One of my favorite races of the year is the Icebreaker. If you are unfamiliar with it, let me give you a little background. It is a race weekend full of something for everyone held at the Pettit National Ice Center. It is a truly unique experience where you get to run on a track and see the other runners throughout the whole race. The benefits are awesome, spectators can see you multiple times, access to your hydration is available to every lap, as well as the port-o-potty. You not only get to see the leaders cruise by, you get an opportunity to cheer on people that you cruise by. The race director, his crew, volunteers are an amazing crew. Although they take their job seriously to put on a great event, that’s the only serious part during this weekend. Most of the time they will also take part in at least one portion of the event, it truly is a runner’s race, a race for runner...Then there is Team Flaws, the people behind the RunningintheUSA. Mary, a Rockstar runner, which that title alone does her no justice. She is truly amazing, she not only runs the Gold Medal Challenge (1/2 marathon on Saturday, full on Sunday) she bakes dozens of delicious US and running shoe shaped cookies. Her husband, is on his feet more than her, believe it or not, snapping hundreds of pictures of all the events.
I have participated in the half here several times, the Gold Medal Challenge once, and as a volunteer. This year a different opportunity presented itself to me. A runner with visual impairment was seeking a guide for the marathon. Chris, the race director, posted the query out. Although having no experience with this, I told him if he needed me I would be willing to assist. It turns out, another veteran runner of this race, Doug, is also an accomplished guide. Chris got the three of us in touch, and we corresponded beforehand, and agreed to meet Saturday after the first heat of the half marathon.
|Photo by Bill Flaws RunningintheUSA.com|
Doug had just finished the half, doing great after coming off a crappy flu that kept him from running for a bit. He explained what he foresaw as problems, and we did a few laps together to get a feel of what the plan would be like for Sunday. I originally was going to run the second half of the full, but we agreed we should all be at the start together, just in case anything came up.
The rest of the day was relaxing at home, and even ventured out to try a new place for a drink or two. Sleep did not find me very easily, I was pretty nervous about what the day would bring. Sunday came quickly though, thankfully the snow did not. Once at the Pettit, I found Doug, Steve and his wife, Pat. Many other friends were running the race so it was great to see them.
Our plan was to start at the end of the pack, and naturally let things space out. Doug was by Steve's side and I took up the rear. We fell into a smooth groove and it was easy to see Doug's expertise in guiding. Steve easily adjusted to Doug's guidance and we were on our way around and around (95 times).
Everyone was very supportive of Steve, and Steve was full of WOOTS himself. I was going to break off from them at some point and sit a few laps out, but decided early on that I might as well just do the whole thing. Again, it's the environment of seeing the same people around the track, passing and being passed by runners you know and don't know. Listening to songs that you might not ever listen to while you run (each runner requests a song to be played while running). It makes you want to be out there participating. Doug stopped for a few laps, kept us hydrated and on pace from the side, and then joined us again to the finish.
Steve was coming off a foot injury, and claimed he wanted just to finish. Well finish he did, and with a time of 4:16:57!
This experience was unlike anything I have ever done before. Everyone made this experience a great one for Steve. I have tried to put together the right words to describe the overall feeling of the day, and simply cannot. This Icebreaker was even more amazing than ever and it is because of all the great people who make it that way. Thank you!