So, You Want To Pace...

I'm going to aim for the knockout points right up front, and flat out tell you that the ideal pacer is above the average runner, and a tough, lean, canny guide and wily co-competitor for the above-average runner. The ideal pacer is an expert, the ghillie for the hunt here, and if you're gunning for a buckle, all the positive help you can get is for the better.
However, we all start at the beginning. If this is your first time pacing, think very carefully about the following:
  • Are you up for "running" [or not] above or below your comfort zone?
  • Do you have romantic notions about the task ahead of you? This encompasses both overt or cryptic attachments to your runner [provided you know them], and/or the business about being out all night and the brutal part of the day.
  • Have you run at night? More than once? On the course? In bad weather?
  • Do you have an urgent, time-sensitive appointment Saturday or Sunday? Too bad. You'll miss it, guaranteed.
Quiz Time, campers! Read on.
  1. Your runner is dehydrating slowly. He/she grinds to a halt, is disoriented, perhaps delusional. Are you ready for it? Then what?
  2. Are you ready to look at a urine stream in the middle of the night to check its color? What does it mean if its the color of ice-tea? What happens if they also have diarrhea at the same time?
  3. Your flashlight goes dead. Got a spare bulb/battery?
  4. Your runner's quads blow up. He/she bellows "My quads blew up! Got any ibuprofen/NSAIDs/Aspirin?" What is the best answer?
  5. Your runner is insecure about where they are. Do you know the course? Have you run it before? Have you run it at night, after being up all day, perhaps crewing?
  6. Do you have the ability to keep silent when needed? Your runner may need to get something off their chest, and it could be real deep. Don't act surprised if they don't like you personally right then. Hundreds take the paint down to bare metal, and the fun is long-gone by mile 70.
  7. Does it piss you off to run behind somebody? What do you see?
  1. Electrolytes. Start pounding them until they stabilize. Delusional behavior will probably continue until they begin to rehydrate. It won't be pretty.
  2. Big-ass trouble. Start pounding fluids, electrolytic, and keep checking the whiz stream until its clear. Brown urine and diarrhea mean that the fluids aren't being absorbed into the body, starving the kidneys, and the fluids are free-falling out the afterburner.
  3. You'd better. And if your runner ditches you, tough shit.
  4. "Keep running, there's nothing you can do about it!" Best piece of advice I ever heard, from Jim O'Brien, 1996 AC, on Echo Mtn. If we'd stopped and dicked around, I'd still be out there. I buckled.
  5. Whatever you know is gonna have to do. Unless you know the course cold, "we're almost there" is the best way to get stabbed.
  6. Maintain awareness. Some people like talking. Monitor. Mood swings are par for the course. Do not assume anything. Its not about you.
  7. For instance, once, a long time ago, I was pacing a friend at WS, and it dawned on me that he was only swilling from the ice-water bottle. The electrolyte bottle was in his 1-bottle fanny-pack *and* he had a flashlight in the other hand. It became clear that he was dehydrating via reduced electrolytes.
I put a funnel in his face and Gator-bonged him. He buckled.


Pacing is about your runner. Don't expect them to be grateful. Try to learn from it all.


Inches from a clean getaway, huh? For all you runners out there who *might* get the idea that the pacer is Your Personal Bitch for the duration—wrong.

Pacers, and crews especially, have given up their weekend. They could be getting drunk or laid, and not have to put up with any of this, and you especially. If you are romantically involved with your pacer, and they help you with your epic PR, whatever, you owe them. Big Time. You're bright, you'll figure it out. Or not.


Jay Anderson said…
While doing trail work one time for AC, another guy was telling the story of being in a race and his crew (husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend pair) got laid while he was in between aid stations. He said something like "Why is the crew sweating more than the runner?"
Jay Anderson said…
I was pacing a young lady who would get so she would just stop eating. We'd come into an aid station and she would ask for warm water. So I think when we came into Chantry Flats, I gave her a piece of banana and said "Put it in your mouth. You don't have to eat it." I've gotten in a similar mood where it takes too much energy to make a decision - so it's easier just not to eat. In that situation, a good pacer just sticks food in the runner's mouth.
Erik Skaden peed brown all down Cal Street and still ran 17:xx. You might have a freak on your hands.
Mr Trail Safety said…
Perhaps. The times I've seen Erik at the finish line he was torn up all to hell, whereas others in his time range seemed to be less thrashed. The main point I was for the mid- to back-of-pack runners whose pacers may not be as experienced or calm in the face of that evidence. Either way its noticeably serious.

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