Aubree Reichel | The Journal Gazette Brenda Worrell of Warsaw walks with Erin Brady of Fort Wayne during the St. Pat's 24-Hour Race in South Bend on Oct. 22. Worrell finished with 101.7 miles.
Sunday, November 05, 2017 1:00 am
Runner gets help to cover 100 miles
St. Pat's 24-Hour Race true test of stamina
A distinct difference between trail running and road running is the amount of emphasis on the quantitative data.
Road running focuses on the personal records, the overall pace for any given distance.
Trail running varies from course to course, which takes away any comparison between like distances. It means events such as the St. Pat's 24-Hour Race on Oct. 21-22 in South Bend was more about competing against yourself. The goal for the time-based races is to run as many loops as possible in the given time. Trail races also allow a certain amount of assistance from others in the form of crewing and pacing.
At St. Pat's, runners were allowed a pacer to accompany them on the 3.1-mile loop. For the final 30 minutes, runners had the option of doing a quarter-mile out-and-back stretch to gain additional miles.
I had the opportunity to pace and crew for my friend and teammate Brenda Worrell for her 24-hour journey (the event also had 6- and 12-hour options).
Worrell had the goal of 100 miles and had everything planned just so. Everything in her aid station was labeled and she knew where everything was. Worrell was one of a few runners in our group that was still going on the 24-hour event late into the night and she, and the other runners, had a small army on their side.
I jumped in with Worrell around midnight and joined her for four consecutive loops, took a break while someone else joined her for one, and power-walked another.
When I jumped in for the first go-round, Worrell was still in good spirits. She highlighted some landmarks along the loop like a red glow stick where she fell (and lost a water bottle that we never found), the picnic table where she threw herself a pity party and had to say, “Curse you, picnic table,” every loop. Then there was Bart.
Bart was the biggest uphill section on the course. It was steep, sandy and positioned about a mile from the start/finish area. Worrell named Bart after a kid in her school days who was just ... not a nice person.
We eventually started to curse Bart, as well.
Toward the middle and end of my first shift, her vision started to give her issues. She had completed the 100-mile distance at the Indiana Trail 100 in April with the same issue. She donned her eye-patch and made her way through the trails the best she could.
It was then that the pacer became less of a companion for company and more of a safety feature. Whether it was the vision or general fatigue or a combination of both, Worrell was swerving along the trail, getting close to the edge.
Because of this, too, she was beginning to doubt herself. Loops and pacing numbers weren't adding up in her head. Luckily, I glanced at the computer her last loop in at the time in question. At mile 80.6, she had six hours to complete just under 20 miles.
This put her at ease for a bit. Enough to keep her pace up and keep her going.
In the end, as the sun rose, Worrell completed enough out-and-back quarter-mile sections to finish the event with 101.7 miles, good for second overall female.
Suzi Swinehart won the event with over 128 miles, breaking the men's and women's distance records for the event.
While Worrell had a small army on her side, Swinehart operated her aid stations like that of an auto racing pit crew. As much as I wanted to help her, it was more helpful to stay out of the way.
Before St. Pat's, I'd never officially crewed or paced anyone. Since my running résumé doesn't include distances past 50 miles, I'd never needed a pacer, either.
Luckily for me, however, I had Erin Brady as Worrell's crew chief. Brady's done it all and was the head honcho of decision-making in terms of who was going to take what loops and when and just making the decisions for the indecisive.