Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A pacer's perspective of his wife's first Oil Creek 100k

Getting there:

So Heather and I arrived in New Castle, PA a day early to drop off the kids and hang with Heather's mom.  Heather had planned on doing a 2 mile shake out run but opted to skip  on that.  I told her at this point nothing will change whether you finish or not - you have done all you can do!  Last year, I ran the OC 100k and Heather paced me on the back 50k.  She was an awesome pacer so I had my work cut out for me.  I think I was almost as nervous as her.  On Friday, we headed up to Titusville, PA and stopped by aid station 2 before we checked in.  I wanted to make sure I knew where the hell I was going during Heather's first loop.  I had a detailed list of things to do on the day of the race which Heather had prepared for me.  While at AS 2 hanging out, we saw Brian Newcomer, a friend of ours who ran the 100 last year but was doing the 50k this year, then volunteering afterwards.   After hanging out, we headed back to the hotel, checked in, and grabbed something to eat.  Heather and I being early early birds wanted to eat when we usually do, around 4pm, at Maria's.  We have eaten there the past two times, once for the 2013 Drake Well Marathon and once before my OC 100k...both seemed to work well so why screw up a good thing. 
Our pre-meal place every time we go to Titusville, PA

After dinner, we headed to the packet pickup where we saw a bunch of our running friends. 

Heather posing at packet pickup (Titusville, PA)
It is always a good time when we all get together, but at the same time you wanted to stay focused on the race.  We hung out for a little bit and headed back to the room where I got my 45th instruction talk by Heather :) Coming into the race, I was feeling ok.  All summer, I had been battling a hamstring/back nerve issues which I finally got under control.  A few weeks before I ran the National Capital 20 miler in 2:53 and felt pretty good.  Of course, coming into this race, I had some left big toe issues and was worried I would hold Heather back.  Turned out, the big toe issue was present but didn't affect our performance.

Race Day
We woke up at 3:30am so Heather can eat (raisin bread and peanut butter).  I could tell she was nervous and assured her that if she got back to me at TMS, we were going to finish, no matter what.  So she gets dressed and we head over to the TMS and see Ron and his wife Elyse.  Its great seeing Ron going for the 100 this year. After a couple of trips to the dumper at TMS, Heather is ready to run and Tom asked them to come outside about 5:50am for the start.  Then, they are off.

Loop 1:

It was planned that heather would be at AS 2 by 10-10:30am, giving her 4 hours to negotiate two technical parts of the trail and about 13.9 miles.  Given the cool weather, she makes it in about 3:40 hours which surprised the hell out of me.  I was there to give her the Nathan hydration pack which she really didn't need.  Last year, I ran the first loop of the 100k with just a hand-held and was chasing water the last 20 miles which was not fun.  Heather did not want that and figured she would play it safe; however, in hindsight, she most likely did not need it.  So I walked with her out of AS2 and on to Heisman Hill.  Then back to the car and off to Subway.  I chilled out in the room for a bit, got dressed and then headed to the school.  Heather got back to the school at 2:40 for a 8 hour and 40 minute loop first loop.  Now, it was game on...

Loop 2:

So Heather did a full change, grabbed some food, and we were back down the bike trail off to the trails in no time.   We both were dressed fairly warm for the 50F weather but what we would soon find out was that it would drop 20 degrees in 14 miles, insane!  The trek to AS1 was uneventful. I was trying to get Heather to run more while the sun was up because I knew as soon as it would go down, it would be a death march.  She tried hard to run as much as she could but with a course that had 11k of elevation gain over 62 miles, you can only do so much.  After we got to AS #1, we restocked food and got some warm soup in us...I made sure to grab some candy bars as Heather looked to be getting pretty low.  It was another 6.8 to AS2, and I was trying to get  us there before dark but darkness arrived about halfway there.  However, we brought our headlamps just in case.  At this point, the temperature was getting real cold and I could start to see my breath...Heather was starting to fade hard so I needed to keep her going somehow.  We kept talking but at times, it was just me doing the talking...I knew it was bad when she wasn't laughing at my dumb jokes.  I thought if we can get to AS2 in one piece, we could regroup and pound out the last 18 miles.  It took about 3.5 hours to go 6 miles which was not good, but we were making progress.  I had hoped to be further along by this point but had to work with what we got.   We finally arrived at AS2 and we both put on more clothes.  At this point in the race was when I did not do a good job.  One, I was cold as hell, more than I ever thought I would be.  Heather was barely functional and she was a little out of it - mild hypothermia, probably.  Being a husband, I was worried b/c at a minimum, I knew we had a 6+ more hours to go.  Two, my hands were swollen and numb and could barely dress myself let alone take care of her.  To boot, AS2 was just setting up a heater and it was pretty dark.  We both put on everything we had in our drop bag...thank god for overpacking!  The EMS guy was eyeing her pretty good and I whispered to her, "are you ok"...I got something of a response back but I still don't know what it was.  After I got her warm, got our water filled up in the Nathan packs, got some grill cheese and some candy bars, we headed out.  I have to admit, heading out for another 18 in 28 F weather and trying to get her to the finish line seemed a tough task but we weren't that far away.  Going out of AS2 and up Hiesman Hill actually warmed us up and she had a very good next 6 miles and I actually got a few laughs out of her.  We finally made it to the Boy Scouts and she started to hit another low point - I think we had another 3.5 miles to go after the Boy Scouts.  They had a nice fire kicking which we stopped at for about 5 minutes and some of the boys were watching a movie in the little house on a big screen with some generator running.  Ok, enough here, let's roll out.  The next 3.5 miles seemed like 30...the dexterity she once had 20 miles ago was gone and just going down a hill seemed like an impossible task.  One of the interesting things that we saw was a porcupine on the trail.  It actually scared the hell out of me.  He was right in the middle of the trail and had to wait until he waddled off to move on.  We finally reached AS3 at 11:30ish and lucky for me, Katie Peterson was there and was able to help Heather out (mentally at least).  At this point in the race, I told Heather, 6 miles to the road and approximately 2 on the paved trail and we are done....just give me 6 more in the trail and thats it.  At AS3 there were a few women warming their blistered feet up to the fire.  Heather and I warmed up there for a bit and then wanted to get going so we were off to Cemetery Hill.  The only good thing about that hill was it warmed us both up.  A mile in Heather was moving at evolutionary speed - I joke only because I know how damn tired you can be at this point in the race.  Last year, Heather must have wanted to kill me by this point.  After what seemed like forever, we make it to the Jersey Bridge by 2:45AM...and let's not forget that mile stroll around the Drake Well museum which seemed like 5 miles!  Heather hadn't said much in hours but I knew she knew she was close.  She finally arrived at the finish line at 21 hours, 17 minutes, and 7 seconds.

Husband as a Pacer:
Being a husband who would pace his wife for 12 hours was something I really didn't think about enough.  Personally, I don't think I did a good job at all.  Maybe I should have and been more mentally prepared for it.   And for those reasons, it was alot harder than I thought it would be.  During the race I was talking to her, trying to get her to drink her water, eat food, stay focused but sometimes, you get frustrated.  Here are some things you don't say during the back half of the 100k:
  • I really didn't think you were going to take this long (What was I thinking??)
  • You might want to get someone else if you are going to do this next year (stupid!)
  • Can't you run any faster than that? (JD, really?)
  • We need to go faster if we plan on getting there before we lose light (I think she knew this so why was I saying it?) 
As I got tired, I said things that I would most likely keep to myself if it were another person.  However, when it's your spouse, its easier to vent how you really feel, lessons learned...beware of that!!!  Additionally, I tried to talk to her as much as possible but at times, she was in no mood to talk which made it hard for me to help her. Crewing all day until 3pm and then pacing until 3am was no joke. 

However, in the end, I got her to the finish line which is what mattered to her the most.  She is now a Oil Creek 100k finisher!

Here is Heather showing off her new 100k buckle!

No comments:

Post a Comment