The Ultra Pacer
By Nat Lincoln
Image © carballo / Fotolia
Here we are. Two weeks out from The Pacing. In the past couple of days this has gotten real. A slightly different vibe has hummed into the Nat and Jill show; there has been a flurry of downloading and printing of maps, conversations about crew and the logistics of how many donut stops can be had on the way to the race. The dormant caterpillars, who have spent the winter in hibernation, have decided two weeks out is the time to unfurl their, for the moment, tentative butterfly wings. This time, in two weeks, they’ll be at full stretch, anticipating the flight ahead.
The preparation has not been without its issues. That’s life.
For Jill, she has had to combat injury. You’d never know it. She simply goes about getting done what she can, under the guidance of her coach, calmly and without fanfare. There is no complaining. She simply does what has to be done. No one asks her about her foot issues, but no one would know. She’s not the kind to make it everyone else’s problem. Despite this, she has had a solid build. She never misses a session. Consistent. Dedicated. Focussed.
For me, it’s just felt disjointed. I’ve run more than I ever have but it’s been in little snatches. Stolen moments here and there and some truly bizarre treadmill running sessions at supremely odd times of night. But, you run when you can. I have become the master of the split run.
Instead of marking Year 11 essays tonight, I’ve written up what I think is a witty, fact finding questionnaire to pin down Jill’s thoughts about what I can do to help her have a successful day/night. I’ve listened to podcasts about pacing that have arguably made the whole thing seem even more difficult but I’ve decided not to pay much heed. I don’t want to overthink it. We have decided that after all, it is just running.
During our daily (and nightly) texting marathons this week, I asked if she’d actually thought about what it will be like. I’m really writing this so I can include her response. I so loved the way she framed it:
Yes, I imagine it a lot right now. The peace out there. The start. I can feel the surface of the dirt and I can feel the heat of the sun. I can taste the food. I can see the aid stations and the blur of the faces that will work them. I can feel the annoyance of the need for patience. I dismiss the yukky bits because they’re not worth my energy. I will have a dj session soon and will pick my tune, and all the other tunes I want. I can feel my pack but it’s never as heavy when you race. I can feel the tiredness of coming to 100k and then the rest is just excitement for the unknown of running with my bestest buddy in the dark through the night, laughing and chatting and being silly and eating and maybe crying but only a little. And getting spat out the other side never to return to being the same again.
I feel nothing but honour at her choosing me to do this, in part, with her. This is not my race. It is not about me. I have no desire for this to be about me. But even in this, with me as the pacer, the helper, it is me who is being given a gift. I clearly have nothing but respect for my buddy, Jill. She believes that I can do this and be what she needs me to be. This is her gift even if she doesn’t know it. Any self-doubt I have is gone, has to be gone, because she knows I can do this. So I know I can do this.