Monday, December 8, 2014

Camp, Qatar, and Conniving Commies - Part 2

(Ok this took a little longer to finish than expected since writing Part One. I was on call last week which means the little things take a backseat! Hope it was worth the wait!)
We have arrived in Doha!
I was excited about being in a completely new area of the world for me and to be part of the US team, but I had a lot of trepidation about the race itself as things went quite poorly for me after Angeles Crest and I really struggled with my recovery. The first two weeks after AC I ran 2 miles, then 12 miles the week after that, and then just 18 such that 4 weeks out I had barely run 50k. Every run sucked. I was tired all the time. My muscles ached. I skipped runs and cut many others short. But knowing I had big races ahead I pushed myself to 60 miles the next week, but then had to drop to 35 the following week. Then decent weeks of 70 and 80 miles, but after that I was so fatigued I was back down to 28. Not only was I tired but I was so frustrated. I mean, who needs ten weeks to recover from a measly 100 miles? Apparently, I did, but I did NOT like it one bit! Finally, I took 5 days off and then decided I would just run as easy as possible for three weeks. I have been wearing a heart rate monitor since June but this is the first time I really put it to any use. I forced myself to keep an easy effort and I mean easy: I averaged about 9:00-9:10 pace for the next three weeks, but I did 85, then 96 and finally 75 which included Autumn Leaves 50k. It was my slowest Autumn Leaves in 5 tries (including two 50 mile splits!). Remember I only did 85 miles in the 5 weeks between Western States and Angeles Crest and after 3 months of piddly training I was understandably out of shape. But, I felt really good at Autumn Leaves and there was no undue fatigue afterwards. I was ready to train again. Unfortunately, I had less than 4 weeks till race day. I made the most of that time but I knew I wasn’t where I would like to be for such an important race.

Given the circumstances, I figured it’d be a real stretch to break 8 hours, a time that I feel is kind of the bench mark for “World Class” for the women’s 100k, and a good deal off of my PR of 7:43. But part of racing to your best is being realistic and I knew it was unrealistic to target a time much under 8 hours. Besides that is still 7:44 pace for 62 miles!

I laid low in Qatar the few days before the race without running a single step. But there were plenty of other things to attend to like interviews, doping control, prepping for 20 aid station stops, and opening ceremonies.
iRunFar interview with me, Amy and Meghan
Hangin' with the cool kids in doping control

I may be a dope, but I am not a doper! 
 Team USA!!

Finally it was time to race! But the 6 pm start was a novelty to me. What do you do all day and what are you supposed to eat?? I tried to nap, but was unsuccessful due to a phone call from house keeping: "Your 'Do Not Disturb' sign was on so I was calling to find out what time you wanted your room made up." Apparently, 'Do Not Disturb' has a different meaning in Qatar! For food, I decided on my usual pre-race breakfast, just at 4 pm!

Pre-race I did about a half mile "warm-up" though it was still plenty warm at 6 pm (around 75 degrees) and then used a camel for a few hip stretches. ;)
(My camel photographer sucks!)

My teammates and pretty much everyone else was out in front of me at the start. Of the 199 World Championship starters it looks like my 23:48 first 5k put me in 193rd place and that was still 7:40 pace! Well, Thank Allah for the 15-20 locals in the open race or I would've been battling for DFL! But you can't say I went out too fast or that I wasn't running my own race! I told myself I was the "sweeper" for our team - bringing up the rear but there in case anyone ran into trouble. Unfortunately, the US ladies ran into a lot of trouble and being calm and in control early on was the best thing I could do for the team.
Here we go loop de loo

This course has been talked about a lot with its three U-turns
and its very unforgiving surfaces. But overall, I don't think it is a slow course, as many people have said. Max set an American record, Ellie had a fast women's time, and there were 13 men under 7:00 and ten women under 8:00 (both records), so fast times were possible. But the course was just so hard on the body, that the real challenge was enduring the completely unforgiving and unrelenting pounding on the rock hard tiles.

The course featured cushy brick tiles ;)

I was already feeling the beating by 35k and by 40k I knew my legs had some serious damage on them - not good when you've got 37 miles to go. My quads burned like I had done some serious downhill repeats, my hamstrings were strung super tight and the rest of me just ached. But ultra-running is all about enduring, right? Buck up and keep running! 

It was a little encouraging to be passing so many people and knowing I wasn't the only one hurting. But it wasn't fun to see some of my teammates struggling, too. By 25k, Larisa had dropped (with what ended up being a fractured ankle), and I caught up to and passed Emily around 40k as she was having back pain from all the pounding. But Meghan Arbogast wasn't giving me any kudos for moving into scoring position for our team. On the out and back she gave me a stern admonition, "You better finish!" Uh oh, I think I just got a death threat from the Queen! 

Super soft stone tiles ;)
That was certainly motivational, but my true motivation came from three ladies in burkas who were out cheering on the course. They yelled "Go USA!" every time I passed, but then one of them yelled, "Run to make women proud!" Wow - that struck a cord! I knew I wouldn't give up because I wanted to exemplify the strength of women. This was an opportunity to inspire women from all different cultures and heck yeah, I wanted to make women proud!

Still, no matter how motivated you are, there are physical limitations and I was definitely getting beat up from this course. I never had any melt down but my pace slowed quite a bit in the last third. Mac must've started to worry because he met me a bit away from the support zone. "Do you know what place you are in?" he asked.

Finally, I was going to get an update on the race! I knew I had moved up a lot. "No, what place?" I asked him eagerly.

Lovely, but unforgiving granite tiles
And cobblestone when you got sick of tile
(all course photos via Mike Wardian)
"You're in third for the team so your time counts now."

"Yeah, I know. I got it." Mac later told me that once I said "I got it" he knew I was going to be fine, but all I meant was that I got it that I was in third for the team! But I did think I could make it to the finish long as my legs didn't collapse or fall off altogether, which seemed pretty likely given how they felt.

The last 35k was pretty miserable. People ask what you think about when you run. Well, I spent a whole lot of time doing miles to kilometer conversions and vice versa: How many miles is 35k? How many kilometers till I only have 20 miles to go? If I am running 7:45 pace what pace is that per kilometer? It is amazing how slowly your brain functions at that stage in a race and I was able to kill a lot of time that way. There were also several women that I could see on the out and back and I kept my sights ahead trying to to pick them off. But mostly I just ran "from tree to tree", checking off the landmarks as I ran: start line, right hand turn, row of air conditioners, 1 km mark, 1st water stop (dump on my head!), U-turn, 2 km mark, turn around, half way point,  3km, second water stop (more water on the head), 4 km, US aid station, back to the start/finish. Until the final 5k, the remaining mileage seemed unbearable, but somehow I kept making my way around that loop. My pace slipped below 8 minute miles till I finished the penultimate lap in 7:35:10. If I wanted to break eight hours it was time to pick up the pace! But so much of running is mental and when you really want something, you find that your body actually does have a little more. I hit the next mile in 7:48 and knew I was going to make it.

The enduring paid off. By the end of the race I had passed 128 people to finish 65th overall, 10th female and second for the US team and under eight hours at 7:59:11. For being an "old lady" I got a World Masters Association gold medal for my age group. Meghan finished 8th in 7:52 and Amy Sproston rallied for the team after struggling to finish 18th in 8:14 as our third scorer, for an unofficial 4th place team finish. 

But the Russians decided to run a few of their athletes "incognito" and not put them in team uniforms or anything that even closely resembled the official Russian attire (two of the girls were in plain pink and purple tank tops). The Russians have a history of being a bit conniving at the 100k World Championships. They have had complaints of pacing filed against them, they don't bring their athletes to the parade of nations, they turned in their list of athletes two weeks after the filing deadline this year and then they didn't run in identifiable Russian uniforms. Our team manager was upset because they hadn't been able to keep track of the team standings accurately. Great Britain was also upset because one of the "incognito" Russians was running up front all day with the three British ladies and they didn't know who she was. A joint protest from the US and Britain ended up in a Russian disqualification (several reports said the officials were mis-tracking these ladies during the race, too) and the US women's team moved into third. It's not really the way I would like to get a World Championship medal, but at the same time, I do think it is important that everyone plays by the rules and that the rules are upheld. So, did we earn the bronze medal? Well, maybe not, but I do think we deserve it. "Team Oregon" medals again!! (except Meghan went and moved to California! - traitor!).
Team Japan, Team Great Britain and Team USA
Out of my five lifetime road 100k's this was my 4th slowest, but given all the circumstances, I do feel like this was a really good race for me. I feel like I performed to the best of my ability for where my ability was at on that day, and for that I am proud. I can only hope it makes other women proud, too.

Splits: 23:48, 23:05, 23:19, 23:12, 22:51, 22:53, 23:11, 23:10, 23:09, 23:32, 23:13, 23:41, 24:19, 25:16, 25:24, 25:02, 25:20, 25:10, 25:37, 24:01. The fall off was almost entirely due to leg pain and stiffness. My second half heart rate was actually lower than the first half. Max King reported the same thing. It is just hard to keep working at the same pace when your legs hurt that bad!

Fuel and Fluid: 4 Ensures, 3 S-caps, 1 gel, 3 Honey Stinger individual pieces, 1 liter orange Fanta, 2 Naprosyn, 1 Ibuprofen and approximately 40 bottles of water over my head (after taking a small sip) = 186 cal/hr
Closing Ceremonies
The Souk


Unknown said...

I couldn't find contact information for you, but it doesn't look like you coach so I was wondering who would you recommend to take someone to the next level? Or would you even get a coach? I know you've done this successfully for a while and really admire that so value your opinion. Thanks!

Chisholm said...

What a great report. Thanks for running and racing to the end, and representing the USA so well.

With regard to training prior to Doha, did you do the squats, stretchs, and kid-lifts that prepped you for WS ? Maybe your kids got too big ?

Pam said...

Katie - for the time being, I am not doing any coaching. I just don't have the time! I've never had a coach because part of the fun of ultra-running is figuring out what works and having the freedom to do what I want. But many people thrive with a coach because a coach can provide new ideas, motivation and expertise. There are many great coaches out there. I think the most important thing is to find someone you feel comfortable talking to, and that will depend a lot on your individual personality.

Chisholm - The strength training took a backseat for Worlds. Mostly I was very afraid of over-doing it and being fatigued since I really struggled with that this fall. But, yes, my kids have gotten too big to lift overhead! I can still do squats with them piggy-back. I will certainly be adding strength training back in this spring.

Rob said...

It is awesome that you were able to participate and even run a faster time that the last World Championships! I'm looking forward to reading all of next years outings. All the Best!