“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” -John Muir
The president of RVRR and I decided to head up to Vermont to crew and pace for some of her teammates from Mountain Peak Fitness. I planned to help crew for our friend Zsuzzana Carlson for the first half of the day after which, Laura would jump in at mile 70.5 to pace her to the finish. We each wanted to get in a solid run, so we decided that each of us would pace someone instead of trying to split the 30 miles between us.
I was originally paired up to pace someone running her first 100miler. She ended up dropping around the 50mile mark and after she pulled out, I decided to head to mile 70.5 to sign up to pace whoever needed me. Within a few minutes of arriving I was assigned to a runner slated to arrive in 20 or 30 minutes. I quickly geared up and chatted with Hugette, who was telling me about Dan and his attempt to break the Grand Slam of Ultraruning record this year. Hugette was very gracious for my volunteering to pace, and you couldn’t help but get excited from all her energy and positive words about Dan.
Pacing and crewing is an interesting thing, as its a very selfless act. You dedicate money, time, and so much more in order to help a runner get to the finish line. While at first glance it may appear that very little is gained by a crew/pacer during a 100miler, the truth is quite the opposite. Crewing and pacing for my friend Mike during his first 100miler at Western States this year was an amazing experience. Not only did I have the ability to help a close friend accomplish a remarkable goal, but I also experienced all the energy that goes into running and putting on an ultra-marathon. I would quickly learn how rewarding pacing a stranger could be.
Dan Brendan rolled into Camp 10 Bear around 6:35pm complaining of a strained or torn quadricep muscle. He ran right to Hugetta’s car, got some food, a headlamp and fresh batteries, and some ace bandage in case he needed it for his quad later in the race. Dan and I rolled out of the aid station around 6:40pm and to be honest, I was thinking “great, this old guy would be walking the rest of the way or dropping shortly”. Little did I know who I signed up to pace, as Dan was not your average ultramarathoner, as if such a thing exists. As we began our journey together and got to chatting, I quickly began realizing just how decorated and experienced a runner Dan is.
Dan is one of the most modest people you will may ever cross paths with. While runners, and more specifically, ultra-runners, tend to be pretty laid back, its not uncommon to come across the bragging type, myself not excluded. Had I not asked Dan all the questions that I did, he would have never boasted that this Vermont finish would mark his 105th, 100miler in the last 10 years and his 10th sub 24 hour VT 100. Yes, you read that correct thats 105,000 miles in the last 10 years logged exclusively during 100 mile races, wow!
When you share hours and miles with a stranger, running tends to create a type of bond and a pathway for honest and open dialog, often prompting one to tell a stranger things they may find difficult to discuss with anyone else. True of this type of commradarie on the trails, Dan and I shared stories of our trials and tribulations, loved ones lost, races run in remembrance of very special people, and so much more.
Aside from being extremely modest and thanking the swarms of people cheering him along during the race, and believe me there were many, Dan was extremely appreciative of my company. Not only was Dan a pleasure to run with, but he didn’t seem to hit any lows during our last 30 miles together. If he was feeling bad, he didn’t complain or slow down. He kept a smile on his face the entire 8 hours we ran together and continually exclaimed how great it was to be out in the beautiful VT woods sharing the miles with me, and I couldn’t have agreed more. Endurance running has a funny way of stripping away the layers and all the protective barriers we as humans put up. However, when you cross the finish line of an ultra, your true emotions and feelings are exposed on the surface. In addition to his impressive running feats, Dan is also known for his signature finishes. At the end of every ultra-marathon, after 20-30 hours of non-stop running, Dan picks up his long-time girlfriend and walks across the finish with Hugette in arms. Dan mentioned a few times throughout our time running of how much he looked forward to carrying her across the finish line and how it was probably his favorite part!
So in my decision to volunteer as a pacer and get in some solid weekend mileage, I had the honor of running with one of the ultra-worlds greatest runners. I truly feel like I was the lucky one to have had the opportunity to run with Dan and learn many things over those 30 miles. Dan showed me that it’s possible to run a 100 miles with a smile on your face and that the greatest reward is the journey itself when you love what you’re doing. I will definitely recall Dan’s genial attitude during any lows during my next race and think to myself “what would Dan do?”, knowing that he’d keep pushing with a smile on his face, happy to be exactly where he is!
I highly recommend checking out www.run100s.com and signing up to volunteer or pace at a race, because you never know who you might cross paths with and what you may take away from the experience
UPDATE: Dan completed the Leadville 100 in 29hrs and 12 minutes and is well on his way to breaking the Grand Slam of Ultra-running with a record 7 finishes when he runs in the Wasatch Front 100miler on September 7th.