This is nearly three weeks late...eeek. As a bit of background, I post daily on the Runner's World Forums. Through the Ultra Marathon thread, I met a guy named Jon, who gave me a lot of good advice my last training cycle. Last November, knowing I lived in Philly, he asked if I would pace him for the Philadelphia 100 mile race. I was super excited and said "yes." As the race has gotten closer, I helped him with logistics of the race and we discussed our training for our respective races.
Finally, race day came Saturday, April 2nd, and it was nothing like I could have expected. The race started at 6 am on Saturday, but Jon wanted me there at 7 pm. I got in 13 miles in the morning with Back on My Feet and just relaxed the rest of the day. When I got there, Jon wasn't feeling too great. He said his race was not going well from the get-go and he was really down about it. 13 hours in, he had covered around 58 miles, which is awesome, but still meant he had 42 miles left.
|Mile markers on the course left from my 20in24 ultra|
The first loop went fine as we were getting to better know each other. We talked about our jobs, significant others, running, and a lot of other things. I still was peppy as we finished this lap and moved onto the second. By the end of the second loop, we walked the last 1.5 miles with Keith Straw, a local ultrarunner who can be found running around in a pink fairy costume at races (not this time, sadly). He was a great person to hear talk about his experiences and I enjoyed the added company. When we finished our second loop, he had finished his 12 (we were at 9), so he left for home.
Each lap was mentally very difficult to get through. Although it was "only" 5 laps, that equated to 42 miles of walking. Running that distance would have been hard, but it would have been hours less time on my feet. I was really happy to help Jon, but having to push myself AND him to keep going when all I wanted to do was go home and sleep was mentally tough. I learned (lesson #2) that I when something seems too hard to seem fathomable, you can be underestimating your abilities. I surely was underestimating my physical and mental strength and so was Jon (his abilities, not mine).
By the time we got to the 4th loop at around 3-4 am, Jon and I were both exhausted. I started to fall asleep standing up and was walking all zig-zaggy. I did my best to hide it from Jon (later he told me I did a good job of hiding it...success!). Around this point, Jon said he needed to sleep for 7 minutes and he plopped down on the concrete path. He instantly fell asleep and did so with a smile on his face. I set my phone's alarm and got officially 3 minutes of sleep sitting against a pole. Lesson #3 learned was that I can take small naps and still feel refreshed. I always thought that since after ultras, my legs hurt too much to sleep, I wouldn't be able to take a nap, let alone take one and feel good. I was happily wrong.
Jon took another quick 5 minute nap later and then we were finally onto our last lap! The sun was starting to come out and as I had predicted, the sunshine woke us up and had us ready to finish. There was a regatta happening that day, so we had a lot of people watching that kept us entertained. You would think that after all of those laps, the last lap would go by quickly, but alas, it still felt like it went on forever.
|Our goal, which we would reach no matter the circumstances!|
When we finished, Jon's dad was there to meet us. He asked me if I had ever met his son before and when he found I had only talked with him online, he was shocked that I would sign up to help him. One of the things I love most about running (especially the ultramarathon community) is the camaraderie that is infectious. You feel oddly close to other runners because they know what you have gone through and/or are about to go through. Even if you are competing with each other (maybe since I'm not an elite), people are friendly, generally want you to do well, and are willing to help you a lot.
Overall, it was a very tough experience for me and it wasn't even my race! It allowed me to know that more is possible than originally thought, mini-naps are good, and to be better prepared! So happy I was able to pace Jon to his first successful 100 miler and I cannot wait to one day complete my own!