Top tips for pacers and supporters at Tarawera Ultra
KNOW YOUR RUNNERS PLAN
The best pacer is the one with you on the startline!
The most important things any runner could ever do is
- understand how fit they are
- know what time they are capable of running
- have a plan
- and execute it smartly.
Apply your fitness evenly across the course to achieve the best possible result and you will be pacing yourself all the way.
Use the ‘buddy-system’, get yourself a ‘wing-man’ and run smart from the start. Feel free to kill each other in the final few kilometres but ensure you set yourself up well for that battle by running smart from the start.
One of the standout differences with the elite runners is that they manage their spend evenly across the day. Be like the pros!
There are eight aid stations in the race. Many are not accessible to supporters during the event. The only Aid Stations you can support your runner at are as follows:
- 40 km: Tarawera Outlet (only by bus)
- 58 km: Okataina (only by bus, faster runners will cover this distance in a little over two hours which can be challenging logistically for spectators and crew to make it between The Outlet and Okataina in time)
- 86 km: Lake Tikitapu / Blue Lake
- 95 km: Redwoods / Titokorangi
Once your runner has left the Aid Station you should too. Often crew fail to make it around to the next aid station before their runner arrives. If your runner hits the Aid Station and you’re not there with the essentials assume the next conversation you have to take place via two very expensive lawyers. I’m pretty sure this is how war broke out in Europe.
The trip from The Outlet to Okataina is quite an undertaking. Know where the buses operate from and get there to grab the first available one.
Access to areas listed as bus only are exclusively bus only without exception.
Rolling resupply and rules for mules
There is an undocumented rule that 200m either-side of an Aid Station pacers and supporters can do pretty much anything to support their runner. Outside of this 400m zone it is clearly understood that you may not touch your runner or provide any assistance other than moral support. You may NOT pass them any fuel at any time outside of that ‘Aid Station support zone’. If your runner falls you may not help them locate their teeth, reset a dislocated limb or apply anti-chafe to an angry crevice. It’s a tough old sport but rules have to apply to everyone, elites included.
What you CAN do though…
Stand within 200m of the Aid Station and have everything your runner needs ready. As they approach have them dump their gear and pick-up the resupply from you. If you’re sharp you can do this at their run pace thereby not hindering their progress at all. Doing this prior to the Aid Station means the runner can arrive at the Aid Station with their resupply and still have the opportunity to grab a purple jet plane (everyone knows that’s the best jet plane).
Be aware that in most circumstances 200 m either side of the aid station is a narrow section of trail and in most cases it easier to meet the athlete at the Aid Station.
Similarly, pacers can help runners with their resupply within 200m of an Aid Station. As you approach the Aid Station ask the runner what they want. Typically they will want handhelds refilled. Within 200m you may take gear from your runner, sprint ahead, and start the refill/resupply process. When your runner arrives at the Aid Station they can busy themselves with the important search for purple jet planes while you carry on refilling handhelds etc. You have 200m to get that gear back to your runner before it’s yours and you can no longer pass it back to them. Play by the rules.
Nothing you could possibly do is right, you’re hopeless and I hate you!
Welcome to the dark moments of an ultramarathon. If you’re crewing and your runner just rolled into the aid station complaining that everything you did is wrong, they hate you and your ugly face, chances are someone is in a wee bit of a trough. EXPECT THIS. I’ve seen some pretty unkind behavior at Aid Stations by the nicest people. Late in the day you should almost expect your runner to behave like an ill-tempered zombie with Tourette’s. Stay cool. They love you deep down, right now though they just hate life. The world. And everyone in it.
A good pacer is a game changer
I’ve been lucky enough to crew and pace for some of the best in the world. Be the best pacer you can and research tips for pacers online. There are many tips and most are universally applicable,
- Be supportive and positive. Troughs are a certainty, there will be dark days, be prepared to see your runner through them and try to establish the cause for trough (Hydration? Fuel?)
- Everyone is different with how much conversation they might want but talk incessantly at them regardless. No one want’s to run for hours in awkward silence.
- Ensure your runner is concentrating and engaged in the activity and not dwelling on the dark clouds and suffering.
- Talk to them about their form and efficiency – it matters!
- Run smart lines on wide corners
- Look for the terrain that offers the best purchase as opposed to the loose gravel
- Be aware of what they’re presently capable of and think about how your position relative to theirs can help them speed up and slow down. Being ever so slightly ahead of your runner can cause them to speed up in some cases.
- Help them set achievable targets like “lets run to that bend in the road up there” / “lets catch that blonde girl in the green dress”
- Know when to run and when to walk. Generally most inclines are walked late in the race. Run all the downhills and flats where possible.
- Carry spare supplies and potential aid like gels, Panadol, anti-chafe (etc) but remember you can only hand it over in the 400m ‘supporters zone’. NB – Ibuprofen is banned. It’s not a performance enhancing drug, it’s just plain dangerous.
- Sing! Everyone knows the words to “The Gambler” – belt out some tunes. Your manic optimism is infectious even if your inability to hold a note is offensive.
- Get some messages from friends and family further afield and pass them on to your runner
- Look after yourself. Pacers need nutrition too!
Regardless of whether you’re racing or pacing, all the information you need is readily available on the website but if you have a reading and comprehension issue (many do), Knowledge is power!