100k World Championship: Short Stories

from Ms. Adventures of an Ultrarunner

The Car

I arrived in Alicante Spain after being awake for at least 24 hours. I go to my pre-arranged rental car agency and request to pick up the car. “Credit card and Driver’s License” the agent asked. I suddenly got a feeling in the pit of my stomach. I left my Driver’s License at home. OMG. I was in a rush packing at the last minute and didn’t grab my license. What was I going to do? I asked if they would rent without it? NOPE. What if I could send them a picture of it? NOPE. She told me one place would rent if I could get a letter from the BMV faxed to them. I asked them. NOPE. Crap. I went to EVERY rental car agency and finally found AVIS who would rent to me if I could get someone in the US to take my license to an AVIS and the AVIS could scan and email or fax it and verify that it was valid. My 17 y.o. was off for Thanksgiving break, so I called him. He took my license to the nearest AVIS, 30 minutes away. They had no internet or a working fax. WTH? Who does business like that nowadays? He called other AVIS locations nearby and each was the same. Finally, 4 hours later, AVIS allowed my son to email a picture of the license. In addition, they called and spoke to an AVIS employee in Indiana who verified the license and I was on my way. It was getting dark and starting to rain. Now, I am normally very organized, fairly well-travelled, and usually on top of most things. This was not a good start.

After arriving in Los Alcazares (about an hour from Alicante), I ran into Tim Yanacheck who was going to move his car to the “gated parking area.” Neither of us knew where it was, so we decided to move his first and then mine. After moving his, we got in my car and I forgot to put the clutch in. (I normally don’t drive a manual transmission, but hadn’t had any problems so far that day). As the car lurches forward like a grasshopper, Timo says, “there’s a dog in front of the car!” OMG! Please don’t let me run over a dog!, I was thinking. Thankfully, a few seconds later, he walks out from the front of the car unscathed. I just need to go to bed…and so I did.

After sleeping that night and feeling better, Matt Flaherty, his dad, Zach Bitter, Pat Regan, and I drive to Cartagena the next day to do some light touring (more on that later). Upon arriving back at the hotel, I park the car in a sweet spot feet from the front door! My luck is turning…or maybe not.

Two days go by. I didn’t sleep well Friday night, and slept hardly at all Saturday night. About 2am (early Sunday morning-race day), I told Pam Proffitt Smith (who was on the same sleep schedule as me) that I was going to check on the car.  After checking on the car, I returned to the room and Pam asked if everything was okay. Nope, the car is gone. She thought I was joking. I WAS NOT. The cool thing about this hotel was how close it was to the race start! It was right in front of the hotel! All we had to do was stumble downstairs and start running…right where the car had been. While I was checking on the car, trying to figure out where it went, and freaking out that I hadn’t taken insurance on it. I met a policeman (who didn’t speak English) who explained to me in Spanish (thankfully I had a lot of Spanish in college) that my car was in the way of the race and was towed to the lot at the police station. He asked if I was racing in a few hours, to which I replied yes. He said that it was safe there. Just wait and get it after the race. (OMG! I felt like the most incompetent person ever)! The policeman said that I could get my car back at no cost! But, I really like your USA Track and Field gear. It would be nice if you bring me something when you come to get it? What?! Is this a bribe? Was he kidding? It’s hard with the language barrier to understand the subtlety.

After the award ceremony, I find the policeman. He reminds me to bring some USATF gear for him. He was a little portly, so I tell him that I don’t have anything I think will fit him. He says, well, bring something for my wife then. So, I ran (haha not really) back up to my room and grabbed one of my red singlets. I brought it to him, to which he approved. I hopped in his car and we drove to the impound lot. My car was sandwiched in like a sardine in a tin. He couldn’t move the other cars, because there were no keys for them (also towed cars). I watched him back it out of a space that I didn’t think was possible to get out of, cringing frequently (thinking about my lack of insurance). To my dismay, my rental was not dinged from him moving it or from being towed. He escorted me with his police car back to the hotel to show me where to park. Hilariously enough, right back to the sweet spot in front of the hotel where it had been 3 days ago.

I returned the car, holding my breath until the agent told me it was all okay and printed a receipt with no extra charges. Many travel lessons smarter.

The Race

Like most races, I set multiple goals. This race was no different. I wanted to be a scoring member of the team (top 3 USA women) and have my time count towards medals. This became an easier goal when 2 of our 5 women couldn’t race, leaving us with a team of 3 masters women, with an average age of 47.5. We would have to run our best and no one could drop. That’s a lot of pressure. We learned Sarah Bard wouldn’t be running about 5 weeks beforehand. Meghan responded to Sarah’s email saying that she needed a push to train harder (so what did that mean?…Meghan’s a beast, but?). Pam was worried about her fitness because she had raced Spartathlon 2 months prior and hadn’t done much in the way of speed or tempo. I was about as fast as I could be, but nothing spectacular for this distance. I was just excited to be a part of the team. I had run 8:27 at Mad City National Championship (4-2016), but had lost a lot of time stopping with GI issues. I set an aggressively, optimistic goal of running 7:59:59 (goal #2). With our 2 fastest qualifiers out, it would not be easy for this team to get on the podium. I had looked at the previous years championship and saw that the Bronze Women’s Team had a cumulative time of 23:30. I estimated that we would run around 24:00, making it a push to medal as a team. Pam and I cyber-stalked the list of women/teams present and figured that we could be in the mix. There were 6 teams that looked like they could podium, including Team USA.

Running at a World Championship IS ALWAYS AN HONOR! It is so cool to meet new friends from other countries, as well as see old friends from previous races. We paraded in our USATF podium gear and gave out flags to children watching the procession. Eventually, we made it to a stage, where we walked across and were announced as Team USA. Kudos to the team from Brazil who cheered the loudest, attempting to get a stadium-esque wave going. Unfortunately no teams followed suit. We listened to the program and watched the dancers perform for us. Afterwards, we went to the pasta dinner and tried to go to bed early.

After sleeping maybe 4 hours Friday night and 2 hours Saturday night, race morning was here…ready or not. I put one caffeinated Crystal Light single in one of my bottles, knowing I would be tired and had a spare if needed.

We checked in, said hello and good luck to friends and teammates, and were off in the twilight. The course had lots of turns. We started in front of the hotel (minus my car for scenery), running 1k before making 3 turns and getting on the boardwalk (small bricks that formed a path along the Mediterranean Sea. We ran on it for 2.5k before turning left and running a 2k out and back, turning right, and running by our aid station. The next 4.5k was a lot of twisting and turning with another longer out and back. The out and backs were nice because you could see where you were and cheer for your teammates and friends.

My goal was to run as close to 7:43’s (for a sub 8) as possible and come into the first 10k around 48 minutes. I was a little fast (what’s new?) and came through around 47:30 (7:35 average pace on my Garmin). I realized the way I was running the course, my Garmin would show the distance to be longer than 100k, and I probably needed to run a little closer to 7:35’s to get a sub 8. Instead of sticking by my 7:43’s, I ran faster to account for the difference. I ran lap 3 with the Great Pam Smith (I literally thought, OMG…I am running with Pam Smith) during that lap. At the end of that lap (lap split mile 20), I had to take a pit stop to lose some weight and lost contact with Pam. I tried to pick it up a little to catch up with her, but after 3 miles, I knew the gap was too big and I should slow back down.

In retrospect, I should have been more controlled for the entire race. But, it always seems so easy. I think, I have been working hard, I’m faster, fitter, stronger…maybe I can hold this pace. EVERY TIME the answer is NOPE…you can’t! With 30k to go, I boarded the struggle bus. Meghan who was up as high as 4th or 5th was dropping back a bit and Pam was running the smartest race of anyone, just gradually picking people off. I saw Pam on an out and back and told her I was struggling. She encouraged me and I thought about the 2013 24-hour, when I was in the 3rd spot and how or if we medaled could come down to how I ran. I did my absolute best, but admittedly fell off. At least 10 times in the last 3 loops, I had to walk for 10 seconds, lower my heart rate and get my breathing back. I wasn’t proud, but I knew I was pushing as hard as I could because I was dizzy when walking. Upon running across the finish line, I was losing my balance falling forward. Some finish line volunteers caught me and drug me to the medical tent. Minutes after I finished Pam and Meghan came into the tent and I burst into tears, blabbering “I’m sorry.” I thought my poor race performance had prevented us from a podium spot. They were soooo incredibly sweet. They said all the right things and retrieved my sweats. After running their own fantastic races, they were helping care for me! What else could you have in a teammate?! They also told me we were either 2nd or 3rd as a team! I was ecstatic!

Team USA kicked butt! On the men’s side: Pat Regan (a name you will hear more and more) finished 3rd, Geoff Burns finished 5th, and Chikara Omine finished 18th. Their times resulted in a new cumulative team time “record” and resulted in a Bronze Team medal. We old ladies from Team USA cleaned up in the medals, as we also earned Bronze Team medals. In addition to the World Championship, the World Masters Championship was held concurrently. Pam won 2nd in her AG (40-44). I was 1st in the (45-49) AG, and Meghan was 1st in the (55-59) AG setting a new AG WORLD RECORD by 41 minutes!!

After the awards, many of Team USA enjoyed the evening with a large contingent from Sweden, celebrating with meat, cheese, pizza, sangria, and wine. It was a great night!

The Sight-Seeing

Pre-race: We visited a very impressive Roman theatre and a castle which was more ruins and less castle, but cool nonetheless.

Post race: Zach, Pam, and I drove to Alicante the next day and stayed in an apartment. We met up with Pat, his girlfriend, and his dad for some Tapas Monday afternoon. Afterwards, we visited an awesome Castle: Castillo de Santa Barbara and the Cathedral. Zach and Pat’s group flew out Tuesday morning, leaving Pam and I to wander around Alicante eating foot-long pastries, pizza, and whatever we wanted. Gotta love recovery! Pam called it spackling…saying you have a hole that you need to fill. You have to over-fill the hole and then sand it back later. That was a funny and fantastic analogy! Hilariously enough, some strangers in Alicante asked me if I got my car back. I was totally caught off guard. I didn’t recognize them and we were an hour from where my car had been towed (they had been in the lobby the night I learned it had been towed). Equally entertaining was an Italian runner who asked me if I was “Traci Falbo.” He remembered me from the 24-Hour WC in Torino.

For a week trip, I felt like I’d packed in a lot of fun in addition to the racing. I got to know some great ultrarunners a lot better, and worked a bit to discuss MUT issues, as I was heading straight to Orlando, FL for the annunal USATF meeting on Wednesday 11/30.


Altra: I LOVE MY Torin 2.5’s and wore the New York City version for the race. Another Altra race with blister-free feet! Altra is the only shoe company where I have loved all their shoes, not just one model. Thanks for your support! The athletes, founders, and employees are as great as their shoes!

Hammer Nutrition: I love that your products fuel me without giving me GI issues and taste great to boot. After the race, I had Strawberry Recoverite, Mito Caps, Race Caps Supreme, and Tissue Rejuvinator. Your products get me bouncing back quickly! During the race, I took Hammer gels every 5k, Endurance Amino, Anti-Fatigue Caps, Race Caps Supreme, and Endurolytes Extreme.

Drymax: I love the max protection trail socks and wear them for any ultra…blister-free feet are happy feet :). My feet stay dry no matter what! We ran through lakes of water in 3 places on the course after it rained. 3 loops x 3 lakes x 100k = NO BLISTERS

Nathan Hydration: I didn’t need to carry anything for the race, but my packs (Vapor Airess and Zeal) and various handhelds have gotten me through training!

Running Skirts: I wore the USATF uniform, but trained in your awesome skirts! I love the pockets to carry whatever I need and the fact I never have to use body glide, because I don’t chafe in your skirts! I donned your compression socks after the race and on the long plane rides to keep my feet and legs happy ????

Sundog Eyewear: For the 3 loops the bright sun was out, your sunglasses kept my eyes happy and safe!

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