23 Apr Silver and Gold…24 Hour World Championships, Torino, Italy 4/11-12/2015
I wasn’t sure what kind of shape I was in going into the World Championship. My training wasn’t what I had planned leading up to race day. I had raced a lot in the fall and winter (Tunnel Hill 100 11/14, Desert Solstice 12/13, and Bandera 1/9…3 races in 2 months). I realized after Bandera I needed a break, but how much? After all, the World Championships, one of my two “A” races for the year was only 3 months away. I decided to take 9 days off and then build back up easy-40 miles, 56 miles, 67 miles, 76 miles. Then, I had a down week planned (54 miles), followed by 3 big weeks (84, 90, 92). Most days I just ran as I felt with no agenda. On occasion, I would have a bad run and wonder if I needed more rest. I typically run 5 days/week and lift on the other 2 days. Starting into the first of my big three mileage weeks, I had another crappy run. I started to doubt myself (am I overtrained? unrecovered? do I suck? am I losing it?). I was stressed with a lot of life stuff going on (work, kids, lots of extra meetings, conference calls, etc) and not getting as much sleep as I needed/wanted. Plus, my husband had a week off and wanted to go the the Bahamas (I know poor me 🙂 But, as I am self-employed, I couldn’t afford to take the week off, nor did I want my therapy kiddos to miss treatments for another week when I knew I would be gone for 2 weeks in April with no one to cover my schedule.
So, during my 84 mile week preceding the Bahamas (I worked Monday-Thursday), I ran 50 of my miles on Friday/Saturday. I spent the rest of the Friday/Saturday getting caught up on work paperwork, packing to get out of town, and the usual family stuff. Then, I saw all of my 20 home health kiddos (LONG DAYS) in 2.25 days (Sunday/Monday/Tuesday), so we could leave and have the rest of the week in the Bahamas. By the time we left Tuesday at 12 noon, I felt run down and on the verge of illness. I decided to be brave and break from my planned runs of 90 miles that week. I was worried not to do it (I would only have 4 weeks above 75 miles in a 3 month period, which was less than my 2013 training), but knew I needed rest more than running. We enjoyed the trip, snorkeling, diving, and relaxing. I only ended up running 56 miles that week (34.2 of which was a 50k (I got lost for 3.2 miles) I did for fun in Florida on the way back). That adjustment of running lower mileage, was just what I needed. I got sleep, ran less, and recovered. I came back and ran 88 miles the next week, followed by weeks of 75, 54, 30, and 16 the week of the race. Most of the race week were touring runs where I averaged 10-12 min/mile due to stopping and taking pictures while we were in different European cities. On Wednesday, My husband Mike and I decided to run ALL THE WAY across the country of Monaco and back just to say we did.We ran a total of 6 miles from our hotel to France,then across Monaco and back to the hotel. We averaged 12:30’s and took about 15-20 pictures. It was leisurely and fun.
I got to Torino on Wednesday night to gather with the team. Only 3 of us were returning members from the last championship in 2013, so it was good to hang out and get to know everyone better. We ate out at a Chinese/Italian place…weird I know, but cheap and good. Many people were discussing their goals and plans for the race, which made me reflect on my goals. I had many goals as usual:
- Break the American Record of 152.030 miles
- Break 150 miles
- PR (more than 147.676 miles)
- Podium Individually (I was 4th in 2013 and really wanted to be up there)
- Be one of the top 3 scorers for the women so that my mileage mattered and aided our medal placement.
- Run Happy and Be Nice
On Thursday, 5 of us ladies ran the course (Connie was still en route). The course had a great surface (much better than the Netherlands-no cobblestone), but had a U-turn and an 18’ curved ramp that we would have to go up and down every 2000 meters. I know that may not sound much to people who haven’t done a 24-Hour race, but it adds up and feels like a mountain by the end of 24 hours.
Following our course preview, we had a team meeting with crewing information. I got just as choked up this year as in 2013, listening to Howard Nippert, our Team Leader, talk about the importance and privilege of wearing USA on your jersey. He talked about military serving their country, and although we weren’t protecting others freedoms, we, as athletes had the duty to do what we were chosen to do by making our country proud! It was quite stirring! He handed out bandanas which he had made each of us with a compartment that can be filled with ice and tied around our necks (he is selling these to help make money for the 24 Hour Team…). We discussed the rules for running, being aided, crewing, and the schedule for the weekend, etc.
After the meeting, Greg Hon, an Osteopathic Doctor (working under Doc Lovey) worked to stretch out a couple of tight areas that I had. I am soo impressed that Greg not only paid his way, but had to use vacation to come and help us. USATF doesn’t fully fund it’s MUT (Mountain Ultra Trail) athletes and helps partially fund 3 team members (Howard, Mike Spinnler, and Doc Lovey). Everyone else (Greg, Leah, Katie-all medical; Zane-organizing the aid station; Rich-helping Asst. Leader Spinnler, all pay their own way). This is a tremendous gift to us as runners…that people are spending likely $1000 or more to come to the 24 and are working hard, while taking time out of their lives to do it. I am truly grateful, as our success is only achieved with help from everyone!!
Thursday night, many of us returned to the Chinese/Italian restaurant and enjoyed some Pino Penguino gelato 🙂
On Friday, I slept in, got my bag/ultra stuff ready and kept off my feet as much as possible. Friday night, we got to participate in a parade at the stadium. The parade is one of the coolest things about the World Championship. All the athletes are present and dressed in matching uniforms with their countries flags. It was super cool to see everyone and visit with friends I had met in 2013. It was amazing to see so many familiar faces. I made arrangements with a few people to trade uniform pieces after the race, a tradition that I was too sick to participate in after the 2013 World Championships. Each country walked out on the track in front of a large crowd in the Stadium. We gave small US flags out to people in the stands. After all of the countries were presented, announcements were made, as well as entertainment (belly dancers and couple dancers).
After the parade, our team reconvened at the hotel for a group dinner. I got to bed at a fairly decent time and slept as usual. I slept ok, but with my usual weird dreams of not making it to the race on time, getting the race start time wrong, etc. We left the hotel at 8:30am to be there by 9am (10am start). I was talking in the van on the way to the race and found it funny and comforting that the dreams I had were a common dream topic for many. After I arrived at the stadium, I found my husband Mike who had already left at 7:00am to help Zane set up the aid station. I gave him my bag of gear, phone, and got a zip tie for my chip. I checked in and went to the bathroom….normal race day stuff.
A little before 10am, we all gathered at the start line and posed for pictures. I urged Aly and Katy ahead of me, knowing they would start more quickly. The gun went off and away we went. Sky, Aly, and Katy were up front, followed by Connie, Maggie, and I. I wanted to go out between 9:00 and 9:15 pace. We were out at about 8:55. I knew we should slow down, but it was an easy pace and of course if never seems bad in the beginning. Since, I was ahead of pace, I decided to walk the ramp from the very first lap. Maggie and I ran together for about 1-2 hours. Initially, the big screen monitor wasn’t working which was supposed to display our laps. I asked Howard to check and see if both Maggie and my chips were working. He assured us they were, but I was nervous and counting laps, not wanting there to be a mistake. Finally, around lap 7, the display was working and was correct. I don’t remember at what point Maggie and I separated, but I knew I should be with her and not speeding up.
I ended up at an 8:50 average according to my Garmin for way too long. I talked to people, enjoyed the course, and kept telling myself to slow down. I didn’t listen to myself. There were at least 20 women ahead of me in my estimation, but I didn’t care. Most of the USA men were behind the women at this point. I knew placement didn’t matter at this point, and wasn’t affected by it, but just felt in a rhythm so I went with it. By 12 noon, just 2 hours into the race, it was hot. I wanted to stay ahead of the heat, so I asked for an ice bandana, which I wore for the next 5 hours or so. We were the only team that had ice. Howard had thought ahead and had the hotel stockpile ice for us for 2 days! HUGE Kudos to Howard. Ice is NOT a thing in Italy. They don’t sell ice, put it in drinks or use it in virtually anyway. They put fish on ice in the grocery store and use it in a hotel bar, but it is virtually nonexistent. I was thankful. It wasn’t that hot…maybe 70-ish?, but no one except Katy (from Florida) had run in much hot weather lately.
I remember Harvey coming by me, giving me tangent strategies for a point on the course where most runners, myself included, were not running the shortest way. It was helpful information which I greatly appreciated. Then, he asked me about my mileage on my Garmin, which was 48.86. He had 48.6 on his Garmin. He was concerned the board was wrong. At that point, we were on the same lap. When I came by my husband on the track, I told him that I needed to “slow the frick down.” Yet, I didn’t. I kept walking the ramp, and was listening to my ipod. I felt good, was taking my Hammer gels every 30 minutes like a champ, and drinking to my thirst. I started to get hungry earlier, maybe because of the heat, so I supplemented with some bananas here and there. At some point, I don’t remember when, my right calf was killing me. I stopped at the table and had Greg, the doctor work on it. Unfortunately, it didn’t help much. He tried to stretch it with active release techniques, but I had wished he had just elbowed it hard. I don’t know if that would have been better or not. I started to get stressed that I was wasting time, so I said I just needed to go. I figured it would quit hurting at some point, but it never really did.
Beep, my mile lap split went off on my Garmin. I hadn’t paid much attention to it except to check my pace so far. I wonder where I am at? I looked at it and was around 70 miles. Geez, why do I do this? This is miserable. Just get to 100 miles I thought. It took forever! I remember thinking that 81 laps was about 100 miles and I had a bunch of laps to go to get there. I wanted to get in a rhythm and not think about it, but just couldn’t. Usually, I don’t have problems until after 100 miles, but I was already pondering the logic of running 24 hours again. I kept thinking about the importance of running for Team USA, my goals, etc, but nothing was helping or motivating me. I was in a mental low and getting whiney about running. Yet, round I went.
I have no recollection of when I hit a 100 miles, how long the low lasted or when I finally got out of it. It was many hours of slogging and crap. I remember seeing Sky walking early on, as well as Isaiah. I also remember telling Maggie early on that despite the fact she was running 5th now, that her miles would likely count, as there is always more carnage up front. As time went on in the night, I knew that Aly was having issues and Connie was starting to as well. It ended up coming down to Katy, me, and Maggie. As for the guys, I later found out John Cash had a fever the night before and couldn’t breathe. He had been running well, but was starting to slow due to an illness that most wouldn’t even attempt to run with. Rich Riopel and Harvey were cruising well. Rich smiled the ENTIRE time! How can one be so happy I wondered in my low? I saw Oliver and Greg who were running well, but not always happy either. It all blends together in a sorted mess. The lights went out on the track for about an hour. I about did a face plant coming down the tunnel and back up onto the track in the dark. The stupid tunnel. God, I hated the tunnel. This would be a PR course if not for the stupid tunnel. I hated that tunnel. I’d run to the second #2 block, then walk and eat/drink up the ramp. As time went on, I ran until the #1, and then walked. Now there was a fire…pew…inhaling smoke…yuck. People were ALWAYS on Greg’s table…every time I would pass our tent it seemed like someone was on the table. Who was it and why I wondered…random thoughts. Get out of your funk I thought. I was intermittantly walking for 10 second breaks 2x/loop. Then, I started talking to Emily from Great Britain. I was struggling, but she was running well. I knew she had taken Bronze in Poland. I needed something to get me going. So I started talking to her. She was super nice and very interesting. And then, somehow it went…the low was gone. I was tired, my calf was still hurting, but boom…the low was gone. Back to happier running and singing along with my ipod.
OK. Focus. Still a blur of how things went. Maybe 6-8 hours to go. I asked Mike Spinnler where I was. He told me I was 4th female. I told him I didn’t want to be 4th and asked who was in front of me. He told me to look for bib 221. I became a hunter. It took my mind off of things to analyze race bibs. I knew the bibs were chronological in order of mileage bests. I discovered that it was a team in all blue…Croatia? I found 222…then after an hour, saw 221. She was ahead of me on the out and back and around the track, but I would track her down. Success! OK. Now who, Mike? Mike told me to hunt down 301. I knew from studying bibs that it was likely the top runner from Russia. So, again I hunted. It took me sometime, but I gained and gained on her until I was within ~100 meters on the track. I passed the Russian Federation tent, looking to see if she had stopped for aid. She had just sat down. I knew Katy was the only one left in front of me. She was running strong and staying 2 laps ahead…23-ish minutes ahead. I recall having about 3-4 hours to go. I was starting to list to the right from fatigue (probably from walking the f’ing ramp). It pissed me off…the fact I was listing. I have only done that once in the past at the Dome. Why was I doing it now? My calf was painful to say the least, but did it cause me to lean? That crappy ramp? Was my back tired of leaning into it every 12 minutes or so? I need to work on strengthening my back when I get home so it doesn’t happen anymore. It is slowing me down. I want to go after Katy, but my back and calf are hurting. Where is everyone else? I decided to stop and see if Dr. Greg could help my back issue. I gave him 5 minutes. He wanted me to lay on my belly, but I didn’t want to lay down. He did the best he could…it helped A LOT for an hour or two. But with an hour and a half to go…my stupid back was getting worse again. The sun had now come up and I could see how bad I was listing to the right in my shadow. At this point, my focus became maintaining my 2nd place. In the Netherlands, I had gotten to bronze at one point, but couldn’t hold off Suzanna Bonn who had gotten an amazing second wind, overtaking me. I wanted to be on the podium! I started to make deals with myself. I knew if I kept a decent pace, I could hold everyone off. Listen to one song, then you can walk for 10 seconds or run to “x” point on the course and then you can walk for 10 seconds. Somehow, I managed to hold off the 3rd place girl from Sweden.
About 30 minutes to go, we had to start carrying a cone for partial laps. It was annoying to run carrying a cone as I was listing, but I knew we were almost done….just suck it up! Finally, the minute warning. I was back on the track. Horn again! Done! Dr. Greg was there for me, as was my husband Mike. I was tired and laid down. They put my feet up on my duffle bag. F**K! Don’t touch my calf. I was freaking out. My calf hurt INSANELY. Just to brush it sent me through the roof. I was afraid I had torn it. It was bruised in 2 places already, as was a spot on my left quad. We stayed there until my partial distance was measured. I tried to get up, but was getting nauseous. Greg and Mike carried me to the pole vault mat, where I laid down and waited to hear if I was needed for drug testing. I thought I would be ok, but ended up puking once. Not great, but not the worst I have been. I felt crappy and great all at the same time. I knew we woman had secured GOLD as a team for the 3rd World Championship in a row and I would be on the podium with an individual SILVER!
The course was tough, but I managed to PR (148.9675 miles) by a little over a mile and accomplish a couple of goals (Goals 3, 4, 5, and partially #6). Overall I am happy with my performance, but think I should have stuck to my plan a little more…when will I learn? I am not sure. 🙂 I am still learning things. I am still fairly new to ultrarunning. Every race teaches us something new. Learn from it and make adjustments for the future.
I want to thank all of the USA Team staff: Howard Nippert, Team Leader extraordinaire, Mike Spinnler for the information of who to hunt, Greg, Doc Lovey, Leah, and Katie for helping me at various times including all those yummy pinches of magic-bhelh! I want to thank my teammates who all spurred me on at one time or another. Mostly, I want to thank my husband for putting up with me during the race, carrying my bags before the race so that I wouldn’t injure myself and after the race because I had injured myself 🙂 Also, thank you Mike for the crewing that continued after the race as you physically helped me get around on our vacation with my dorked up calf. Thanks for helping me put my socks on for several days. It’s funny how you can run almost a 150 miles one day, but then can’t walk a 30 min/mile or get dressed by yourself the next day 🙂 Good times!
Thanks to Altra for sending me some freaking awesome Torin 2.0’s. It was the first time that I have worn a single pair of shoes for one 24-Hour. Thanks to Hammer for the great nutrition. I never had belly issues until I started adding in Coke for caffeine and started getting liquid diarrhea with about 4 hours to go. I know sugar bothers me, but didn’t put 2+2 together. I will do diet mountain dew in the future for caffeine and not sugar. Thanks to Running Skirts whose skirt I chopped up and wore under my Nike skirt to ensure no chafing. My Running Skirt was a lifesaver and enabled me to carry wipes and personal things. Thanks Simple Hydration for the great bottles! Thanks Drymax for the socks. This was also the first time that I only wore one pair of socks for the entire 24!