17 August 2019

pacing Lucca at the Waldo 100k

I have never started a race with the intention of running with a pacer but I have lucked out on several occasions and ended up connecting with some excellent ones (most notably here and here). Ever since the first time I have realized how helpful they can be. I have also paced several friends and run with Lucca at the Seattle Marathon many times and at the Sun Mountain 50k once and so when I heard she was going to run the Waldo 100k I jumped at the opportunity to help her out again.

Lucca had a GREAT run and I had an awesome time.

Here's to many more shared experiences.

A 100 km trail run is not a trivial thing and takes most of the day to complete. The normal start time for this race is 5:00 AM but the race organizer asked everyone that felt they might not be able to finish in 16 hours to start at 3:00. Lucca took that option so my day started at 2:00 AM when the alarm went off. Luckily our lodging was only about 10 minutes from the start. Whew.

There were about 30 runners that went for the early option.

And invariably there is always one shirtless guy.

I didn't just want to pace Lucca for the last 30 miles, I wanted to help out where I could. Turns out the 20-mile aid station was just another 10 minutes up the road from the start so I had time to go back to our place, nap, have breakfast, and still make it to this spot by 7:30 AM.

The aid station was right by the road so all I had to do was park and walk about 100'. Nice. I headed up the trail a little and waited. The trail was beautiful!

While I was hanging out I got to encourage several of the early starters as they jogged past me. It was really fun to cheer people on! And then there was Lucca.

After Lucca took off I got in the car and drove back to where we were staying to get all my gear sorted and to have a quick lunch. At about 10:00 AM Bil drove me to the 31-mile aid station which is where runners could pick up their pacers.

I got all suited up and again walked up the trail a bit to meet Lucca in advance of the aid station. And right on schedule there she was.

Ultras are (mostly) a balancing act between effort and fueling. Luckily Lucca has figured out what works for her. Today it was plain, whole milk Greek yogurt.

And then we were off! Oh man were these trails awesome!

Lucca was doing an incredible job and killing it on the climbs (something she would continue to do until the very end) running several sections that others were walking.

Suddenly we saw this sign next to the trail.

I think I laughed out loud! Then I stifled myself as I was not sure how funny this would be to someone that has already run 39 miles...

Turns out the next aid station was themed like Mad Max Fury Road - so cool! There were so many fun signs and the staff at this aid station definitely took the spirit cake.

Lucca has her aid station protocol down. She adds ice to her drinking bladder, and to her bandana, grabs what she needs and hits the trail. Even when she needs a little extra she does it on the go.

Until now I didn't have to do much encouraging. I was just talking trying to keep her mind off of the effort and would occasionally remind her to eat and/or drink if I noticed she had not done so in a while. And of course I was here to take pictures!

The aid station where things got serious was #8 at the base of the climb to Maiden Peak. This was mile 50 and right when you left the trail went UP. But even though you had to hike in the aid station supplies they still had ice! So awesome.

We got what we needed and took off. And by "took off" I mean we got out our trekking poles.

It's about three miles from here to the summit and some of the pitches are pretty severe. As you get closer to the top, the terrain becomes more rocky and barren.

But eventually you get there, and on a nice day the views are worth it!

The summit is a short out-and-back so now we had to descend that steep, loose, rocky trail.

Once we got back into the woods the trail improved quite a bit. I was absolutely loving being out here and started to feel sorry for Lucca as she was much more tired than I was and probably not enjoying the trails quite so much. :)

From here on in I tried to keep up the encouragement.

"You're doing great Lucca!"
"Way to go Lucca!"
"You are crushing the hills Lucca!"
"Nice job Lucca!"

All of it true.

There was one more aid station at mile 55, and what did they have here...?

I could not help notice that the bottle was almost empty. :)

The last nine miles of this course are basically downhill but like many downhills, they are not 100% down so there were a few small "bumps" that we had to climb. Sometimes Lucca had to shift to a power hike but her hike was still as strong as it was 40 miles ago - so great.

Lucca's descending speed had tailed off some but with about two miles to go she managed to speed up. I think she started to smell the barn and these last two miles were just perfect trail. Not so steep that you needed to tap the brakes, nice and soft, great for running in other words.

And she kept smiling.  Here is a great shot by the race photographer with about one mile to go, if you look closely I am right behind Lucca in the green hat.

And then we broke out of the trees and could see the finish.

I really appreciate James Varner (the race director) who chooses to greet every single finisher when they cross the line.

All Rainshadow Running races have an incredible finish line spread. The Waldo 100k was no exception. While I was chowing down on a giant burrito, huge cookies, and having an IPA, Lucca was doing her own recovery.

I'm so proud of Lucca! She always downplays her speed but she gets the job done and her attitude is an inspiration. In the end, she finished in 16:15 so just barely over the time that was suggesting an early start and WAY below her target time of 17:00. I'm so glad to have been part of this success.

Here is Lucca's race report.

Here are all of our pictures and videos.

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