10 Tips on Being a Good Pacer/Crew at an Ultra
Well hello! We are headed into the last weekend before summer hits and I am soaking it up! I am hiking and headed out with friends tonight and tomorrow, I have the 5 Peaks Rattlesnake race. I haven’t celebrated my birthday yet which was almost a month ago (I am refusing to acknowledge it happened…) and my family and I are getting together to celebrate Father’s Day and my birthday on Sunday.
Last weekend was my first time pacing a runner over a distance over a marathon and I discovered some huge things for next time I have the opportunity. I knew going into it that it is one of those things you almost have to do once before you are fully prepared and that certainly was true. Thankfully, the Laurel Highlands Ultra was long enough that we could correct things we were doing incorrectly and adjust by the end.
So what did I learn?
1. Communicate clearly with your runner beforehand and during on what they want and need. Kim, Nikki and I had spent a weekend together recently so we had a good handle on personality style and communication styles. Right from the first leg on the trail, I asked Kim if she wanted a conversation or not. She was great at letting us know what she wanted and from the beginning, she told us to talk “at” her so I rattled on with story after story. As the race wore on, when I asked, she said that she didn’t want to talk so I kept the instructions to a minimum and didn’t say a word in order to let her get into the correct headspace.
2. Be organized.
Kim had everything labeled and numbered which made it easy for us to know which aid station she needed which nutrition package and where her dry, warm clothes were when she wanted to change.
3. Familiarize yourself with your runner’s pack.
When they ask for something from their pockets, you should know where to go. Likewise, know exactly where things are in their drop bins so you can make transition times as quickly as possible.
4. Take care of yourself.
It can be easy to forget about your own needs as a runner when you are focused on the success of another runner but if you aren’t healthy, they are not going to make it to the finish line. Make sure you eat, drink rest and stretch when and where you can to stay fresh.
5. Carry some extra food on you.
When Kim’s food started becoming unappealing to her, both Nikki and I offered some of ours. Novel food might be the key to keep your athlete eating and that can be the difference between finishing successfully or not.
6. Have an arsenal of mental tricks. Our favourite was to do the walk for one minute, run for a minute. Find ways to break down the distance for your athlete so they have manageable amounts of the race to focus on and to keep their mind occupied when they are hurting.
7. Carry body glide and salt/electrolyte tablets in hot weather. Your athlete will most likely go through more of this than you expect and neither are good to run out of on a run.
8. Carry savoury items.
9. Have a way to communicate with your team mate if there is another pacer. Nikki and I used iPhones and it worked perfectly and helped the process to go MUCH smoother.
10. Have all your runner’s stats and information on their goal pace. When you go into aid stations, you will be able to quickly tell whether they are on pace or not for their goal time.
If you have paced someone else before, what are some of your tips?
Racing this weekend? Which one?