I used to be a trail runner. I absolutely loved running. It was the bees knees to me. My husband ran but he did not enjoy it. Not one little bit, but being the kind of partner who loves to do things with his wife, god love him, he ran anyway. We ran together, trained together and raced together. We did crazy events together.
My early months of becoming sober were during the winter and getting out running didn’t happen often so I took up body building as an outlet. This was not Neil’s thing at all and it left him not doing anything physical except boxing a couple times a week.
This does not work well in the life of Neil. Neil needs a goal, he needs to be training for something or he just doesn’t exercise and then he puts weight on, feels like shit and isn’t his happy, sunny self. I could see this starting to happen.
Here enters the Capes 100. This is a 160 km trail run with 12 000 feet of elevation.
“Oh Neil, you should sign up” I said.
“What an experience it would be” I said.
“You can total do this, you have over a year to train” I said encouraging him to sign up.
Pulling out all the positive reasons I could think of as to why he should do it.
I was doing awesome, until I said the following words with love and enthusiasm in my voice…
“I will pace the last 60 km with you! Neil it will be amazing. We will bond..”
I went too far. I actually said this many times until he signed up. How much it would strengthen our relationship, how in shape we would be….
I had no way to see the future when I spoke those words…
Fast forward 7 months. I spent over a year sculpting my muscles for my spring competition. I discovered that I absolutely LOVE body building and now, I absolutely LOATH running!!!!
What the hell was I going to do? I didn’t want to hurt his feelings or let him down. I was in need of a plan.
My first plan I tried to pawn off as if I was doing him a favor. You see, hubby had a knee injury from running in the shit, ice winter we had and because of said injury he was in physiotherapy. His physiotherapist happened to be a trail runner.
My idea hatched. It was like a golden egg had fallen in my lap…
I had to be smart about how I brought this up. So the conversation went something like this…
“Neil, I am going to suggest something only because I think it would benefit you. If you could get your physiotherapist to pace you, I think that he could help you out a lot more then I could. I mean he trail runs and he knows how to help you in a professional way if you were to injure yourself. I really really really have my heart set to run this with you, buuuuttttt I would step aside for you to be able to have him on your team…”
Neil quickly agreed to this plan. Almost too quickly and with a sigh of relief! WTF? My god, had he been thinking the same thing but didn’t want to hurt my feelings??? Of course he had.
Sadly our plan did not work. Phsyio guy didn’t want to commit to that distance. Damn, back to the drawing board.
By this point the jig was up. Neil had noticed that I wasn’t running often and when I did run I may have expressed, in a colorful language not suitable for this blog, how much I did not enjoy the running experience anymore.
I felt awful. After all I had “encouraged” him to take on this massive challenge with the promise that I would be right by his side through the hardest part. So time to suck it up buttercup and get out on the trail.
With dogs in tow, I started my “serious” training. The dogs loved it and I have to admit, there is something about working your body in the fresh air, I was beginning enjoying it again. All I had to do was be logging 40 km a week by July and I was good to go.
The month of May was going well, things were looking up. I was logging the kms and Neil’s training was going excellent. He had fallen in love with this trail running and was gaining confidence in his ability to do this.
Then the first of June came and my coyote encounters started. As much as I wanted to believe it was magical and a message from the universe, after three run ins with Wiley I was a little unnerved doing this alone anymore. In fact between that and the mosquitoes and horseflies, I had had it with nature. This was bullshit and I was fed up and I was frustrated.
Once again, Neil felt my negativity towards his new found love. He sat me down and we had a heart to heart.
At this point he just wanted to run the whole thing alone. I could tell he was frustrated with me and I can’t blame him. I am seriously the worst pacer in history.
However, when it comes down to it I would run it barefoot before I would let him run it alone.
With any ultra trail run, you are alone in the middle of nowhere for a long long time. With that comes risks. Risks such as hallucinations, getting lost, falling, injury, giving up and so many other unknown things when you have been running that far for that long. This being Neil’s first ultra trail run, he has no experience with any of that.
Together we came up with a plan and lucky, Neil has a friend who is just as crazy as we are.
Thank the goddess for crazy, supportive friends…
The next day, Neil approached Daryl about pacing for 30 of the 60 km. The idea was that Daryl and I would split it. I could definitely do 30 km of hiking!
Almost immediately Daryl agreed. He would pace Neil for the first part and I would pace him for the last 30. This was mint. If I were logging in 20 km a week by July, I would be golden. I can’t image that the pace I would have to maintain after Neil had just ran/hiked for 130 km without sleeping or resting, would be anything but pretty damn slow.
Skipping ahead to August. One week before the event. I am screwed. In the past month and a half I have not even logged 15 km let alone 20 a week!!! What the hell happened?
I can still do this. I am still lifting weights 5-6 times a week, I am strong. I will be okay.
I hiked 40 km with Neil in 2 days one week before the big day.
I can still do this. However, I can not guarantee that I will be okay. All those years of running together, hands down I was always a faster runner then Neil. I left him winded in the dust every time.
Not anymore. Nope this time, I was trailing behind Neil and I am not going to lie, although I consider myself to be in great shape, I was winded, my hamstring decided to tighten up and suddenly it feels like I have a broken bone on the top of my foot.
Well, again I am depending on this being somewhat of a fast crawl and I just have to cheer him on right? No, not right. I again was sadly mistaken. Seriously, worst pacer ever!!
During these hikes with Neil he informed me just what my responsibilities are.
A pacer’s duties…
- a pacer is supposed to lead (not trail behind)
- tell the runner where the terrain is rough
- where there are stumps, rocks or roots.
- find the best path
- watch for markers so you don’t get lost
- make sure you are going at the pace needed by checking your watch every few minutes.
- tell the runner when they are approaching a decline or an incline
- when they should run and when they should walk
- make sure the runner is drinking enough and eating enough
- check that the runner can speak easily going up hills
- knows when to tell the runner that he can do this, not to quit…
Hmmm, this is a lot of responsibility. All of this plus taking care of myself. A little different then the fun, bonding run I had in mind.
Neil must have saw the “how the fuck am I going to pull this off” look on my face and said “I will just asked Daryl to meet me for the last 30, then you don’t have to do this”
The look on his face broke my heart. I felt horrible. I suck. I didn’t mean to suck or be this unprepared.
I am not sure how this summer got away from me. Where did the time go? Why did I put off this off for so long? Ever procrastinate and then realize in a panic, you screwed up and have to make it right? That is where I am in my mind right now and it is horrible. Damn it.
We are a team. End of Story.
I am going to doing this. I signed up for this and I can’t imagine Neil crossing that finish line with anyone else.
I have spent sleepless nights going over and over in my head every night my responsibilities. I am confident that now know what to look for, I know my husband, what he needs to hear and when he needs to hear it.
We will complete this as a team, just like we always do.
His mental map is…
- Just get to the aid stations,
- Just get to Daryl,
- Just get to me,
- Just get to our kiddo, who is not giving out hugs until their dad crosses that finish line.
My mental plan?
- To be the best support my husband could have and no regrets of having me as his pacer.
- to get to the finish line, where one of my favorite people in the entire universe is waiting to do our favorite thing…
So I definitely need to come out of this with both my mind and my body intact and I will. Because if I have learned anything about myself while getting sober it is that I am mentally strong. I can do anything I set my mind to do.
So body shut up, we are doing this and you will be fine!!!