Brian Gaines Kettle Moraine 100 Mile 2007
Brian posted this account of pacing Tom Riley at the 2007 Kettle Moraine 100 mile Race in 2007 on the Ultralist.
Why I'm Pacing? It was at the beginning of May that I decided to see if someone wanted a pacer at the Kettle Moraine. With my goals set on my first 50 miler at the Chicago Lakefront 50/50 this October, my training schedule was going to be one of much more magnitude than what I have been accustomed to, which involves more miles and more time on my feet week after week. I figured that if my training was going to consume a large amount of my time, why not make the most fun out of it; therefore, I registered for several marathons to coincide with my training schedule.
After registering for several marathons this year to compliment my training regimen, I decided to see what a longer-distance trail ultramarathon was all about and figured this would be a pretty cool experience. I looked at as...
- An opportunity to experience a 100K/100Mile ultramarathon and see what it's like
- An opportunity to run and gain experience running at night
- An opportunity to get some trail experience
- An opportunity to meet new people and get involved
- An opportunity to change things up with my training and keep it interesting
- An opportunity to clock more time on my feet
- An opportunity to help another runner meet or exceed his goals
- An opportunity to learn from another ultramarathoner
- An opportunity to help out at an aid station
How I went about it?
..so I sent an email to the KM RD, as well as, subscribed to the Kettle 100 Yahoo group posting a pacer request there online. 18 minutes later, Tom Riley sends an email back to the group mentioning that he would appreciate a pacer, so then, using the first come first serve philosophy, Voila! Tom was the runner I was going to be pacing. Interesting looking back, Mark Tanaka, who never asked for a pacer in the past and who won the race in 16:28:25, also requested a pacer for this course, but a day too late; I mentioned to him that I was already committed to Tom.
From the time in early May up to about a week before the race, Tom and I were exchanging emails with one another to get better acquainted and to manage each other's expectations. He was providing me tips, advice, suggestions, you name it to make sure that I was well prepared to pace him. He suggested that I also email his friend Kyly McMurray, who also paced him and has more experience than him at running 100s, so I did that, and she lent some great advice as well. Considering this was my first ultra pacing experience, I was a sponge, just soaking up the information. This was going to be a blast. I was forewarned not to take anything personally when it comes to someone already 80 miles into the race, that they may yell, swear, call the pacer a loser, tell them they suck, whatever, I was prepared for that and understood that it wasn't the pacer, but what goes on mentally with someone who is very fatigued, which btw, Tom was nothing but gracious the entire time I ran with him.
All this information was great to know, but there was still a missing component that I was not comfortable with and that would both of us during the race. This missing component was course knowledge; I had never run at Kettle Moraine, nor had Tom, so I planned a day 3 weeks from the race to run a segment of the course I was pacing him on, from the Hwy 12 aid station to the Nordic Finish line, which is about 15 miles. I didn't run the stretch from Rice Lake to Hwy 12, about 4.5 miles, which is where I picked Tom up on race day. The important thing was to get used to the terrain before I was going to be running it in the dark so I could lend some needed advice be need it. I did that and took some pictures along the way and posted them for Tom to review as well. As race approached Tom sent me his course splits to review so I could determine where he'd be at any particular time of the race. Tom's goal was 22 hours, but anything sub-24 would be great; he was also shooting for Top 10 and based on all his research, he thought this was attainable. Well, his split chart was only for 3 times, 19:55, 20:30, and 22:00, so I created a split chart that also included times from 22:30 to 24:00 for every half hour. This was so if he slowed, I didn't necessarily need to do the math as much and would possibly be able to try to get him back and meet his speed goal.
Race Day (Pre-Race)
We'll fast forward to race day, which I knew was going to be fun long day when I had to wake up at 5:30 am to prep for footing the starting line at the XTerra 8K Trail race in Palatine, IL, then pace later in the evening 19 miles for Tom. After my morning trail race, I had breakfast at Panera Bread, then headed home and tried to take a nap for a couple hours, but the excitement prevented me from doing so. Instead, I started getting my gear together that I needed to bring with me tonight, then headed my way up to the race, which took me about 1hr 45 min to get there.
When I arrived I immediately drove to the Tamarack (5/57/67/95) aid station where fellow ChiADead Ian Stevens was logging runner times, so I checked with him to see if Tom made it to the 57.1 mile mark yet; I just missed him by 10 minutes, as he went through mile 57 at 4:49pm (10:49), which meant that he was way ahead of schedule (sub-20 pace and 10th place at the moment). This threw me off the rest of the night because I knew he was probably going to slow, but when and where? I stuck around the Tamarack aid station for a bit longer to talk with Ian, then I drove to the Nordic aid station (0/62/100) to see if he came through there and realized I just missed him again by just 5 minutes; I just wasn't getting lucky enough to catch him at the aid stations. I stuck around the Nordic aid station where I was volunteering my time until my pacing duties and met up with Ann Heaslitt, who was heading up the aid station to get my assigned duties. I mentioned to her that I needed to go back to Tamarack to meet up with Tom and then come back, so I did that about 40 minutes later.
I arrived back at the Tamarack aid station about 10 minutes before Tom got there this time; I saw him and another runner neck-n-neck with one another, so I yelled his name (as it echoed in the pine tree forest). He claims he didn't hear a thing, but wondered about this guy who was helping him out with so much energy, then realizing that it was me, his pacer. As expected, he was in and out of the aid station within 30 seconds, but he was telling me that he was on a sub-21 hour time goal by Rice L take, so he expected to slow; however, still at Mile 67, he was on a sub-20 pace. We exchanged hello's, he thanked me for being there, and said goodbye and good luck, and he was off, but not before muffling that he wasn't racing yet. Ian asked me, "Did he just say that he wasn't racing yet? (me, yeah) that's what I thought"; he laughed, because Tom at this point was doing great and I just hoped he wouldn't crash and burn by going out too fast. After that exchange, I headed back to the Nordic aid station to continue my volunteer duties until about 8:45, and then I drove to Rice Lake.
On my way to Rice Lake I made a pit stop at the Hwy 12 aid station to see if Tom passed through yet. He did 10 minutes ago; well at this time, I'm thinking to myself, it's 4.5 miles to Rice Lake from Hwy 12, will I make it in time? His goal time was supposed to land him there at around 11pm or midnight, but he's ahead of schedule. Me? I'm still in my street clothes and need to gear up, which means, change into my running clothes, fill my hydration pack, and tape my feet, which is a must; otherwise, I'd blister up and what good would that be for me? I had to do all this, as Tom mentions, in a sauna, but with mosquitoes attacking me while sitting in the pitch dark outside my car. Boy, I'll tell you, Rice Lake in the evening is pitch dark with the only light coming from the aid station. Not the best when trying to tape feet. I had my headlamp on to help with the lighting. In any case, getting geared up for pacing ends up being a bigger ordeal than I had planned on it to be and I knew he was approaching soon so it was a bit stressful. I thought he would have come in at around 10:15pm, but he arrived at 10pm, just a few minutes before I went down to wait for him. When I did get to the aid station, one of the volunteers yelled my name, "are you Brian", I said, "yeah", he said, "your runner is gone already, he says you need to get your butt in gear and catch up to him". I'm thinking to myself, "oh sh*t! now he thinks I'm a slacker, I need to high tail it to catch up". The volunteer gave me a couple of options, which were, either catch up or meet him at Hwy 12; however, I opted for catching up. The volunteer asked me if I've run this part of Kettle Moraine, which I said "No", then he said, "well, this probably the most technical section and the most difficult". I'm thinking to myself, "Great!, I need to run fast, in the dark, on a hilly single track, without knowing how the course is marked or which way to go...sure, no problem ;-)". I start walking one direction and the volunteer says, "no, it's this way" and sends me off. Once on the trail, I'm in full race mode to catch up to Tom, I think I'm busting out a 7 minute mile to catch up to him, knowing that he's maybe a 1/4 to 1/2 mile ahead of me. All I know is that I'm flyin' through faster than I knew I had in me on these down hills; it was quite fun actually. I see Tom's light up ahead and finally catch up to him; the pacing begins..
When I caught up to him, I yell out "I'm right here Tom, I'm right behind you" and I apologize that I'm late, which he immediately says, "hey, I'm just glad you're here", then fills me with how he's doing and the fact that he is trying to gain some distance from the 10th place runner at this time. We're running at a pretty good clip and at mile 82, Tom is looking strong; better than I anticipated him to be. He is alert, speaking well enough, not breathing hard, has a sense of humor, and just relentlessly moving forward. For instance, we're running down a technical part of this single track; mind you, this segment of the race is the muddiest section from the storms the previous night; but we're flying down this trail and he comments to me; "Did I tell you I like the downs?". "Um, no Tom", but, I'm thinking "this is fun, I can do this all night long". It's not too much further into the race that Tom is filling me in with the fact that he plans on have more lows and will most likely slow down as the race continues. I've never run with Tom before, so it's important for me to get a sense and try to gauge how he's doing and match it up to what he is telling me. So, I'm quiet for a bit running with him and let him focus on moving forward, while I sit back and observe a bit.
I think I did a pretty good job overall, as I was able to tell when he was having his lows (no talking and running slower) vs. his highs (no/little talking and running faster). For some of the time, what he was telling me didn't really match up to how he was performing; I didn't say anything, but he fought through it and responded to all of my commands the best he could and did an awesome job. I took advice from Tom and Kyly before the race about setting mini-goals, such as "okay, we're running in 15 or 20 steps, okay, good job", which Tom would start running in 7 or 8 steps. Or I'd be slightly ahead of him on a flat, or 1% grade and I'd say, "we should be running this", which then he would run. Or, just talking to keep his mind off things as much as he could. Well, I'm not much of a talker myself when it comes to running so this was a bit of extra effort for me. Now, I did the best I could with talking about my race in the morning among a few other topics of interest, but generally just resorted to comments about how he's looking strong, keeping up great momentum, or how his running is truly inspiring and motivational (come on, who doesn't like to hear this stuff :)?). I felt that based on Tom's running performance and the momentum he was carrying, he could handle the extra running. After all, this is how he trained, to run. I remember telling Tom that he is running a sub-20 pace and he didn't think that he would be able to sustain that pace through to the end (he was darn close!). I just remember thinking to myself that, "there's no way that this guy is not going to finish near 20 hours, not with how he's moving and handling himself" and tried to keep him going to do so.
During the race, we passed many people running in the opposite direction and almost everyone wished Tom good luck, looking strong, keep it up; we both said basically the same thing back. This is something that stood out with trail running, is that everyone is so courteous of others on the trail; it's not like a road running where people generally keep to themselves. That's awesome and I was talking to Tom about this just after the Hwy 12 aid station; he mentioned to me that he couldn't count the number of times he gave out s-caps to others on the trail and they did the same for him. We ran/walked along, believe it or not, we did more running than walking I think. An interesting thing happened as we were approaching the Bluff aid station, and as Tom mentions in his blog, he puked 6 times on the run; now, he puked once or twice before then in my presence and expected it again, as Tom and Kyly forewarned me that something like this could happen. I asked him what triggers that, and he said probably high calories. In any case, as we were approaching the Bluff aid station at mile 92.5, there were spectators, volunteers, crew, or whomever, sitting around a campfire witnessing Tom's 5 pukes, and they were loud too; the look on these people's faces were priceless. I didn't bust out laughing, as I had my game face on, but I'm thinking to myself, "oh boy...". We were coming into the aid station and he puked again. He kept on going without a hitch and stocked up on gu's and refilled both bottles with heed and we're off; as Tom mentioned, he made a pit stop, which I turned off my headlamp to not draw attention, then were moving again. At this point, we came up to another runner and his pacer, who was in 8th place (Tom references him as the sub-21); I saw the headlamp ahead and told Tom that we're going to go get it. Now, this person was moving at a snail's pace compared to what Tom has been doing; even though Tom was thinking that it was a mountain (and it probably was to him); we're talking about a 5%-10% grade. The reason for taking him on the hill might have just been the timing of when we saw and approached them, but again, they were moving slower than us, so why not, let's do it. I knew that Tom had it in him to keep going and gain a commanding lead on him. As instructed, I turned out my headlamp to check how far back they were, which I replied with a 75 to 100 yards; whoop, we're still moving forward at a heavy pace to gain more lead. We repeated this when we came to the next runner as well, but this time we passed on a downhill at about mile 94 (I hope my mileage points are accurate -- but could be off).
As we approached the Tamarack aid station at mile 95, I said hello to Ian, while Tom was getting his bottles filled and snagging some gu's, I told Ian that Tom's going strong and asked him what place he was in, which then he told me 5th or 6th. I was curious, but I wasn't sure if Tom knew this or not; I figured that he must have been counting down, but I didn't want to bring this up as a topic of discussion or something for him to think about; relentless forward motion. Let's just keep going and focus on the finish. Tom mentioned that there would be mile markers ahead, so I looked for those and when we passed, I looked at my time, then again when we reached the next mile marker, for the 2 miles I kept track, I told him that we did 12 minute miles there. He's like "really? all stunned", I'm saying "Yep, let's keep going, you're doing great; let's coast this one in. In the meantime, we're on the Nordic trail and that section has some pretty steep ups/downs and I felt some pain in my left shin/knee area and shortly after, my right calf felt like it could cramp up, so I tried to take it easier on the down hills (my mile 22 for the day). There was no way in h*ll that I was going to tell Tom about my pain, so I kept it to myself and just adjusted my running a bit. We got to mile 98 and we knew that we could just coast the rest of the way through until the end. As we approached the finish line, I again, thanked Tom for the experience and told him that I learned a lot and that his running is truly inspirational and the philosophy he was told by the WS RD "relentless forward motion will get you to the finish" is how I'm going to approach my running from here on out. I told him that I'd do it again in a heartbeat if I had the chance.
As we crossed the finish line at 20:13:55, Tom yelled out his bib number "89" to the time keeper and everyone applauded him on his well accomplished run. The RD immediately gave him his award, which was a finisher's tea kettle and a winner's plaque for 2nd masters overall 40-49. He ended up finishing 6th overall; an overall performance that well exceeded his goals of sub 24 (target 22) and Top 10. The RD asked him if he'd like to sit down and Tom, politely responded, with "Actually, I'd love to sit down; I've been waiting to do that for the last 15 miles". We both sat down, shook hands, and talked about the race for a bit, we snapped a few pictures, Tom changed into some dry clothes, then we headed back to the hotel where he offered me earlier in the week I could stay after the race, but not before one of the runners we passed and his pacer gave kudos to Tom for witnessing him puking at the Bluff aid station; priceless!!!
The next/same morning, we woke up in the early morning hour, talked more about the race, then fell back asleep, then woke up, talked more about the race. I think he made a couple of phone calls to friends/family, showered, and got lunch in Whitewater at the only place open, which happened to be Culver's. Out of appreciation, Tom gave me a burgundy Kettle 100 sleeveless vest, which I thought was a very nice gesture; not necessary, but very thoughtful nonetheless.
You can visit my runner Tom Riley 's blog for his report.
Thanks for reading,