Pardon the delayed race report but I ended up spending an extra week in France after the race, biking through the Loire Valley and enjoying the beautiful castles, drinking chenin blanc and flushing the lactic acid from my legs.
|Chateau at Azay Le Rideau|
Many of my teammates have already provided details of the race on their blogs, Jamie Donaldson, Dan Rose, Scott Jurek and Phil McCarthy. Rather than rehash what they’ve already written, I thought I would add my perspective from one of the old and slow people on the team.
I was in many ways dreading this race. Ever since the North Coast 24 last October, I’ve been struggling with a very inflamed Achilles. First, I ignored it, then I quit running on it, then I went to two different doctors (ankle specialists) and a physical therapist and when all that failed, I even tried some Chinese herbal medicine that made my ankle break out in a nasty rash. But when all was said and done, my Achilles remained swollen and I was reduced to minimal training. My “intense” training was in April when I ran one 3-hour training run with pain and then a marathon with intermittent pain. I did no other long runs before France since November of last year. Here are lovely pictures just days before the race.
|Normal left Achilles|
|Swollen right Achilles|
Roger and I arrived in Paris on Sunday, May 9th. We toured around Paris with fellow teammates Jamie Donaldson and Dan Rose and their spouses David and Lizzie. This was a great diversion from thinking too much about the race.
|Roger and I with the Thinker at the Rodin Museum|
On Wednesday we took the train to Brive, a four-hour ride. We hooked up with the team and participated in the opening ceremony where we marched through the center of town and into the covered stadium that would turn into the country aid stations in the morning. This is always a very cool event to see all of the colorful uniforms and this year we all looked like real athletes with our Nike uniforms, courtesy of USATF.
|Lining up before the parade through town.|
With the ceremony finished, we headed back to the hotel and then to dinner. I accidentally stumbled upon ordering a four cheese pizza, which was topped with various types of brie and gorgonzola cheese. Dr. Andy told me that this was an excellent meal for ultrarunners (the soft cheese). I figured that I needed any advantage at that point and hoped this was a good omen.
After dinner, Dr. Andy looked at my Achilles. As he suspected, I had a dropped navicular bone (that is located in the arch of the bottom of my foot). Apparently when it drops out of position, it can cause irritation in the Achilles area. He had me flex my foot different ways and then on the count of three he manipulated the bone back in place. Boy, did that hurt. I let out a yelp but instantly the pain went away. Would I be able to run in the morning with no pain and with no training? I was still skeptical.
The weather in Paris had been rainy and it was no different in Brive. The forecast also did not look promising. But when the gun went off at the start at 10:00 a.m., there was no rain. With each passing hour, I kept expecting the skies to open up but that in fact did not occur. The weather remained dry throughout the race with some humidity but cool, mid-50s at best.
|At the beginning of the race.|
|Part of the course.|
|Starting to warm up, a few hours into the race.|
|Aid station alley in the covered pavilion. US aid station on left.|
I had decided to run a very conservative race. I had expected at some point to be reduced to walking because of my Achilles so I wanted to delay that as long as possible. My exact plan was to run between 9:45 to 10:00 minute miles with stretching breaks. As always seems to happen, the race itself is much of a blur. I was aware of the US men and women doing really well. Scott’s and Jill’s names were announced over the loudspeaker many times and it was really exciting that two US runners were in first place. The other US men were running well too. Other than that, I retreated into my own little world and concentrated on moving forward and eating and drinking according to my pre-race plan. My first stretching break was 5 ½ hours into the race. After that, I stopped every three hours. Those three hour time blocks were my goals to reach at which point I would be rewarded with a 5-minute stretch. That was heaven.
|Through the park and on the gravel path.|
|My least favorite place - a hair-pin turn.|
|One of the turns after a nice straight-away.|
|High-tech scoreboard: |
Shows bib number, kilometers ran, pace per loop and what place your in.
The field seemed less crowded in the nighttime. I think a lot of people had stopped to get warm. It was actually nice running in the moonlight, very peaceful. At the same time, I was getting lapped like crazy by Scott and the Japanese runner, Inoue Shingo, who would eventually take the men’s first place slot. It was really inspiring to see them move in what appeared to be such an effortless manner.
Dawn broke and then the hours counted down until the 10:00 a.m. finish. I was still running steady and was able to move up through the ranks. In the early hours of the race, I was in 55th place (out of 81 females). Each hour I was able to move up. At 12 hours, I had about 69 miles and was in 33rd place. At a little over 18 hours, I had 100 miles and was 22nd female. By the 23rd hour, I was around the 200k mark and had moved into 14th place. I would end up 14th with 207.825 K.
|Only about an hour to go!|
|After the race, Scott, with 1st place male, Inoue Shingo.|
The US women ended up as a team in 4th place. Final results were: Anna Piskorska, 133.23 miles; Deb Horn, 129.13 miles; Suzanna Bon, 126.36 miles; Amy Palmiero-Winters, 123.99 miles; Jamie Donaldson, 120.61 miles; Jill Perry, 80.36 miles (withdrawn for medical reasons).
|After the race, Jamie, me, Suzanna, Amy & Anna.|
Roger and I then retreated to the hotel. I feasted on two pieces of pizza and two beers and then called it a night. We woke the next morning and headed to the Loire Valley for a week of bike riding. Here are a few photos of the beautiful countryside.
|Too many vineyards, too little time!|
|Roger at Chateau Chambord.|