Joining a race as an official pacer was totally new for me. It was on a whim that I signed up for 21km as a 2:30 pacer to Rene, hoping that my last 3 Pikermi finishes (2:53, 2:22, and 2:22) would be sufficient for approval. Eventually, I was approved for the 2:30 21km finish.
Finishing at 2:30 would require me to run at approximately 7:09/km even-pace. This was just perfect since I'm hoping to run the same pace in my next full-mary (Feb 2011) to finish just under 5 hours. Further, weekends require long runs. The plan was to run 26km for that day so after the race, I planned to run 5km more to complete the required mileage.
AT THE STARTING LINE
I was searching for fellow pacer RunningDiva among the sea of 21km runners but couldn't find her nor the pacer flag for 2:30. I then approached a QCIM2 Marshal who, by coincidence, turned out to be the assignee who kept the flags for 2:30. He then handed me three 2:30 flags.
It was a mix of being embarassed and beaming at the same time as I was making my way through the middle of the pack lifting the 3 flags with one hand. There was a little bit of pride when I heard someone say to his companion, "Uy dito na tayo sa 2:30!" ("Let's stay here with the 2:30 pacer!"). With Ron delos Reyes, the host, asking for everyone's applause for the volunteer pacers, I was beaming but at the same time humbled by the responsibility of leading other runners to a desired 2:30 finish.
It was a good thing that I lifted the flag out there at the start since Raymund Canta, the 3rd pacer, eventually made his way towards me to grab one of the flags. Then Ricky Gundran, the 2:15 pacer, approached me to mention that RunningDiva will not be racing that day due to a death of a loved one (my sincerest condolences to you on this difficult time of your life, RunningDiva).
This turned out to be the first pacer duty for Raymund and me. We eventually agreed to keep the pace at 7:00/km which is just right if you'll consider walking at the water stations, uphills, and other variables.
The runner behind me had a nifty idea of removing the stick from the flag and just pin it on my back. This will relieve me of having to carry the flag (made of tarpaulin) the whole race.
At 5:01am, we were off.
km1-13: 7:05, 7:07, 6:52, 6:46, 7:08, 7:05, 7:09, 7:03, 7:06, 7:02, 6:58, 6:49, 7:01
Raymund and I were in control. We kept to a little over 7:00/km which will take us between a 2:27 and 2:30 finish. There must've been around 4-6 people following us in a group, which I presume to have set a 2:30 finish. A group of RUNNEX members passed us, with the one in the lead congratulating us for keeping a just-right pace for the predicted finish time we were carrying.
I was feeling good. Since this pace was not my 21k race-pace, I was relaxed. I felt that I could be in this good condition until the finish line. Raymund and I were even having small chats, something that I'd never do when I'm on race mode. He even mentioned something about the Kenyans who were racing here but that's another story. ;-)
Me (7908) and Raymund (7213) havin' a great time
One thing I learned from my RunRio3 32k was that I should learn to take the taste of Powerade sports drink in alternating water stations. I'm used to Gatorade during my training but since most races seem to be sponsored by Powerade, I wouldn't take the risk back then since it was something new ("Never try something new on race day" many had said). But this time I took the risk and drank Powerade to refill my body of lost electrolytes. Fortunately, there was no incident.
From time to time I had to call Raymund, who was slightly speeding up due to the downhill parts of Commonwealth Avenue, to regroup and recall pace.
It was only a matter of time when we realized that I should've took up a little speed too....
TOO MUCH DISTANCE?
By the turnaround point, which I assumed to be the halfway point (10.5km), my Garmin registered almost 12km. I then recalled a forum section that an officemate forwarded to me the week before the race. It complained that they measured the race route and it seemed to have more than 23kms. I forwarded the forum clip immediately to Rene that day for verification with the race organizers but there was no response. I never gave much thought of it back then since I knew that if it were really an issue, it would be taken cared of immediately.
By that turnaround point, I was hoping that there might've been a change of route. Maybe we're not entering the UP Oval anymore? Or there could be a revised section towards Trinoma and back to QC circle? Raymund and I were thinking hard.
At this point, we had to decide if we were to keep the 7:00/km pace, or speed it up to meet the 2:30 predicted pacer time? Since our pacer flags were printed with big bold "2:30:00," we decided to chase 2:30:00. And that meant speeding up.
km14-22: 6:44, 6:24, 6:35, 6:32, 6:27, 6:12, 6:15, 6:23, 6:08
for a brief moment in this pic, it seems I'm flying!
It was like a tempo run for me at that point. This was race mode for me. But by the time we entered University Avenue and saw the 2:00 pacer running hard to PHILCOA with 2:01 already lapsed, I concluded that it will be a miracle for us to reach the finish at 2:30.
km21 arrived just passed midway of the UP Oval return route with Raymund and I clocking at 2:22. But there was still 2+ kilometers left. My 305 stopped logging stats after the km22 mark (since I preset it to distance countdown during races, allowing a 1km buffer just in case). Thus I had no knowledge of the time past km22. We eventually finished at 2:36:50 (Raymund) and 2:37:01 (me).
2:30:00 was not met. But imagine if we stayed at 7:00/km, we would've finished at 2:44. The good news was we were able to chew up 7mins from the time we started chasing 2:30.
Until now I'm feeling a little guilty. Should we have stayed at 7:00/km all throughout, we still would've finished at 2:30 at the km21 point. Even with the total race distance at 23+ km, the 21km goal would still have been met. But at that point in the race where Raymund and I were in a state of panic of not meeting 2:30, we had to make a decision then and there. The important people, the 4-6 runners following us, must've been frustrated with us suddenly increasing pace. But we had to fulfill our pacer duty which was to finish 2:30.
The good thing about the distance was that I got the mileage I needed for my scheduled long run (1km walk from parking to start, 23.4km race, 1km walk back to parking = 25.4km).
Maybe if the distance was measured accurately, I would not feel all that bad. The QCIM2 was overall, well-organized. Hydration stops were aplenty, roads were well-secured (imagine closing Commonwealth Avenue which is a major thoroughfare in QC!).
WILL I DO IT AGAIN?
Of course! I would like to be an official pacer again. The QCIM2 pacer experience is something that I've learned a lot from. Being a pacer requires a lot of responsibility of leading other runners to a common time goal. However serious as that may seem, it really is fun to do.
Who knows, I might pin that 2:30 pacer flag in one 21km race these days. :)
But not this Sunday wherein it's the Milo Finals 21km. It's my last race for 2010 so I hope to end it on a high note, seeking a sub-2:20 finish (or even beat my 2:18 PR if the running gods allow).