Wednesday, December 9, 2015

World 50K Championships

I learned a lot on Friday.

At first I kept thinking only if I hadn’t stopped at the aide station so frequently, only if I would have ate more, slept more, stayed focused more, only if... then my race would have manifested differently. But the reality is that it’s always easier to say that on the opposite side of the finish line.  Bodies are fickle and it’s impossible to know if anything would have turned out any differently on Friday. It was an experience, it was memorable, and for that I have nothing but gratitude.

Doha, Qatar was a long way from home. It was my first time traveling really far for a race. I had a 16 hour flight to Dubai. In Dubai I used the gym where I got a short run and shower before having a short flight to Doha. I was purely exhausted by the time I arrived, early Tuesday morning (I left Sunday afternoon from SFO) and nearly broke down in tears by my overwhelming lack of sleep and realization that I was really far from home. I felt this urge to turn around and go straight home, but instead I tried my best to accept the uncomfortableness.

I quickly found that I wasn’t adapting to the 11 hour time difference and started to just stay up at night and do my best to sleep during the day. I got shake-outs in around 5am while hearing morning prayer, than grabbing a bite, and trying my best to sleep and getting up around 4pm to repeat again. In my six days in Qatar I only saw the sun on two days for a brief stint. It was a weird life style, but I just rolled with it. The biggest problem was that in those nighttime hours I only snacked and didn’t get a good quality meal. I tried my best to eat more at dinner, my breakfast, but it’s really odd to have tacos or pasta first thing in the morning. And then at breakfast, my dinner, I got a lighter meal of eggs, potatoes, and fruit. In the end I thought I would be okay, but in retrospect I should have forced more calories down even if my appetite said differently.

That was one very valuable lesson. First and foremost, never skimp on calories before a race, ever! Even if you’re jet lagged and don’t have an appetite, eat!!! I learned the hard way what happens when you don’t get enough food the days before a race, you fade and you fade hard. Trying to get more calories 25K into a 50K in a race just won’t cut it. By the time I realized my energy was zapped it was too late and I had to slowly accept my mistake. It was painful, but inevitable. Note taken.

The teams stayed at the Torch, which is a 5 star hotel with crazy lights and heavy air conditioning. I’ve never been to Vegas, but I imagine it’s kind of like that without the alcohol and gambling. It was great given that the race started and finished directly in front of the hotel. I didn’t sleep particularly well the night of the race or better said the day of the race, but I was eager to get going. The race started and I went out comfortably in ~6:20 pace. This felt reasonable and I imagined I would be able to sustain it for the 50K. I kind of fell into no man’s zone being about 30 seconds behind Camille Herron (eventually winner by a landslide) and a few minutes in front of the chase pack, but I just tried to stay focused and in my zone. It worked for about 5 laps and then I got hot, like really hot. I told the wonderful folks at our aide station that I needed more calories, ice, and salt. Starting on the 6th lap, I pushed a huge bag of ice into my sports bra, took an extra SaltStick, and extra calories in my bottle. That worked for a lap and then I needed them to pour water down my back and give me coke for some extra energy. In my heart I knew I f’d up. I knew that chase pack was going to eat me up. No matter what I did in those final laps there was no fix, I fought, but suffered those final laps.

On the final 5k loop, I really didn’t know if I would make it. I could tell I was slowing significantly. I made it, but when I crossed the finish line I couldn’t stand on my own and I instantly got sharp shooting pain into my neck. I was kindly aided to the medical tent where I spent the next hour, unable to lift my head. They gave me fluids and checked my neck, which they said was being caused by dehydration. That was a first, but given that it resolved 48 hours later I do believe that it was just pure lack of fluids. It also took me over 5 hours to pee, so I am guessing the heat also played a part in how things unfolded during the race. After more fluids and a hot shower I rallied to spend time with the US team at the Shake Shack, enjoying French fries and milkshakes. And then some of us followed that up with a mock tail (really expensive drinks without alcohol).

There was no doubt I was disappointed with my performance, but I’ve been around the block enough to know that you’ve got to except what came to be, learn from it, and move on. At the end of the day, I raced in the very first IAU 50K world championships, my very first world championship, met amazing people, raced my fastest 50k, and I had an experience that will last a lifetime. It was glorious experience that taught me more about myself, this sport, and life in general. I actually learned that I like 5K circles. I don’t mind running on tiles (although I do prefer trails). I really love being part of a team. I know some amazingly talented runners and people (team USA you're amazing!). I hope to come back next year and do it again (although I said the exact opposite when I first finished).


I want to send a huge thank you out to Susan Dun and Craig Field for taking such amazing care of me and the team before, during, and after the race. They were critical to the USA team and without them I think I might have just turned around and caught a flight home. I also want to thank Craig’s daughter, Alicia, for reminding me what this sport is all about. It was truly an honor running a 5K the morning after with her. When she asked me about my race she said, “I know you were in 2nd, but 6th is amazing too.” Thanks Alicia.



1 comment:

Simone Angela Winkler said...

Oh dearest Caitlin, you're such a trooper!!! This post made me cry and want to hug you!
Traveling is a big deal, and we need you here on our and YOUR Californian trails where you're home. You're incredibly awesome.