This past weekend, just two weeks after racing JFK 50, but feeling like it was nothing but a distant memory I headed out to my "backyard", the Marin Headlands to cheer, crew (aka collect headlamps) and pace at the North Face 50 miler. I had a bunch of friends out there including training partners, Brett, Larissa and tons of the Endurables. Not to mention my speedy buddy Caitlin and lots of friends from all over. This race draws a ton of people due to the $10,000 prize purse.
Michael Wardian, my friend and fellow USA 100k Teammate, had asked me to pace for the last 20 miles and since I was feeling well recovered, I decided that, despite the fact that I was sure there was no way in hell I could keep up, I would agree to it. Nathan was pacing Brett and so we headed out in the wee hours of the morning to see our friends come through Muir Beach the first time before heading up to Pantoll to get ready to pace.
It was freaking cold up there. I saw tons of friends up at Pantoll including Nikki, Kami, Prudence, Trisha Steidl, Bryon Powell, Ed (Caitlin's boyfriend), Jeri Howland and plenty others I am sure I am forgetting (sorry!). It was really fun to watch all the runners coming in, not so fun to stand there and shiver, but as soon as Uli Steidl and Geoff Roes came through, I had to be ready. Michael's goal was to run for the win, so I knew I would have to run the heck out of some super tough trails. Before I could think twice or question for the millionth time if I was ready, he came screaming through Pantoll and we headed down Bootjack, Lost, etc over some pretty technical terrain. It took me a minute to get my legs warmed up, but once they got going I really needed them. I was pretty much running as hard as I could to push the pace for him. He had had a bad bonk on Coastal and had slipped out of the top 10 and was now hunting to get it back. Running that hard, all I could think was: "I am going to run as hard as I can until I can't. I am just going to run as hard as I can until he drops me". There were definitely moments where I felt that point was closer than others. We picked off a few runners and kept cranking along Redwood Creek trail back to Muir Beach. I was behind Michael and merely hanging on for dear life but encouraging him and talking to him. I felt like I was running hard enough that at any moment I could or would go smashing into threshold at any second. I never did though.
We managed to do good enough work to bring Michael back up to 5th place. With less than a mile and a half to go Leigh Schmitt came zooming up on us like he was on a bicycle. Mike said, "sorry Leigh but I can't let you beat me now." And took off at Michael Wardian sub 2:20 marathoner pace. I was spent and I simply cannot run that fast, but I had done my job. It was incredible to watch him drop the hammer and protect his position.
I was super stoked to be a part of Mike's race. As much as I helped him, which he assured me I did, he also taught me something at the same time. I learned that I can run at a pace which seems beyond comfort, outside of myself, along the edge of the knife on some seriously difficult terrain and hold on. Not only hold on, but still have the power to push up some hills that use to make me cry like a colicky baby. It was awesome. Running in the "pain cave" was something I wanted to learn to do and by pacing someone significantly faster than I am, I was able to go there. It was awesome. I was worked after those 20 miles.
All in all it was a great day. Uli won, Caitlin won ( read their accounts here and here). Brett massively PR'd and had fun doing it! A huge congrats to all the finishers! It was an awesome day. I was super stoked to finish off the day by having dinner with my Salomon crew and the next day did a short, sleepy, sore run to top my week out at 91 miles. Pretty crazy that it was my second week back from JFK and I did 91 miles. And that is with no doubles and feeling phenomenal the whole time! Cool!