Thursday, September 13, 2012

GOLD - Race Recap of the 2012 World 24-Hour Championship

Team gold medal and finisher medal
Wow!  Who would have thought the US women would have pulled off a Team Gold Medal.  I must confess that I did not harbor such illusions before the World 24-Hour Championship this past weekend in Katowice, Poland.  Looking over the roster before the race, I thought it was going to take a Herculean effort to get any team medal.  In my mind, the race favorites were surely Japan (with Mami Kado, 24-Hour World record holder at 158 miles), France (Gold medal team for the last several years with six very solid runners and Anne Ceclie Fontaine, who consistently hits 150 plus miles) or Italy (again a deep team with  Monica Casiraghi, recent best of 142 miles).  Talking over the prospects with teammate, Suzanna Bon, I predicted that we would need at least two US runners over 140 miles to have a chance at a medal….  Of course, I would not be running 140 miles so I told Suzanna that she would have to do it.  HA!  Suzanna has been running well at 24-hour events but had not yet cracked the 140 barrier.  I knew it was only a matter of time and told her she needed to do it in Poland!

Before I discuss my pathetic performance, I must congratulate Mike Morton (172.457 miles) and Connie Gardner (149.368 miles), both setting new American Records and earning individual gold and silver medals respectively.  Both Mike and Connie ran so effortlessly and it was truly inspiring to watch.  Suzanna Bon also PR’d with 143.5 miles, at least 5 miles better than her previous PR and good for 5th place.  Anne Lundblad rounded out the US women’s scoring with 138.6 miles.  Not quite a PR but an impressive performance nonetheless and good for 9th place.  Anne battled cramps and stomach issues early in the race but hung in there.  Way to go!

Now the race details.  The race took place in a very pretty park, with lush green trees, ponds and statutes.  I usually don’t notice these things but had a fair amount of time to look around when I was walking (more on this below).

Just one of many interesting sights at the park.
The race started at noon, which I thought could pose a problem with potential heat.  That did not happen as race start temperatures were cool and there was a smattering of rain.  Perfect conditions.  The race course was basically a rectangle, one long and short side was asphalt and the other long and short side was brick.  The brick on the long side was new but the short side was not in the best shape.  I kept thinking I might trip on that section but never did.

Interesting running surface
At the start, my plan was to run around 9:20 per minute miles for three hours, then run 9:45 for three hours, etc.  I hit my three hour pace and felt so good that I made the decision to keep pushing.  For the next three hours, I was at around a 9:30 pace and then between hours 6-9, I was at around a 9:45 pace.  I was at 50 miles a little after 8 hours.

Carilyn and me early in the race.
I'm still not sure if running too fast caused my demise or something else.  Around hour 9 my outside knee started hurting.  Almost at the same time, my quads started hurting.  I thought maybe a massage would help, went into the aid station but we really didn’t have anyone qualified to administer a proper massage.  My quads got pounded on for a few minutes and then I was pushed out of the aid station to keep running.  I ended up with bruises on my quads from this so probably was not a good idea….  By hour 10, quads still sore and knee hurting.  I again went into the aid station and was given 2 Ibuprofen, got another pounding on my quads and sent back out on the course.  This was now 10:00 PM and I think I was already not thinking too clearly.  I continued plodding along, the Ibuprofen did seem to stop the knee pain short-term but my quads progressively turned into cement.  By hour 12, I was at 70 miles but I had really slowed down and was incredibly stiff.  I continued plodding along, every few laps trying to stretch on the course but I think this was too late as the stretching could not get rid of the muscle soreness.  By this time, the US team had a few casualties.  Early in the race, Carilyn Johnson had tripped on the bad brick road, wrenched her knee and passed out from the pain.  She was only passed out momentarily but the race officials said she had to walk for an hour so she dropped, very disappointed.  Serge Arbona was running well early but was struck with GI problems and forced to stop.  Phil McCarthy and Jonathon Savage both suffered from severe foot pain from the brick road and alternated between running and walking.  In the middle of the night, I would periodically walking with them and then decide I need to “run.”  With about 7 hours to go, I started walking.  At this point, my running was not much faster than walking.  The four US women were looking strong so I didn’t feel too guilty being reduced to a walk.  With around five hours to go, I hooked up with Jonathon and we walked together for the remainder of the race.  It was a long five hours but enjoyable with Jonathon’s company.  We cheered every time a US runner ran by us hoping that our efforts were helping in some way.  I ended up with around 111 miles.

Harvey Lewis, Joe Fejes and Lana Haugberg all had PRs and Harvey and Joe helped the US men get the Team bronze medal.  Way to stay focused!

Oldest (me) and youngest (Lana).  Relaxing after the race.
I have now had a little time to try and analyze my problems.  After several e-mails with Dr. Andy Lovy, I have narrowed it to the following….  Maybe a too aggressive pace but the quad failure was most likely due to either low potassium or the Ibuprofen.  Once the quads starting giving me problems, I should have been eating bananas.  I should have also been stretching more frequently too.  I think I stopped for my first stretch break at 7 ½ hours.  Again, I was feeling so good that I didn’t want to stop.  In hindsight, I need to stretch when I’m feeling good so I can keep feeling good!

While definitely a disappointing race, it was an amazing experience.  My teammates were great and I am proud to be part of Team USA.  While I was the oldest runner on the team, I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel on international competition.  I would still like to run a decent race this year and so expect to see me running a 24-hour race before the end of 2012…  

I like this spot!  On the podium with Team USA taking GOLD.

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