Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Start

Team USA

Blog Guilt

I'm stealing this term from Bob because it is more appropriate than anything else I could think of on my own. I have a lot of Blog Guilt. I apologize for sort of checking out the last couple of months, but I was really getting stressed out about the World Cup and the more I thought about running, read about running, or wrote about running, the more uptight I got. I basically had to pretend like it wasn't happening! I had spent three years working towards the goal of competing on the US National team, so when it finally came true, I just didn't want to blow it. Please forgive me. I'm trying to catch up on all of my friends' blogs and it sounds like everyone has been really busy.
Basically, since I last posted, I just ran. I was averaging about 140 miles per week of running and then doing all the other yucky stuff that goes with it - weights, Pilates, etc. As usual, when I finally got to Korea I was convinced that I hadn't done enough, or done it properly, or had done too much. I felt completely out of my league. But then the rest of the American team started arriving, and I started to relax. What a nice group of people! Roy Pirrung was our team captain, along with John Geesler, who did an excellent job of managing us, and Dr. Andy Lovy, the team doc. The men's team also included Alex Swenson, Phil McCarthy, Dean Karnazes, Bill Allen and Daniel Larson. The women's team was Debbie Horn, Jamie Donaldson, Connie Gardner and me.

My family and I went a week early so that we could tour Korea. We had a wonderful week visiting palaces, markets, the DMZ, shopping centers and sporting arenas. The people were very friendly, and even though there was quite a significant language barrier, we always found a friendly local to help us if we got into trouble. By the second day, we were very comfortable on the subway and were able to navigate the city (fairly) easily. One of the highlights of the trip was a college hockey game where the father of one of the players invited us in and treated us to the parents' game buffet. We got to sample many of the local specialties and watch a very exciting hockey game. My son, Grant, is now hooked on hockey!

The day of the race came quickly enough. Because the race didn't start until 10:00 am, we had plenty of time to eat and make our way over to the course. The loop was 9.20 meters (approx. .57 miles) and in the shape of a "C". It was concrete and asphalt, so we all knew it was going to be a little tough on our joints. Because the course was so small, it was very crowded at the start. I'm such a slow starter, though, that it didn't really affect me. I just had more company! I didn't really have a game plan other than to stay comfortable. A 24 hour race is so long that you are guaranteed to hit every type of discomfort over the course of the race. I felt pretty good the whole day despite the unbelievable humidity. I was icing and pouring water on myself at every opportunity. It would be a different story at night!

My loose goal was to hit 100 miles by 18 hours or less. The timing generator blew sometime during the day, though, so we weren't getting any splits mid-day. I think the problem came about when they started playing ONE ALBUM of ABBA for the entire day! I'm still hearing "Waterloo" in my sleep! When we finally got our splits, I was right on target. I was actually having a pretty good time. It is the most crowded ultra I've competed in, so there were lots of opportunities to talk to people.

As the night wore on, the humidity rose to 100 percent. I started getting sloshy and couldn't quite figure out how to fix the problem. The only thing I could do was keep moving. We were in a huge battle with the Germans, and I desperately wanted to win third place so that we could get a medal. Jamie and Debbie were running strong, both looking fit and relaxed. Connie had some problems earlier and had to drop, so it was up to the three of us. They took the top 3 scores from each team to determine team standings and I didn't want to let my team down.

I really struggled the last couple of hours of the race, thinking 24 hours would never come, but was able to keep moving thanks to my husband, Tim and my kids, Grant and Spencer, along with Jamie's awesome husband David, Debbie's rockin' boyfriend, Roger and Bill's wonderful girlfriend, Donna. They anchored our crew which was run by John Geesler and Dr. Andy Lovy. John and Andy were invaluable, helping me stay positive and focused. I wish they were at every race I run! It was truly a team effort. I wanted to stop many times, but knew that Jamie and Debbie were giving it their all, so being a baby was not an option.

In the end, the Germans edged past us, taking the bronze medal. The 2009 World Cup will take place in Italy in May, so hopefully, we will get another chance. Jamie was incredible, taking 5th place with 135 miles. She looked great the whole time, proving what a phenomenal athlete she is. Debbie overcame some early blister issues to rally to an impressive 125.6 miles. She is so strong, both physically and mentally. I rounded out the group with 122.2 miles, not my best, but not my worst.

The World Cup was an unbelievable experience! I really learned a lot, both from the other runners, and from the situation. I'm looking forward to Italy in the spring, and trying to plan my race schedule for next year. I'm taking a few weeks off to let my mind and body rest. My cupcake consumption is up, though, so I better figure out some sort of cross training :)

Happy Running!