By Bruce Yang
I could not make it to last Wednesday’s RRR track workout (June 19) because that evening, I had a work-related meeting/dinner. While I was at that dinner, I got a message from the team leader of the Clif Bar Marathon Pace Team. They were pacing the Grandma’s Marathon and Gerry Bjorklund Half Marathon in Duluth, Minn., on Saturday morning, June 22. I did not request this race due to my busy schedule last week. However, the team leader told me that they lost two pacers due to some last-minute emergency and they had already maxed out all the pacers that were available for the weekend. There was a 1:40:00-pace Half Marathon spot open and they asked me if I could pace. They totally understood the last-minute nature and they did not expect me to say yes since they knew that I had a busy weekend – that was why I did not request this race beforehand.
There were two other pacers who may have been free but they normally pace slower times so 1:40 was questionable to them, therefore the team leader did not ask them. However, I had my own question about whether I could even hit a 1:40 half marathon right now, since I did the Nanuet Father’s Day 4 miler on June 16 with a very mediocre time of three minutes slower than when I ran it nine years ago. I attribute the slower pace this way: one minute to the tougher new course for the Father’s Day run, one minute to my lack of preparation, and one minute to the fact that I was nine years younger back then.
Anyhow, knowing the desperation to fill the spot, I agreed to take the responsibility. I knew that I could most likely hit it but I anticipated doing it with a great deal of pain and exhaustion. Immediately after the adjournment of the meeting, I went home, put my son to bed and went out to Clarkstown South High School to try to do a 7-mile run with the goal pace of about 7:30 minutes per mile. However, I stopped at mile 6 because my legs and hips were actually feeling heavy. So I decided not to push to 7 mile since it would only make me tired. I did not run on Thursday so I could recover. On Friday, after I put my son to his school bus (his last day of kindergarten), I went to Rockland Lake to do a quick 3-mile run at about 7:35 pace. So that was pretty much the preparation for the assignment. I am very thankful at the end that I did the Father’s Day 4 miler, which helped me to prepare for the unexpected assignment.
Clif Bar flew me out of JFK Airport at 2:20 p.m. Friday and I got to the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport and then transferred to Duluth. The flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Duluth was delayed. And, when we got to Duluth, the pilot had to try to make three landings and finally hit it on the third one due to a very low visibility due to fog. I was still able to make the team meeting by 8 p.m. since Duluth is a small airport similar to the Westchester County Airport.
The race started Saturday morning at 6:45 a.m. It was chilly at about 40 degrees but I usually run well in colder weather so depsite the initial hypothermic feeling at the start, the race went pretty well, and it remained at about 50 degrees throughout the race. I paced successfully and finished in 1:39:16. However, as strange as it may seem, I had to use the extra 43 seconds to sprint out of the finish area back to the team hotel and then showered, and got to the airport to fly back to New York. So I literally was in Duluth for 15 hours. But I am glad that I could pull it through and help the team fill the 1:40 spot on very short notice. I went with basically an empty bag so I did bring back some Clif Bar product just in case the ones I ordered do not arrive before the Woman’s Festival. (Editor’s note: Bruce arranged to have Clif Bar donate a shipment of its bars to the Women’s Distance Festival on July 13). At least I have a few to provide to the runners.