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Ben Woodbeck Friday, 18 November 2011 11:08 TWEET COMMENTS 2

Pacing Diana - Page 5

It was dark and we climbed out of the trees and into the alpine again. We had dropped our rain jackets at Sherman, and I looked up for the stars, to see if the weather would hold. A midnight downpour could slow us down. I looked up, out of the orb of my headlamp, and got dizzy. "Night drunk," we call it, when you look beyond your generated light. There were stars and just a few clouds.

I also peeked behind us. I turned off my light so that the runners behind could not see me. I did not want them to think we were worried, searching for our pursuers. I could see lights—all of them in twos, a pacer and runner. I was pretty certain they were all male runners. If she maintained any pace, Diana would win the female race. But a line had been crossed. Gender did not matter.

When I started pacing her, Diana told the stories that had been rolling in her mind all day. Now, she said almost nothing. She had run over 75 miles, the night settled in and the effort silenced her. Normal.

I went into chatterbox mode, talking about focusing on the task at hand, and then, conversely, talking about things that I hoped would help her enter some Zen-like state. I talked about my day at the aid stations, how her dad had her splits figured out to the second, how I watched a runner at Ouray say, "I feel fine, 100 percent," and then vomit all over his crews' shoes. Then back to how well she was doing. Always positive, always truthful and realistic. She grunted, sometimes. Usually in agreement. This is normal for her, us, in the recesses of a 100-mile night. She never complains. When I reminded her to drink, by saying, "Have you been drinking?" she doesn't answer. I can tell if she needs a drink if I hear the noise of the nozzle of her Camelbak being raised to her lips.

I move in front on the climb, trying to pull her a little bit, to maintain a pace. I looked behind us at the lights.

"I think we're 20 minutes ahead," I said.

We reach the top of the Continental Divide, the spine of North America. I tell her this to remind her that we are in such a beautiful place, to remind her to take the race moment by moment. Add up the moments, and we would be in Silverton. The finish.

We ran the downhill to Pole Creek Aid Station, Diana in front, so I could get a feel for what pace she was capable of, so she could choose her footing and line without interference. It was an OK pace. Just OK. I looked back as we rolled into the Pole Creek Valley and saw lights—much closer now. I could even hear voices.

We ran through spider webs across the trail. We busted bedded elk, which ran, clacking on the scree. Only one runner in Hardrock will run through spider webs, awaken elk on the trail: the runner in first.


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