Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hawthorn 12 Hour Relay and Ultra Pacing Report

This past weekend I had the chance to shoot up to Terre Haute, Indiana for the Hawthorn 12 Hour Relay and Ultra. I wanted to crew and help out my friend, Traci Falbo, who was attempting to break the current course record.

I arrived at the park about 5 hours into the 12 hour race and Traci had run 40 mi by the 6 hour mark. It was hot and the sun beat down brutally, and the conditions were starting to take a toll on the runners, but Traci was still holding pace and looking strong as ever. Her training partner Jeff Mires who is many times a Hawthorn veteran had been manning the crew station for Traci. (He was on crutches too, making his feat more impressive!)

“Hawthorn” is run in a 5K loop format for 11.5 hours and then the last 30 minutes are run on a closed 800 meter course where closer tabs can be kept on the runners. From a crewing and aid standpoint, this is very convenient as you can refuel and see your crew every 3.1 miles. (The relay division of the race consists of 6 person teams which each run a 5k loop before swapping runners. This is a sweet event for XC teams looking to have some fun in the sun…)

I picked Traci up and started pacing her a lap earlier than planned because she looked to be pushing it very hard in the heat and could maybe use a little encouragement and perspective. Her form still looked great, but it was 90 degrees and humid, and the conditions would get worse until the heat dissipated at 5pm when the true race began. She was in first place overall at the time and none of us quite knew it yet. I think she had completed 43 or 46 miles when I started pacing. I know it was about 2:30 pm.

Jeff had pointed out her fluid intake was minimal when I arrived, and she stated was having trouble getting in more fluids as she stated she felt overhydrated. She cut back on the electrolyte replenishment for a bit and focused on just drinking water and was able to improve her fluid intake. She was getting in a gel at each lap.

I kept up lots of encouragement while pacing her the first hour I ran with her. She called it "bubblegum positive pep talking", and she requested I yell more! However, she seemed to need a bit of recovery and so I thought it wise to wait until 5pm for her to put herself into the ground for the final 2 hours.I wanted her to try to just hold pace for the remainder of the afternoon until 5pm when then she should try to race hard. I think she played her cards right.

She held rhythm and dug hard and kept a great pace going all day. I finally told her she was in 1st place when she hit 100K, (62.1 miles), in 10 hours…That’s a great 100K time.

She went off on her own again and destroyed the 10th hour of the race. I was done pacing for a bit. She was probably glad to trash herself and stop listening to me tell her to take it easy! Her form still looked like it did in the beginning and I knew she was going to crush the overall male and female past course record and win for the day overall too.
Since it's a 12 hour event, starting the last half hour, runners are funneled into the 1/2 mile loop, any runner still out on the 5k loop once the race finishes gets their distance rolled back to the last lap they completed. Which makes for some interesting strategy near the end.

Traci finished her lap with only 35 minutes left, so she wisely decided to wait the extra 5 minutes and recover and then finish her last 30 minutes on the 1/2 mile loop. She was an entire lap ahead of second place, Mike Crowder who is a strong runner too, but he couldn't catch her that late in the game!

Jeff Mires on crutches also did 2 laps around the half mile loop to continue his streak of Hawthorne finishes!

While Traci started her first lap we wanted to make sure that Mike was a full lap behind so I checked the scoring table and confirmed that Traci had a commanding lead even amongst Mike's strong performance in 2nd place. To add some fun and fuel to the fire, Jeff Mires held the former Master's record on the course which Traci was about to break. I ran the first half mile with Traci and informed her of her placement, distance, etc. She was still shockingly strong and even singing to some pop music on her IPod. -Fun times...

Traci won overall by running 71.2 miles in 12 hours, beating the CR.

I had a blast and it was a nice learning experience for me trying to be a good pacer. I had to balance pushing hard and allowing recovery for the latter half of the race, or at least give my opinion! Traci was easy to pace as they come though, she is a veteran and a huge talent and she knows what she is doing. I never had to crack the whip except once when she was sitting down to change shoes!

Sometimes it’s just nice to have someone along for the for the ride while you’re running for 12 hours! After the race I helped clean up a little and realized how bad I suck at forcing someone to take care of themself! Traci needed to get in a bunch of fluids but felt like crap after destroying the race, and it was my job to make her drink and I did a pretty poor job of making her get in fluids and calories! Luckily for me, she’s a machine and rebounded shortly thereafter just in time for the awards ceremony to claim her check and Trophy!

I wasn’t ready to leave after the awards ceremony at 9pm and Traci, Jeff and I shut the post race dinner down. We were the last to leave! I have to say, pacing was almost as fun as racing. It was like being awesome by proxy. Thanks!