I don't like the term "pacer" for someone who runs with you for support. "Support runner" seems more in line, as you never actually dictate the pace for your fellow runner; you encourage and offer moral support.
So "support runer" it is. Ignore the title of this entry.
Today, Ann and I ran the Bulldog 25k in the Santa Monica Mountains. I've run the race twice before, and it is an ass-kicker, with (roughly) 3,000' of elevation gain, maybe even more. Ann had mentioned wanting to try it earlier in the year, so I told her that I'd run alongside her if she did. Five clicks to Active.com later, we were both set to tackle Bulldog!
We arrived early enough to watch the 50k runners take off an hour earlier than our own start. Before we knew it, we were toeing the start line (actually, we were about 100 people deep in a big blob of runners) and off we went!
Chatting and joking, we wound deep into the canyons where the old set for the camp from M*A*S*H is located. Ann was starting out conservatively, which was smart. We fell back in the pack aways, but I assured her that we'd be seeing the people passing us later on as we whizzed by them.
We hit the climb for Bulldog, which in actuality isn't AS horrible as everyone claims it to be (I don't recommend sprinting up it, though), power-walking past handfuls of runners here and there. I tried to get Ann to run the shorter, flatter sections, which she did, without so much as a complaint, using the old "let's run to that tree up there" method. As it turns out, my girlfriend is hardcore.
We crested on the ridge and noticed we were passing a 50k runner! Yeesh. A long day was awaiting her, as she had an hour's head-start on us and was this far back, only at mile 7 or so. I kept minding the time, out of curiousity, and calculated we were on course for a sub-3:30 finish! I held in the info, though, and merely stated that we were making excellent time and to keep doing what we were doing.
Two minutes later, the male 50k leader raced past us - he was SMOKIN'! It turns out, he'd miss breaking the course record by 2 lousy minutes. I imagine after he was done crying and icing his legs, he'd have a lovely afternoon.
More shuffling uphill, more hydrating, a few Gu's here and there, and we hit the descents, where I knew we'd make up a ton of time. Ann's incredibly quick on the downhills, and even then, 11 miles into the race (and at the longest distance she'd yet run!), her steps were quick and light.
I'd hate to use the word "hardcore" here again, but c'mon: Girlfrien' has some wheels on her!
*snaps fingers above head twice*
She complained about a sore hamstring that's been bugging her the past few months, so I gave her an ibuprofen which did the trick in a matter of minutes, and down, down we went, hitting the final aid station with 2.5 miles to go. I knew then that our time was going to be excellent, most definitely under 3:30, and even though her legs were beat to death, Ann pushed and ran every last flat and downhill we encountered, without so much a word of encouragement to do so.
I wish there was a word to describe someone with this sort of tenacity, strength and will...."hard"-something would work...
The last 1.5 miles of the course are punishing: Nearly all uphill, save for a stretch of flats, but on she ran, steady as a clock. As we broke out of the woods, I described to her how much further we had and what to expect; that we'd hit the asphalt road and climb to the parking area where the finish is. Still cheery, we joked some more, and I have to say, I have never laughed as much or as hard as I did during this race. Face it: She's hysterical, even under physical diress. And covered in dust and sweat. With a little bit of chocolate Gu on her chin.
We trotted up the final incline, took a hard turn with about 150 yards left to go. That's when I asked: "How much have you got left?"
"Yeah?" she smiled, picking up the pace. "Yeah?" she asked again, and sped up even more.
She crossed the finish just ahead of me in 3:21! Unreal!
We ate some pizza, downed a Coke, and before we knew it, were on our way back to my place for Indian food and showers.
While I was out picking up the food, my apartment manager shut off the building's water as Ann stood in the shower, conditioner in her hair. She currently is slumped, knocked out on my bed, with a head full of dried conditioner.