[Elite women’s ultrarunner and nutritionist Meredith Terranova and her husband Paul paced and crewed Ian Sharman during his course record breaking 12:44:35. Meredith shares her perspective on the effort below. For more, you can check out our full 2011 Rocky Raccoon 100 article and our post-race interview with Ian.]
Paul and Ian ran the North Face 50K in December and finished 2/1. Afterward, Ian wrote a great report and was quite kind to Paul. From there, Paul saw the RR was on Ian’s race schedule and sent him a note and said that if we are out there he would love to pace him. The stage was set… in December.
About 3 weeks ago I decided not to race the 50, but go out and do course set-up for the 2 days before the race. Again, we reached out to Ian, but this time offered him the service of pacers for the last two loops, which he graciously accepted.
Thought it would be fun to share a quote on his pre-race plan: “My race number is 6 and I’m planning on running somewhere between 13 and 14 hours, so should hit 60 miles very close to 8 hours into the race (should be easy to pace that bit, it’s just the last 2 laps that’ll be hard). Aim is to stick to 8 min/miles if I feel it’s possible later on, plus there’s now so much competition in the race that it’d be a shame to not try to give those guys a race.”
We also told him we would crew for him at the aid stations. It would be a good way for us to pass the time and get to see the race play out. :)
After I arrived and ran the course on Thursday I sent Ian a note to tell him that the course was in the best condition I had ever seen it and that the weather for Saturday looked to be perfect. We made some final coordinating to meet at packet pick-up, as I hadn’t met him yet, and that was it.
Thursday night/Friday morning… snow in Texas. :) I ran the course again, and aside from very icy bridges the course was still in perfect condition.
I met Ian at packet pick-up, and we talked about what he might need and then just small talk. What a laidback guy. I think we talked less about the race than about random stuff. I went to meet Paul to hang glowsticks on the course for the next morning and told him that Ian was going to have a special day with that calm.
What we didn’t tell him is that Paul had a streak to hold up: He has paced the last 3 race winners at Rocky: Jorge Pacheco, Jamie Donaldson, Greg Crowther. He was also coming off pacing the Olympic Trial hopefuls at Houston last week. He was to pace the 2:39 group, but when all the women slowed he slowed with them to bring them in for the “B” standard. And the last time I paced at Rocky was when Jenn Shelton ran 14:57. No pressure, yet!
The first time we saw Ian was as he was running in from lap 1 (mile 20). The plan was for us to refill his Camelbak and give him goodies (nibbles as he calls it) from his little bag, which he had left. Oh, and take clothes as he took off layers. Simple enough.
Well, he comes through in second and his Camelbak has frozen. He hands it and a layer to me and says he will the pack later. At this point, he is without a hydration source, which (as someone who specializes in ultra nutrition) I didn’t like. His plan was to have nuun and water in that source. So we go into crew action. I have a tiny bottle (10 oz) that I am going to fill with a nuun and water and give to him at the next aid station: Nature Center (mile 23).
We meet him there, but he graciously doesn’t take the bottle. I figure I will just keep having the bottle and his Camelbak which we thawed. Hopefully, he would take one eventually. We see him next at Park Road (mile 36) and he takes the bottle. He is eating and drinking well, but I am happy that he is now carrying something. Now, I know he will hold strong!!
He comes through the 2nd loop (mile 40) in first and looking smooth and happy. We refill the bottle and get him out. Aid station stops are about 30 seconds, if that. The year I paced Jenn, I also crewed for Anton Krupicka, so we know how to NASCAR crew! Paul and I love this stuff, and Ian was super gracious and happy to have us move him quickly when we could.
We have been waiting for the others to go through the aid stations, but we haven’t been sharing the splits. It just doesn’t seem important or something Ian needs for motivation. He is definitely doing his thing and we are happy to be part of it.
By loop 3 we have our job down, and Ian is just in what seems to be cruise mode. Although his cruise mode is a sight to see, WOW!
We are meeting him at all aid stations we can and just keep the machine on target. Again, he is so on top of his eating and drinking.
As he approaches mile 56 aid station, I notice he still has some layers on. As he goes through, I asked if he wants to take off layers (hat, gloves, long sleeve) just to put the bug in his ear that they need to come off and he says he will in 5 miles start/finish.
As he comes into the start/finish of loop three (mile 60), he has removed the extra layers to toss to me. (We have been drying these layers just in case he needs them later.) He and Paul head out together and he says, “let’s go for 8 minutes per miles.” He doesn’t have a Garmin on, but is so in tune with where he is, how long stretches are between aid stations, and how long each stretch is taking. It is just such a testament to how on top of his nutrition and game he was. Incredible!
Paul said that the loop was awesome. Ian set the pace and they just chatted away. Paul noticed that he was breathing a little harder on the “hills,” but still so strong. I actually waited for the next guys to come through as we had missed them at the last couple of aid stations. I noted that they were 20 minutes behind him. His lead was building. My friend Mike pointed out that they would have to increase their pace 1 minute per mile on the last loop to catch him. WOW!
I had my friend do some quick calculations for me, just in case, to see what we needed to do to maintain the course record at this point. He needed at least a 3 hour loop, even with cushion.
Right before 10 hours into the race we have a Team Terranova hand-off!
Ian and I start down the trail and he tells me that he just wants a 3 hour loop. I say ok, but let’s just kind of relax and see what happens. We don’t take lights so the real goal is to get to Park Road, 4 miles from the finish, during daylight.
Conversation is almost as light as his feet. I tell him stories of folks who have sent well wishes his way on my phone, and talk is light. Let’s be honest, I am not running slow for me!
We see Anton and Hal and we guess that they are about 30 minutes behind. Take note here!! Ian says, “Yhey are about 28 minutes behind.” We are later told that they come in 27 minutes behind. Almost 83 miles in and he is THAT on is game and that clear in his mind!
We get to the aid station and reload him.
I ended up needing to hit the woods and took an alternate route to me back up with Ian. The best part, as it turns out later, is that Ian says that this is actually a great thing for him. He was able to relax and cruise. He ended up about 40 minutes without me. We head back to the aid station and this time it is a bit of a frenzy. Everyone is taking tons of pictures as I fill his bottle and he “nibbles.” (I am getting such a kick out of his description of aid station eating.)
We leave the aid station with about an hour of running left. He is just a few minutes behind his last split, and running so well! It is just awesome to be with him. Such a wonderful person. We get back on the single track and I see what I think is Karl. I ask, “was that Karl.” Ian says, “yes,” and we note that he is about 8 miles behind him. WOW! We start talking about the odds that Karl gave him (13-1) and how he wished that he could have taken that bet.
I remind him that this is the last rooted section, then the jeep road, and last aid station. I tell him we will grab lights there and that my light is ridiculous. We have a great run of it. We run side-by-side on the jeep road and have a good push of it. He asks me how much further until we turn and I tell him, “two bumps.” I refuse to call the stuff out here hills, although I am sure he is thinking the opposite at this point.
He and I talk about the fact that it was hard for him to get going again after the last aid station, so I suggest we just run through the last one without a pause. It’s only 4 or so miles to the finish and he should be fine. I encourage him to take part of a gel as we head into the aid station, so he can dump the rest as we go through. He, again, is just so on it and ready to take the gel. AWESOME!
We cross the road, Paul hands me both of our lights, and off we go with maybe a 2 second pause. I hand him his headlamp and put mine on my head. I don’t realize that he is holding his, but at the point when he is about to put his on I hear a clammer and then the most awesome tuck and roll. CRAP! Before I can blink he is up and running, and I find him the best running ground on the right side of the trail.
Oh, side note, he is still running every tangent possible on every turn. Definitely the road runner in him, and when I applaud it he says, “why would I run any extra.”
Back to the tuck and roll…he is up and we are back in action. There is little to no pause in our forward momentum. As we turn back onto the singletrack our lights go on. It takes me a moment, but at the perfect angle I can totally light the trail for him from behind. Yes, my light is that bright. (I am night blind, so I need it…and yeah, forgot to get my glasses.) The goal is to not fall and get past the two rooty inclines. They are short, but not worth the tripping. From there, it is about a mile of smooth sailing to the finish.
I keep telling him what an honor and pleasure it has been to help him and his days of running under the radar are officially over. He picks it up and we sprint it in. 12:44!!
Could not have happened to a more talented (6:01 at Comrades!! and the world record for marathon in costume) guy. He has wheels and a fantastic attitude! Paul and I loved being part of it!