Sunday, September 27, 2009

Keswick, UK 2009 Commonwealth championship

Keswick, UK 2009 Commonwealth championship ultra and mountain running, Sep 17-20, 2009
Keswick sprung the organized and recognized ultra running 100KM and 24 hrs event:

Dream Come True:
It was a privilege and honor to represent my country in an international event, a long time dream come true. I ran part of Canada 100KM Team in the first ever organized and sanctioned by a recognized committee which is Commonwealth. Yes Ultra running is now on the map of sporting events and should be included with other athletic programs by 2018 in commonwealth championship. I made it this year and I look forward representing my country hopefully in 2018 to be part of a history.

Ever remember myself in athletic I wanted to represent my country in an international event. I had the opportunity years ago in soccer but ankle and back injury let me down and I wasn’t about letting go this time around. There has been something with my ankle and the national team.

Injurty prior to race
27 days to the race I managed to sprain my ankle so well that I was only able to run 4.5 hrs training run leading up to the race. 2.5 hrs of the run was only in the last week before the race with 1 hr longest run. A fast run would have been miracle with the condition I was in running almost impossible. Leading up to the race dropping from the race flooded into my head a few times but then every time I had to think about how I was going to get portion of my flight ticket back from the insurance company discouraged me. Talking it over with my family, I was convince that this was the trip I should go and find out what the international ultra marathoning is about. A week before the race I was also talking to Darin Bentley my teammate, he also told me a lot could happen in a week. I was determine to give it a shot and could just imagine what I was going to face an absolute torture. But I have mastered hiding the true feeling of pain with the smile.

My Trip to England:

This trip definitely a highlight of my travels, I never had gone through the security so easy thanks to being a member of national team :).
Air line managed to deliver my luggage in both directions that never happened before.
However I Still didn’t take my chances, beside my Carbo-Pro and Accelerate, I took what i needed to race in my carry on, some Chewy Cliff block, Cliff bar and Termolyte, my race clothes, and shoe. Airline managed to Loose Darin Bentley’s luggage and they delivered to him the day after the race, 4 days later. Thanks to the generosity of ultra runners we managed to chip in things here and there and he could run his race.
Sep 16 my plane landed at Manchester Airport and I needed to take a train from the Airport to Penrith which was about 2 hr 5 min ride. 2 weeks before the trip we were advised to get the train tickets in advance and I managed to get ticket for trip 7 pounds one way and 5.50 another way. My flight to Manchester was 1 hr earlier and with 2.5 hr advance booking needed to wait 3.5 at the train station.

I was trying to negotiate for earlier trip but the only option I had buying new ticket. New ticket meant you buy the ticket at the time of travel at busy hr; someone bought the same 7 pounds ticket for 36.50 that’s $70 Canadian. So I decided to just wait and may be I could have someone in the same train that I could keep me company, I could hardly keep my eyes open. I had to drink a few bottle of coke to stay awake and sharp.
1 hr into the trip I had to catch another train at Preston station.

There I met a Canadian 24hr ultra runner Sylvie from Quebec, and then met another girl from Australia Kate. Kate was wearing backpack, then I remembered seeing another girl with a backpack and she looked very fit, later I found she was also Aussie. Yes traveling with backpack is common in Australia unlike us taking a big luggage.
We got to the train station at Penrith about 10:20 PM since train had a delay. From Penrith to Keswick is about 25 min drive, a bus was supposed to pick us up. Since our train had a delay unfortunately the Bus had already left.
Than God someone had called the accommodation office telling them he was arriving at a later time since his train was also late. Sylvie and I decided to head to Macdonald to eat and stay warm. Unbelievably chilly outside, we were from Canada and couldn’t handle it, I am from BC the Quebecor was worse.
In England you have to pay for everything separately, if you order sandwich, it is only bread and meat or cheese. If they ask whether you needed salad, then you have to pay unlike going to Subway in Canada where they make a mountain out of your sandwich with the toppings.
One thing for sure, they have a great cheese and yummy one’s. About 11:00 finally Jason, one of our Mountain runner arrived and we were ready to head to Keswick where we were going to stay for the next 5 days.
I heard from the folks who had participated in the previous international competition that the accommodations are usually a dorm type with multiple roommates. We were supposed to stay at a hustle and once we got to the place it look nothing like hustle.
The hustle looked more like a castle with Stone walls, pretty and green looking over the mountain also a nice view of the city and farms, a shallow creak in near distance with its own suspension bridge. If you walked the bridge fast it made a loud noise, it sounded like driving on the old Lions Gate bridge decks except louder. Once we entered the Castle, to our surprise the rooms were single and double occupancy, sweet.
The next morning we had to get up early to have our breakfast at 7:00 then we had to get ready for the Championship Opening ceremony at the Theater-by-the-Lake.
This place is absolutely stunning, not the theater but the lake. A normal theater however this one was the place to spring the first organized international ultra. The Lake with a few little islands Surround by the green low, high hills you may call them mountain full of sheep’s.

The championship opening Ceremony:

9:30 AM on Sep 17th the ceremony opened by Nadeem Khan,
Our own Canadian 24 hrs runner who is part of IAU committee and he did a fantastic Job.
12 counties participated in the championship.
Bruce Barteaux carried our Canadian Flag; he has been running for team Canada for the last 7 years I think.
We were informed the planning for the championship had started in 1994, 15 years ago.
At the end of Ceremony Keswick Mayor Official opened the championship games, quite funny and likeable guy.
Right after ceremony we all went out on the short hill looking over the lake on one site and the high mountain on the other side with sheep’s our company.

Shortly after we needed to get ready for the 24 hr race that was going to start at noon. Canada had 4 female and 3 men. The race started at Fitz Park and runners needed to complete a loop of 1.05KM for 24 hours, the tents were lined up at the end of the loop and each tent was allocated to 2 or more teams. Each team had a couple of tables for the runner’s nutrition. Table were labeled with runners name and lined with their goodies from Gel, to salt pills, banana, cliff bar, melon, water melons, water, etc… This was the only place in England we didn’t have to pay for water :).
We Watched and cheered our runners with the rest of our 100 KM buddies and crew
To the evening then we head for dinner and after we walked a path about a kilometer through the sheep farms to our Castle for a night sleep.

Once I got to my room took a melatonin and a bit of watching soccer highlights of the European club games I was ready to call it a night
The next morning I woke up earlier as I had hard time sleeping because of the jet lag and decided to run to the Fitz Park to watch 24 hr runners and also try to feel my ankle and work on the strategy to finish my race. Once I was at the park I decided to go to medical tent for some advice on my ankle and tips on taping it. At the tent I met an Aussie 24 hr runner who was laying on the bed and he was feeling a bit chilly, he was wrapped in the blankets. He was still sharp and in good spirit but he kept saying that his body wasn’t ready yet. I thought he was done but to my surprise a few hours later I saw him running. I heard from our management that there are some runners in the 24 hrs that they run their race hard for a few hours then they take a long rest and back it again and repeating this until race is over.
I got some help and advice on how I could tape my ankle on my run. I let one of the guys John to tape my ankle, very simple, tape top of the outside ankle to bottom of foot and continue to top of inside ankle then one more around the Achilles to close the first loop. I didn’t feel this was a strong method to hold my injured ankle secure. Then a girl suggested another method and hers appeared to be stronger almost the way we used to tape in soccer years ago. Went for a run with the tape and not only had to deal with the pain of my ankle and now had to endure the pulling from the tape. Now for sure I had no other choice but suck it up. I knew Motrin was the most trusted friend to take me to finish line.
I Went back to the castle and had breakfast and a quick shower and back to the park to watch the finish of the 24 race.

Australia won gold and Silver and Wales won the Bronze. Guy Gilbert from Team Canada ran close to 218KM a PB for him and charlotte vasarhelyi from Women team had a PB as well.
New commonwealth 24 hr distance:
The winner Marin Fryer ran 255.934 KM, almost 160 miles.

After the 24 hr race we headed to Booth, the famous and only supermarket in town to buy fruits, pastry and Coke, Water for the next day race. I also bought lightly salted original potato chips. I must have ordered a truck of those, were they ever good, it was so original and natural. BTW it was Kettle chips. The goal for the rest of the day was to staying up, all day felt sleepy, and the bloody jet lag wouldn’t go away.
About 6:00 PM we headed for dinner at a pasta place in town and sure the food was great. After the dinner we needed to attend an orientation meeting on the 100KM rules of Do’s and Don’ts, planning, travel, and aid stations.
Right after the meeting, everybody was rushing to get their last minute race preparation for the next morning, Clothes, shoes, bars, Gels and bottles.
I like my fluids cold when I am racing, with not having a fridge in the room or bigger fridge at the Castle, I clean the sink, plug and added the bottles, then pour the ice on the top.
Yes the drink stayed nice, cool and fresh to the morning.
By 10:30 PM I had everything ready for the next morning 8:00 AM race. Watched a bit of Soccer and needed to go to sleep. 2:00 AM I woke up and couldn’t sleep and just had to close my eyes and roll in the bed, something I am well familiar from other races. At 5:00 AM got off the bed, took my thyroid pills so that I could digest what I needed to eat during the race and had to wait for 20 min before having my breakfast, banana and some very yummy fresh pastry with rains I got at the supermarket and top it with Cliff Bar. At 6:00 AM join the rest of the team and crew at the dining place for chat then we were off to take the bus to the start line.
In this race other than the Jet lags I had no race stress or you might call it a fever, my goal was to finish and all I had to strategize. I was a lot calmer than ever. 20 min before the race I started warming up to feel my ankle. It was painful even running on the grass so running the Asphalt was going to hurt even more. I continued with the light warm up and letting my ankle know that a long and enduring torture was ahead.
About 7:55 runners started to leave the park to the adjacent street to the start, lots of hugs and hand shakes and good luck wishes. I shook hand with Jez Bragg’s and congratulated him for his successful race in 100 Miles Western State, he finished 3rd and I wished him good luck with this race. I knew he was going to win Keswick race, something about his look and the determination assured my belief that he was the man of the day.

Let the Game Begin
Countdown started and a rush of adrenaline purred in, gun went off and off we went to measure the Keswick roads.
Race started with a bit of very gentle incline then a decline and just before the 2 KM marker started the steep hill. I was about the middle of the pack before the climb, I love running hills and I think everybody was kind of holding back on the hills. With a little training run I had prior to the race I knew hills were the only place I could run and down hills were going to be most painful. Eventually I decided to push the pace to my up hill potential and join the leaders and at a few points I could feel they were feeding off my pace. I kept climbing and felt really good and I recall, at one point Jez was telling his English buddies the pace was good and keep it steady.
I ran the same hills with Darren Froese 2 days before the race without knowing it was part of the course and I knew what exactly coming ahead, steep down hill and the rolling hills. I did the training run with Motrin and after the run had to elevate my legs to get rid of the inflammation with painful night sleep but the run was less than an hour.
At that point of the race I was well aware that I was going to drift to the back of the pack again and had no problem with it, my goal was to finish the race, running hard downhill’s was only going to hurt me more.
Soon runners started gaining distance and Darin took the lead and in a short loop he had already gain about 20 yards on me and he was telling me “come on”. I wanted to but my body wasn’t allowing me and still had to run another 95KM. Soon runners started passing me and in a distance I could still see the leaders on the rolling hills. At about 10KM Darren took the lead from Darin and everyone else to follow. The distance kept growing with me and the leaders and at 12KM I could no longer see them as we crossed the Highway toward the lake for 5K in and out loop 7 boring times. Of all the runners I could see a Young Scottish and an English runner.
I was carrying a bottle of Carbo-Pro mixed with Accelerate with me to the 15K, our Canadian Crew asked me if I wanted a new bottle, since I hadn’t finished the bottle I said I was Ok and continued. About 17K I realized we don’t have any crew at the 20K aid station marker. It kind of got me worried and worst case scenario I just had to drink water from aid station if I had to. Luckily at 20K they had Hi-5 new energy drink that never heard of it before until we received a mail from our team that Hi5 was the energy drink for 100KM race. I searched online but there was no distributor that I could find close to us.
The day before the race Darren and I met up with David the guy who was in charge of the drink and he let us taste a sample but it was 1/3 of the strength and on the race day they were going to mix to 2/3 of the strength.
I wished on the race day they had mixed it to full strength. The drink worked out alright for my stomach however not strong enough so I was craving for more carbs still.
At the 20K Aid station this girl called out my name and never seen her before, no name on my race number, it turn out she was Jenn one of 100KM runners from Team Canada who had surgery and couldn’t compete but since she lives in England she made the effort to come and watch, cheers us up, Thanks Jenn. She helped me a few times with my drinks and word of encouragement.
About 21.5 KM marker I met the Scottish girl Lucy Colquhoun, an awesome runner, I didn’t know anything about her before the race or ever heard of her but her beautiful smile and word of encouragement lead me to check her online to know her name and read about her from blogs and specifically hers. Lucy smiled the entire time I saw her running and was cheering everyone passed by her unlike some other runners female or male. Thank you Lucy I needed smiley face lap after lap to carry me through. We also had 2 big smiley girls in our own Canadian team, Lisa and Laurie. Once I called Laurie Lisa, and she was quick and sharp enough to correct me right away. Thank you Lisa and Laurie for your smiles too. The gap between me and leading pack got bigger after each lap about a KM. A few times during the 70K boring loop Darin was encouraging me to pick up the pace to catch up to him so we could run together but I wasn’t able to push further. The longer I ran the more I compensated on my left leg and contributed to hamstring and left Achilles stiffness. My left Achilles was so damn hard and painful it felt like a train was pulling it. After the race I couldn’t believe how dark it was, dark purple almost black.
About 65K marker, Kandise Froese, Darren’s wife she rubbed my Calf’s and hamstring and that got me going for another 10 more KM. Kandise is woman of multitasking, She is truly an angel, unbelievable how many role she had during this competition, a True and magnificent generous leader. She always made sure everyone was doing fine and that everything was taken care of.
Another 10K of torturer I started drifting back more and more and I could see the people behind me they were closing up, specially the 2nd female runner from England. At 75K I badly needed message to loosen up my hamstring and Achilles, Sue one of the medics came over and she started deep message on my hamstring and Achilles, it was so damn painful that I was biting my toung, ouch. Every time I came around, thanks to Armand our team manager, Erlinda, George (24 team runner), Charlotte (24 hr team runner), Bonnie, Bruce’s wife, they smiled and more word of encouragement, I couldn’t have let them down, I had to keep going.
A big sigh of relieve when I came about 85 KM marker, thank God I didn’t need to repeat the boring and windy loop anymore and was heading home for more undulating and steeper hills. The 2nd female runner was closing the gap on me and I couldn’t distance myself from her anymore, she ran like a Swiss watch, so consistent and determine. No emotions what’s so ever, Thank you for the push. I was about 91 K running by the road, so quite, no cars or human around. All of sudden I hear this sheep from higher up, I had no choice but to return the favor “I love you too”. I got a bit of energy surge and started peaking my heels and was running a bit faster and building gap however that short lived.

Coming to a Fork, hmmm, no way I am going to take a wrong turn:

I got to a point where I had no clue which direction to go, no marshal, no sign or direction. Cones where leaned to the stone wall that was going to a completely different direction, and apparently someone followed the road and they end up at a church. At that point I decided not to take the risk and wait, knowing the runner behind me is English she knows the course better, so I waited for her to catch up and I asked her for direction and off I went. All day I was counting runners and which country they were repressing, team Canada was sitting on the 4th place, since the 3rd Scottish runner was running with Darin at the 75K marker and by 85K they almost built 2K on me. The chance of Bronze for Canada was long gone. I was about 95K aid station I was craving for more carb but the aid station had only water a bit disappointed but was determine to keep the pace I was running hills. About 96K I spotted the 3rd Scottish s runner half KM ahead of me and I was determined to beat him, may be after all there was a chance for Team Canada on the podium. I started to run as fast as I could, about 97.5 K I caught up to him, he was running and stopping but as he saw me passing he was also determine to catch me. I assume he had no clue about his country men results and he must have felt the danger of loosing the bronze. I was determined to distance the gap and once in a while I couldn’t resist turning around to find his about. I think I was running about 4 min KM if not faster. Just past the 99K marker people were sitting at a CafĂ© and started cheering me as I was passing by. I thanked everyone who cheered me, by doing the last one I almost sprained my left ankle too as I went on the edge of side walk. I was so high at the point that nothing was going to stop me. About 20 yards to finish I threw my water bottle away (someone actually took a picture) so I could finish the run with my Canadian flag but unfortunately it wasn’t at the finish line. 8:03:05 I crossed the finish line with another 100K in my resume. I am happy I over come the challenges and finish the run that I was anticipating to finish almost an hour later.
This was the most satisfying race in my book. I continue to push myself beyond my physical and mental capacity and loving every moment of it. Every race I learn something new from my own mistake and others strength. I am still exploring why I slow down drastically right after half way marker. I noted the English runners got stronger after the half way, so did the Aussies and Scottish runners but we were slower.

In closing I like to thank my family supporting me all the way and to help my dream come true specially my Mother.

Thank you to my NSA family and my sponsors, Saucony and Polar.

Thank you to our Team Canada managment and crew. I am looking forward to the next race to represent my country again.


Heather said...

Congratulations on your successes! I'm proud of your accomplishments and found it great to catch up on your blog! Happy running! Heather

Hassan Lotfi-Pour said...

Thanks Heather, I hope your training is going well