I had a unique opportunity this past Sunday to pace the 8:30 group in the inaugural Fort2Base run. This was my first official pacing job. Thanks to the LFLB club who let me know they were looking for help. Volunteering to pace also meant I got to run the race for free.
The race distance was unusual. 10 nautical miles. Which translates to 11.5 road miles. The race started at Fort Sheridan , ran along the Green Bay Trail and finished at Great Lakes Naval Base. The base is celebrating it's 100 year anniversary and it coincided with the ten year anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy.
Earlier in the week I came down with a slight chest cold from my son. Nothing too awful but enough that it made me want to cut back my mileage a bit. Last week I managed 41 miles on four days of running. I was worried that I might miss the race. But after taking my awesome zinc + Vitamin C combo I think I fought it off. Plus running actually helped clear my lungs.
I was kinda worried how they were going to handle security. After all, it was 9/11 and we were to be on an active Navy training facility. Parking was on the base grounds and we were to be bussed to the start. Pacers were told to get to the start no later than 6:30 as the race started at 7:00. Buses were to begin at 5AM. I got close to the main gate exactly at 5AM and all of the school buses were parked in the street. I sat through about 15 stop lights before the buses finally were let onto the base. I could see each bus was checked by a K9 team. Runners just had to show a drivers license. But the delay caused traffic to back up on the main entrance road. In addition, the school bus drivers they hired didn't exactly know where they were going. As a result, the race started about 15 minutes late.
I'm glad I left so early because I got to the race start in plenty of time. I was co-pacing with John, also from LFLB. I do not run with a Garmin but can usually nail a pace after a mile or two with my watch. John made the fatal mistake of trying to be prepared by charging his Garmin the previous night. Murphy's Law kicked in and left his GPS completely dead! We ran off my watch and the mile split markers. Thankfully they were in road miles. We had a moment of silence for the 9/11 victims and the national anthem. We were finally off. As my watch approached 8:30 there was no mile marker in sight. So it was on to Mile marker 2 where our split was 16:34. About :26 seconds too fast. We finally settled in and were slightly up or down a few seconds each mile.
It was fun being a small center of attention. Hard not be carrying this sign:
I called out the splits. I talked to some of the runners who grouped in behind us. Some of them actually thought we did a good job. John and I talked about running and races. He was running in memory of his father who served in the Navy. John was actually born on the base and now lives within walking distance of the trail we ran. Army reserve worked as security at a few intersections. Various army and navy personnel worked some of the water stops. I tried to thank every one of them. Although being in the service I'm not sure they had an option to volunteer or not if you catch my drift. The last three miles were in the base. We ran downhill and along Lake Michigan. A perfect day for running and reason #104 of why I run. Before heading for the finish we had to run a steep hill. About 20 Navy guys hollered and cheered, "it's all downhill from here" at the base of our climb.
John ran ahead of me here. I assume the pace was a bit slow but I wanted to see how exact I could come. In the final stretch some runners sprinted past me. My final time was 11 seconds slow of a perfect pace. 1 second per mile. I could live with that. The best part was that EVERY runner I paced had a PR. How many pacers can say that? Then again, none of these runners have ever run a 10 nautical mile race before so they were guaranteed a PR. They passed out some serious bling for a first time event that wasn't a half marathon or longer.
The bling also known as a challenge coin in military terms.
It was great event. I'd love the opportunity to pace this run again. I'm sure next year they will get the start kinks worked out.