A night at Lark Hill – Part 2

Karen was only allowed a few minutes to stop and sit before she dragged herself back up and out on the trail again. Holy cow I admired her. It took a tremendous amount of guts to sit in that seat and be able to get back up again with functional legs and even partly functional brain. Mentally this race was a killer for repetition and I could see it on the faces of all the runners as they were passing through the aid station.

I took this chance to talk to the other support crew to gauge how Karen was going in relation to her strict race plan that Bernadette had formed and it wasn’t looking the best. From what I could gather she was a little behind on her nutrition which was mainly due to her tummy not settling with the food she was trying to get in. Hydration was ok. Pacing was a little slower than planned which can be expected if a runner is having trouble getting fuel in.

We spoke to the race director who was aware of Karens run and he agreed to let me pace her for her next lap to try to see if it might help.  And so when Karen came round for her next lap I joined her, jogging along making silly finger puppets in the light of my headlamp, enamoured with the novelty of running at night. Karen even managed a little giggle and then let me know she wasn’t really wanting to talk, so quietly but steadily we made our way round the course.

It was a funny feeling running the course. It was now somewhere around 12:30am, and fairly cold for those not running. Although the terrain was relatively flat, there were distinctive little troughs of hot and cold air that brushed my face and body as we ran through the dips and small climbs. It was sandy all down the west side of the course, looping back up toward the aid station without being overly boggy, except for a few little hollows from the footsteps of previous runners.

Although I couldn’t see them fully in the dark, there were also walk bridges that went across from the east side of the track to west which offered passing runners little glimpses of the headlamps of other runners making their way down the opposite side of the course. The bobbing headlamps in the darkness made for a magical feeling, like the feeling of adventure and mystery and I lapped up the thought as I followed Karen’s pace.

Karen, however had the look of a different feeling. The feeling of fatigue, mental or physical I couldn’t tell, but I knew too much of either one would be detrimental to her cause. Then it came. Karen told me she was going to pull out at the 50km mark. She explained that she couldn’t endure the same battle she’d had over the last 50kms, for another whole 50kms more it was too draining.

Immediately my mind started questioning itself on how I should react.

Crap..I thought to myself. Am I supposed to try to offer some encouragement for her to push on and continue? Is this where I’m expected to come up with some ingenious plan to help her through it? Sh*t. What do I do????? I remembered Bernadettes advice about pacing run through my head, none of which helped in my split second of mind panic.

Ok… all I could manage was.. ‘Well, are you sure?’

Karen said yes and explained that rather than physically exhaust herself to a point that could be bad for her health and wellbeing, she’d rather finish well at 50km. This was after all just  a training run for her for a bigger future event she was getting ready for. (YES you read that right! Just a 100KM training run, you know, no big deal!?!?!?!)

lark hill karen 1

Karen and I at the 50km mark, crossing the finish line.

Next the apologies started. But I wasn’t having a bar of that. I cut her short and told her not to be silly. Quite simply if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t even have the opportunity to be there to learn, run or make shadow puppets. Plus one day I hoped that she might pace me through one of my darkest hours during a running event.

We got into the aid station and Karen ran over the finish line to clock her time for 50km and then sat down to start her recovery.  She also offered me the advice to try to pace some of the other runners there to at least get a decent run in since I was already there, so I wandered over to check with the race director if that would be ok and he said yes. (Thanks Dave!)

Karen told me to look out for a female runner called Fiona, who would most likely enjoy my company round the course if I were to offer it. She had a blue shorts on and blonde hair. Right that’s all I needed to hear and I leapt to action.

I was hoping to get a few fast paced laps in first before attaching myself to a runner so I could boost my km’s since the lap with Karen had been a bit slower than normal. This after all was also supposed to be a 5hr training run for me too. Plus I had carb loaded a fair bit in the two days before and I wasn’t going to go home with no run and 2kgs or so heavier!

So, as I headed off down the track merrily I now secretly analysed my performance as a pacer.

Was there something else I should have done earlier, some miraculous advice I could’ve come up with to somehow prevent this situation?? Hmmm….I’m fairly sure I had made it clear how absolutely clueless I was before Karen asked me to pace her, so I’m probably off the hook there. Nevertheless I can only learn as I go and next time, if there ever is one, I will endeavour to be a bit more helpful should the same situation arise!

The trail felt good beneath my feet, and I felt fresh as I kept a good pace up zooming round the corners. Wow, my little bit of carb loading that my running coach had suggested must’ve helped because I really did feel great. The trail was flatter than I thought and so this was a relief and meant I could easily be consistent with my pace. Two laps down and I still hadn’t seen the mystery runner Fiona, so I went into the aid station to check in with the support crews.

There was Karen looking much happier now all rugged up and comfy in her chair with her feet up munching away on something. “Fiona was just here, and there’s also a guy called Rob with calf compression thingos on who would really like you to pace him too” She said. Righto, off I went again not stopping for long to try to mow down one of these two runners. It was Fiona I came to first, who asked me “Are you Jamie?” Obviously Karen had mentioned I was on course trying to find her, so I introduced myself and we started chatting. Running much slower now I was surprised to hear how cheery she was given the distance she had already done.

Fiona began telling me that she was a mum who just loved running, who didn’t care about her time and that she just wanted to finish. The race director Dave had been helping her train and keep on track with her pacing nutrition and hydration for the event and so she seemed quite comfortable with how her run was going.

To be continued…….