Monday, July 20, 2009

Pacing at the Vermont 100...

...or how to adjust when things don't go as planned.

First thing that went wrong was the person I was to pace. I was asked a couple of months ago by Patty Duffy if I would consider pacing her at the Vermont 100. This basically means that I would run with her for the last 30 miles, helping find the way and being the thinking person to remind to eat and drink.
Patty and her dog, Caymus at Camp Ten Bear

She had found out I was interested in pacing a first time 100 mile runner and she had read my story in the book Running Through the Wall: Personal Encounters with the Ultramarathon by Neal Jamison, so asked through our mutual friend, Michael Hall. I agreed, but her body didn't. She ended up with a tibial stress fracture, which was probably more from the training for and running of the Boston Marathon, which she did run in 3:40, a great time. But the damage was done and all the rest wasn't helping and with the demands of training for a 100, it began to show signs of worsening so she withdrew 2 weeks before Vermont and instead signed up to volunteer.

So, the plan now was to pace my friend, 58 year old Bob Dunfey of York, Maine (who found out I was available) to a sub 24 hour finish at the 2009 Vermont 100 mile. Bob is very much able to run this and faster having run a 3:25 Boston Marathon at age 57 and a veteran of many ultra trail races...but the plan was to buckle, which Bob had done a couple of years ago. But!....

Bob Dunfey coming into Stage Road

The day for me started on schedule, getting up around 6:30 on Saturday morning and driving up to the race after I had breakfast with Deb to meet up with Bob at the Stage Rd. aid station at mile 30. I got there a little early and the hope was for him to stay on a relaxed pace all morning and to not be too far off of his projected time. We knew he'd be a little quicker, but I didn't want to see him come in at a sub 20 hour pace. Anyway, Bob came in at around 10:18, which is just under a 22 hour pace. It was a little quick, but not disastrous. He seemed to be doing well, was in good spirits and I just helped him get some fluids and said to stay relaxed.

Stage Road aid table

After staying around and seeing many other friends come and go, I headed over to Camp Ten Bear, the large central aid station which the runners hit twice, at miles 47 and 70. It was beginning to get hot on this day that was projected to be cool, overcast with possible showers. A perfect running day was coming apart and my sunburn shows that. Many runners were already coming in looking like things were falling apart. When Bob came in, he looked ok, about what I would expect at that point in the race. Again I told him to drink lots and keep the calories coming in and to "stay relaxed". That was the theme of the racing!

Bob coming into Camp Ten Bear

I had a good time at Camp Ten Bear seeing many friends, some I haven't seen in many years.

The infamous Jim Garcia

Jeanne Peckiconis (knitting) and Patty

Now it was time to move on to Tracer Brook to help Bob and to then get ready to pace him through the night....but things don't always go as planned. I did go to Tracer Brook and hung out a bit with the Gil's Athletic Club crew and Patty Duffy, watching the horses come in and then as runners came and went the crowd started to thin. Bob was due in around 4:30 and it was now after 5PM and no Bob. Those he had been running with had come and gone long ago...

Horses getting a drink and cooling off at Tracer Brook

Soon at around 5:18 Bob came staggering down the road looking not too well. He told me he knew he was getting dehydrated and needed to spend some time here to regroup. So that is what we did...

Bob coming in to Tracer Brook, mile 57

First I got some water in him, several cups. He had absolutely no desire to take in any fuel which I understood, having been in this situation many times. Along with dehydration is nausea. After the water I asked him about maybe drinking some Coke, which he made a face about, but agreed to try. After all it is fluid and about 150 calories to at least get his brain functioning properly again. He sat and sipped the Coke and decided he felt good enough to keep going. This was a huge turnaround in Bob's race. He may have stopped I was his brain until he got some sugar to his own brain! Bob left Tracer Brook around 6:30PM, about 2 hours later than planned. Trying to be optimistic, I told him that he really was still on a 24 hour pace, so keep that thought and try to keep moving as best as possible and to also drink some Coke at every aid station if that is working! I also told him that time no longer mattered and again to try to stay relaxed, hydrate and fuel or the evening would not go well. I also had to give him my backup light, which was a Petzl Tikka Plus because he had not planned on coming to Camp Ten Bear in the dark.

So I then headed to the start/finish area to drop off my truck, get changed to run and take the shuttle back to Camp Ten Bear. I grabbed a sandwich on the way to have for my dinner and got to Camp Ten Bear around 8PM. The original schedule was for Bob to be there at 7:30 for me to start with him to the finish, but now I added 2 hours to that, making it 9:30.

9:30 came and went and no Bob, when he finally did come in, it was closer to 10:30 and he told us how he and several others had gone off course for at least an hour, which explains the time. He said he was feeling good, did look good but when we got going I had trouble getting him to move much. It was more of a slow shuffle, which first he told me he felt dead on his feet I gave him a No-Doz, which picked him up quite a bit. He then told me his legs felt stiff, so I gave him a couple of enteric coated aspirin, against his will mind you. He said he didn't like to take anything during races and I explained that like anything they can be overdone....that it is the runners who take more than the prescribed dose, take them prophylactically or do not hydrate that run into trouble. He decided it was worth a try as long as I watched the time in order to not take anymore too soon...about every 3.5 hours I re-fed him a No-Doz and a couple of aspirin.

This picked him up a lot! He was now beginning to run down the hills and when we got the Zeke Zucker's aid station, West Winds, he actually ate a grilled cheese sandwich and had 2 cups of soup. This was turnaround #2.

Bob at West Winds/Spirit of '76 Aid (mile 77)

From this point on Bob was doing more running than walking and was running faster than he was running before Zeke's. The great thing here is we were beginning to no longer get passed by runners and were starting to see lights come back to us! This got Bob excited, which got him to move even quicker. We started talking about how all the runners in front of us were low hanging fruit ready for picking. Some were so low that they were not only ready to be picked, but were about the fall on the ground.

Some runners we had just gone by

One example of some of the incredible early morning views

We soon got to Bills after passing about 6 runners in a field, where Bob grabbed a couple of Hammer bars and refilled his bottles. I stopped to take a picture and he was gone! I had to run fast to catch up to him! We started a game where we counted all the runners we passed and got up to 28, then realized that probably half of them were pacers, so adjusted the numbers down. The passing of runners didn't stop all the way and we even went by a runner and his pacer about 200 yards from the finish. We figured that he ended up going by around 25 runners (and 25 pacers) since mile 88 at Bills. He ran that section in 2:53 (about 12 hilly miles) and ran the paced segment in about 11:23 (30 hilly miles).

Jeanne Peckiconis pacing Karston Solzheim
(low hanging fruit)

At the very last unmanned aid station at 97.7 miles I looked at my watch and said to him that his goal now is to no longer catch and pass runners, but the time. If he could run the last 2.3 miles in 45 minutes, he could get in under 29 hours. At first he said no problem, but then we started to hit hill after hill and he was getting worried. At the one mile to go sign, he had 14 minutes to go and started to run harder than he had run all day. He ran every hill and flew carefully down the downhill segments. We passed a couple of runners just before the finish and all I heard back there was "that was sweet", then seeing a spectator who said we had 150 yards to go, We kicked it in even so I could get a picture of him finishing and he to be sure he was under 29 hours.

Bob finished in 28:55...and was smiling ear to ear :-)

Vermont 100 spectators, Jim Garcia and Don Allison

Bob getting his award plaque

In summary I had a great weekend. I wished Deb could have joined us, but she was having a better time with our two granddaughters back home.
Both Bob and I learned some things this weekend, which is about all you can hope for in these events. Many ran really good times and there were plenty of smiling faces the awards.

To see the rest of my pictures I took go here:

Results can be found here:

So up next is some training in the White Mountains and then MMD 50K...but first time to catch up on my sleep. 38 hours, no sleep and I didn't run the whole 100! ZZZZzzzzzz......

Until the next time...


Mike said...

Nice pacer report Steve - and way to go Bob! Hopefully I'll see you at the MMD 50k (I need to remember when and where that is). It was real nice to see you a few times along the way and fun seeing Bob and you pound through the finish.

And thanks for the pictures - beautiful!

Peter Lubbers said...

Great pacing and way to finish the race!

Jon said...

Nice report on pacing. Brief but vivid. Pictures are good, sort of captures the human drama.

Laurel said...

It was good seeing you out on the course. Good job getting Bob in for a finish! A good pacer makes a huge difference in the outcome!

Paige said...

Excellent Pacer Report, Steve! Great job out there, you really put the life back in Bob :) It was fantastic to finally meet you and I look forward to "running" into you at many more races!

Dan said...

Hey Steve, way to go helping to get Bob to the finish line. I enjoyed your report and photos.

Norm S said...

Steve, enjoyed your report and the great pictures. Hope to see you again soon.

Trail Pixie said...

Steve, great report and photos! Things worked out well for you and your runners at the VT 100, despite the changes. Bob looks so happy in all of his photos, too. I will be back to VT 100 next year to pace or crew or volunteer. It was amazing and also terrific to see you and the other talented Ultra folks. Congrats to Bob!

Sophie Speidel said...

Great pacing job! You are a pro :-)

Hope you guys are having a good summer despite missing HR. I know that must have been hard for year!

Will we see you at Grindstone? Michelle is pacing me and her hubby-to-be will hopefully be my/our crew.

Run Home Pam said...

It was great to see you at 10 Bear, Steve! You have no idea how happy I was to see a familiar face!!!!