Act on intuition. I saw a Facebook post on Monday night, seeking pacers for the Revel Rockies Marathon that weekend. I read this as an opportunity for a timed and supported training run for FREE!!! I didn’t have any weekend plans, so I hastily emailed Vanessa fully suspecting the 3:05 pacing slot to have already been gobbled-up by Colorado’s running elite.
Did I know anything about pacing, nope. Did I have the equipment necessary to effectively pace, maybe. Did I think I would succeed at this challenge having not been actively marathon training, of course!
Had there been a job interview for this position, I would have been quickly shown to the exit.
Interviewer: Mr. Pacer, have you ever paced a race before?
Pacer: Umm, nope. In fact, I despise all digital interference while running. I would run sans watch if I could still make it home in time for dinner. Being a slave to running tech for pacing suffocates the joys of running and stirs up biting feelings of WORK, SPREADSHEETS, & ENTRAPMENT. Running is a release, an escape from obligations and technology. I run on feel, let my body dictate pace, and I’ll never let a pricey gadget tell me that I’m not working hard enough.
Interviewer: So you’re saying you don’t have a GPS watch to ensure that you maintain the given pace throughout the race?
Pacer: Not a chance. However, I will wear a digital watch for this race. It’ tells time acurately and is solar powered, so it probably will work throughout the race. Here’s the deal: to run a 3:05, I need to run 7-minute miles. Math is my forte, so adding multiples of seven throughout the race will keep my mind engaged. I understand things like stride & cadence to dictate pace, so as long as the mile markers are accurately placed on the course, I will run 26 mile repeats at a 7-min/mi pace. Kapish?
Interviewer: Final question, have you been training for the marathon distance, and do you think you will succeed in your pacing effort?
Pacer: No, I haven’t been training for a marathon, per say. But I did run the Boston Marathon 4-months ago. I’ll be pacing a friend for 32-miles of a 100-mile race in two weeks. I’ve run to the tops of mountains and raced 50Ks and half-Ironman triathlon in the past few months. Training for life, good to go.
Was I worried about this new challenge? Not in the least bit. I would be responsible for enabling those whose sole goal in the last 6-months has been to acheive a BQ (Boston Qualifier) marathon time. To achieve their goals and cash-in the long hours of summer training these runners would rely on my knowledge and patience to edge the 3:05 marathon mark.
There’s something about a new challenge that activates “Game Mode.” The most fulfilling moments in life are when you are presented with a new adventure and are given the opportunity to develop a game plan toward achievement. A heightened degree of focus and understanding engages, as the pursuit of achievement takes over. As a mechanical engineer, I love playing with things in the physical world. I’m a visual person, so if I can dream it and visualize it, it can be accomplished. A challenge like this has a tangible result and discreet steps toward achievement.
The Revel Rockies Marathon starts at the top of Squaw Pass at 6AM. The point-to-point course boasts a 4,500-feet elevation drop over 26.2 miles. I’m greeted at the race start by anxious racers curious to know my ‘race strategy.” Thank fully, I had thought a bit about strategy during the bus ride.
- I will run 7-minute miles the whole way. No negative split, no bombing downhills, slow & steady wins the race, right?
- To survive a steep downhill course, increased cadence is essential. The more footsteps you take, the lighter the overall load, resulting in decreased impact fatigue.
- Run Your Own Race. I confidently told anyone interested in following me that a marathon is a long way and that I am subject to pains, strains, and stomach issues just like anyone. I will be available as a guide, but not as the sole interface between the race and your time goals. This is your race to run.
After the first 3-miles, I found myself, well, all alone. Not quite the build up i had expected, I was effectively keeping my 7-minute mile pace. I found myself glancing at my watch just about the 5-minute mark of each mile, giving my self ample time to adjust based on my perceived distance to the next mile marker. I had one guy hanging around me, who was assuring me that I was keeping pace as advertised. He came in and out of my radar, as he stopped for a bathroom break once or twice along the course.
As I approached the finish line at 3:03, I stopped to encourage anyone in my wake who may be gunning for the finish to BQ. Nobody. Oh well. I heard later that people had tried to keep me and my pace sign in their line of sight at points in the race. So in the end, even if I didn’t directly rally runners to the finish line, at least my presence on the course was influential to others.
Have you ever paced a race? I can’t imagine pacing at a speed much more than 10% slower than normal pace. I guess that’s what watches are for.