My high school track coach once told me that the longer the distance, the better I'll do. How prophetic. I remember going out for track as a high school freshman thinking I'd probably get put in the 800 or 1600. When Coach said no, the 3200 my first thought was "Oh dear, I'm not sure I can run that far without stopping!" I hate to be so critical, but after over twenty years off and on living in Russia, life has taught me to say it how it is. My 8th grade PE teacher once told me I'm not really good at distance running. Yes, we would have to run the mile in PE class and I'd be lucky to come in close to the back in 9 min or so. So here goes- Mrs. W. you are/were a TERRIBLE teacher and are/were very unprofessional to make that comment especially to a middle school kid when teens are self conscious enough as it is. A GOOD teacher would have encouraged the kid to keep trying to do better and thankfully, I had plenty of those later on. I got sick of getting picked on for being the slowest kid in the class so I spent the summer between 8th and 9th grade trying to run the mile without stopping. By summer's end I could go 20 minutes. Yes, really I could not run a mile without stopping until I was almost FOURTEEN years old though no one believes that story now, it really is true. Well, I was lucky to have a high school coach who didn't overtrain me so I was still fresh going into my college career.
That's where I continued to really progress-Beloit College. Post Beloit I was still improving despite living in the extreme conditions in Fairbanks, Alaska. I moved into the marathon and a few years later ran my first 50k (and won) at the HUFF in Ft. Wayne, Indiana in 1998. I had no idea what I was doing, just ran in my comfort zone and set what was then the course record. Alaska made me strong. I figured what doesn't kill you will just make you stronger. Now, I won't even bat an eye at the thought of going on a training run at -50F. If you know how to dress for it, it's fine. I would go on to spend 9 years in Alaska the last two in Wasilla just out of Anchorage. Sadly, If I had known that leaving the mountains would have a negative impact on my training, I would have stayed put. All that mountain and hill running had made my legs strong and I only realized it after a few years in Moscow and having to train harder to compensate. I had just hit 30 and wanted to get some overseas experience before I got too old to do it, so off I was to Moscow to teach English-the same thing I was doing in Alaska.
I was still getting better in the marathon up until 2007-I picked up very bad bronchitis after returning from Courchevel in January and learning my mother had passed while I was there. 38 min 10ks turned into 43 minute ordeals. I couldn't understand what had happened. Later I'd come to find out my iron stores/ ferritin was in the gutter and I was borderline anemic(why I was sleeping 10 hours a day and never recovering). I was out of commission and nearly just said the hell with it and was about to just retire when after EIGHTEEN MONTHS I started getting my strength back. Things slowly got better with a win in April of 2008 at the Chicago 50k despite a terrible sinus infection, and by the spring of 2009, I managed to place third in the Riga Marathon just shy of a PR. This year I was in equal to better shape going into Riga, but had the dumb luck of getting sick and finishing a disappointing 7th overall.
In June of this year, I got asked to run the 100k at the World and European Championships in November in Gibraltar for the Latvian National Team. Oh dear, that's only FOUR months to prepare. 100k was in the plans at the end of the season in 2011. I was planning to run the Chicago 50 Miler in late October then progress to the 100 w/ solid preparation under my belt. What to do? I kicked it around a while then realized, hell, you only live once, why not? It's not like you get a tap on the shoulder like that every day-it was more of a once in a lifetime opportunity. I needed to let them know if I was running or not so arrangements could be made/documents filed etc. Well I also had to accept that this would be my fall race-no fast marathon this fall just training marathons to prep for the 100. I also had the dumb luck of getting slammed with the most God-awful summer training conditions I have ever experienced. Moscow was hotter than ever in 1000 years of recorded Russian history non stop for eight + weeks from mid June til nearly the end of August. In August we had smog from forest and peat fires to boot.Temps parked at 35-39C every day and there was no rain. Long runs had to begin by 6am and even then it was often already 28C! I have always been a cold weather runner and never EVER want to experience this again. I live in a concrete high rise w/ no AC and my room parked between 33-35C all summer forcing me to sleep on a wet towel! I was up every 2 hours to jump into a cold bath I'd draw before bed each night- AWFUL! That's what I had to train through! AGH! Hell would be an understatement! I'm sure it was cooler in Hell!
Late August, I went to Daugavpils to run the marathon as a tempo run to prep for the 100-I won but my time was weak sauce coming off the horrible summer. Four weeks later, I ran in Valmiera and got blessed with cool weather. Despite a constant downpour, I did much better and my legs felt stronger even though I had run this one too on high mileage with no taper. 3 weeks later, I ran Chicago slow as my last long run before the 100. Taper time now as I wanted to go into this fresh. 3 marathons in 7 weeks was enough-rest time now.
I spent 3 weeks in the US training and eating much better than I do in Moscow. I did not limit myself and all food was fair game(I'll deal w/ my cholesterol in the offseason). I came back to Moscow for a week to rest and kick jet lag before the 100k and then I was off- overnight train to Latvia then sleep the next day. On the 4th, five of us(Andris -our team captain, Tolya, Inara, Inese- Tolya's better half and our crew) drove from Daugavpils to Kaunas for our flight to London. The five of us crashed in a room and had to leave very early-5AM the next day for Gibraltar. I was so glad to see my friend Rhiannon the evening before who used to work in Moscow! On Friday, we got to Gibraltar and were housed on a cruise ship in the Athlete's Village. The organizers fed us very well too. That evening, the rest of our delegation arrived via Spain- Gunars, Irina and her husband Maris who was also support crew.
On Saturday, we had the opening ceremonies and I got to see my old college teammate from Beloit, Todd Braje. He has had an awesome season this year with three US titles. I have so much respect for what he does. Then we were off to dinner-fed very well but rather late 8PM for a 6:30 start. We had a team meeting that evening where I found out that under new rules there are no Garmins allowed at any World, European Championship, or the Olympics. GREAT- there went my pace control! I felt completely S.O.L. My Garmin shows the time for every km as I go along too-no math involved it flashes the previous km on the screen and I know where I am.
Sunday morning I was up at 3:45 had a small breakfast and we were off at 6:30. Ok, no Garmin so I went out as comfortable as possible-conversation pace so I felt relaxed almost like I was not working too hard. Things were fine...then it started just before about 20K-the need to use the loo for number two! Well that was expected given I'd had dinner so late. My body needs to be fed 15-16 hours before the start to not have this issue. There would be a total of FIVE more such bush breaks until about 65K! The bush breaks are fast but the dehydration thereafter slows you down. I was not alone -many others had similar issues and some dropped out as a result. I knew I just had to slow down and get plenty of fluids and take my salts to compensate for what was lost from the bush breaks. I wanted to push harder but held back because I started getting light headed during that bad patch between about 60-70K and if I fainted that would screw the team. We had only 3 women and you need all 3 to score. If one drops, the team does not score.For the first time, I got kind of scared I might not make it if I don't use my head. So, I figured, better to slow down and get through my bathroom issues then screw the team by having to drop. Todd lapped me once in the first marathon -he was doing well-GO TODD!!! I was hoping to see him among the top men. After a couple more hours, didn't see him anymore and I feared the worst-I think he dropped out because surely he would have lapped me again in the 2nd marathon. I saw him later near the 90K mark encouraging me when I had about 15k to go -Thanks Todd. I actually felt better from 70K on after my tummy troubles had passed. At 80k I pulled up to our table where Maris and Inese were doing a great job of crewing for us-simply awesome GU, cola, my sports drink-whatever they were ready and there to help. Then the Lithuanian Angel came up and massaged my quads as I was fueling. Oh man, did he ever save me! The next 15K went better than the previous 15-20k. My quads were taking a beating from the up and downhills on the course. We had 20 lape to run and with four to go, I did what many others were doing- fast walking UP the evil hill in the middle of the loop to save myself for the rest of the race. Going into my last lap, I started to really feel my quads were not happy anymore. Taking my endurolytes capsules kept me from ever cramping but my quads really protested that final downhill with about 2k to go-holy Christ that actually H U R T! Moeben sleeves rock- I kept my capsules in my left sleeve pocket for emergency access at anytime because sometimes you need your salts NOW not 20 minutes down the road. The other sleeve was stocked w/ packets of Amino Vital which went over nicely after 70k.With 20k to go, I knew I could make it but just had to watch it on the hills. When I came out of that last sharp downhill and headed to the finish I was beginning to feel relieved-with 400 or so meters to go I just pushed it in for the finish. I missed going under 9 hours ended up 9:27 for 29th in the Euros 41st in the Worlds. Our top woman, Irina Stula-Pankoka ran an awesome 8:55 for her first 100k. Inara would finish in 11:30. At the finish, we got medals and t-shirts-WOW I didn't think they gave anything at the Worlds. Of all the medals in my collection over the years, this one was probably the hardest one I've earned. I walked a bit then all I wanted was a chair. I got some tomato soup and sandwiches and then sat in that chair for nearly an HOUR just slowly getting that soup down(the salt was badly needed) and gradually munching a little. A couple of Czech women finished behind me and we all sat for quite a while. A Canadian woman finished ahead of me and we'd spent the whole day catching each other dropping back then running together again. The Belgian woman who ran the first half with me dropped out:-( as did quite a few others.
On the men's side, Gunars had a 45 min PR finishing in 8:39 WOW! 45 MIN !!! Tolya finished in 8:36 and Andris dropped after the first marathon -also stomach issues. When I got back to my room, I spent 30 min cold showering my poor legs. Tired was an understatement, DEAD would have been a more appropriate description of my state.
After yanking four toenails, I was off w/ the rest of the team for the awards ceremony where I got to give a big thanks to the Lithuanian Angel who helped save our legs at a very critical point in the race. Inara and I greeted him w/ a hug and a kiss-this guy was just a saint!
In the first lap the cop misdirected us and we all ran an extra 1300smthg m. So, at lap 12, they gave us a short lap to compensate. Lovely 60smthg km into the race and I have to THINK?! They just moved the turnaround closer and you went back to start lap 13 (total of 20). Well well well......they didn't give Inara her short lap nor did they give Seva Khudyakov from the Russian team his short lap costing him from likely finishing second overall. He finished 7th. What a MESS! I have to say and I wasn't alone that I was rather shocked that at this level something like this would happen! I blame the cop more so than the organizers for that major mess up but still-what a major mess up. Another Russian guy got sent on 2 short laps(no not on purpose) and got DQed!
On Monday, we walked around Spain a bit before flying from Seville to Belgium. My Spanish is still there ...just had been very very much out of practice:) Translating from Spanish to Russian was killer because my Russian has always been light years ahead of my Spanish. Yes, If I spent a few months in Spain, my Spanish would be quite good again, but I haven't got the time. We crashed at the airport in Belgium and were off to Kaunas the next day. Andris gave us medals for our placement in the Latvian Championship for the 100K. I was our second woman. In Kaunas, we stopped at a Lithuanian restaurant where the food was just AWESOME! Gads, I was voraciously hungry too. After getting back to Daugavpils, I slept for THIRTEEN HOURS....tired?! The next evening I got lucky and the night train to Moscow was quiet and I slept like a rock. Walking DOWNstairs was a painful project for three days! Christ, curbs,and or sitting/standing, small downhill slopes of any shape and or form were just sheer Hell! I have never ever been so sore not even after extreme racing in Alaska slogging out six + hours on snow. Well, come to think of it, SNOW is a more forgiving and SOFT surface, pavement busts your quads and hamstrings. Things are getting better now and on day 5 I brisk walked 8k to shake things out. No running for me until my quads are totally clear so as to prevent injury. The number one mistake many ultrarunners make is starting up too soon and not allowing time for full recovery when they are still full of kinks and microtears.
I'm pretty confident I can get my 100k time down a bit and will have a go at sub 9 hour next fall. Heck- if it doesn't kill me, it will just make me stronger!