If the miles behind me could be put into words before you, you would feel my efforts, my struggles, my desires. Most of all you would see my joy. Watch me from afar run the trails and hills and miles upon miles and you will see ...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ultramaratona degli Etruschi 100km

Well, if the length of the race should be an indicator of the length of the report, I'm about to dispell that rule. My 100km in Italy, in a nutshell, was the worst race result I've ever had when doing a race of a distance that I've done before. Translation: I sh*t the bed like never before.

Now, that's not to say that I was devastated and distraught and swore off of running when I finished. It wasn't totally a surprise to me how it all unfolded, even though one tends to surpress those feelings of imminent doom a couple minutes before the start, it's just that it never happened to me before. There was definitely a lot of good that came from this race and the trip over there.

I'm assuming (and hoping) I wasn't recovered fully from Spartathlon. Having never run 246km at one time, and still thinking that I'm impervious to any lasting effects of long races, I didn't know (and still don't) how long this would take. I've heard Ferg Hawk say that he needs four months off after Badwater to recover. Spartathlon didn't have the heat of Badwater, but it had the distance and the road surface. I should have heeded that four month period but being who I am I thought I could muscle my way through 100km. I wanted to run together with some other Canadian team members which we've never done at Worlds before so Rick, Darren, and I started out at around 7:15 min/mile pace. Why wasn't someone yelling in my face, "ARE YOU KIDDING?!?!?". The route was 37km of a hilly stretch of road, followed by four 14km loops, finishing up whith a 7km trip to Tuscania, the last 1km all uphill.
I felt pretty good and was cruising until the 30km mark when my quads got a bit tight and I figured I should slow down to see if that helped. It did for 8km then I started running out of gas and motivation. It was somewhere on this first loop that Aussie Dave Eadie ran up beside me and we chatted for a bit about how bad a run he was having. My face must not have betrayed me at that time but I'm sure my speed did in letting him know that I was almost done. Anyways, he gave me some encouragement but soon was off ahead of me. When I pulled up to the 40km aid station I told Darren's wife, Kandise, that I was done and would be pulling out at the 50km station where my warm clothes awaited me. It was ironic that she pointed out to me on the bottle of CarboPro that she was using to refill my smaller bottle I had written, "Don't let me stop!!", on it the night before.
Until I got to the 50km mark, I was waffling whether to drop like never before. I haven't ever done a race where I actually contemplated stopping like this. I've had races where I wanted to stop, but always knew I'd go on. The narrative in my head had started to play out how I would tell people that I wasn't recovered from Greece, it was a hot day today, my ankles were killing me, blah, blah, blah. What kept me going was the kids - they had made for me in '07 a wrist bracelet that had written "Go Dad Go" in little beads along with a small bell that jingles when it shakes. I could hear it on and off throughout the race but it was never louder than when I thought about how I would have to tell them that I didn't finish the race. I'm sure they'd understand but in the state I was in I thought it would be a nightmare to have to face them with that news. Every time I heard that bell it would shame me and guilt me into not making a final descision. At the 50km aid station I saw Aussie Dave in the massage tent and I also found Martin from the Irish team. If you remember he was the one in Texas last year that collapsed at the 49.5 mile mark of the 50 mile race and didn't get an official finish because he was in the ambulance when it drove across the line. He was having stomach issues and said, "C'mon, you don't want to be a quitter like me, do ya?". That settled it, I was going onto my second loop.
Halfway through this one Dave ran up beside me again and from this point until the finish we were stuck at the hip. He basically brought me back from the brink of DNF and made me keep going. He was doing okay but for the next six hours we each had our moments of doubt and had to encourage each other to keep moving forward. I'm so thankful for him because I don't think I could have done 50km on my own with the way I was feeling. I had given up the hope for an 8:30 finish, then 9:00, then 9:30, and all we wanted to do was finish before 10 hours to get an official finish and the medal. Through the dark we went until, unbelievably, we were on the final couple of kms to the finsh, up the hill and through the gates of town to be done. Without the crews at each of the three aid stations along the 14km loops it would have been near impossible to finish as well. Their encouragement and enthusiasm was so helpful they'll never know how much.
I'll never forget that run as it's shocked me back to reality and makes me see how lucky I've been in the past when I haven't been the most prepared. Usually I can fake it and still have a decent result. Not this time, there was nowhere to hide. I don't think I've ever trained properly for a 100km race. I've done a fair amount of events where I suffered just to finish so I'll save any further cliches. What I learned most was that too much racing is a bad thing, not enough recovery is a bad thing, but finishing a race when you're in the shit only makes you stronger.
My goals for next year have kind of evolved from this race. I was going to do more trail races, possible a 100 miler or two, but I now feel I have unfinished business with this 100km thing. I'm going to actually train specifically for the World's in Belgium next June to try for a personal record, maybe around the 7:15 mark. This is of course my emotions talking and it could change between now and next week, but I think I'm leaning towards more road-type events. Not to say I won't be on the trails every week, it's just that I need to race smart but train even smarter. At the beginning of the year I had over 1200kms of racing ahead of me. I managed 881kms. Still a lot of racing.


don said...

Congratulations on finishing such a tough day. You are inspirational. Hope you don't mind but I might borrow some of your motivational tools. Like writing messages on the special needs bottles, that I can do. And maybe my niece can make me a motivational wristband (with bells).

Gary Robbins said...

I feared that Spatahlon was way too close to this race to allow you to do well at it. It's a MASSIVE achievement to even pull off both of these races, and like you said, this will only make you stronger!
I'd hate to loose you to the roads next year, but if we do, I'm sure you'll hit your goal for the 100k...my only question is why don't you set a sub 7hr goal and make it happen...it's only 15 minutes!!