26 Jul THERE is NO “I” in TEAM
Preparation for the World Championship was not what I had planned. I have had issues with anemia in the past, but this spring was different. I tried different supplements, increasing doses, changed my diet like a desperate, crazy person (which I was), and lowered my mileage so I didn’t use up what little iron I had. I was exhausted, sleeping 10 hours/day, but still waking up tired. I was a month out, thinking that I would give up my spot, when my iron finally started taking hold. I knew that I had done enough and could still perform well, although maybe not hit my highest goal of setting a new WR 🙂
My husband, and two adult children, Mackenzie and Logan came to crew and cheer me on. I was especially excited to have my kids with me because they have never seen me run an ultra. They have been to many marathons, but not an ultra. It was motivating to have them there. Logan was going to help Mike crew, and Mackenzie was going to be in charge of social media, posting to FB, Twitter, and Instagram for me up to every hour. It was a great plan.
Pre-race activities were exciting as usual. It is truly inspiring to hear Howard Nippert, our team leader, give a rousing speech about running our best to represent Team USA. The parade is always a lot of fun, as all the teams gather together in one location. It is fun to see and catch-up with friends from other countries.
Race day came, and I was unusually calm. I had a plan and was going to stick with it until the end. My plan was to run 9:00 minute/mile pace (9:14/loop) until I couldn’t anymore. Everything was going well, except I was a little fast as usual, but doing pretty well. (Most laps were 9:07-9:14). I felt great. I was sticking to my nutrition plan. My daughter was recording the entire race on video of everyone and taking pictures. My son was crewing like a champ, while my husband advised him and “supervised,” planning on taking over later in the night.
It started getting dark around 10:30pm, and I wasn’t sure if it was just my eyes adjusting or what, but my vision started getting blurry. I ran another 2 laps and started to feel dizzy. I stopped and told my crew I was dizzy and had blurry vision. I didn’t understand why. They pulled me off the course. Dr. Greg worked on me and they fed me some nasty “soup”. I use the term “soup” lightly, as it was really powdered soup concentrate with maybe 2 drops of water in it. It was strong and well, nasty. I ended up off the course for an extra 18 minutes I think (I had a 27 minute lap). Around this time, the timing system was failing. I knew something was wrong, because every time I went around, my 27 minute lap was up there on the middle line of the screen. Nice. Of all the times, for the screen to get stuck. I felt good for another 1.5 hours or so. Then, blurry vision and more dizziness recurred. I came off the course again, but also passed out briefly a couple of times while I was off course. I was out long enough, I was getting cold…freezing. I was helped by Dr. Greg and Mike to change my clothes and walk around trying to get me going again. I started getting nauseous. I couldn’t get past whatever was going on with me. They finally took me to the main medical tent where I ended up for too many hours, dizzy, vomiting, passing out, feeling shitty. I remember seeing Pete Kostelnik, Dave Procotor (friend from Team Canada), athletes from Great Britain, Argentina, etc. All would come in and go out. I just couldn’t seem to get out. Every time I sat up, I got nauseous, dizzy, and started vomiting. Finally, powdered Gatorade brought me back to life. I couldn’t swallow it, but had to pocket it like a tobacco user, letting it dissolve in the pockets of my cheeks. After an hour of putting pinches of magic powder in my mouth like a druggie, I was feeling like I could sit up and get out of the medical tent.
I wanted to curl up in a ball and hide, feeling like a loser. My race was over. I had failed. I have been successful at every 24-hour race I have ever done, PR’ing every time, until now, when it was soooo important. I was emotional, and still am about it. However, I was on a team, and my teammates were running and I needed to support them. I went back to our tent and sat in a chair with a blanket (Thanks again Liz Hearn!), still putting pinches of powdered Gatorade in my mouth. I cheered on all of my teammates, trying to inspire them with words to keep them going. I felt like a hypocrtit, sitting there cheering. After an hour sitting in the chair, I ate some Pringles and drank some Coke and felt better. I asked where my timing chip was. Mackenzie, my daughter, brought it to me. My husband asked me what I was doing. I said I was going back in. I had no idea how far I had run, and it didn’t matter. Even if I ran 7 min/mile for the last 4 hours, I couldn’t catch up enough to make a difference for the team, but I knew I could run around fast and run with each runner trying to inspire them, push them, whatever. Mac, Pam Smith’s husband, asked me almost incredulously if I was going back in. I said “yes.” I don’t remember what he said, but he was excited I was going back to help the team. I ran around and saw what people were doing. Unfortunately, Maria Jasson from Sweden was walking with some British girls. I thought she had been in 3rd place. She said she couldn’t run anymore…that she kept face planting. She was going to walk the rest of the time. Feeling bad for Maria, but excited for the possibility of Pam and Gina to get on the podium, I ran around and gave them the intel. Most of us in the USA contingent (because of no timing info), thought Patricia (Poland) was 1st, followed by Katy, (USA) Maria (Sweden), then Gina, and Pam. No one knew the other Polish girl was moving silently up the ranks. So, I told Pam and Gina to keep pushing, another podium spot was opening up with Maria out. I cheered on the guys too, telling them they needed to keep going to hold onto the medal standing they were in (we believed they were in Silver medal standing at the time). “How bad do you want it?” “We need you!” I said.
After 2 laps, Mac told me Pam was struggling and wondered if I could run with her the rest of the race. It’s allowed for women to run with women, so I said sure. She was our 3rd scorer and she had to keep it up. So, I began to run with Pam. I didn’t know what she liked or needed. Normally, before I would “pace” someone, I would ask where do you want me to run (ahead? beside you? behind?). Do you want me to sing to you, lie to you, be nice to you, be mean to you? I asked her where I should run and tried to inspire her. I knew her goal was to break 150 miles. She was going to be close. I told her I was helping her break my Age Group American Record, my PR, she could be in the top 5 list of North America All-time women to run a 24-hour, possibly be on the podium individually, would break a new team WR for 24-hour, anything I could think of to inspire her. I tried to run in front and be a wind block (on one side of the course), clear people out of the way as it got crowded toward the end, told Mac what she wanted so it would be ready. I have been in that 3rd scoring spot, dying and having to keep going (Netherlands)…I did whatever I could to make her go as fast as she could. I was pissing her off. Mac told me that meant I was doing a good job. I was not so sure. Most of the time, she had her ipod on and was singing “99 Bottles of Beer on the wall” or doing math around lap splits. I didn’t know if I was helping or not. I would run with other women from time to time (as we passed) and then catch back up to Pam. Pam is a friend, but truly one of my idols. She is a fantastic person, phenomenal runner, and like me balances work, and family too. I was truly in awe towards the end when she picked it up the last couple of laps. We were doing speed work at the end of a 24-hour! She was flying, so I pushed her as best I could. I would find out later that she did two sub 8 minute/miles the last 2 miles!!! Her surge helped Team USA maintain GOLD! TEAM USA women won by 600 meters (3 scoring runners over 24-hours!) That is insanely close.
While I am happy that our team succeeded, I still had a hard time feeling like I failed individually. After the race, I had many people tell me they were impressed that I didn’t leave the course, stayed to cheer on my team, and came back in as a team player to help the women secure GOLD.
After I went back in, Jenny Hoffman (with a torn hamstring) went back in to walk and cheer on our team. My daughter later told me that Jenny told her that I inspired her to go back in and cheer on the team too.
Dave Proctor, a friend of mine from Canada told me that his 11year old daughter was at the race, and remembered me from the med tent. She asked him “Daddy, is that the same girl that looked half dead earlier?” He told her that “yes, but this is what a great woman does to help out a friend and her country even after all is lost.” He explained the situation to her, and all she could say was “wow.”
However, the comment that made the biggest impact on me was what my son, Logan said to me on the way back to the car. I was crying after the race. I said I was sorry that he didn’t get to see me be strong, endure, and be successful. I wanted to be a role model for my kids and show them what hard work and dedication could accomplish. He saw me puking in the medical tent and saw other people who came into the medical tent leave the course when their race wasn’t going how they had hoped. He said that he would have felt the same way…packed it up and lived to fight another day. He said that he was proud of me because despite the fact that it wasn’t my day, I stayed to help the team. He was sincere. I cried some more (imagine that). It wasn’t the way I wanted my race to go, but I made the best of the situation, helped my team, and was an example for my kids. I can’t quite call it a win, but maybe I can consider it a tie 🙂
I have to commend many other athletes that hung in their and continued even though they weren’t having a good day, cheering on their team, supporting others, and being good role models: Rich Riopel was a bright spot continuing to rally the men, Courtney Dauwalter never quit, Dave Proctor was a positive light as usual, Robbie Britton, Maria Jaason, Dennene Huntley, and on and on.
Most of all I want to thank my family for always supporting me in this crazy sport, full of ups and downs!
I want to thank all of my sponsors who continue to support me this year. We all have good days and bad days. Ultras are long races where anything and everything can happen and does. I appreciate the continued support.
Altra: I wore the Paradigms and Torins. They were perfect on the hard concrete surface!
Nathan Hydration: I love the 20oz Speedmax Plus. It is easy to carry and easy to drink from.
Hammer Nutrition: Apple Cinnamon & Huckleberry gels are still delicious after hours of consuming them.
Drymax Socks: wore the Sharman socks…blister-free 🙂
Running Skirts: I love the skirts for training and racing!
Squirrel’s Nut Butter: I love not crying in the shower after a race. This is thee only anti-chaffing product that works for the long haul.