A Unique Opportunity

Every now and then something really special happens.  Something that just doesn’t happen every day.  This coming weekend one of those moments in time will occur for me.

Most of you know that I love to pace races.  I will be pacing a marathon for the first time in 2016.  I’ve had opportunities to do this in the past, but have just not jumped at it.  Half marathons though are another story.  I think I’ve paced somewhere around 10 Halves over the past few years.  It’s such a fun way to give back to my fellow runners and the running community in general.

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The unique opportunity that I am talking about is kinda cool.  This Sunday, at the Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon, site of my first pacing experience a few years ago, my son and I will BOTH be pacing.  We are pacing together!  Father and son.  We are pacing the 8:30 per mile pace group.

This will be my sons first pacing job.  I cannot wait, it is going to be so much fun.  Pacing together will give us the unique opportunity to run side by side for the entire 13.1 miles.  Normally he is out in front of me, or he is running a Half and I am running a Full.  This time we get to run together, be vocal, and help our fellow runners get to the finish line.  Talk about a unique opportunity!  Thanks to Bull City!  These race photos should be really great!

Oh, and I haven’t forgotten about a recap for the Chicago Marathon.  I have been gathering my thoughts for a few days, and as soon as I have enough time to write them all out I will.  Just a small teaser though, it was another fantastic time in Chicago.  An amazing race of epic proportions.  If you haven’t, you’ve got to put Chicago on your race calendar!

Aspen Valley Half Marathon – Race Recap

As I sit here on the couch, still in complete recovery mode from an epic weekend of running, my thoughts are now gathered and ready to recap the first of two races.

The Aspen Valley Half Marathon – Colorado

My plane ride to Denver was uneventful, and arrived right at 8pm local time.  Since I traveled from the east coast, it was 10pm, “my time”.  I took the shuttle out to the rental car pickup, and within a speedy 20 minutes, was off and driving west.  I had mapped out my journey west prior to getting there, but included none of the necessities like finding somewhere to buy a drink for the trip, and also stopping for a bite to eat before the epically dark trip into the mountains.  I knew it would take about four hours to drive from the airport to Aspen, without stops.  Once I found a place to stop off and grab some food and drink, I was on my way.

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Being completely unfamiliar with the area, I tried to stay focused on the road.  I took Interstate 70 west.  I’m sure the drive is tough enough during daylight because, let’s face it, you’re driving through the Rocky Mountains, but driving it in total darkness added more interest and intrigue.  In other words, stress!

I had to come up with plan “B” more than an hour into my trip, because in the darkness, I completely missed the first exit that I needed to take.  Once I noticed it, I decided I would just go up to the next exit, and come back around to make the correction.  Well, the next exit was too far away to double back around so I just decided to keep going and take the longer interstate route.  It was a long drive!  Making it worse and even more stressful were two incidents.  The first being a car fire.  Not mine.  As I was driving west of Vail, I started seeing smoke in the distance.  As I got closer I realized that a car on the side of the road was completely ablaze.  I mean, ON FIRE!  Luckily there were already a few cars stopped to help the passengers of that car, and I could see the fire trucks coming in the opposite direction.  I slowed down, and carefully passed, although for a moment I thought, watch it explode as I drive right next to it.

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Another 1/2 hour later there was road construction happening, where the interstate was closed in my direction for repairs.  That meant we were merged into one lane for eight miles.  Complete agony!  I was so tired, and this wasn’t helping.  Needless to say, the trip was long, and taxing on my body, after having flown for almost four hours to Colorado.  My ass was killing me from all of the sitting!  I finally made it to my hotel at 1am.  (3am, “my time”). Exhausted, I fumbled around getting my race stuff ready for morning, and hit the hay about 1:45am.

I woke up about three hours later to get ready for my Half.  I was thanking my lucky stars that I was only running a half marathon and not a full.  Plus, the fact that I was there to pace the 2:15 group, I knew that even being so tired, I could still manage that.  After meeting up with fellow pacer, Jill, from the Denver area, we made our way to the parking lot about five miles away to get ready, and wait for a shuttle to take us to the start.  Jill had never paced before, so I gave her some advice while swapping running stories.  Jill, if you ever read this, it was a pleasure meeting you!

We met up with other pacers for the Half, and I took a few photos before we boarded the shuttle.

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I have never been to Colorado, and since I arrived in the dark the previous night, I was just in awe of the natural beauty of the mountains.

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The starting line was just so picturesque.  I knew it was going to be a beautiful run from Snowmass to Basalt.  I got rid of my drop bag, and we all got lined up to start the race.  I met up with a bunch of runners who wanted to run with me.  Tricia was the most vocal.  She was a part-time resident of Colorado, part-time New Yorker.  She told me she would be running the New York City Marathon, so maybe we will bump into each other there later this year.

The run was beautiful.  My plan was to keep an even pace, so once we broke out of the crowd, I settled into a 10:14 per mile pace, allowing a tiny cushion just in case.  I had no issues with the high elevation, the air was so crisp and clean.  Chatting with runners all around, we made our way down the Rio Grande Trail toward Basalt.  Even pacing, perfect pacing and company, it was a very enjoyable run.

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Most of the course is downhill, but a few uphills on the final miles were just enough to test your legs.  I had no trouble, but many folks were having to walk the uphill portions.  I guess my hill work paid off!

Nearing the finish I started thinking about having to race again the following day.  I was happy I was getting in the shake out run I wanted, but worried that it was too much.  I didn’t have any leg issues, and no trouble breathing.  Pacing the 2:15 was really a great warm up.  I hope I felt that way later in the day.

Coming through the finish line, I grabbed a medal and water, and waited to welcome in folks from my pace group that had faded along the course.  We high-fived and chatted before heading over to a nice picnic area set up as the finisher village.  There was all sorts of food from custom made salads, to donuts, coffee, beer and more.  There was music and friendly runners everywhere.

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My finish time was 2:14:41.  19 seconds under the goal.  I thought I ran it perfectly.  My pace after mile 1 never wavered more than two seconds from my goal pace.  What a great, relaxing atmosphere to soak up an achievement.  I relaxed with some other pacers for about an hour before we hit the road back to Denver.  I had an expo to attend, so I needed to get going.  That is a story all itself, as I traversed through Independence Gap, and over the Continental Divide.

Wow!  What an amazing and tiring trip so far.  I wouldn’t have done it any other way!  The Aspen Valley race was very well done.  If you ever find yourself in Colorado in July, I would surely recommend this race.

Target Pace- Aspen Valley Half Marathon

Two weekends from now I will be finishing up the Revel Rockies Marathon, and hopefully be celebrating with a nifty BQ.  First things first, however….

On July 18th I will be here…

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Running high up in the Rocky Mountains.  After a post I saw yesterday on Facebook, they have less than 50 spots remaining in the races.  No, I won’t be running the marathon that day.  I have opted to be a part of the pace team that will be running the Half Marathon.  Looking at the course details and several pictures from previous races online, it should be a beautiful run!

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I will be running with Beast Pacing.  I specifically chose a pace time that would be well over my average for many reasons.  1.  I’m going for a BQ the following day.  2.  I want a nice and easy warm up for Sunday.  3.  I want to get used to the elevation again.

I will be pacing the 2:15:00 Half group.  It should be very interesting, to say the least.  That is a pace of 10:17 per mile.  My slowest Half Marathon to date was a 1:58:45 last Fall when I was pacing a 2:00:00 group.  It’s going to be a challenge to slow it down even more, because even at the 2:00:00 pace time, I felt like I was barely moving at times.  I’m hoping to have a big group in Aspen, and even at the elevation of 7,890 ft. above sea level, at that pace I will have tons of air in my lungs to belt out encouragement and vocally keep everyone on track.  The Aspen Valley Half will be my 27th Half Marathon, and 6th state running that distance.

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The weekend of the 18th and 19th will be my first time time running in Colorado.  Running back to back races allows me to knock off another state in my 50/50 quests at both distances.  It may take forever for me to complete this goal, but there couldn’t be another more perfect opportunity to add a state to both of my lists.

Revel Rockies Marathon the following day will be my 20th marathon, and 7th state overall.

Do you have any lofty running goals like running all 50 states, or even on all 7 continents?  How about pacing?  Have you tried pacing a race yet?

Wrapping up June

With only one more day in the month I’m left wondering what happened.  Where did it go?  With the a Summer Solstice already passed, the days now are already getting shorter.  It feels wonderful though at this time of year to still have daylight at 9pm, and to have the sun rising so early.

I started the month with a 10k race, but have just been training since.  Dealing with pure heat exhaustion almost every run, summertime here will certainly add an extra level of effort needed to crank out the miles.  I’m fresh off of four days of runs in a row, which is my best effort for the whole month.  I haven’t logged nearly enough miles considering I have a Half and Full marathon back to back in under three weeks, but I think I am giving it the most I have.

Work has been absolutely grueling, but at least I’ve been getting really good sleep because of it.  Add a four or five mile run to a 9-10 hour day working on your feet, and you will truly appreciate how I’ve felt the past six weeks.  I’m in much need of a break.  A vacation!

I do get a mini break in mid July, as I fly out to Denver for a weekend of racing.  I can’t wait to see Denver, and Aspen!  The Rockies!

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I recently joined the Beast Pacing team, and will be pacing the Aspen Valley Half Marathon.  I have paced a bunch of races in the past, but this will be my first as part of an official pace team that paces races all over the country.  I love to travel, so I will be pacing more events for them in the near future.

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The next day is Revel Rockies, where my goal is a Boston Qualifier at this beautiful marathon.  I cannot wait for the challenge.  Last year I ran 5 marathons in the first five months of the year.  I’ve only run two so far this year, and I have to say, I miss it.  My last marathon, New River, was almost row months ago, and I am missing the marathon high!

Just a few weeks after my trip to Denver, I finally get a vacation.  Yes, I love Las Vegas.  I’ve been there once already this year, but by the time this trip comes, it will be six months since I’ve been there.  I cannot wait!  I repeat, I cannot wait!  A full 10 days off.  I need it!

How is your Summer going so far?  Any big plans for races, or trips coming up?  June is almost over, so don’t wait too long, or the Summer will pass you by quickly.

Running Quandry

I will be adventuring out to Colorado this Summer to run a race.  A big race, my BQ attempt.  Revel Rockies is a downhill course taking place outside of Denver in the mountains.  I’ve been looking forward to it for quite some time now, as I have never spent any time in Colorado at all except for a few times on the tarmac heading through to another destination.

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I have gone back and forth at least 100 times trying to map out this adventure.  Everything from flights, rental cars, accommodations, to length of overall stay.  I would love to spend a few days there exploring, seeing some sights.  It would also give me the opportunity to adjust to the altitude change.  You see, I live pretty much at sea level, and well you know, Denver is considered the mile high city.  The elevation there is almost exactly one mile above sea level.  That’s over 5,100 ft. of elevation.  The air is thinner and dryer.  They say to drink more water prior to visiting, as it helps you adapt better.  They also say that if you run 10 miles a day at home, to go for six in Denver.  That scares me a bit.  I’m running 26.2.

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The opportunity to “get my feet wet”, with running out there has fallen into my lap.  I have signed on to pace the Aspen Valley Half Marathon the day before my big race.  This gives me the chance to get a feel for the elevation.  I specifically chose a pace time well over my race pace (2:15 finish time), and it’s a net downhill elevation course, so it should allow a nice slow pace, and let me get a feel for the air and elevation.

I am trying to make all this work logistically, and am finding it very difficult.  The distance of Aspen from the airport, bib pickup, accommodations, everything about it is difficult to plan.  Well, if my pockets were much deeper, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but I am trying to figure this out on a budget.  Aspen is not cheap!  Even looking at AirBnB is not cheap.

What would you suggest?  Should I take advantage to my time there by running two races at all?  Should I just concentrate on the BQ race?  I really am torn.  Your thoughts would be helpful, I’m sure.

A Mountain of a Surprise

Many of you know that I live in the gently rolling region of central North Carolina.  We are not flat, but we certainly are not hilly either.  This is a generally rolling place on the map, between the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the mountains to the west.  I live about an equal distance inbetween the two.

I guess because I grew up in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains in NY, my affinity for the mountains has continued well after leaving that area almost 20 years ago.  Although I don’t get out to western NC a whole lot, I do love it.  It’s peaceful, and laid back.  Much slower of a living out there than it is here.  I love relaxing in a mountain rental, taking in the sights and sounds, going for hikes and of course running.

If you are an avid reader of my blog, you know I have chosen several marathons to run in the challenging environment of the mountains.  I’ve run the Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate, the Asheville City Marathon, the Blue Ridge Marathon in Virginia, and most recently Big Cottonwood Marathon in Utah, and the Great Smoky Mountain Half in Tennessee.  Even though mountain races are a lot tougher than flat races, I really prefer them for the beauty and challenge of the varying terrain and elevation.

Where am I going with this?  Well, two big surprises came my way recently and I wanted to share them now.  As my goals and plans for 2015 take shape, deciding between a plethora of races is always a challenge.  I love adding new races into the mix, and, well, running favorites again.  I will be heading back to Asheville in March to run the Biltmore race.  Not the marathon this time around, but the Half.  I have been chosen to be the Pace Leader for the 1:45:00 group in the Half.  I have paced several Half Marathons and love it.  This opportunity is a welcome one, and I will be more than happy to have anyone join my group, as you run for a new PR.

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My second mountainous surprise is that I am now registered and ready to take on a new challenge and new marathon in May.  The name of the race is actually the New River Marathon.  It takes place on May 2, 2015 in the area around the New River in Todd, NC.  It’s a small, homegrown event gaining popularity.  I’ve had it on my radar for two years now, and the timing finally works out.  I will head to the mountains for a two to three day retreat and run a marathon, too.  Do you know how thrilled this makes me?

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How do you feel about running hills?  Mountains?  Do you prefer flat race courses?  Do you shy away from races that may be tougher because of the elevation changes?

I love a mountainous challenge, and cannot wait for these two big events on my 2015 race calendar.

Opinion Poll on Race Pacing

I need some help from my readers. I am currently involved in a discussion on race pacing, and need some input. Please, please answer the following questions to help…

1. Have you ever used a pace group in a Half or Full Marathon?

2. For large races with thousands of runners I know they can offer many pace teams at a variety of speeds/finishing times. My questions to you is, what do you think are the most important paces to offer would be runners in a Half and Full in a small race environment of 1,000 runners?

I know opinions will be all over the board, but I am just looking for some differing opinions, and what better way than to ask the readers of my blog.

Thanks for your help!

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Rock ‘n’ Rebellion Half Marathon- Race Recap

October 5th, 2014, a beautiful morning to run.  An even better morning to toe the line for a Half Marathon in beautiful Raleigh, NC.  The 4th and final running of the local half marathon drew a big crowd.  About 600 runners, and plenty of family support and friends showed up early yesterday morning at Cameron Village.  Local race director and friend of RunRaleigh Racing, Paula O’Neal, put on a well organized and highly rated event.

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I was asked to be a pacer for this event.  I gladly accepted, although which pace team would work best for me was the question a few weeks ago when I was asked.  Knowing that this race would be my final long run prior to the Chicago Marathon (7 days later), I opted for the 2hr pace group.  I have had much success in the past when I’ve run a Half Marathon one week prior to a Marathon, but I have never gone “all out” during the lead up half.  Choosing the two hour group would be perfect, although my slowest Half I the past was a 1:52:00 finish, so I really had to hold back to achieve the goal time.

Race morning was perfect.  Chilly, upper 40’s, and dry.  I met up with my fellow pacer Yanni, who had made the pace flag, and pinned a 2:00 finisher bib to the back of my shirt.  Funny enough, I had never met Yanni, although we are pretty comparable runners, and have raced in several races together, not knowing it.  We started with a group of runners about 10 strong, that it could tell.  We all exchanged pleasantries and quickly got into a nice groove when the race began.  A short uphill start, and starting in the crowd, it took us about a half mile to get on pace.  For a 2 hour finish, I would be tracking a pace of 9:09 overall.

The race course was run on city streets, with about eight miles on the Raleigh greenways.  A nice course  and a challenge too, with a few hills mixed in here and there.  We had a really fun group.  Lots of conversation in the first several miles.  We discussed past and future races, and kept each other on pace.  This course had three or four greenway tunnels, so keeping the GPS signal was questionable.  I only lost the signal on my Garmin once.  We built in a little cushion in the pace, as the group requested we do this.  Most of the group were pushing for sub 2 finishes for the first time, and obviously as a result of this, PR’s as well.  I was excited to be helping these runners reach their goals for the day.

About four miles in we were hovering at a pace of 9:01.  That pace wouldn’t move on my Garmin for the next seven miles.  We were in a comfortable groove.  Yanni and I kept the group together, giving tons of praise, and encouragement.  It really was a blast.  One thing I noticed during the race, as there were two out and back sections with turnarounds on the greenways, was that every runner was happy.  I have never seen such support and encouragement during a race before.  We all cheered each other on.  Runners were having a great time.  I really didn’t see anyone struggling too badly.

At about the 12 mile mark there is a fairly substantial hill to climb.  We paced it perfectly.  Some folks in the group dropped back, others held on with us.  We worked together.  I ran backwards at points, giving encouragement to those behind us to get up that hill.  With less than a mile to go, our overall pace was 9:03.  Those that kept with us would surely go sub 2, and earn awesome PR’s.  When I could see the finish line, only about three city blocks remained, and all downhill.  We were clearly ahead of pace, so Yanni and I really slowed down to get everyone to the line.  We ran backwards for about a block, shouting out “let’s go”, ” get that PR”, and “finish strong”.  Our group flew by us on down into the finisher chute well under 2 hours.  Yanni and I made it to the finish and actually stopped about 10 yards from the finish, to offer words of encouragement to more folks for a minute or more.  When there was a lag in runners, we walked across the finish line in 1:59:03.  Chip time was 1:58:45.

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After receiving our medals, we met back up with the pace group runners, who were all waiting at the finish to thank us.  I shook hands with no less than ten of them.  All showing their appreciation for us, so happy with the results of the day.  Big PR’s all around from the group, all sub 2’s, and thrilled.  This race wasn’t about me at all.  It was a comfortable training run, focus being on my group instead of myself.  It was my slowest finish ever in a Half, but probably the most fun I have ever had racing.  It was and awesome day, a day for giving back to my fellow runners.  It was such a pleasure pacing this group.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again.  If you have never had the opportunity to pace an event, I suggest you do.  It is important as a running community that we help each other, and encourage one another.  Pacing is a great way to do that, and if you are anything like me, it will give you a ton of satisfaction that you were a small part of helping someone else achieve a goal.

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I am pacing another Half Marathon in three weeks.  At the Hallowed Half, I will be pacing the 1:45:00 group, and really look forward to that, as well.

Rest, recovery and just a few short runs remain this week leading up to Chicago, just six short days away!  Happy running everyone!

A Volunteer Runner

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As a frequent runner of races of all distances, I owe so many thanks to race organizers, but most importantly the volunteers that make them happen.

Races can’t happen without volunteers.  It takes a team, and most of those folks you see out on the course handing out water, medals, bibs, etc., are all there volunteering their time.  Recently posted on Facebook, I’ve seen the call for volunteers for three upcoming races.  The Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate on 3/16, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Raleigh on 4/13, and the Ironman Raleigh 70.3 on 6/1 are all in search of volunteers.  Sometimes races can require hundreds and hundreds of people to make a race happen.

I was recently asked by the race director for RunRaleigh Racing to pace her Half Marathon this coming October.  I gladly accepted!  This is the best way for me to volunteer for a race.  Yes, being a pacer at an event is the same as being a volunteer.  It’s really the perfect way for me to give something back to my fellow runners and community.  I would much rather give of my time on the race course while running it, versus being at a water stop or handing out medals.

My first pacing experience was last Fall.  Not sure if I would like doing it, or the pressure of finishing at a predetermined pace, I agreed.  I ran the Bull City Race Fest as a 1:45:00 pacer in the a Half Marathon, and loved every minute.  Right then, I knew I would have to pace more events.  My consistency in training and race finish times makes me a great candidate, so I will volunteer my time more in this way.  The race this Fall that I will pace is the Rock ‘n’ Rebellion 13.1.  Once again, I will pace the 8 minute mile group.

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I much prefer racing events that benefit local or national charities, versus a for profit race.  RunRaleigh Races is local, and proceeds from races benefit local charities, which is a great thing.  So, unless I am asked to pace an event before the Fall, the event on 10/5 will be my next pacing experience.  I was asked to pace at the marathon for the a Utah Valley race this June, but I just can’t afford the expensive round trip airfare.  If travel expenses were provided, I would have loved to pace that event.  We will see what other opportunities present themselves in the coming months.

I urge all runners to give back to the community in some way.  Use your abilities and time to help others.  Volunteer at an aid station, help set up mile markers, work an expo table, hand out medals, or be a pacer.  Races are more successful all around if they have enough volunteers to aid in the runner experience.

I’m a Half Marathon Pacer!!!

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I received some great news yesterday afternoon!  I volunteered for, and was chosen to be a pacer in the Half Marathon I’m running in this weekend.  This throws such an interesting curveball into my race plan, but I couldn’t be happier about it.  So many reasons come to mind…..

First off, I have been wanting to volunteer at a race for quite some time now, but haven’t.  Reason being, I work most weekends, and don’t get a lot of time off.  Normally, if I request a day off at work, or take a vacation day, it is to actually run a race, not volunteer at one.  Being a pacer allows me to run the race, but also “give back” to the race, and to other runners.  Why didn’t I think of this before now?  Well, I guess being a pacer requires some confidence, and being a fairly new competitive runner (three years now), I didn’t have a lot of confidence that I could go the distance as required, and be held accountable, if you will, to a given pace.  I really have the confidence now, so why not give back, and help others.

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I have been chosen to be the Pacer for the 8 minute per mile group at the Bull City Race Fest Half!  Yes, this means coming in at just under 1:45:00 finish time.  This I can do, and feel confident about.  I have now run 17 Half Marathons, and my average pace is well below that.  Yes, I have run in races where I actually tried to run with pacers to better my time, and sometimes it has worked and other times it has not.  I have been on a course and caught up to and passed pacers that I was trying to beat, and other times, sadly, I have been overtaken by a pacer late in a race.  This all changes this Sunday on race day.  I am the pacer!

Secondly, I have to run a race now that is different from how I normally race.  I have to pace myself from beginning to end, at the same pace.  This I look at as a challenge, and have been wanting to do for quite some time now.  I have tried this in training, and have been very successful, but never at a race.  This will be my challenge, and I look forward to it.  I am usually the runner that goes out quite fast, and gently, over the mid section of a race, finds a slower, more balanced pace for me, and then finishes strong.  On Sunday, I have to start out at goal pace! and maintain it.  This is very important, as I will have runners of different abilities trying to stay with me, so going out at a 7 minute pace or faster is not an option this time.

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Thirdly, there is the whole camaraderie aspect.  This will be the first race where I will be the one doing the guiding, the leading, the pacing.  Others will be looking to me for support.  I am not used to this, but have to do my best.  I am not usually a talker while I race.  The occasional “thank you” to aid station volunteers, or the timely shout outs like “looking good” or ” keep it up”, to other runners near me during a race, is about my norm.  I am not shy, but I just don’t talk a whole lot, or strike up conversations with random runners during a race.  I will have to be more vocal this time.

I look forward to this Sunday, being a pacer.  Now, I may love it, and I may hate it and never do it again.  Time will tell.  I just know that this is a great way to give back, and support the race and other runners.  I will certainly report back with how this all plays out this weekend.  I’ve taken on a new challenge, let’s see how this goes.

Question for you….  Have you ever been a pacer for a race?  If so, how did it go, and what did you think of it?  Any advice for me this weekend?