Pacing Pirates

by: Jack McClintic

Six months, 11,492 miles, 2,288 push-ups, seventy-two gallons of Gatorade, four gallons of beer, one gallon of wine and two bottles of eggnog later the Katyfit pirates were toeing the line of the 2005 Houston Marathon. We had rejoiced in our hot and humid long runs, all the hills we could find, 40-mile bike rides, scores of races (especially Sunmart and the Muddy-Buddy) and cold rainy workouts; for our motto was Hard-Core! We began as sixteen individual runners with varied running resumes, but we now towed the line as one, a band of pirates. All fall we had woven our bonds of brotherhood ever tighter with shared meals, outings and parties. We now all wore our skull and cross-bones shirts and we all immediately respond to any human contact with a frightening Argh! It was really heady stuff at the starting line as the whole band was poised for PR plunder!

We did not lightly speak of our oneness, we let our legs do the talking as six of us paced the other ten towards some magnificent, marathon treasure. The crew called me Captain Jack, as I was their coach. My plan was to be a pirate pacer too, running with each one of them for a few miles. I was excited in that I would get to share just a little bit in the new chapter each one of them was writing in their marathon book. The perfect weather conditions added to our excitement. Our treasure map was the same one we used in training, run faster by focusing on the food right beyond the finish line!

Motivating pirates with their lust for food and plunder was easy, managing to pace them was a trickier proposition. It is a lot like telling them that they could only have one bottle of rum per day! My first assignment, Steve Brammer, was to prove most troublesome. Having a 3:12 PR, he had his eye’s set on one of marathoning’s holy grails, a sub 3 hour finish. We found each other at the very front of the starting line and we were soon sprinting down Crawford. Pirate Steve, was a little crazier than most of the mates, having once climbed every water tower in Cooke County, Texas. His eyes had that green gleam to them as we had gone five blocks at sub six-minute mile pace. I hollered at him: “Steve!” He turned and said, “I guess we are going a little too fast.” I managed to gasp out, “yeah!” It worked just a little, as the elites were finally starting to pull away from us.

Despite my pacing pleas, we hit mile one in 6:29. Since I forgot to bring some rope and an anchor to moderate his pace, I used a little guile on him. I wasn’t Captain Jack for nothing! I introduced him to Jeff Eisele and Kevin Regis, right next to us and said, “You should hang with them as they ran 2:58 and 2:56 last year.” It was a waste of what little breath I had left. Steve very cordially said hello to them with an other worldly look upon his face, and then pulled ahead of us. By mile two he was easily 50 meters ahead of me and my wheels were coming off. So I cruised into the fifth mile marker at 6:41 pace and waited for my next pirate to arrive. Throughout the race reports of Steve filtered back to me. Jeff Clark had seen Steve at about mile eight still on 6:30 mile pace. I was worried about his chances of breaking 3 hours, but amazingly enough he finished in 2:58! He did indeed slow down the last two miles, but his blistering pace paid off. I have learned my lesson, next year I will just encourage him to hang with the front runners!

Back at mile five, I caught my breath and Mark Coleman found me. Like Steve, Mark is also as tough as nails. He was maintaining a perfect pace to meet his goal of breaking 3:30 and qualifying for the Boston Marathon. We ran together, side by side all the way to mile fifteen. Mark kept a perfect 7:47 pace, looked relaxed and had a very pleasant smile on his face. There was a lot to smile about too as we pumped up the crowds in the places where they were thick. I was using the upward sweeping arm motion to lift them up and their cheers lifted all of us as well. I had fun messing with the fans and shouted at them that “you look good!” I also kept asking them for beer to no avail.

Of course we were both wearing our pirate shirts and the crowd response was fantastic. They said, “Go pirates” or go “skull and cross bones!” We just gave them our biggest Arghs and they would Argh us right back and then laugh. These marathon fans (mixed with concerned relatives) intuitively knew that a pirate was a quintessential metaphor for a marathoner. Like pirates, us marathoners risked our health while operating outside of all sedentary laws, scanning the horizon for that ever elusive treasure. I said farewell to Mark after mile 15, but man did he look strong as he just kept parting the waves off into the distance! He went on to run a 3:28 and capture a Boston qualifier.

After a quick port-a-potty break, in which mate Dennis passed me, I did some stretches and felt my sea legs getting a little tight. In just a minute I found Floyd Trevino moving at a very steady 8:04 mile pace. He too was after the Boston standard. He was officially part of a different Katyfit training group, but he had trained with us and was hard-headed, hence he was also a pirate! As Floyd was looking fine at 16, I bade him farewell. He went on to capture a nice PR of 3:41, but missed Boston by six minutes. He is already planning to get Bostin in Austin!

Just a few minutes later, I spied mates Nancy Husby and Mike Dodson, and I joined them for a mile. They were a smooth running machine! Mike was giving of himself to pace Nancy towards her goal of qualifying for Boston. He was doing a marvelous job being really positive, but also using a woman with a green top to motivate her. He kept track of her splits every mile so she just could relax and “enjoy” the race. While they worked as team, I just goofed off and continued to work the crowds. Saying bon voyage after mile 17, Nancy went on to qualify for Boston with a nice 3:48 time.

Just a minute later, I came across another pacing pirate, Rene’ Reynolds. She was a captain too, but of the mighty Champion’s Fit yellow group. She was pacing a still coherent runner through his first marathon. I didn’t ask her where the other fifty runners on her team were, but I bet they were behind her. She was leading by example!

I stopped right at mile nineteen and went through my entire stretching routine and sensed that my right IT band was about to snap off of my peg leg. At this moment I spied two more pirates, Mark Bauman and Ray Schmidt, right on nine minute per mile pace. Ray had been pacing Mark and Pat, who had fallen back, to break four hours. At mile twenty, Ray started to fade too as his knee was hurting him. Mark and I ran together to mile twenty-three. He was strong the whole way and kept up a smooth shuffle. Helping Mark was a extra special for me as we both were formerly teammates on the championship Pines Basketball team in the mid-nineties. He was loaded with basketball genes and had led his former high school team to some St. Louis city championships. So it was great to see Mark move his big 6’2” frame so well in a marathon. He went on to break his four hour goal time by 4 minutes. I just wished I had and extra basketball on me so he could dribble it around all the runners that he passed!

I ran back against the flow for the runners for the first time as I was now afraid to stop on extra stiff legs. I soon found Pat Foley. I could tell that Pat was OK, but that he was reaching the breaking point. I was very proud of him from mile twenty-three to twenty-five for toughing it out. I knew he would be OK as he could still laugh, a pirate’s second best friend. We were both blessed with a very rousing cheer from the coaches of Katyfit at mile twenty-four. Our first-mate Paige also gave us the loudest Argh of the entire day, as she was going back out to pace more pirates. Pat was out after the same treasure as Mark, to break four hours. He went on to miss it by only one minute, but PR’d by seventeen minutes.

I circled back and found mate Karen Broyles at about mile 24.5. She was looking extra strong and could even talk in complete sentences! We ran just past mile 25 up the hill into downtown, where you can just smell the finish line. She was passing more runners as I turned around again. She ran across the finish line in 4:10, a 36 minute PR! I made my first mistake of the day by missing mate Randy Peters, but he went on to rake in a nice 4:13, a 45 minute PR! It was clear to me that some of our swifter pirates were going to have to get a lot swifter next year!

Running back to mile 24.5 again I found first mate Paige and Christy Coleman, the wife of Boston bound Mark. Paige handed Christy off to me and went back to find more of our crew. I decided to run Christy all the way to the finish line, before the medics had to run me to the infirmary!

Christy was hurting a lot. At one point she hollered out in pain as her calf cramped up. It only took her to few paces to walk it off and she moved steadily through the streets of downtown Houston. As we neared the finish line, one of our smarter half-marathon pirates, Donna Crocker, joined us (mates Ralph Kaplan, Kevin Schnyder and Greg Nunn also PR’d in the half). Donna and I worked both sides of the street pumping up the crowds. The three of us ended the marathon flying across the finish line with our arms stretched out, as airplanes! Christy finished in 4:17, a 42 minute PR. Candice Trimm came in next pacing some of her friends and Charlotte Harris completed her run with a 43 minute PR.

The pirates had all finished gloriously with loads of treasure: sub 3s, Boston qualifiers, sub 4s and huge PRs, while the rest of their mates helped pace them. I felt fantastic in helping others as we ran as one body, the Katyfit pirates. We all shared in each other’s treasure by sharing ourselves, and created a richer treasure composed of friendship and love.

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