I remember when Dorcas first asked us BRA members for some assistance in pacing for the St Pete Women's Half Marathon. I walked away...nope...I ran away from her fast. You see I have problems pacing myself so how could I be responsible for pacing a bunch of women during a race. I manage to piss off a few women in my life on my own and didn't need to add dozens more with some whacked out pacing mess. A man sometimes has to realize his limitations but I also have a problem with that as well.
As time went by, I decided to give that pacing thing a try. I was going to pace the 2:00 hour group. I could do this. I also got a little nudge from C-Steve who had already signed up for the 2:00 group. Plus Dorcas has done so much for me and my fellow BRA'ers that I felt I owed it to her to give back to HER race and what guy doesn't want to be chased by a group of beautiful women.
C-Steve was glad I was doing it. C-Steve was very nervous about not being able to do it. He was so concerned about being too fast or too slow and having to catch up. I told him to relax. WE GOT THIS. We were supposed to practice pacing but never did. Or at least I didn't. I am currently training for the ING Miami Marathon and have been running faster than pace. There again...pacing issues. C-Steve is also training for the same race. We both have training plans but figured this one race would not hurt our plans. And I for one get more from helping others on their runs/races than I do mine. I have plenty of medals just sitting in a box.
C-Steve and I rode together to the race. Want to guess who drove. C-Steve was quite the chatter box on the way over. He was planning out our pacing strategy. I was telling him all was going to be fine. Just relax. WE GOT THIS. Plus I wouldn't wear a kilt for nothing.
We made our way to corral number two. C-Steve was already holding his 2:00 pace stick high in the air. I had shaved my head the night before and had Dorcas write 1:59 on the back of my head with a black marker. I told the women in our group that if you don't see the sign just keep looking for the back of my head.
Before the race started we gave our pace group a little pep talk. We told them we were all in this together. We did our best to explain the whole pacing concept. I also told them that at mile eleven I will pick up my pace by 30 seconds to a minute in order to finish under the two hour pace. We both told them to stick with us and they would definitely finish at two hours or better. Lots of smiles, cheers and positive looks on their faces.
We were able to start our group pretty close to the start line. We crossed the timing mat about 19 seconds after the start. We should be able to hold the pace from the get go. C-Steve and I were both wearing a Garmin, a regular watch and a pacing chart that C-Steve had made. The pacing chart proved to be the most reliable piece of equipment we used.
The first few miles were very good. The women were talkative and responsive to shout outs. There were times when I had to interpret for C-Steve. We were running on a brick street and he was saying watch your ankles. The women moved to the left side of the road just before the turn. He said it again and a few women yelled out, "but there are no turns for a while." I said he said ankles not angles.
At about mile 5 I really had to go to the bathroom. I told the group that I was going to run ahead to the porta potty. Do not follow my pace. I ran ahead and heard some of the women that got ahead earlier say to me as I passed, "I thought you were going to wait til mile 11 to speed up." I just going to potty. I finished just as the group was going by wit C-Steve and the group calling me out. Still on pace.
The course had us run out towards the St Pete Pier. This was into the wind. And for some reason the heat started to make an appearance. I told C-Steve to drop back and bring some of the stragglers up to us. We both switched doing this. I then noticed that we were losing more runners. I double checked our pace as we passed a clock at mile 8. We were about 20 seconds off. I picked it up just a little coming off the pier. At mile nine we were right on target.
Our group had shrunk and were not as lively as they were at mile four. The heat and pace was beginning to take a toll. We were on pace and had to realize that we were doing what we were supposed to do. At mile 10 I dropped back to bring a few runners back up. One of them was a fellow BRA'er who was doing her first half marathon. She was looking strong but started to fall back a little. She was with a group of about ten. I told them all that we could not let the 2:00 sign get any further from us. We needed to pick it up just a little. We managed to do that just before the mile eleven mark.
I looked back at the fellow BRA'er and told her this is the spot where I am going to take off. She nodded. I pointed to the back of my head and picked up the pace. C-Steve announced that 1:59 was taking off. The course had us run inside Tropicana Field. The Garmin still worked inside the dome.
I picked it up from 9:06 minute miles to 8:00 miles. I looked back and had a few women coming with me. A few said we must stay with 1:59. I then caught one of the RunningSkirts women and she said, "great. The 2 hour group caught me." I told her that I ran ahead and she is still under 2 hours.
As I was inside the last mile, I looked back and noticed that two of the women that spoke to me before the race about PR's had dropped back. I stopped and waited for them. I was not there to run for me. Once they caught back up, I paced them to the last turn which is when you can see the finish line. There was this one lady that kept yelling at me, "WHERE IS THE FINISH LINE?" I just said keep running. You are almost there which is a term I hate to hear because it usually doesn't mean you are almost there. Almost for who?
I again looked back and did not see the BRA'er. I ran back to the last turn to wait. C-Steve came by and brought the group that was with him in at 1:59:48 or so. I spotted the BRA'er and yelled for her to pick it up. I think she said she was going to die. I said you can die at the finish line. I ran her in to a 2:00:40ish finish time. I have now been recruited to pace her to a 1:55 finish at the Brandon Half on 12/4. I have 18 miles to do that day as part of my plan. It ain't about me. I have 5 to do after getting her to her 13 I supppose.
In retrospect, this was one of my favorite races so far that I didn't race. I had a job to do that was not for me. I was there to get people to a place where they wanted to be and needed me to get them there. I remember a woman who came up to me and C-Steve after the race saying that she didn't beat 2 hours but this was her best race ever. Ask C-Steve about his non-Christian hug.
Many thanks to the other BRA'ers that paced. Josh, Steve, Tom, Elton, Chris and Jeff. I encourage anyone to be a pacer to experience that feeling. It's easy to say you are going to give back but it means a hell of a lot when you actually do. You can't run it for them but you can run it with them. C-Steve and I have already booked our spot for next year.
Thanks again Dorcas for the invite.