Pacing Diana - Page 6
Approaching the Pole Creek Aid Station (mile 80), I ran ahead and asked the volunteers if they knew who might be behind us. Apparently it was Jared Campbell, who had been 20 minutes behind us at Sherman.
"Good morning, Pole Creek Aid!" Diana exclaimed as she crested the hill. The aid workers shouted encouragement. For a moment, they thought I was the leader, but I told them I was the pacer. She—she—is the first runner. She drank a few ounces of flat Coke. She had not spoken a full sentence to me in hours, but thanked the aid-station volunteers. I liked the strong sound of her voice. It is 2 a.m.
Another climb greeted us out of Pole Creek. We walked the whole way, even the runnable spots that we had scouted. I looked behind and did not see lights. The talk (from me) inevitably turned to how badly I wanted the sun to come up. "You'd think the goddamn sun will come up already!" I shouted. I pointed out that in 2008 we ran through Pole Creek and the sun was already up. Either the sun rose earlier that year or she was now running faster.
I had a cheat sheet of split times in my pocket. We were on a 26:40 pace, which she had maintained the entire race. Written in marker on my forearm is the woman's course record: "29:58."
"Do you want to know your pace or no?" I asked.
"No," she grunted.
At the top of the climb, I saw the lights of a runner (presumably Jared), seemingly farther back than before. Maybe, I thought, maybe she would have enough.
We did not run into the Maggie Aid Station at mile 85, even though it was a gentle downhill. She was just not able to.
At Maggie, I got a little more aggressive, and said, "It hurts. Of course, it hurts. What did you come here for? For this. To be at mile 85 in the lead and ready to throw down for the last 15 miles. Everything in our immediate future is positive. The sun is going to rise, it's going to warm up and we're going to hammer the last couple of big climbs. Don't worry about Jared, just focus on the task. If it hurts, let it hurt. That's your body. But you run this with your mind. With your mind. And no one on this course has a stronger mind." It was the best I could do, an exhortation.
After Maggie Gulch the sun peeked over the eastern ridges. If you watch it closely and with expectation, the sun's rise is a slow process. The rest of the world was asleep, and stretched out behind us was The Race—all the other runners locked on simple goals: to finish, then to sleep.