Monday, 25 August 2008

Green Lakes Gold Medal

This past week was capped off by a much anticipated and all around memorable day at The Green Lakes Endurance Runs in Fayetteville, NY.

Total mileage for the week: 63 miles

Monday--> Rest
Tuesday--> easy 8 miles through Central Park, Manhattan
Wednesday--> speed work in New Haven's Wilbur Cross High School track: 11 miles total that included 4 mile repeats 5:23/mi. 5:32/mi. 5:13/mi and 5:18/mi. I did 800 jogs in between miles and approx. 3 mile warmup and 3 mi. cooldown
Thursday-->easy 4 miles on Cayuga trail in morning; easy 4 mi. on Warren Rd. in evening
Friday--> rest
Saturday--> easy 5 miles up Cascadilla gorge and around Beebe Lake w/ Fingerlakes Running CO. crew
Sunday--> 31 miles at The Green Lakes Endurance Runs 50K

I was really looking forward to this race for a few different reasons: 1) I felt fit enough to go after the course record of 4:16 2)I knew the course fairly well and love the absolute beauty of the area and 3) Valmir Nunes from Brazil was going to be running the 100K.

Following the Olympic men's marathon Saturday night my father called me from Florida and let me know that it was up to me to bring home the gold for his native country Morocco since Sammy Wanijiru from Kenya took the gold over the Moroccan runner. We joked about it but I also thought of using some of Sammy's strategy in the race of going out hard since I knew it was going to be a hot day for us here in NY.

As I entered the race headquarters area in the state park I felt the Olympic type vibe as I saw some international flags hanging on the Great Room building. I don't think people realized the magnitude of Valmir Nunes from Brazil. This guy was basically using this 100K as a tune-up for The Spartathlon in Greece next month. Last year he placed 3rd at Spartathlon and won The Badwater 135 mile race through Death Valley shattering a 30 year old record by an hour! This was like shooting some hoops with your buddies and having Kobe Bryant stop by to play. I saw the start of the 100K and then finished preparing for the 50K.

The weather was nice and cool at around 6:30 am but I knew this was going to be short lived. I planned on running the first two laps fast to build a nice cushion. Off we went and I was feeling awesome. I gave a yell to Valmir as he passed me and flew through the first lap in 53 minutes. At the beginning of lap 2 I could actually feel a blanket of humid air fall down on me and as the sun rose higher and higher I knew we were going to get baked by mother nature. Still I felt very relaxed and came through the second 7.77 mile loop in 55 minutes.

This is where things started falling apart for me. I knew I had a decent lead on the majority of the pack but wasn't sure I would be able to keep up this pace with the increasing temperature. As I entered The Serengetti for lap 3 I felt something that I have yet to feel in a race. I was about to throw up! I could feel saliva building in my mouth and my throat muscles ready to contract simultaneously with my stomach. I started walking and held it down barely. Luckily I was able to make it to the aid station and grab some water and HEED from Mark Driscoll. I still didn't feel well but started running again after my blood pressure came down a bit.

Lap 3 was about 1:03 or so and I could feel the heat pulling me down even further. I tried to eat and drink and take many Endurolyte capsules because I was sweating perfusely and the sweat was very salty. I knew this was danger for me. As I entered the proper fitting name for the open grassy section (Serengetti) of this race on my final lap my left hamstring started to cramp. This really slowed me down to a jog. I saw Ben Clardy in the distance and I asked him for some salt tabs but all he had to offer was gel which I had too. I slowed down by now tremendously and wondered if or when I was going to be passed.

At about mile 27 my left hamstring completely seized up and stopped me in the shady downhill portion of trail. Eventually I crouched down to alleviate the contraction. Next thing I know a woman came by and asked if I were OK. I explained what was going on and how close I was to finishing and she got out a bag of electrolytes capsules and a salt tablet. I ate like 3 of them on the spot and thanked her graciously. I could see her tell some of the volunteers in the distance about my condition and they walked towards me. When we met the one woman filled my bottle with water and gave me the rest to pour over my head. Thank you all! I'm not sure if I would have been able to hang on without your help.

Within minutes I totally loosened up and descended to the lake trail feeling so relieved that cramping was over. I still had a 5K to go and passed the woman who gave me the capsules (Tanya). I was really surprised no other runners were in sight and told myself that I guess my strategy was effective after all. By now I could almost see the finish and knew I had the race and the course record for that matter.

I came through the last lap in like 1:12 for a total time of 4:04 or so beating the previous record by about 10 minutes. Two minutes after I finished Ed Housel came in for second place with a remarkable time on a weak ankle and scorching hot day. I was so grateful to be finished and to have won with the course record despite the circumstances. I wasn't thrilled with the way I won. I looked at Ed's splits and they were all almost identical. I guess I have never been great with balance!

Honestly I still felt like crap...nausea, over heated and exhausted. I was excited to see Erica show up and introduced her to Joe and Christine and a couple other ultra buddies. I gathered myself for a few minutes and headed down to the cold beach which helped immensely. I had a nice time chatting with William G.,Karl, Warren and Blaise and Joe from N.J. I didn't get a chance to talk with Shiran too much but hope he finished. Last time I saw him he had like 2 bottles of water and 2 cokes with him! I can't say enough about this race and the people associated with it. I have felt nothing but hospitality by Todd Baum, Dr.Riccardi, Ben C., Ryan O.,Tom P., Mark D., the timers and the group of people that consistently run and volunteer with passion. I was deeply touched when I found out that Todd had Donna bake me a cake for my 30th birthday on the 28th. That kindness and thoughtfullness really meant a lot to me.

Next, I wanted to see what Valmir was up to. Well, it proved that he is human after all as I witnessed him showing some fatigue from mother nature and the course on his final lap. As he approaced the finish Todd and I grabbed the Brazilian flag from the building and we gathered folks to welcome him after a long day of running. I was extremely honored to get pictures with Valmir and Todd and will definitely cherish this day for the rest of my life. I shared a few words with Nunes and his crew and wished him well at Spartathlon. When I get that picture it is definitely going in a frame on my wall. This was only the fourth year and Todd is doing such a great job with a great venue for running. I think my record will be broken in the years to come but it's going to take a valiant effort by someone to get Nunes' time. What a day!

I hobbled around SUNY Cortland today for my first day and met many more enthusiastic people that love sport and running. I am really looking forward to this semester and some cooler temperatures...but not too cold! After this week I will be starting to taper down for Iroquois and will keep Valmir's strong mind and heart with me as I continue my journey.

Quote of the week: "The five S's of sports training are: stamina, speed, strength, skill, and spirit; but the greatest of these is spirit." -Ken Doherty

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