Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pony Express 50 pacing.

October 21st, 2011:

Matt Van Horn and I have been climbing mountains together for almost 5 years. In 2009 we started trying to do a peak per week together before work and we both motivated each other and made it happen. In 2010 we kept this up and climbed multiple peaks together. I really ramped up my running and training and by the end of the year he started to join me on some of my runs as well. In 2011 we have run or climbed together 1-2 times per week and we did several long adventure runs as well. I was really excited when he decided to put in for his first 50 mile race and told him that I would be out there to help in any way that I could. We decided that I would help him crew for half of the race and then pace him the second half.

Pacing/crewing MatthewVH at the Pony Express 50. I had an incredible time pacing Matt on his first ultra marathon. I got to the start about 40 minutes early and had a fun time chatting with Matt, Matt Williams, Jim Kern, Scott and Kelli Stephensen, Josh Greenwell, Steve Heath, Seth Wold and others. I would be crewing for at least the first 15 miles with Matt's dad and then pacing for the last half of the race. Matt and Seth went out fast and when we drove by at the 2 mile point they already had a pretty good lead on everyone else. I was worried that he was going out too fast and after a brief talk from the car he seemed to be feeling good, but I was still a little concerned.

The next 20 miles were a lot of fun. I brought Matt's dad up to speed on what he would need and where everything was and how he would probably want it. We would meet Matt about every 4 miles and make sure he had everything that he needed. Not only was Matt running strong and smooth, but we got into a good routine so he didn't have to slow down much while we gave him hydration and fuel. I thought about jumping out to run at Simpson Springs, but Matt was still looking strong and I didn't want to break his rhythm and there would be plenty of miles left to help pace. Britta Hanel was starting to catch up and was probably only about 1/4 of a mile back when we approached Simpson, but Matt ran the hill strong and put a little more distance on her. We wouldn't see her again for almost 30 more miles. Things were going so well that I started to think that maybe I would just help crew, but I knew that the long straight stretch would be a grind, so I wanted to help take Matt's mind off of it because I thought he would probably start to get fatigued, so I decided to get out to run at mile 21.

After a few miles I could tell he was slowing a bit, but he still looked pretty good and was in second place without anyone even close to threatening at that point. He hit the marathon in 3:42 and was still feeling and looking strong. We passed Smooth and I chatted with her for a few minutes. She looked great and was all smiles. The approach to Dugway Pass starts to get steep and it was here that we noticed a guy in an orange shirt moving well about 1/4 of a mile back. We started to limit our time at our aid stops and we pushed it pretty hard up the hills. Both of us put on our ipods to see if that would help. We held him off for about 4-5 miles, but on the steepest section climbing to the pass he was only about 100 yards back. I ran ahead to the crew car to get Matt some water and a bagel so he wouldn't have to stop. We did make pretty good time on the climb, but the orange shirt guy kept coming. At the top of the pass Matt let out a primal scream and I told him we needed to bomb it down the other side. His dad was there with some Coke and after a quick drink we started running down. I tried to push the pace, but I could tell he was getting fatigued and for good reason, he was almost 40 miles in and had been pushing it pretty hard the whole time. I tried to tell Matt not to worry about the other runners. I could tell it was bothering him when he got passed, which is good, but at the same time I didn't want it to demoralize him. He was running an incredible race.

Orange shirt guy finally passed us about a half mile down on the other side of the pass. He was a really nice guy that eventually finished in 2nd place and he looked strong. We grinded out a few more miles and I was surprised to see Davy just ahead. I figured he was either having an off day or that he had to deal with some race issues. We finally passed him about mile 42 while he took a rest stop and within a half mile I could see Britta moving in on us again. She was looking strong and fresh and passed us running about an 8:00 min mile pace. We were both shocked at how good she looked. Matt's wife and kids showed up and I think it was a real boost for him. I think they came at the perfect time because I noticed an extra bounce in his step and his energy seemed to be picked up as well.

The last 5 miles were very hard. My legs/hips/IT bands had become very fatigued and my energy was also down. I realized that I had not been paying enough attention to my own energy, so I tried to cram in as much food and salt as I could, but I was losing my appetite. The usual jokes weren't as funny as they normally are and it was just plain tough. Matt continued to grind away and never complained about anything. The .75 out and back at the finish it the worst part of the whole race. About half way down I stopped to pee and Matt got out in front and there was no way I was going to catch him, so I didn't go all the way to the turnaround spot and I was ok with that. Running in the last half mile was actually fun. We were joking and laughing and the last .2 Matt picked it up a lot and ran hard and fast into the finish. I wouldn't have expected anything less. His time was 8:30 and he took 4th place, pretty incredible for his first ultra. His wife, kids and dad were there to greet him and it was amazing to see. I am just glad that I was able to experience a part of it with him. I'll never forget the experience.

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