Tuesday, November 25, 2014

One night in Doha

Have you ever been kicked by a donkey? I mean an angry mofo donkey with an attitude problem. Well I haven't but it sure feels like I have since running the IAU world 100K championships in Doha, Qatar last week. I know what you are all saying, hey isn't that a flat, fast road 100K? To all you trail runners who think there is nothing harder than a technical climbers course I'd like to take this opportunity to discus with you the style of course that taught me a whole new lesson in hurt, the hard surface road 100K. In training for this event I spent most of my miles running the Calgary asphalt pathways trying to simulate the surface conditions I will be facing in Doha. Sadly, after running 20, 5K loops of mostly tile and uneven brick, the small sections of asphalt felt like a billowy soft, very welcomed portion to the course. Never before have ran on these surfaces. I found myself with a new found reverence for such an event bringing upon an entirely new array of symptoms such as headaches, neck stiffness, difficulty swallowing and rib pain. Now, before I get too ahead of myself let me back things up and start from the beginning.
Elena Tabelev assisting me at the Canadian booth. Photo by Melissa Jean Woodside
The day started at noon when I awoke from a nine hour sleep. A major goal I had going into the race was to wake on race day as late as I possibly could knowing the race start was scheduled for 6pm. Simply put: if I were to wake at my normal 7am time and race eleven hours later I'd either wet or shit the bed neither of which would smell good. So with an odd little fist pump I knew I was already ahead of the eight ball. The day was chill, ate good food and relaxed as much as possible. Before getting ready I saw Alissa St. Laurent by the pool, she was going through her quiet prep work herself. When I asked her how she felt she answered "I'm ready to hurt", this phrase I used many times throughout the race. Boy, she's a stone cold killer. I retired to my hotel room to do my final prep before heading to the start line. My plan was to wear my New Balance 1400's but luckily enough when talking with Michael Wardian from the USA he convinced me the New Balance 980's were the right move going for more cushion over a speedy flat.

I got pretty emotional when I applied the personal tattoos Sharon and the kids made for me to wear when racing. Sharon made me a cool maple leaf with dedication names around in a circle. Julia made me a lightning bolt with the words faster than a lightning beam. Sam wanted me to have Darth Maul cuz he's a bad ass tough dude and Adele wanted we to wear a pink butterfly to confuse others about my sexual preferences. Joking aside, I was in tears walking to the race start firstly cuz I missed my crew like mad and secondly that I have so much support from my loved ones.

The gun sounded at 6pm and the crowd of skinny people from all over the world shot forward. The temperature was 19 degrees with high humidity and not much wind, bloody perfect condition for an event like this. Once again I got wrapped up in the excitement of the mass start and moved along with the group. My splits, like clockwork came up on my gps consistently between 4:00-4:10 kilometres. This scared the shit out of me, even the Darth Maul tattoo on my wrist was voicing his concern but the pace felt effortless and my heart rate was crazy low so I decided to make like a prom date and just go with the flow. The first 30K flew by super fast, still feeling fresh as a daisy I realized every split was between 3:55 and 4:10. I now have committed, this was going to be very good or end very bad. For no other reason than to exercise relative patience my pace slowed slightly between 30-50K. I passed through the half marathon distance at 1:26, Marathon at 2:55, and 50K at 3:30 all of which I was over the moon with. The speed could have been due to the fast course, maybe the amazing runners alongside me, or maybe the fact that I slept in a high altitude Hypoxico tent for the 4 weeks leading to the event. The week leading into the race the Aspire Sports Institute put on presentations divulging evidence that the sleep high, train low adaptations that I was implementing in my training could lead to an improvement in race day performance at an event like this one. Either way I feel very comfortable saying that I was racing well above my pay grade, just saying.

Sebastien Roulier, Me, Alicia Woodside,
Alissa St. Laurent, Dennene Hunley,
Oleg Tabelev, and Kiriam Thompson
Just after the halfway point of the race something odd started happening. My hamstrings and quadriceps started quivering then cramping. Whenever I'm having electrolyte issues its my calves that always argue first. I though this was strange until I looked around and started noticing other runners grabbing at there legs in a similar way. From that point on, the violent nature of this hard surface course took its toll on my battered body. The gentle flow was now replaced with the pounding of joint with the soft tissues of the body trying to somewhat minimized the damage being created. The headaches started around 50K, the jaw pain around 60K all the time stopping every couple kilometres to stretch or massage my cramping hams. Just after the 80K mark I had the honour of being chicked by the worlds best, Ellie Greenwood. We exchanged words of encouragement and I just knew there would be no woman able to match what she was doing that evening.

Despite the discomfort I was going through it was nothing compared to what my fellow Canadian runners went through that night. It maybe that we are used to the the soft nature of trail running back home or it could be that performing well after travelling to distant countries is a challenge unto itself but its safe to say the majority of Canadians didn't have banner races.

The final 10K of the race started feeling manageable again. Maybe a sense of numbness and "lets get this damn thing over with" came over me but my pace increased. After 7hrs37min and 45sec after starting I crossed the finish line in 37th place. This being my first time representing my country as an ultra  marathoner I couldn't be a happier camper and have never felt as much pride as to call myself a  Canadian. The support I received on the course from the other runners, our support crew and our coach Armand LeBlanc was second to none. It made me smile when I found out that Sharon and the kids were following the live feed all day. Even better, my Mom and Dad had there entire retirement residence down in Yuma, Arizona glued to the results as they came in.

GO CANADA GO!
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