Frankly, I don’t really want to talk about the race because it didn’t go so well for myself or particularly well for the American team. Once again as a men’s team we were fourth as Germany was in 3rd by a small margin, similar to what happened in 2015 at the 24 hour world championships. I DNF’d (did not finish) at 40 km. Leading up to that I spent about four hours and 20 minutes with an average heart rate of 180 and a high of 202 basically hyperventilating and taking a lot of walking breaks because there is something wrong with me. All of the people there (competing athletes and support staff) recognized that something is wrong. A guy who 16 months ago ran 6:56 pace for seven hours with an average heart rate in the upper 160s does not in the space of a few months turn into a guy who averages 10:15 miles in a road marathon with a heart rate of 180 when the temperature is 65F.
Way more fun to talk about would be the four days we spent in and around Sveti Martin, Croatia. Due to bad weather, especially around Chicago seven people from team USA, about a third of our group, was delayed a day getting to Croatia. So I slept in a hotel in Kansas City Monday night, flew over on Tuesday and arrived on Wednesday. I drove by myself to Sveti Martin. (The pronunciation is pretty similar to “sweaty martin” so it’s a little fun to say, and totally appropriate because it was pretty humid.)
I’m pretty sure that north eastern Croatia is the midwest of Croatia. There were tons of corn fields. Pork is one of the major products of the area, although I didn’t see or smell any obvious pig operations, then again, as the driver on 1.5 lane wide roads I was concentrating on the driving not the scenery. I was even stuck behind two different tractors after I left the highway and drove on the back roads. The highway driving was great! Not much traffic, speed limit of 130 kph (nearly 80 mph) and people were blowing by me. Pretty sure I hit 90 mph at one point in my diesel Alfa Romeo following an Audi.
Wednesday night I was exhausted when I reached the hotel. I checked in, and then laid in my room for two hours until the restaurant opened. I actually ate alone Wednesday night and then went to sleep by 8 PM. Jesse my first roommate showed up around 9 PM, and I briefly woke to say “hi”, and then back to sleep for another 11 hours.
Thursday after breakfast we went for run and I huffed and puffed, but not as bad as it has been. We had a team meeting at 10 AM, and afterward the gurgling in my left lung was happening so I had the doctor take a listen, and he said I probably need a CT scan because it didn’t sound like my stomach or intestines, as he had suggested over email and as my chiropractor had suggested too. After that little check up one of our team was staying four miles away at a Air BNB for 1/6th the cost of staying at the hotel, yet he didn’t rent a car or make plans for how he was going to get back and forth from the house to our hotel and the race. Oh kids! So I gave him a ride back to his farm house and then Jesse and I went to Slovenia and walked around in a little town for a bit. When it was time to return and pick up our young friend for the second team meeting of the day the GPS said there are “two border crossings in this route”. After driving through a little construction we ended up at a poorly marked border crossing. To his credit Jesse was 90% sure that the flags at the border meant we were driving back into Croatia, but it was a different crossing then we entered Slovenia. We debated asking the border guards what country we were entering, but decided that’s probably not something you want to ask at a border crossing. Turns out it was Croatia. After our team meeting and dinner we sat around talking about dating and dating apps, which was pretty entertaining.
Friday was pretty standard. A few more meals, some more team meetings, a soak in the hotel hot springs pool and laying around reading about the craziness that is the news in the USA. The hotel we were at is part of a sports resort so there was a hot springs, a small water park, a driving range, frisbee golf, and a number of other activities possible within a quarter mile walking distance. The hot springs advertised a lithium salt bath, and it was definitely salty. I felt like I had a slime on me in the pools. In the evening we had the opening ceremony which was nice and short, probably less than an hour. After the ceremony and a quick dinner we were in bed by 8:15 PM.
I slept for three hours, was solidly awake for three hours, and then slept for another three hours. In the morning breakfast started at 5 AM and let me tell you, two of those European coffee machines were not really enough for 50 anxious runners, although everyone did seem to get some coffee. We leisurely used the bathroom, changed, stretched and walked down to the lobby of the hotel 30 feet from the start of the race. AT 7 AM, on the dot, we were off! I think there were about 300 people total in the race. You can read the play by play of the front action at irunfar.com. On the men’s side there was a very clear Japan vs South Africa battle with the top four at least on each team dueling it out from 30k to at least 60k. Geoff from the US was basically the only person in that lead group not from those two countries. After I DNF’d and took a shower and changed I walked back out onto the course and cheered all of the Team USA runners to the finish and a number of the other runners that I thought would understand English (sorry mainland Europeans and Asians). In total on the men’s side three of the six team USA men DNF, and one of six woman DNF. Both the men’s and women’s team came in 4th. The women’s team by 20 minutes the men’s by 3 minutes. Scoring is the times of the top three people on your team is added together, so the team scores where like 20 hours on the men’s side.
At 4:15 PM when everyone on our team had finished most of us went into the dining hall and ate, and started drinking the adult beverages. Everyone did something different until about 7:30 when we went to the closing ceremony where Japan stole the show winning both the men’s and women’s team competition and the men’s individual competition. A Croatian woman won the women’s individual competition with a strong time on not a very easy course in warm and humid conditions, I thought her performance was the most impressive of the day, and I told her and her twin sister so at the after party.
After the medals were given out and national anthems played, and the Krampi (plural of Krampus?) performed, we had some pizza and adult drinks for maybe an hour talking to the two irunfar.com guys and some of the other countries team members. Everyone was pretty tired so we headed back to the hotel around 10:45, I traded national team shirts with a South African, because none of them wanted their yellow long sleeve shirt, which is really nice and I will wear in training plenty.
Sunday I rolled out of bed at 5:45 AM and at 6 PM drove Devon, Emily and her dad to the airport for them to catch a flight, and after refueling and returning the car, checked in and boarded my on time flight.
Not at all the racing experience I wanted. I am excited to someday figure out what is aerobically wrong with me. Yet overall it was definitely a good fun experience I am grateful to have had!
Food for thought, I’m not sure what the future holds. Part of me wants to be back on the 100k team because I know it is possible for me to be top 10 in at this championship, yet I am also confident that I could actually win the 24 hour world championship, and without a qualifier for either one at the moment, and some sort of serious aerobic problem, I have to pick and choose my goals. I can’t do everything.