Monday, January 19, 2015

Cascade 10k

As of this week, I am officially training for a marathon! But all the tempo runs, lactate threshold runs and marathon pace runs scare me so I am racing myself into marathon shape instead (well, and doing some of those other things, too). I've got a half marathon lined up in two weeks.

The Cascade 10k is kind of a special race because I ran it in 2008 two days after deciding I was done breast feeding and I was ready to get serious about running again after having my kids. Two days is not very much time to train and it took all my effort to achieve a 55 minute finish. But I've come a long way since then! So no better place than to jump into training once again than the Cascade 10k seven years later.

Not much to say about a 10k except they are hard. Like by mile 2, I was ready to slow down. But I didn't! Well, not until the turnaround at mile three, when the wind hit us all straight in the face along with pouring rain. I did manage to cross the line before any other women, but mostly because the fast ladies did the half marathon. My time of 39:36 is light years off of my PR (37:20) and reminds me that I have A LOT of work to do, but it's a lot better than starting from a 55 minute 10k time.

So the win doesn't exactly make me feel all warm and fuzzy but this week of training does. While I did three weeks with higher mileage than this week before Worlds, it was all slow miles. This was the first week in 6 months that I got in all my planned workouts including track, tempo, one day of weights (normally I like two, but I was scared with the race and my first week back), and a yoga session: 81 miles with no significant long run (I'm not worried about being able to finish 26 miles!). But mostly I am so happy just to enjoy running again and pushing my body hard without feeling destroyed afterwards.

Megan and Liam came out to race, too, only in the 2 miler. No racing for Mac- he's got a new coach who has him doing base miles only right now- but he volunteered. The course was incredibly straight forward for the two miler - run straight down a road for a mile and turn around at the cone - and with so many other people out, we figured this would be a good time to let the kids run a race by themselves, instead of jogging alongside them as we have done in previous 5k's.

Megan is just like me: no speed but a lot of heart. She wasn't racing for any podium spots, but she was about 5 seconds behind this girl as they came up the school driveway, and Megan gave it her all to edge her at the finish (for 6th place female) for an official time of 18:26 (Clock is off 15 minutes due to the half marathon early start and chip timing knocked off a couple seconds). She was all smiles at the finish. Afterwards she told me, "Mom, I was trying to run so hard I couldn't feel my legs at the end. It was like I was numb from the waist down!"

Things were a little different for Liam. He's never liked the cold and when it started raining right after the gun went off his happy attitude melted quicker than the Wicked Witch. He told me he had to walk because he was too cold to run. I tried to explain that that didn't make sense, but he was adamant that being cold meant he couldn't run. When I asked him if the race made him cry he told me, "Well, I wasn't crying but I had tears in my eyes." Let's just say, it wasn't his best race, but he finished (because he had no choice - he had to get back to the gym if he wanted a ride home!) I do feel sorry for him, but I also know he can be a big whiner. We took him home and got him all warmed up in our bath and then he was all smiles, too. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sponsorship Post Follow-up

Thank you everyone for the comments and positive feedback on the sponsorship post. The post got more than 5,000 views which is about 10 times the usual traffic on my small-time blog. And some of the comments were the nicest things anybody has ever said to me, so thank you. As Sarah, Liza and Scott said (all three awesome 40+ parent ultra-runners themselves, BTW), we relate best to people we find similar to ourselves. I hope to be an example to others that 40 isn't old (despite how many jokes I make about it!); that having kids is a reason to keep pursuing your dreams, not a reason to give them up; and that you can train even with kids and a full time job.

Sponsorship and professionalism are in their infancy in this sport and I think it makes sense that we as a community are talking about it and that we have a general understanding of it. Glad I could help start a conversation. And I do want to make it clear that in no way did I ever say 40 year olds aren't attractive! 

As I mentioned in the previous post, I have a few other points of discussion on sponsorship that I'd like to cover as well as another little blog "series" I'd like to do. Of course, I'll still do all the personal race and family posts, too, but I really like the idea of "blog journalism." I enjoy the writing and I like the interaction. There's just not much to discuss after a race report and there are a million other ones already out there! I do apologize for not being able to respond to all the comments: firewalls at work prevent me from using FB or blogger during the day and my early bedtime means I don't always get around to it at night. Just know I appreciate all the comments.

Happy Trails (or roads, I am an equal opportunity runner)! -Pam

Sunday, January 11, 2015

On Sponsorships

It is common knowledge that ultra-running is a burgeoning sport, and with the explosion in participation there has been an influx of sponsorship money and sponsorship opportunities. Not only are some of the top runners able to scrape together a living from the sport, but there is a broader sponsorship net, such that one no longer has to be in the top echelon to get financial and product support.

So I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that no less than five times in the past few weeks have I heard something that went like this: “I am pretty good at ultra-running and have some awesome results. How do I get a sponsor?” Ok, nobody actually said it like that, and, in fact, in this humble crowd, three of these incidents were a friend or a fan asking why some other awesome athlete didn’t have a sponsor. Most recently, Eric Schranz of ponders why Traci Falbo and Joe Fejes don’t have major sponsors despite being in the top 10 for UROY voting this year.

But here’s what people need to understand: companies don’t give ultra-runners sponsorships because they are good runners, they give sponsorships to runners because they think those runners will bring attention to their product (and in turn more business to the company). In a nutshell, top runners aren’t getting sponsorships because they get good results, top runners get sponsorships because they get attention. Yes, these things are closely related since a great race produces a lot of media attention, IF those results are at races that the media is covering. 

And results aren’t the only things that garner attention. Companies are aware of an athlete’s social media presence: How many Twitter and Instagram followers do they have, do they have a blog (and how many readers does it have), how many ‘friends’ or ‘likes’ do they have on Facebook, Are they on Strava. Active on-line athletes have a much bigger influence an ultimately this is what companies are looking to leverage. One hateful letsrun thread questions how Sally McCrae could get a Nike sponsorship based on her racing history. Sally McCrae has a series of You Tube videos getting an average of 2,500 views a piece with one particularly popular one nearing 40,000 views. She has 7,000 Instagram followers and 3,500 Twitter followers. Her big smile, good looks, upbeat attitude and hearty laugh get her noticed at races. Teaming up with Billy Yang in Western Time, she got more attention for her finish at Western States (10th place) than pretty much any one else outside of the winners. Sally McCrae is not only a great runner, she is a social media super-star. Sally McCrae is a sponsorship dream.

One letsrun commenter chimed in: "[People] mistakenly believe that fast times result in money. Before the internet, this was indeed the case. Today being cool/popular through social networking gets you money." 

Other great examples of this are Jenn Shelton, Scott Jurek, Dean Karnazes and Anton Krupicka. Besides Anton, are any of them really running ultras any more? And yet they remain some of the most heavily sponsored athletes in our sport. Why? People know who they are - and not just ultrarunners. They have written or been in best selling books, they have big social media presences, and they are overall just very popular runners.

And it doesn't hurt that they are all good looking. Because looks get you noticed, too. Young, tan, chiseled athletes in the habit of running shirtless are going to have more companies seeking them out. Does this seem unfair? Well, I can tell you it kind of sucks to have a company basically ignore you because you "don't fit the image" they are looking for, but at the same time, I get it completely. Sex sells. Sponsored athletes are basically models for a company's gear and what company wouldn't want good looking models?? When consumers make a purchase, they believe that product will somehow make their life better. In the world of ultrarunning, the fantasy ideal is being young, carefree and able to run through the mountains all day. Models who have the looks and lifestyle that embody those qualities make it easier for a consumer to get the idea that a certain product will help them feel younger, look better and be able to run through the mountains all day. Who wants to buy a product that will make them feel like a 40-something year old who has to cut their runs short to get to work on time and take care of their kids? Most ultrarunners are already living that life!

But I also completely understand the desire for sponsorship. In 2009, when I started winning ultras, I was definitely keen to get a sponsor. It wasn't about the money or free products at all; I wanted the validation. But as I have gotten older and had more successes, I realize the running and the results are validation in themselves for all the hard work. Still, I am extremely thankful and appreciative for my sponsors. I have a huge amount of gratitude to Injinji, La Sportiva, Ultimate Direction, and Honey Stinger for supporting a pasty skinned, hash-tag challenged, plain Jane mom who is more comfortable running with her shirt on than off (my armpits rub. How does no one else have this problem??).

I still have lots of thoughts on the notion of ultrarunners "deserving" to be able to make a living off of their running (as I have seen in a few comments) and how much sponsored athletes influence the sale of products, but I'll stop here. I do think sponsorship is improving the level of this sport and bringing in more talent and that is a major benefit to the sport as a whole. But I'd love to hear everyone else's thoughts on sponsorships in ultrarunning because I am sure there are many of things I haven't thought of (and talking about ultrarunning is almost as good as ultrarunning itself!).

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Looking Ahead

So one week in to 2015 and I am happy to say I haven't tried to change my life in any major way. 

My friend Meredith came up with the idea of "15 for 15 in 15" meaning do something for 15 minutes 15 times a month for the whole year of 2015. I like this concept a lot, but I am guaranteed to fail at something that specific and with that much time commitment. I have a list in my head of things I'd like to spend more time doing: reading (actual books, not running related), writing, being outside in the winter for reasons other than running, organizing photos, decluttering the house, yoga/stretching, etc. Maybe I'll do more of these things in the coming year and maybe I won't. I am pretty happy with the Big Picture right now and I don't feel like I need to spend a lot of time changing the little things.

Of course, I have spent plenty of time dreaming of running adventures and upcoming races for the year. I am planning to start the year by pushing a bit out of my comfort zone. Yep, I am training for a marathon! Yikes! I have to give credit to Liza Howard and her "I am not getting any younger speech" for inspiring me to do this. I have no wild aspirations of OTQ but I'd still like to see what these old legs can do and I could certainly use a little speed injection. After that, I'll head back to the much more comfortable 50-100 mile race range. ;)

2015 Race Plans:
1/18 - Cascade 10k
1/31 - Roaring Run Half Marathon
2/28 - BMO Phoenix Marathon
3/14-15 - Pac Rim One Day with Megan (I think Liam and Mac are going to go/run this year, too!)
3/29 - Pacing at Gorge Waterfalls 100km
4/11 - Lake Sonoma 50M
May - a training 50k, probably MacDonald Forest or Sun Mountain, and a one hour track time trial (Titus van Rijn) for kicks and giggles
May 23-25 - Western States training camp
June 27 -Western States
July 25 -US Mountain Running championships?? - not really my thing, but it is in Bend, it might be fun to be a part of
July 26 - Aug 1 - Wonderland trail (pending permit). This isn't an FKT or even a fast pack, just old fashioned back packing and hanging out in the wilderness
Aug 22 - Pacing at Leadville. Wish I were running it but it is just too close to 100km Worlds
Sept. 12 - 100km World Championships, Winschoten, Netherlands. I have an automatic spot and Worlds won't be held again till 2017
Fall - nothing planned yet. Would love to get around Mt. Hood one weekend
Dec. 12 - Desert Solstice - what can I say? I am a glutton for loops!

I hope everyone else has great plans for 2015! Who's coming with me to any of the races above?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Recover From the Holidays 50k and 2014 Wrap Up

Well, 2014 is a thing of the past, but I didn’t let it slip by before squeezing in one more ultra! We spent Christmas with my sister and her family in Huntsville, AL and since there just happened to be a 50k in the same town...well, it seemed like the only logical conclusion was to run an ultra! (Nevermind that I decided to kick off 2015 with a marathon and should be running fast road tempos, not long trail “jogs”).

Recover from the Holidays is another “loopy” course - ten 3 mile loops after an initial mile, but with 350’ of elevation gain per loop, there was good variation in the terrain. It was nice to see the sun, but 28 degrees is below my comfort zone. The shirtless guy only made me feel colder! I fell in with Alabama legend Dewayne Satterfield when he asked, “So did you come here just for this race?”

“Of course!” I joked and then got to chatting with him for the rest of the loop. There was a well stocked self-serve aid station at the start/finish, but I didn’t need anything and pulled out ahead of Dewayne. I thought he’d catch right back up, but he tailed me by just a short bit the rest of the day, so I was pretty much on my own. But a short loop with a few out and back overlaps meant I was never lonely. And I got an extra boost with three laps to go from my kids, nieces and nephew who came out to cheer (along with their parents!). I felt pretty good all day, and even ran the short, steep hill all ten times to finish 1st F/3rd OA and 13 minutes under the old course record.
An appropriate but seriously ridiculous champagne glass "trophy." It did make it home safely.
My sister said I looked like a "homeless person" with my beanie on, so she made me take it off for this picture.
I am not so sure that was a good idea!
This is a low key event and certainly the loop format won’t appeal to everyone, but I have to say this race is hands down the BEST value in ultrarunning! Fifteen bucks for a fully stocked aid station, beer steins for every finisher, pizza and hot chocolate with real marshmallows! Plus they had a TV with cartoons set up in the heated tent for the kids and the race director just gave a gracious southern smile when all five of the kids in my “fan club” asked for pizza!
And with that all there was left to do in the year was pass out at 10:30 pm, knowing I didn’t have a chance of making it till midnight (but my 9 year old daughter did!).

2014 Races and Results:
2/1 - Rocky Raccoon 100M - DNF.
3/7 - Hill Billy Half Marathon, 1:52 - 5th place
3/16 - Pac Rim One Day with Megan (34M) - 51 miles
4/12 - Mad City 100km National Championships - 7:47, 1st place
5/19 - Titus van Rijn 1 hour - 15,279m, CR
6/1 - Beacon Rock 25k, 2:25, 1st place, CR
6/28 - Western States - 19:10, 4th
8/2 - Angeles Crest 100M - 21:04, 1st, CR
10/5 - Condor 25k - ran with a friend
10/25 - Autumn Leaves 50k - 4:04, 1st
11/21 - 100km World Championships - 7:59:13, 10th
12/31 - Recover From the Holidays 50k - 4:07, 1st, CR

Plenty of races and great adventures this year with lots of good results, but still, I felt like I struggled quite a bit this year and didn’t hit my full potential. The big lesson was respect for all the non-running stresses in life, although I should’ve figured it out in February not October! I am running my easy days A LOT slower now and I cut out one hard workout a week. I finally feel like I am back to just having regular fatigue, not excessive fatigue. ;)

So how did I do on my 2014 goals:
1) Make the USA 100k team - check! Help the team to another gold medal - A hard fought effort by the US ladies, but we ended up with the bronze. I am proud of my race at Worlds, but it was a ways off my PR. Looking forward to Winschoten in 2015!

2) The 18/21 Western States/Angeles Crest double: Well, I missed finishing in the 18 hour range at WS by ten minutes, but in honesty I wanted to break 18:00 and 21:00. Went 19:10/21:04 - not too shabby, but off the mark.

3) 100 Mile world record attempt - 100km Worlds were originally scheduled for October 25th. When they got moved to November 21st, it was too close to Desert Solstice to make an attempt. This is a high priority for 2015.

4) Get blinds and fix the bathroom - Went 50% on this one. Liam’s bathroom is looking pretty good. The living room still needs blinds!
We lived 8 years with this crazy bathroom! But bathroom carpet and little boys are a very bad combination!
He's cute but he has terrible aim!
It's like the Sunday comics all over our walls!

No wall paper and no carpet! Changing the tomato sink and shower were not in the scope of this project, so I added a nine dollar tomato vase to the toilet and voila, the whole room just comes together. ;)

5) Take a non-running vacation - Double check! We spent spring break in Cabo San Lucas and then took a 9 day family trip to Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Craters of the Moon in the summer. So that makes up for not getting blinds, right?
Sun-kissed kiddos in Mexico
This could've been a cool photo of a moose without the four tourists messing it up 
We coincidentally all coordinated when visiting Artist Point in Yellowstone. Can you say Christmas photo? (Well, just imagine I sent out glossy holiday cards with this photo!)
I also tried to write a few blog posts of more general interest/ultra-running advice this past year. I'd love to do more, but time is just so hard to find!

Hope 2014 was a wonderful year for you!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

How Awesome Is Your Ultrasignup Score?

In October I mentioned that my friend John commented that my UltraSignup score would suffer after choosing to run the Condor 25k with a friend rather than race it. It wasn’t the first time I had heard someone from the Corvallis trail running group make mention of Ultra-Signup scores. My friend Scott once went on about how small races help your USU score whereas the big well known races are likely to hurt your score. I had heard the guys playfully banter about who had a higher ranking. And my friend Gaby asked me at the conclusion of the 2012 Gorge Waterfalls 50k, “Jeez, did you have to win by so much? You made this one of my lowest Ultra-signup results!”

Yes, it is obvious people are paying attention to their Ultra Signup scores, but just how important do people really think they are??

Ultrasignup arrived on the ultrarunning scene in March of 2009 as the brainchild of Mark Gilligan. Today USU handles the registration for approximately 80% of all ultramarathons and many shorter distance events as well. The company tries to upload all of the race results that they are aware of, even if the race does not use USU for registration or timing. RD’s can assist in this massive data collection by submitting results to USU in a spreadsheet format.

Mark admits that he was interested in knowing about his competition going into races, but looking up each person individually took an enormous amount of time, especially for the larger races. He said he was interested in putting together a system to help participants (including himself) easily analyze the competition. The idea for quantifying results came to him one night while having beers with friends after work: The score for each race is calculated by dividing a runner’s time by the winner’s time and the percentage becomes the runner’s score for each event. An individual’s aggregate score is just an average of each individual race score. It was a simple calculation that allowed people to see how many races someone had run and what their quantified average of past results were, which created a general runner rank. The system also benefitted ultra fans, allowing them to quickly identify top competitors or “race favorites”.

The system is decidedly less complicated than something like the BCS ranking system which involves a combination of expert polls and computer calculations. It is this simplicity that it allows it to be applied universally to the ultra-running community, but unlike football there is no accounting for “strength of schedule”. The formula does not take into account the number of participants in a race, the number of people a runner beats, or the strength of the competition in the race. The winner of a ten person fat-ass in the middle of December gets the same reward as the winner of Western States on Ultrasignup. Likewise, a runner could have an exceptionally good race but if the winner destroys the course record on that particular day, the Ultrasignup score may not reflect the accomplishment. But the method of dividing one’s time by the winner’s time was certainly not a novel concept in Ultrarunning: race series, like the Montrail Ultra Cup and the Oregon Trail Series, predated Ultrasignup with their use of the same formula to determine runner rank within the series.

Mark says he has gotten numerous suggestions on how to improve the algorithm, but few are as simple as the current system. And Mark states: “It is not our intent to inject subjectivity, it really is just your average of how you have done over the course of your running career.”
But recently there have been changes to the USU system and the ensuing discussions on the Ultrasignup Facebook page made me realize a lot of runners take this rank really, really seriously. In fact, Mark says he knows of a few situations where egos have been put in check after people have been called out on their low rank. And there are stories where people have sized up potential dates based on their Ultrasignup scores. Now that’s taking it seriously!
One of the changes involved timed race events. Previously these had not been calculated into the score, but these results have now been averaged in (using a modified formula of runner’s distance/winner’s distance). Those who frequently run timed events were strongly in favor of this, basically stating they wanted “credit” for these results. But opponents stated these races are often used for training or running a specific distance with no intention of running the entire time and they didn’t want to be penalized for this. The second change involved listing the DNF’s, though that had no effect on the actual score.
With all the banter and importance placed on the Ultrasignup score, I have decided to share my wisdom and experience (61 Ultrasignup results!) on how to achieve an Awesome Ultrasignup Score:
- If you are having a bad day, you should DNF. Sure the DNF’s are listed now but they don’t actually hurt your overall ranking. On the other hand, sticking it out through a tough day will earn you a score significantly lower than you are used to. My rough day at Western States in 2012 earned the ranking of 58%!
-Never run competitive races. Whenever a lot of fast people show up, the time between you and the first runner is likely to be a lot greater, meaning your score goes down even if you think you had a good day.
- Run a bunch of small, non-competitive races to pad your score. Better yet, go to a fat ass with Ultrasignup registration and race it all out. I like to race and I like to have some runs as training runs. Local races are perfect for this. And high placings at these races that nobody outside of your state has ever heard of (or cares about) can not only boost your ego, but also you USU score!
- Do not do any races for fun. Do not do any races for training. And certainly don’t run with anybody slower than you.  Two years ago, I ran the Pac Rim One Day with my daughter. I thought it was pretty fucking awesome to run an ultra with her when she was only 8 years old. But Ultrasignup didn’t - they reamed me with a 35%. My recent endeavors to help a friend meet her goal at the Condor 25k were also frowned upon in the USU system.
- Do not race outside of your strengths. Last year I thought it would be fun to run a mountain half marathon to mix things up and get some good vert for Western States. But I am not great at steep uphills or steep downhills and I certainly don’t have the speed to compete in a half marathon. Ultrasignup corroborated this with a lower than average score for the day.
- Never race against Ellie Greenwood. A couple years ago, I had a decent run at Chuckanut (it was on the top 20 all time list at the time). But Ellie set the course record that day. Likewise, her two speedy runs at Western States hurt my scores on the day. Fast chicks and dudes can do a number on your score even if you have a good day. It’s best to just not run any races against them at all.

;) Ok, hopefully, everyone knows I don’t mean any of that! (Well, except the part about Ellie Greenwood. Nobody has a chance against her :). My point is that ultrarunning is a lot more than a computer generated score. Enjoying new places, hanging with other people, being active, and even toughing it out on a bad day are all things that enrich our lives and make us better people. Being competitive and pushing yourself to do better and even beating others is all part of this sport, too, and I certainly relish that aspect of ultrarunning. But it is good to keep it in perspective.
Amongst all the Facebook feedback and suggestions, a few commenters hit the nail on the head. One said his Ultrasignup score was “not something I think about when I am running an ultra. Stats and rankings don’t mean much.” Another person noted, “I don’t need to be ranked to love this sport.” Even Mark Gilligan, the founder of Utrasignup, says: “the ranking is just for fun so don't take it so seriously. It was added to the site after a few beers so take it for what it is.”
Ok, so fess up! Has the ranking system ever influenced your race decisions, such as what races you run or whether or not to drop? Be honest - How seriously do you take your Ultrasignup score?

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