PACING THE BIG COTTONWOOD HALF MARATHON
My friend Jen and I are now official race pacers with the pacing group American Flyer Race Pacers. This was only our second race that we have paced and it was a blast. Not many non-runner peeps understand what a pacer is and so let me explain.
(skip this boring part if not interested and go to the next photo of me and Jen)
(skip this boring part if not interested and go to the next photo of me and Jen)
When you run a race and want to finish that race at a certain time, you have to pace yourself so you can arrive at the finish line at that time. Pacing yourself can be very difficult because most runners like to start out fast as soon as the gun goes off due to the excitement and adrenalin rush that happens when surrounded by so many other runners, which is never a good idea because then you use your energy reserves that you are going to need for the end and the rest of the race. So if you have a goal in mind when you want to finish, you also have to know how fast or slow to take each mile so you will finish at that time. Not an easy thing to do by yourself. THUS...race pacers! Race pacers do it for you! (I sound like a commercial!) All you have to do is find the pacer that is pacing at your goal time and stay with them. Pacers carry and hold up a sign that has the finish time on it during the entire race.
Following a pacer makes a huge difference because the pacers know exactly how much to speed up or slow down according to the particular course. How do we know this? We know because some amazing person made us pace bands that we wear on our wrists so we know exactly how to balance the course with the pace. And of course we have our Garmins that also help us keep the pace we know we need to sustain to get to the finish at that exact time. But, that is not all. Pacers also have to help the runners that are pacing with them when it gets hard and they want to slow down. A big part of our job is to motivate and encourage the runners to keep going. We are just learning this part of the job, because just trying to stay on pace for 13 miles or more (our first race was a 30K which is almost 19 miles) is pretty stressful in and of itself!
It is stressful but it makes the miles go fast...okay fast-er. The main drawback of pacing is that you are assigned a certain pace and it is usually slower than the pace you are accustomed to which can be tough. We are not paid for the job, but it all balances out in the end because we don't have to pay a registration fee and we get a race shirt AND a finisher's medal and we get to meet a lot of awesome people as we pace. I have loved it! It is rewarding to help someone meet their goal as they cross that finish line!
Here we are at the Race Expo and packet pick up the night before. It looks like we are doing a combination of Tai Chi or imitating Vanna White. Not sure which....
The expo was at the South Towne Center and they were also having a big RV show. I wondered if by chance my brother would be there since he manages at Camper World (formally Blaine Jensen RV). I called him to see just in case and sure enough he was! Not only that, but my two cute nieces were there working with him! He got us in and we got to visit for a bit! What are the odds we would both end up at the same place on the same night and time? Pretty cool!
But we had to be on our way to carb load. So we said our goodbyes and bid farewell.
We went to Bucca Di Peppos first where we saw this sign. I say first because carb loading is an art and you have to do it right if you don't want to be picked up off the street by a support van during the race. Okay, maybe that is an exaggeration for a half, but not for a full. But even though we were just doing a half we like to carb load like a full. I mean why not? How many opportunities do you get to carb load in life? We sat down and looked at the menu and decided to leave because it was pretty pricey and they only served family style. Sounds like a great way to carb load right? Well, only if you both love the exact same thing on the menu and don't want a variety of carbs. So we left. We went to Rumbi and snarfed down a variety there. See's Candy was also next door and so that also helped us make our decision of where to go. Sugar is all about carbs and so we were happy to give See's our business.
My two faves... Milk Bordeaux and Tipperary!
We checked into our awesome hotel and were excited our room was the first one around the corner next to the breakfast area, or so we thought until about 2:30 a.m. when they started serving breakfast for the runners. The place was full of peeps running the race and some of those peeps were crazy enough to be up at 2:30 eating breakfast! Unfortunately they were loud and woke me up. Not good when we didn't get to sleep until about 12:30 a.m. in the first place. Oh well, I can never sleep the night before a big race anyway and besides the alarm was going off at 3:30.
It was very stressful parking and finding our pacing group to get our sign and pacing shirts among 4000 other runners, but after holding in some choice expletives, we made it!
We amazingly found some fellow Brigham-ites among the 4000. Two of them were even on our bus just two seats ahead of us! The beginning of the race looked like some alien planet with everyone in their space blankets! I wish I could have got a better photo. (Click to enlarge or tap if on an ipad) It was a sight! We lined up to pace the 2:15 spot.
I love the motivational signs along any marathon course. But I love the spectators even more! I was amazed how many people cheered us on as pacers yelling, "Go pacers!" It was great!
We were right on pace the entire race until we got closer to the finish line and then we were almost a full two minutes ahead! We need more practice! Or better Garmins! But we slowed down and sent our runners ahead to cross the finish line a bit early (that's ALWAYS a good thing!) and stalled until we could cross right at 2:15.
We always need a jumping picture with our medals! My mouth is open that wide because I was hoping someone was going to throw me a piece of chocolate.
This photo has some of the awesome peeps we paced. The top photo has in it two girls from India that stayed with us (or just ahead) and they were amazingly sweet and polite. The bottom right is of Abby and Tracy that stayed with us the entire time. They were great! Bottom left is some of the other pacers. We didn't get photos of our other runners. =(
With some of Jen's running blog pals that ran the full.
The medals were HUGE! When they say G O B I G! they mean GO BIG!
We had time to head back to the Hyatt (our hotel) to take a quick shower...thank goodness! That would have been a long ride home without a shower! =)
This ↓ is what happens on only two hours of sleep. I even left off the really good ones!
LOVED the shirts! Probably my favorite race shirt EVER!
Overall great experience! I now have my 10th half marathon in the books! I planned to sign up for the full next year, but a lot of people that ran it didn't like it at all. Too much downhill followed by too much flat and uphill. So not sure what I'll do now. Maybe I'll pace the half again only at a faster pace hopefully! Whatever I decide, I loved how well organized this race was and the BLING was great!
Sidenote: This was probably the most exciting marathon for the pacing company so far because one of our pacers was hit by a car while pacing! The driver was apparently impatient with the all the runners making him wait. So he went when he shouldn't and he hit the pacer who then landed on the hood of the car. The driver then hit the brakes and the pacer went flying off and onto the road. He jumped up, brushed it off and told the driver to call 911 and he would file a report at the finish line! He finished the race on time at his assigned pace! CRAZY! He was okay, but what a dedicated pacer! He took our director's words, "finish the race on time at all costs" to heart! I'm glad it's not a requirement to get hit by a car to be a part of the group, but it does give a whole new meaning to HIT and RUN!