(Sorry for the tardiness of this post...my professional duties have been keeping me far too busy to attend to this blog earlier in the week!)
So this is my pace report for the half marathon I ran on Sunday. If you came here looking for a race report, please read Brandon's version of things from a racer's perspective. As this is the first race I've ever paced, my point of view will be slightly different...
If there is one thing I took away from this pacing exercise, it would be that in order to be an effective pacer, one much detach oneself from the race experience as much as possible. Like the backstage manager of a Broadway play or the offensive center of a championship football team, one must learn to be in control of the situation, understand every emotion and execute the game plan while remaining anonymous and out-of-sight. After all, it is not a race for the pacer and it would be counterproductive for him to regard it as such. Rather, it is his responsibility to establish and maintain a specified pace regardless of any external or environmental factors. And though I knew this going in, and even actually stuffed a post-it note with the words "PACE NOT RACE" into my racing tights, I still found it extremely difficult to suppress the racing instinct once the gun went off. It's like that old adage that says "You can take the runner out of the race but you can NEVER take the race out of the runner."
I met my crew of 3 a little before the race start and jogged over to the start. Since the runners who were running with me were a mix of blue and red bibs, we situated ourselves in the middle of the red corral and waited for the race start. The sky was damp and cloudy but not in the slightest bit cold. I debated wearing two top layers for this race but decided to go with one when it was revealed to me that it would be approaching 40F before race's end. I felt perfectly comfortable waiting there with my bandana, gloves, my Philadelphia Half Marathon technical top and running tights although I wondered silently whether shorts might have been more appropriate given these fair weather conditions.
Once the horn sounded, we waited for about 20-30 seconds before following the crowd to start our race. I told my crew that we were not going to waste energy bobbling and weaving. Instead we ran slowly and conservatively and saved our energy for Cat Hill in mile 2. At the halfway point of the first mile, I lost one of my runners who decided to run ahead to attempt a PR. During the last portion of Cat Hill, I lost my second runner who stopped off a bit before to run with his brother who he found on the course. This left Brandon and I for the full duration. After settling for a slow 7:56 in mile 1, we got things back on track in mile 2, running a 7:18.
The next several miles were uneventful as I kept a conservative pace for Brandon to follow. We sped down the downhills and climbed up Harlem Hill without much difficulty. I noticed we were passing people on all the uphills which was encouraging. At the bottom of the West Side, after one full loop has been completed, we gradually picked up the pace. By mile 8, after another Cat Hill was tamed, we ran a 7:15 perfect mile and was on par for a sub 1:35 finish. Unfortunately, Harlem Hill came soon after and shattered my dreams of going 1:34. My mate came so close to losing it after battling the hill that he tasted a bit of his impending vomitus in the back of his mouth. Although I couldn't see his face as I was in front, I could tell from his heavy breaths and shortened stride that he was indeed tiring. For the rest of the race, I did the best I could and encouraged him to push the pace as much as possible - 5K to go, 2 miles, than 1 mile to go. We were able to pass some, but many others ran past us in that last half to quarter mile. Eventually, the finish came, and we sprinted as best we could toward the finish. Once over the line, Brandon lost his balance and slumped onto me. He gave his full effort and finished a hilly half marathon in 1:35:20 (7:16) for a 9 minute PR! Woohoo!
In retrospect, I am glad I was able to help out a friend and secure an epic half marathon PR for him. Not only was it so much fun, I also learned many valuable lessons that would help me pace better races in the future. I've already decided I'm going to pace 1:30 for a half-marathon over the summer. Then who knows, maybe a 3:10 for a full marathon in late fall or early spring? As long as it fits into my training schedule, I'm more than willing to help out fellow runners to have better results in their races.
What about you guys? Have you ever paced others for a race, or have used a pacer yourself? What was your experience like? What qualities of a pacer are most important to you?