which sounded like a bear based on their initial reactions. But still - they were still in good spirits for the most part:
Also got word here that my trail buddies Evan and Mieko had dropped. The former came into the start dealing with a painful bout of shingles. I know he was extremely disappointed but kudos to him for even making it to mile 44 under those conditions. It was unclear why exactly Mieko dropped but one look at her slumped in the passenger seat of her pacer's car said it all. They'll be back kicking ass in no time, that I know.
A Krissy Moehl sighting as she paced her friend (photo by Shacky)
Lori and I lingered for a bit after they left before deciding to move on to mile 51.3 where we would officially begin our pacing duties until the finish. It was a beautiful scene over there with a hustling and bustling aid station, anxious pacers ready to get going and a throng of volunteers/cheerleaders waiting to cheer in the weary runners. I knew I had to do my part and make sure I was 100% ready, so I went through my checklist for myself: get food in, wear layers for the evening quickly approaching, use the bathroom, etc.
Getting our runners ready for the 2nd half.
Just after sunset, Ryan and Rachel rolled in and Alan, Lori, Shacky and I spent the next 10-15 getting them ready for the long evening ahead. Finally after we were all sufficiently bundled up and fed, the 4 of us tore through the night with nothing but headlamps and flashlights guiding the way.
Team Sanchez (don't ask) before departing.
These are the parts that I don't recall too clearly as we had the darkness and sleep deprivation to contend with in addition to the distance and climbing. As I recount it, the 4 of us tried sticking together initially but too many variables prevented that from happening. Thankfully, Lori and I predetermined that I'd go with Rachel and she would pair up with Ryan if this happened. But the 4 of us did manage to run together through a couple of aid stations. Rachel was concerned about putting time in the bank to ensure we make the cut-off times so we ran ahead after the 2nd or 3rd one.
Goofing around on the course.
I pretty much ran/walked ahead a couple of yards per her request and would try to take the path of least resistance, pointing out rocks and technical sections with vocal admonishments and by using the beam of my flashlight. Otherwise, I'd check to see that she was taking in a steady stream of nutrition and hydration and just basically kept her company, making small talk as we went along.
Rock stars manning the aid station.
When daylight finally broke, it definitely gave us the mental boost that I'd always heard about. We were clicking along pretty good but by that point, we were positively unstoppable. We made it back to Sunrise (appropriately named, at mile 80.3) after that nearly 30 mile loop, where my journey as pacer began. We finally got to ditch our lights and a few layers which I was very happy to do. Still feeling good, I again led her out and continued on to the next aid station.
Definitely hard to get tired of this.
Fellow Coyotes Kate and Daniel waiting for their runner.
In pain but still managing a smile for the camera.
Coming into the 2nd to last aid station.
This next stretch is when the knee pain that was creeping up on her became too much for her to bear. Running became very painful so we stuck to speed walking for awhile. It was here that we had the pleasure of walking/hiking with the incomparable Monica Schulz for a good stretch. This race was her 99th (!) 100 mile race and we got to hear some good stories before she passed us and continued running. Rachel was suffering pretty good because I knew she wanted so very badly to run, but the screaming knees just wouldn't let that happen anymore. So we just kept marching from aid station to aid station as fast as we could.
Ryan and Lori before passing us around mile 93.
She did awesome though based on the number of runners we ended up passing throughout the night and through part of the morning - especially on the climbs. Rachel's speedwalking left me in the dust many times and there were sections I'd have to break into a run just to stay ahead of her. She went through her share of ups and downs, battling nausea, fatigue and various physical ailments along the way, but never lost her drive and determination. And it was that, more than any prodding I did, that got her to the finish in a great time.
When we were about a half a mile away, I ran ahead of her to the end yelling out to spectators to help me cheer her in, screaming out her name and that it was her first 100 miler. And boy, did the crowd ever let her hear it. I was positively beaming with pride as she jammed home to the finish in tears and letting out an ecstatic yell as she crossed the finish line in a time of 28 hours and 24 minutes to a throng of whooping and hollering from the ultra masses.
A very happy Rachel at the finish. 1st 100 in the books!
At the finish area, I saw Lori and Ryan who crossed the line a little under 20 minutes ahead of us and a bunch of other familiar faces and staples at these events. We hung out for a bit pulling from a celebratory IPA and shooting the shit with others before taking off. We were all elated but dead-tired by then and had a long drive back up to LA to look forward to.
Lori, Rick Gaston, Mark Tanaka and some pasty dude.
Fellow Coyote Katelyn and her support/pace crew finishing it up in style!
Ryan, Shacky, Rachel, Lori and me hanging out at the finish.
The course - what can I say? One of the first things I did after crossing the line was shake the race director's hand (Scott Mills) for impeccably marking this course. Especially at night when most all runners were fatigued and not very coherent. It was challenging yes, especially on the climbs near the end. But it was very beautiful for the most part and had some truly wonderful volunteers, with many helping out through the night. Can't say enough about 'em.
Thanks once again to Alan for being an awesome one-man crew, Rachel for putting up with me for 14-15+ hours, Shacky for lending a hand/taking pics/providing moral support, Old Goat partners & 2 MVPs of Team Sanchez Lori and Ryan, Deidre for volunteering, and everyone else that had a hand in making this experience a truly memorable one. If/when I decide to do 100s, this will no doubt be on my list in 2011.
Thanks for reading...happy trails!