What an interesting weekend to say the least. I flew out Friday afternoon from Moscow to get to Milan just in time for dinner. The schedule was ideal so I would not have to deal with having to leave for the airport for some ridiculously early flight then just spend the next day or so before the race recovering from that alone. I flew into Bergamo (near Milan) where teammates Anita, Valdis,and Viktor quickly met me. They had arrived an hour earlier. We were the last ones in. We hopped the train into Seregno where organizers picked us up and took us to the sports center where the rest of our delegation had already been waiting for a good FOUR HOURS! No one had taken them to where we were going to stay?! So after a bit of hee hawing around, a driver showed us to a van where we sat for nearly another HOUR. Ok, now it's just getting late. The driver eventually took us to our accomodation which was halfway up the mountain in Eupilio and a good 45 min from Seregno /the start of the race. As it turned out, all the teams were scattered about this mountain quite a long way from the race site.
Once we arrived, we checked in and went to dinner. The food was really good the whole time we were there. Anita and I roomed together and both of us had no plans to set an alarm. Sleep on Friday was key. I woke up arond 8:30 ish local time ...hehe I was still on Moscow time 2 hours ahead so it actually put me on a normal schedule here. After breakfast, Anita and I checked out the beautiful mountain scenery. We were staying at a Catholic school/monastery. This place was gorgeous! Yeah, and I love mountains. I still really miss the mountains after almost ten years in Alaska.
After checking out the views, I went on a shakeout run. Who could complain about the views! PRETTY! After lunch, it was time to prepare my drinks for the race. Now, since no one really knew what the heck was going on and whether or not to trust that our bottles would get delivered to their homes along the course, I decided to make some extra backup ones to have at our main table every 20k. Yeah, this would later prove to be very smart indeeed.
Late afternoon, we were bused into Seregno for the opening ceremonies and later for dinner. Now I knew my old college teammate from Beloit, Todd Braje had made the U.S. team again and of course we found each other before the parade. Beloit Distance is still kicking ass after all these years! This was Todd's third Worlds and mine too. Todd is really an accomplished ultrarunner with numerous wins,multiple U.S. titles, and course records to boot. I really owe it to my coaches I had at Beloit for really getting me to develop as a distance runner during those years and for laying the foundation for things to come.
Some from the parade-
We were then taken to dinner and then bused home. Well this was almost comical. See, our bus driver got LOST on the way up the mountain and actually had to ask for directions several times before getting us home! By then it was nearly 10PM and we all had to be up and out the door EARLY the next day! So much for SLEEP!
Race day- we were bused to the start BUT let out nearly 3km from the START! We actually followed the course backwards to get to the start! Nice, as if I need the extra time on my feet! So, bottles were put in the boxes to be delivered to their homes alond the course. They had aid stations every 5km I sent my stash of Vitargo to the station I'd pass at 10,30,50,70,and90k. The rest of my goodies like Vespa which I take every 20 and extra gels were on our main table with my candy stash. Ok more surprises to come. Lena Simutina (from team Russia) found me before the start and we met with a big bear hug:-) We have been chasing each other at marathons now for over 10 years. She is really nice and I really like her and I wish sometimes she lived closer to Moscow so I could have company on my long runs. She's fast and ran a blistering 8:38 in St Pete last fall. Well she let me know the race had been delayed 30 min-organizers not ready yet! Ok I just laughed because I was just not surprised anymore. So more waiting around was in store.
Ok the next surprise was a nasty. FIVE minutes before the start I was told I couldn't carry anything with me-no fuel belt with gels /saltsticks.Yeah it was like airport security before getting to the start! Ok awesome, that's like getting in the car and setting off for a long journey with only enough gas in the tank to get you about halfway! None of the team managers were warned of this one at the technical meeting the day before or we would have known. Luckily Andris was 200m away and I quickly hopped fence and handed off my goods and told him new rule- you can only get stuff from the tables so put it there I'll pickup what I need after the start. So that's what I did after the start quick grab of gels and into the pockets of the Moeben sleeves.....Moeben sleeves save the day because the cleaveage pocket in my bra only holds 1 gel! Ok so I'm on my merry way weather is good because I had goosebumps before the start. Anita and Inara, our other 2 women, took off fast. I passed Inara about 8k in. I ran the first 20k loop (course was 5x 20k loops) with Sasha from the Ukrainain team. The officials snagged his bottle before the start! We were just parking it 5.15-20km pace. I had no intent of going out faster. Last year, Sasha passed be just before 70k.At 10k, I had a major psychological blow-my bottles did not get delivered to their homes and not to the midway point inthe loop! Shit! I need to come up with a plan B fast for getting calories and not upsetting my tummy. At the aid stations they did have coke and a sports drink with salt which helped. Solid food I had not tried in training I was not keen to risk. I was so glad I made backup bottles for our main table. Still, access to my fuel only every 20k was not good so I ran a very conservative pace. 15 k in, I caught up to Lena Simutina. We ran a bit together then Sasha and I pulled ahead. 20k- pit stop 1 to drink and grab what I needed for lap 2:
Sasha wanted to pick up and go closer to 5min/km place so I let him go and decided to park and park I did. I was fine running my 5.15-20 is (8:30ish mile pace). 40k and still holding pace just fine....
Just before 60k, I passed Viktor. I thought he might come along with me later.At 61k, I passed Anita who was having trouble and eventually dropped at 63. Inara had dropped at 20.Anita was on the Olympic team in 96,2000, and in 2004 in the 20k racewalk. She was hoping to racewalk the last 2 loops when she hit a rough patch but it just didn't work out.
At 60K, I had to come up with a calorie plan for the last 2 laps. I was still holding pace and feeling ok but after drinking and getting what I needed for the next lap, I took a Vitargo bottle to go. I sipped it til 70k where I had over half left and strategically planted it on our table (where the rest of my bottles were supposed to have been) to have when I came around again at 90. This would later prove to be a smart move. The sun was out on the last 2 laps and it was getting warm. they said 23C by the latter part of the race but I felt ok it was nothing like the sauna I ran in last year in the Netherlands! I started feeling a bit of a rough patch between 70-80 but just figured and hoped it would pass. Ultras have highs and lows and my craptastic part was 70-80. At 75 the bushes beckoned and I quickly ducked in not wanting to waste time. OOOOH yeah squatting after 75k is sooo fun! Up to 80k for the final loop grabbed what I needed and some more candy too!
Ok, what would happen next would get rather interesting. I still felt decent. I was still holding pace 5.25-30+km no big slowdown just a little rough patch 70-80 that seemed to be done now. If I parked where I was ,Iwas looking at a big PR but didn't want to push yet because nothing is worse than when the gas runs out. 85k, I pass a Canadian girl...hmm same one I run with every yr that has finished a little ahead of me. We went back and forth a bit 75-85 but then I never saw her. Ok, next victim(s) and there would be many. I just kept catching up to whoever was just ahead and passing! Just before 90k, I saw Sasha again. Oh dear, I just felt bad for him . He and another guy on his team were helping each other to the finish. Ok 90k and my pick-me-up-bottle is waiting =) YAY! Next, I'd catch the lead Canadian woman, a couple Italian ladies and some guys too....it honestly helped me pass the time. There were some rollers on the backside of the loop and I caught some people there too. Mentally, I was just thinking there is only a little bit left maybe pick up a little bit to the next and final aid station. I passed a few more before hitting 95K. Saved by coke and my last gel and off I was to the finish. My pace was back to the 5.15-20 I had run til the rough patch 70-80 where I had a few 5.40s in there and a fast bush break. Last 5k was just over 26 min! With 3k to go I was pushing as close to 5 min/km pace as my legs would carry me. (just over 8 min mi)Holy crap did I go out too slow to have that kind of reserve left? Or rather did I pace just right early so as not to give up a ton in the end? In the final 20km I passed 7-8 women and over a dozen guys. No one passed me back nor did I get passed by anyone during the rest of the race I later didn't catch after 70k. Finish was 9:17 good enough for a PR,38th overall, and 25th in Europe. Actual time on the garmin was 9:05 meaning I lost 12 min farting around drinking and picking up stuff every 20k because I had to leave my stash on our table and my bottles didn't make it to their homes on the course. I never stopped on the course save the few seconds or so in the bush. I grabbed what I needed to drink and moved along. Goal was sub 9 but that's a bit tough when you have nutrition fail as in fail to get it on the course in the first place! The course itself was pretty with mountain views along the way.. I stared into the mountains and it helped me relax along the way....just think of it like a run along the old Coastal Trail back in Anchorage. Damn, I miss the mountains!
Next year the Euros will be in March in Paris and the Worlds in Korea in October. I get to do this twice....glad they are a good 7 months apart.
On another interesting note, American Amy Sproston pulled away late for the win and Irina Vishnevskaya (Russia)also made an awesome late move into 3rd for her first top 3 individual placing. Meghan Arbogast (US) actually led for quite a bit before finishing 4th. I just have to say, she is incredibly inspiring. I would have loved to see a 51 yr old win the whole thing and "school" the rest of us "young bucks". She did take out her own WR in the 50-54 group though.Her performance is just mind shattering and I wish her many more records.