My friend Justin is a bit crazy. He was going to do a 100 mile run! So… well, I figured I’d go cheer for him. And at that distance, they have this thing called pacers. Pacers are people who can run with the racer after mile 45 (and while a runner can have multiple pacers, they have just one at a time) and their job is to keep the person moving forward, spirits up, reminded to eat and drink, and just to generally watch out for their runner.
Well, if I’m going to go cheer, I might as well see if anyone wants some company! Figuring it would be a great way to meet some new friends and really experience what it’s like out there in the dirt, I posted on the race website that if anyone needed a pacer to let me know. And I soon got a message from Jose. After chatting a few times, we had a plan. The only catch was how much I’d be able to run. I knew I’d be good for at least one of the 15 mile out/back sections. But I wasn’t sure how much more. And really he needed people from miles 45 – 90 (having the last 10 taken care of). So I showed up bright and early on Saturday (maybe a bit too early… beating most of the racers), ready for pretty much anything (and with a good selection of pretty much everything in my car/home for the weekend).
I must say, the weather had been a bit wet (or a lot wet) the day before. Some crazy rain! But it had at least slowed a bit, although there was constant drizzle. And many runners opted to stay warm & dry in their cars until the start. Hoping I’d be able to meet my new friend Jose, I hung out at registration. And soon found that they were short tents to cover the drop bags! Having an EZUp in the car, I offered its services and helped it get set up. I felt a bit better, as it gave me a role. Oh, the girl with the EZUp… Thanks, I wanted dry shoes/clothes/food out of my dropbag after running 80 miles.
No longer feeling as out of place, I started chatting with various runners. And Justin soon arrived (having an RV that had to be parked no so close to the start due to the lot hitting RV capacity, he was on his own and his lovely wife didn’t get to be at the start). While hanging out with Justin, one friendly looking guy asked the time, and it was again something I could help with. The friendly face appeared to be alone, so I asked where he was from, expecting maybe the Bay Area, or some other close-enough California answer.
Ok, that wasn’t expected. What, I had to ask, brought him out here. Well, it turns out he is a race director, and as a friend of this director, they try to support each others races. And I got a feeling. And I had to ask him what race he directs. “Oh, it’s called Croom Fools Run.”
To which I replied “And it’s on April 9th this year.”
That got a surprised look. And I mentioned how I want to do my first 50 mile race this year, and a friend recommended that one and tried to talk me into it.Â And he asked the name of this persuasive friend. “Andrea Risi,” I replied, knowing very well that there are a lot of people in Florida, and I know two (and really, I haven’t even met Andrea in person yet!).
And the gentleman laughed. “She’s my training partner.”
And a friendship was born, based on the common knowledge of a really awesome Florida runner chick, and Andy had entered my life.
Back to Jose for a minute, my other new friend. Turns out, since I wasn’t sure how many miles I’d be good for, he brought a couple other pacers as well. So miles 45-60 were all mine, and I had a rough idea when to expect him for those miles.
Soon the race was off, and I did my best to cheer for people. I try my best to learn names, because it helps feel like you matter, and is really just a matter of focusing. So I often used names. I of course got some, and maybe quite a few, just wrong. But I hope it helped someone! And it kept me a bit entertained watching and following along the race.
I met up with Candace, Justin’s wife, and we cheered from various vantage points. And I hung out at the start/finish area some more, and my friend Ted (from training for my first ultra back in 2008) arrived, and was hoping to do some pacing as well. Hearing who I’d be pacing, he said he knew Jose. Such a small world 🙂
Soon Andy was back in, 45 miles done. 55 left. And it was not an easy day, as I was soon to experience. Seeing his face, I looked at Ted. Hey Ted, could you run with Jose? Sure. So I went over to Andy.
“Need some company?” I tentatively asked, not wanting to force myself in where not wanted. And he said it would be wonderful, and I changed as quick as I could, grabbed some water, and was ready to head out and see what it was like.
Muddy, and a bit of rolly hills, but great company, was the answer. I had an experienced guide, and I don’t remember all we chatted about but it was a great run. 15 miles later, and we were back in camp. I felt great. Do you want me to join you again, Andy? And again he agreed to let me join him, and we were soon off again.
We talked ultras, and soon mile 27 rolled around, and I let Andy know it was now officially my second longest run ever, having only done one 50k (31 miles) and a handful of marathons. I also let him know that I thought I might still be feeling pretty good… and that if he could give me a break I might even be up for joining him for his final shorter 10 mile out and back. So back in camp, I gave him a hug and sent him on his way.
At which point I realized I had eaten almost nothing, and had been running for around 7 hours. So food focus it was!! And then it was cold, so it was into the car, heat on, and read a bit. I also had about a 15 minute nap before I got up and tested out my legs.
Pleasantly surprised, I put on another run outfit and got ready for my hero of the day to return. Soon I saw Andy coming up the trail, and I let him know I was ready… if he wanted company. And he did! And I was thrilled, and went out with him again.
At some point in here, Andy told me he thought I could do a 50 miler. And that April 9th wouldn’t be too soon. And the seed was planted. I could meet Andrea, and see Charles & Mindy, my other Florida Trifueler friends. And the seed took root, and it grew. I started getting what stories and info about Croom Fools Run from Andy. And I asked if I could be an honorary FL Ultra Runner. And I got to run in with him as he hit 100 miles, and under 24 hours! Not just under, but a good strong 22:21! Awesome 🙂
And we were exhausted, so I hoped back in the car for a nap, and to cheer Justin in later. And he headed off. Soon it was morning, and I got up and Justin finished, and then I got packed up and headed out. Well, started to head out. Because the girl with the EZUp might be in trouble if she really left without her husband’s EZUp…
On the road for real, I told Mike we might have to head out to Florida. And that is the story of why I’m flying to Florida in the morning, and how it came to be that on Saturday I’ll be running in my first 50 mile race. I love these crazy adventures!
* all material presented here is fact and in no way distorted… at least to me. It’s fun to see the different views, so if you want to see Andy’s story of the event, check out his blog race report.