Tuesday, 25 November 2014

World 100K Champs....Doha revisited....

Two and a bit weeks back at work seemed to have flown by, and I found myself back on a plane heading out to Doha again, though this time I wasn't going solo and was proudly wearing my Team GB kit. This time, I found it harder to get my head round the fact that I was going there to race - partly because 100K seems like an incredibly long way to run, never mind race, when you actually stop and think about it - but partly because I'd been out there so recently on my own. This meant that I was one of the most "experienced" team members. I'd sent everybody feedback on the course, the turns, the underfoot surfaces, the heat, the humidity, the customs, the food, the feed stations etc etc before we travelled, but I also took several of them on recces around the route when we got there.

Room 606 shenanigans!
Ellie (Greenwood) and I had requested to share a room and, as we hadn't seen each other for a very long time due to both of us having injuries at different times (though we've kept in touch via the internet), we had so much chat and gossip to catch up on that we didn't sleep much the night we arrived. It was great to see Carolyn and her girls again, and to be able to show my team-mates Ellie and Emily (Gelder) both the souks and the Corniche, but less great that at least 4 people in the hotel restaurant welcomed me back.....anyone would think that I like my food!!!

The few days before the race provided an excellent opportunity to catch up with running friends old and new - and I also really wanted to attend the medical conference and tour of the sports medicine hospital that had been arranged. Unfortunately it was not to be - as that was the morning Ellie and I were summoned early in the morning by a knocking at our door and "drugs testing!!".

Waiting for blood tests
I hoped that this would be slightly more organised than after the 50K, and indeed was for "biological passports", ie blood tests, rather than urine testing......but my hopes were dashed. Forms were copied over people's shoulders as they weren't sure how to complete them, some people didn't have ID, we ended up spending about 2 hours there, and I got a large bruise on my arm for my efforts....not exactly what you want the day before a big race, but I guess I was glad (in principle) to see them doing it......though certain natonalities seemed to slip through the net! And, what's more, I was then way too late to go to the medical conference ;-(

Go Team GB (with Ellie and Jo M)!
All too soon it was the calm before the storm - Ellie and I were getting ready in our room, pulling on vests and shorts/hotpants...then attacking them with scissors as we realised they weren't really going to be comfy enough to run in for hours, and pinning numbers front and back! To my great chagrin, there had been no chocolate fountain at lunch....but luckily I'd managed some brownies to top up the chocolate levels. We'd handed in our drinks and gels to the GB support crew and so there was nothing to do except head down to the start area.
Oddly enough, we were all made to walk across the start line and back again to check that the chips were working - we were tightly packed as a group so I have no idea how they would identify if one wasn't. No big deal was made of the start and suddenly we were off.....

Don't worry, I'm not going to give you a K by K or mile by mile account of the race....or even a lap by lap one (as that would really help anyone with insomnia), mainly because I cannot really remember the whole run that distinctly. I would sometimes find myself running past the feed stations having covered a lap wondering how I'd got there as I was sure that I'd only just passed them! I'm not sure that I can really claim that I was "in the zone"....more like I'm just a bit of a space cadet!!

Emily, Ellie and myself pre-race.photo:irunfar
There was even more reason than normal to start slowly at the back. Not only were there over 200 runners in the race, but the mens' and ladies' fields started at the same time. Even though we were going to run 20 laps, many people still get caught up in an adrenaline rush and set out as if it's a 5K race! I also remembered from the 50K that the initial straight of each lap, wasn't especially well lit. There was such a crowd early on, that it was hard to see where anybody was in the race. I wove my way up round people and tried to settle into a pace in the first couple of Kms. The switchbacks helped me spot people and so I saw a Norwegian lady (who had been 4th in the 50K) taking an early lead, with Ellie and reigning 100K Amy (Sproston - from the USA) running together not far behind. I wasn't in the top 10 in the ladies' field but that was fine with me as we had a long way to run.

Although there was a large number of participants in the race, and a good competitive ladies' field, I found myself running alone by halfway round the first lap. This was at total odd to my only other 100K when I had ladies to chat to for about the first 40K. I guess I've done many lonely runs since then, so it didn't really bother me  and I just tried to settle into a comfortable pace. Some things were the same as the 50K - that familiar hard surface underfoot and the call to prayer sounding eerie in the night - but others were new to me - the temperature was a good 10 degrees cooler, the cooling stations had moved, and even the official feed station was in a totally different place!

1 bottle to drink, 1 bottle as a shower!
Our support team were great at looking out for us heading into the feed station (as it wasn't especially well lit, and they couldn't move away from the front of the table) as we sometimes had to negotiate not only other runners ducking in and out of their tables, but also supporters wandering around or crossing the course. Walter Hill (GB Team Manager) started off "feeding" me my drinks/gels, and then Andi Jones took over for a while before handing back to Walter as the night progressed.

We had all agreed to look out for and support each other during the race (which was another difference from the 50K, when I only really had Paul Martelletti to wave/chat to) - and we had decided to do it in a rather tongue-in-cheek American way, so there were plenty of "Good Job!"s and "awesome"s as we spotted each other. I didn't want to offend anyone by accident, so when I was running near Meghan (Team US), I gave Ellie an encouraging "Jolly good running old Bean!" shout instead! It was nice to recognise so many runners from other countries as well, so it was actually quite sociable with all the waving and cheering.

I hadn't quite covered 25K before I was lapped!!! The young Russian (Vasily) was flying, but he did seem to be working very hard so early on in the race (if he'd carried on at that pace he'd have lapped me 4 times!!)...and indeed, he paid for it later as he faded back to 8th place! Incidentally, he (along with a couple of Russian ladies) wasn't wearing his National vests, so it wasn't clear until you were right up next to them (so you could read their numbers, names and nationalities) that such runners were competing in the World Champs. A little while after he passed, a huge chasing group containing Americans, Japanese, Italians etc nearly ran me over as they motored past. I was surprised not to see any Brits amongst them, but on a positive note, it meant that I then had the anticipation of being lapped by my teammates so taking my mind off running several more kilometres.

I could see that Ellie had moved smoothly into the lead a way ahead of me, and Jo was running strongly a few places behind me. I had steadily progressed up the field and gradually closed up on a couple of ladies as we approached the 50K mark. Without changing pace, I moved past them, which put me into second place in the field....not really where I wanted to be at this point in the race. The Japanese lady that I'd just drifted past then suddenly shot past me 2K later. I felt like I was going backwards....either that or that she was running a 10K, as it was an impressive sudden burst of speed, which certainly meant I had no inclination to go with her. I was slightly worried she'd power on up to Ellie, but no fear of that with  Ellie was looking so strong and comfortable.

Not exactly a 5K "loop"!!
I have to confess that by the time I had got to 45K, I was kinda wishing it was only a 50K race, but then I due to being nearer other runners, I found I'd gone another couple of laps without really noticing! The 5K loop is not really much of a loop, although we did start and finish at the same place every lap - it was rather a twisty course with many 180 degree turns. Almost ever turn seemed to be in the same direction.....and this had caused me some problems after the 50K. In the few days after the race, it wasn't muscles that bothered me, but actually my right ankle joint and I had it manipulated  (along with my painful "locked" lower back) so that it felt better. The same thing started to happen again, but this time I could feel it in my right shin on every impact with the hard surface - I started to worry that this was what a stress fracture felt like as it developed. Before the race, Ellie had suggested stopping for painkillers if necessary, but unfortunately my lower back had also rather locked up, and I knew that if I actually stopped moving, it would totally seize up and I wouldn't be able to start again. I focused on trying to do pelvis tilts and stretches while I ran, which took my mind off my ankle and shin, and hence they settled down (though my back didn't and I did get rather stuck in an awkward position after stopping later!!).

There were other things to notice to while away the time, such as a Swedish guy who had decided to run for a while carrying his shoes before replacing them on his feet, and a Latvian guy who was doing the whole thing in "barefoot" shoes! The mens' race was also heating up, and I could see positions changing at the front end when they came past me. I was so jealous of them when I realised that they were almost finished whereas I still had several laps to go, but at least none of the British men lapped me more than once in the whole race!

I know I definitely slowed down for a couple of laps later on in the race (and my splits confirm this). I guess I could blame my stiff achy back, but if I'm honest, I think that I mentally switched off for a bit. Ellie was motoring away up front....so much so that I no longer saw her at the switchbacks, and there seemed to be no real movement in the field around me, whatever lap the runners were on. I found myself take a quick stock of my body in the penultimate lap.....my legs felt ok, I wasn't running out of energy, my back wasn't that bad as long as I kept moving.....so the problem was definitely in my head.....I guess that if I include the 50k and other runs while out at both the events, I was almost on my 40th time round the route - enough to drive anyone insane!

Woohoo....made it!
On the last lap, I knew that it was time to force myself to switch back on, knuckle down and refocus. I realised that Ellie wasn't going to lap me (phew) but the Japanese lady in front was out of sight. We seemed a shoe-in for the team Gold as we were still running in 1st, 3rd and 4th positions, but I'd noticed the look of determination on Jo Meek's face as she chased me down. With about 2.5 K to go, the gap between us was rather small - I was running out of the road 180 degree turn as she was running into it. I'm known within my family for my stubbornness, and there was no way within my power that I was going to run 50k in 3rd position and then lose it in the last 2 (though I'd rather lose to a team mate than anyone else). If she was going to pass me, then she'd have to have a very strong finish (as she'd already run a great race to that point). How hard could it be for me to put in 2K of effort? Rather hard actually, after 98k already in the legs. It probably wasn't much of an effort to those watching, but I put my heart into it, and ended up actually closer to the 2nd placed Japanese runner, than Jo was to me! Jo's husband was at our feed station with about 500m to go and he shouted "Well done, you've got it Jo". I didn't realise that he was cheering for me, but thought she was on my shoulder and it was all over, so I was delighted to find I then had a clear run into the finish, with our team manager Eleanor waiting just over the line. I'd managed 3rd place overall (1st in the masters race) in a time of 7:41:55 (how consistent is that? Both 100ks run in 7:41 and change!).
Team GB on a name budget - Eleanor/Jo/Eleanor/Jo

Ellie had run a fantastic race, and just got stronger and stronger to win with a huge margin in 7:30:44 with Jo also excelling to finish 4th in 7:43:30, which meant that we were easily the leading team. The Japanese ladies had a great day for silver team medals, and the American ladies took team bronze (the Russian ladies would have had this honour, but unfortunately they had not obeyed the race rules by not wearing their national vests and so were disqualified from the team results)!
The Masters' Podium

Some things seem to only happen in events of this distance/nature. For example, it was slightly odd to lap a man after having run 97K and have him comment on how "nice my legs were"!!!! I'm not sure that runners competing for different nations would be as encouraging and supportive of each other in a shorter race either, though I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

4:30 am - Photo:irunfar
We were buzzing afterwards, and so instead of going to bed (as most sensible people would have done), Ellie and I went back to the course for some food with Eleanor, interviews with Bryon Powell for irunfar, and then we went out and encouraged Dennene (a friend of Ellie's who was running for Team Canada but wasn't having the best day out there!). We eventually fell into bed at about 6am, though my stomach was reminding me that it was actually time for breakfast........no matter how far I run, some things never change.....

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