The Pacer Chronicles: A 180 Degree Turn
At this point, you’ve either read my account of the recent Mark Twain 100, or perhaps simply know that it happened. Shortly after the race, the epicurean and I got together with the rest of our friends that helped crew/pace to share stories and celebrate the group accomplishment. It was wonderful to hear their side of the race, and I began to realize just how much happens during an ultra that I’m simply not aware of because I’m out there running. It makes sense of course. The world certainly didn’t stop while I was out on the trail for 30 hours, and everyone wasn’t quietly sleeping in their tents. However, I think everyone who runs becomes so engrossed in the experience and eventual challenge of putting one foot in front of the other that you simply don’t have time to think about what everyone else is doing. You certainly hear tidbits, but rarely the full story on the perspectives of the crew and pacers who are so important to the ultra experience. I thought it would be fun to get those perspectives directly from my crew members. This is the first installment of Pacer Chronicles, and offers a bit of insight into all of the effort and energy that goes into supporting an ultra-runner during a 100-mile adventure.
First up is Nicole, who was lucky enough to be the first person to pace me, as soon as I finished the first 50 miles. She definitely got two sides of me very quickly!
“Sometimes when I start something, I know exactly what to expect or at least have somewhat of a clear vision of what an experience will be like. When I decided to join the pacing team for Adam’s Mark Twain 100 mile trail adventure, made up of my Speedy Streaker friends, I thought I had a pretty good grasp on what to expect -silliness, craziness, feeling of relaxation, laughter, and a little bit of running. The physical activity aspect is just an added benefit of a day with my running friends.
But I had no concept of what was to come when we loaded into the SUV and started our journey as pacers for Adam in his 100-mile trail conquest. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of moments of laughter and silliness between Lani sporting her “cow costume” as described at Pancake City. Pancakes and just Diet Coke. Or Eric cranking the most inappropriate, hilarious music as he often warned us about the dangers of pitchforks in the woods of Missouri. Luckily we had Carla along to safely drive us through the backwoods, curvy roads. It was probably helpful that we regularly asked for Bill’s help along the way. Bill? And yes, Eric, it is a 9-hour trip to Berryman, and, yes, you have given up your navigation privileges. Enjoying unexpected new experiences are big reasons I say YES when the opportunity arises for road trips and running excursions with my friends.
Not sure anyone could have prepared me for this road trip though. Lani had great insight in asking for advice prior to the trip. Larry Kelly was a wealth of information of the dos and don’ts of ultras like this and provided wonderful direction and tips for success, but until you experience something like this first-hand, you don’t know how you will react.
It started off like any other race. Adam was well-prepared, calm, organized and ready to run when he headed out at 6 a.m. on that cold, Saturday morning. It felt like any other race morning, adrenaline running high and excited to watch a good friend tackle a personal goal. Although the emotions felt similar at the start, the next 30 hours would prove to be a roller coaster of emotions. I‘m not going to go into the details of the run because Adam summarized the experience so succinctly, and frankly I was only on the trail for a fraction of the time, offering conversation, company and banter. In my 9-mile stint, we discussed the usual – work, travel, Netflix, friends, life, the challenges of the race ahead and THE BURRITO (yep, that one!). As I found, it was not so much about the topics discussed, but more about just “being,” enjoying the moment and helping a friend in a small way reach his next destination (and she did, in no small way!). It may seem strange, but my job was not to get him to the finish line, it was to help him reach the next rest station, to refuel and keep going.
Probably the most memorable part of the experience for me was at mile 84. When we sent Lani and Adam back onto the trail after mile 75, I was worried. Physically and mentally it was obvious Adam was drained. The first 75 miles were treacherous, and it seemed like a good stopping point. Should we let him go back out? Is he really ok to do this? What’s best? The questions were flying through my head, but it was clear Adam was not ready to stop, and his team was not ready to let him stop. He pushed forward. At mile 84 when he emerged from the trail, something had changed. Adam had found the strength to finish. I could see it in his face. Not sure if it was the sunrise or Lani’s random singing during those miles, but he had new-found energy and was determined. It was clear by the look in his eyes. He was going to finish. I will never forget the change from mile 75 to mile 84!
This 30-hour experience is one I will never forget and feel so fortunate to have been part of the ride. From anticipation and excitement to fear and anxiety, the race left me feeling completely inspired. The mental strength that Adam exhibited and the joy of watching six amazing people join together as a team to help a friend accomplish a feat like this, was so moving. Adam’s endurance and fight to succeed along with the determination of the crew to get him through left me feeling emotionally drained and flying high all at the same time. The trail was challenging, but the mental trail was even tougher. The whole experience made me proud to be a runner, inspired by what can be accomplished, motivated to experience more and blessed to have good friends to share in the journey.
Congratulations, Adam, on your amazing accomplishment. You are AWESOME. I truly thank you for the experience. Oh, and in the future, I WILL bring a headlamp, no matter what the time of day, and I encourage you to choose a location with NO bobcats or pitchforks…Until next time!”