Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pacing at Cleveland Marathon

The email came in Tuesday morning…”Cleveland Marathon lost it’s second half pacer for the 3:20 pace group.” Being only days away, this isn’t good. Since I wasn’t going to run Cleveland this year and taper for the 50k the next weekend, I was like, what the hell. Nice fast run..1:40 half marathon then back off the rest of the week. Sounds like fun!

Ok, so for all you non-runners out there…a MARATHON pacer is a person who runs with a sign as a specific pace so people who are trying to run a certain speed or qualify for Boston have some one to help them. They are free of charge and supplied by the marathon for it’s participants.

So, I got the call from Kelly, who heads up the pace group. She informed me that 3:20 was covered now, but they had some problems with the 3:00 pacers. Hmmm. 1:40 half marathon a week before an ultra..sure…, but a 1:30 half might hurt a bit more. Doable…but would probably impact my race. We then worked out a plan to have three people instead of two cover the 3:00 group. Cool.

She then asked me if I had experience pacing. I told her I had. But it usually involved a head lamp, being up all night, and at least one person puking. Kelly informed me that it should be that bad. Bummer!

I went to the expo and got to meet all kinds of people and also met some folks who were going to try and break 3 hours the next day. Vince was there with Vertical Runner. Talked to him a bit while there too. Also got to see tons of the VR Training group folks. It was a total blast.

Some of the perks of the weekend was a hotel room downtown in the Radisson (great view of the city), valet parking, VIP access to everywhere, food, shirts, more food, more shirts…it was great. So, I got to do what I love doing and got paid for it. Sweeeet.

So, the next day was crazy. Got up and headed down to the Galleria to meet up with the other pacers. Found Sean, one of the other 3 hours guys (pictured above next to me with his tongue out Gene Simmons style), and headed to the start coral. Right up front and center. Right behind the elites. Pretty damn cool. Having trained with a few of the folks up there, I talked with them for a bit. Wished them luck and we went!

We shot out the start a bit quick and rounded the stadium at about 5:30 pace. A bit fast. The guys were going to back it down and get in a groove. I hit the first mile marker so my watch was synced and bit them farewell until mile 18.

We were then rushed to a car and escorted out to Mile 18. And waited.

I got warmed up and started running in reverse to meet up with the group. Saw the leaders going past. A bunch of the SERC guys came flying past. Everyone looked and was running very strong. Then I saw the balloons. It was Sean….RIGHT ON TIME!

I started running with Sean and got a quick briefing of how things were going. We were a bit a head of schedule, but we wanted to run around a 2:59. We were at 6:46 pace so things were looking good. He still had a group runners, and in the group was the first place female. I took the balloons and Sean dropped back to help another VR runner qualify for Boston (way to go, Sean! and congrats Howard!)

For the record, it isn’t easy running with those balloons in that wind. But, I found a way to rest it on my shoulder and pushed through it. The group pasted Mile 23 and we were still on time. At this point, I started to pick up people who were ahead of me and told them this train was pulling in BEFORE 3:00 on the clock. A few guys were hurting, but some encouragement helped and they were hanging with us. The group kept growing.

As we rounded towards the finish, the wind got worse and worse. I began to yell at people to get behind me so they could draft a bit and get out of the wind. I remembered how windy it was at Boston this year, so I knew it was beating on them pretty good by now. By mile 26, I had a line of guys in a train. Not realizing I had picked up about 5 guys. I guess I wasn’t joking about bringing this train in on time! They got a kick out of the “Pain Train” comment ala Terry Tate.

As we pushed down the home stretch, the crowd was going nuts. It was great. Then I could see the clock…oh yeah!
We did it! 2:59:16! On the money!!!!

I crossed the timing mats at the finish line and I walked to get a drink of water. On my way, I was tackled from behind. One of the "Pain Train" members was hugging me, completely out of breathe, and saying he could have not done it without me. What cool experience….except the whole guy hug thing and all…well, you know.

As for pacing, sign me up! I told Kelly, I had a great time and would LOVE to do it again. However, my next pacing gig is going to be back in the woods in June.