I'm just back from France and ready to recap what happened in Brive last week. First off, I want to thank everyone for their kind words and support, but as a competitor who worked so hard toward such a big goal, I'm obviously still tremendously disappointed with my result. The good news is, my #1 goal for this race was for the Team to get on the medal podium for the first time ever, and thanks to the hard work of everyone (especially top 3 scorers Serge Arbona, Mike Henze, and Scott Jurek), we earned a Bronze medal for the country!
Obviously Scott's 165+ miles and 2nd place overall finish were huge, but I'm not sure it's possible for me to have any more respect than I have for both Serge and Mike for all the pain I saw them fight through over the last few hours while holding off the charging competition. That's not to say, of course, that everyone on the Team didn't put it all on the line for the good ol' USA out there. All of you should know that you couldn't have had a more dedicated and hard-working group of runners representing you in front of the world!!
Team USA at the Opening Ceremonies. Back row, left to right: Assistant Manager Mike Spinler, Scott Jurek, John Geesler, Serge Arbona, Me, Mike Henze. Middle row: Amy Palmeiro-Winters, Jamie Donaldson, Suzanna Bon, Anna Piskorska, Jill Perry, Deb Horn, Phil McCarthy. Front Row: Dr. Andy Lovy, Manager Roy Pirrung
Brive may be a small town in the middle of nowhere France, but they really put on a great event for all of us. I like this shot of me on the team bus as we first headed into town. I did a double-take at this random bus stop sign as we stopped for a red light...Hey, that's for us!
Leading the Parade of Nations was a great local marching band and cheerleaders...
They closed off the main streets in the town as all 32 countries marched through...it was really cool! (and yes, this quaint, centuries-old French town proudly sports a Chinese restaurant: 'Le Mekong'!)
My parents stopped staring at all the cool architecture long enough to pose for this shot during the parade
We all marched right into this cool pavilion...
...and at the Opening Ceremonies they declared the games to be on!
After a million travel delays and inconveniences, Lizzy's parents and brother Jeff made it to town to complete the team!
The crew does a little recon work on the course...
While I could have done without a few million of the turns on the course, I did really like "International Alley" where all the team tents were set up under the roof of the open-air pavilion. Very cool!
After a solid night's sleep (9 hours!!) I was ready to rock on race morning.
Everyone had their motivational helpers on the fuel table: Deb had a picture of Saint Lucia, Jamie had a beret from her parents, and I, of course, had my old pal Eddie.
Jamie and I, calm and cool in the starting corral, ready to take on the World....if only our stomachs were as ready to take on the French parasite that would ruin both of our races a few hours later...
Lizzy gets ready to cheer on the team!
...and we're off! Scott leads right from the start with Serge just over his left shoulder
I enjoy a very rare moment of open track as I wind my way through the road section of the course
Team Rose set up shop on the park-side of the course, cheering on all of the Team when they were the furthest away from the support of our main tent.
In the groove early on with UK friend (and fellow cancer survivor!) Chris Carver just behind in the yellow gloves
Jamie fighting hard while one of the Denmark ladies asks her teammate, "Do you think the Aid Station has some deodorant I could borrow?"
Suzanna making it look easy while in the Top 10
As the sun comes back up the next day, the pain is apparent on Scott's face...
Everyone is a little blurry-eyed at the Award Ceremony after the race...including the camera...
...and Team Sweden.
Team USA stands tall with its first ever men's medal in the World Championships
Close up of the Team showing off our medals with Manager Roy
Lizzy, happy to have her husband standing here and not in a hospital
The night after the race we were even on the French news! Jamie and Scott both popped up on camera during the report...so cool!
After the race Lizzy and I were able to have a little fun visiting the sites in Paris with my parents before flying home. Here's Lizzy at Versailles...
...and me posing with the Eiffel Tower
Now that the photo-recap is done, here's the dirt on what exactly happened to me: The race started off as planned as I ran 8:45s for the first 4 hours. The day was pretty sweet for running (low 50s, overcast), and even though the course had a few more twists, turns, and choke-points for my liking, it was pretty easy to glide around most loops without being elbowed by the French women (seriously, they got me twice...those ladies are mean!). Between hours 4 and 7, for some unknown reason, I had some real struggles with my stomach. This meant not only was I losing all the fuel/hydration in my stomach with each of my three rides on the Vomit Comet, but I also had a hard time swallowing my hourly bottle of fuel. Despite this struggle, I was able to soldier on during those hours knowing whatever it was that was attacking my stomach had to run its course eventually. By hour 8 I was encouraged both by the fact that my stomach was finally back to normal and, amazingly enough, I was still on pace for my original plan with about 53 miles covered to that point. For the next 3 hours I started testing out my turbo boosters every few laps to see how they were responding. The plan was to run a negative split for my first 100, and even though the turbo wasn't 100% there yet, I was very much encouraged by a couple 7:45 miles I was able to mix in every now and then to wake my legs up. With the passing of each hour I was feeling stronger and faster, and with the sun now gone I was looking forward to stealthly climbing the rankings through the night. Everything was now going exactly to plan...
Then, around hour 12 or so, I realized I needed to make a bathroom stop. I took this as a good sign since I didn't remember the last time I went, but it had probably been about 5 or 6 hours prior. I figured the need to go meant I was finally caught up on my hydration and things were now perfectly back on track....Then I saw what came out of me.
For a second I thought, "I don't need to tell anyone about this, I can just keep running and deal with whatever happens after." ...but the smart side of my brain quickly reminded me of runners like Erik Skaggs who have run themselves into the dangerous world of renal failure at recent races. I knew I needed to see the doctor right away, so I finished the lap and made my way first to our team doctor, then to the official race Medical Tent. They needed a sample to test, but since I had just urinated, I knew it would be a while before I could go again. They let me keep walking around the loop while I chugged my water and desperately clung to hopes that I could get back to running (my legs still felt amazing, which only made all this even more devastating). Finally, about 2 hours and 140oz of water later, I was able to give the docs something to test. They put the strip of litmus paper in and showed me the results: I didn't need a medical degree to clearly see that on a scale of 1 to 10 for amount of blood in the urine, I was the most definite '10' of all time. Bo Derek eat your heart out.
As soon as they saw the results they took the timing chip off my ankle and withdrew me from the race. Just like that, my goal of helping the team was officially over about 60 miles too soon. While continuing to drink ridiculous amounts of fluids and submit hourly tests to the doctors throughout the night, I did my best to keep helping the team every way I could. I spent a solid 4 hours (4 very cold hours, I might add!) on the far side of the course during the wee hours when there wasn't anyone left out there to cheer on the runners. I did my best to distract everyone from their mounting pain for at least a couple seconds every lap. Nearly all of us had some sort of stomach issue during the race, and I saw first-hand how amazingly strong Jamie Donaldson, Suzanna Bon, Phil McCarthy, John Geesler, and Amy Palmeiro-Winters are as they refused to give up despite a pile of issues and injuries that knocked them off their race plans. I'll consider myself more than lucky to run with any of these stars again.
It's hard to accurately put into words how I felt after being pulled from the race, especially before I knew we'd end up with the Bronze. It's frustrating to work so hard in training for so long and then never get the chance to lay it all on the line for the Team. I did cheer myself up a bit a few hours after the race when I saw the final results: Serge ended up being the 3rd man for Team scoring at 150+ miles, which made me happy since just before my urine issues during the race I did the math and figured I was on pace to finish the race somewhere around 148 miles. This meant, even if I was out there fighting until the end, I still wouldn't have helped the team get any higher in the overall standings. That fact really helped me sleep the day after the race. Thanks, Serge!!
From a health prospective, things are cleared up (quite literally) now, and I'm feeling pretty much back to normal. I'll head out for an easy run tonight or tomorrow to shake the legs out and see how everything feels. I know I have the Mohican 100 miler coming up in 4 weeks, and even if I'm not 100% for that, I'm really looking forward to getting out on the trails and enjoying a relaxing run in the woods.
As for my future in the 24 Hour world, I really have no clue what's next. I don't necessarily "enjoy" running around asphalt circles for 24 hours, but I do enjoy the fact that it can lead to representing the USA on the world stage. Despite my current frustrations and desires to run trail races for a while, I know my desire to put on The Uniform again and make up for this personal disaster will pull me back to the world of circle running sooner than later.
Thanks again to all of you for your kind words and support, and congrats to all my Teammates for their amazing efforts: Jill, Jamie, Suzanna, Anna, Deb, Amy, John, Phil, Mike, Serge, and Scott...You're all awesome, it was such an honor to run with you!!