Pacing Diana - Page 2
When the snows clear from the high passes, we run together—the entire Hardrock course over the span of five or six days. We visualize the race on those training runs—plan the sections where she can relax, identify the hard spots where she will have to push through herself if she wants to do well. We memorize the turns. We become familiar with suffering.
She wants to do well (said, repeatedly, like a mantra). But more than that, she wants to continue her two-year streak and win again. To state this goal would be presumptuous, possibly a jinx, maybe egotistical. "I want to leave everything I've got on the course," says Diana. The official stance. I know better, and she knows I know better. But we don't talk about it.
One hundred miles is a long way, and no one knows what the day will hold, but she prepares for it with the idea to win this one event, Hardrock, again. The Event is always with us. It is both draining and life affirming. It takes so much of our time it can be an annoyance; we wonder what we would do without it.
And me? I run with her, shadowing her training. I memorize the course so I can pace her the last 40 miles, in the dark, so we don't get lost. I am also there as a cheerleader, shrink, realist. In training, we have run the entire course together four times. Four hundred miles on the Hardrock course, not counting the actual race. Dedicated insanity.
The morning before the start is like being a kid preparing to leave home for college. You think you have a good idea of what is coming, but you cannot be sure. I wanted Diana to be safe, have fun and no matter how she finished, to not be disappointed in herself. I hoped she would win, be the first woman to run back into Silverton and kiss the rock for the third time in a row. But I would save that hope for the last 40 miles, to see how things shook out.
At a race like Hardrock, or any 100-miler for that matter, the start is a relief. I watched the runners trot through the early morning light, looking for Diana, dwarfed by the men; almost miniature next to them, 5' 4", 105 pounds, the blue shirt, black shorts, white visor—the colors that I and our crew would be looking at each accessible aid station. Over the next 48 hours, each runner would write his or her story in the wildflowers and talus of the San Juans. "The Juans," as we call them, are the jagged, unruly outlaws of the Colorado Rockies—remote, steep, inaccessible. The quiet arena had come to life.
Diana's parents (on deck to perform crewing duties) and I headed to the first crew-accessible aid station in Telluride, mile 27. In a 100, mile 27 is the end of the beginning, barely. Hardrock has a total of 12 aid stations, but only four are crew accessible. We arrived in Telluride hours before the first runner. Diana was the fourth runner through Telluride, and the first woman. She did not even stop, just exchanged one Camelbak for another. She looked fresh, confident, and left with a light jaunt and smile. It is something to see, that poised belief, which can seem to elevate such a seemingly frivolous endeavor into something approaching art. Such mastery is beautiful, I think to myself in Telluride. I hope it lasts.