September 15, 2011

World 100km (well ok, 90km..) Race Report

D. N. F.




Well, that certainly was not the outcome I had been hoping for. In fact it is far off what I had been hoping for. I went in the race fully crossing my fingers for (but of course, never expecting) the win. I knew there would be a strong ladies field but despite the fact I won at World 100km in 2010 I didn't have a perfect race there in many ways and hoped that I could run faster than my 7h29. Mid way through the race this year I would have been delighted at finishing under 8h30. Goals had been substantaily adjusted whilst I continued to put one foot in front of another. But in the end I got to the point where I really felt I could not continue to put one foot in front of the other. I had got the the point of walking. And I don't mean power walking. I mean plus 10min per km pace. It looked pretty lame ;)

I started out fast. The course was 10 x 10km loops and the atmosphere lived up to all expectations. It was a-buzz at the start with lots of people around as it was also the Dutch 100km champs as well as there being a 50km race and a 10 x 10km relay. On the first few loops I soaked up the atmosphere of locals out cheering, many of whom had set up water and sponge stations in their gardens, or had opted to bring their lawn chairs out whilst barbequeing and cheering. Banners streamed over the streets and with a 10am start their were cheerers out right from the start. I aimed to hit 4.20 min/ km or so. Basically I wanted to run between 42min and 43km per 10km loop. This was ambitious and immediately put me out in the lead for the ladies field. I didn't especially intend to go out in the lead but I'd been prepared to take the lead if that is where my pace put me.

By the 3rd loop I got even faster than this and appreciated when the GB crew told me to slow down. I'd simply got carried away and then on my 4th loop focused on checking every km split and soon reigned it in to a sensible pace. Ok, back on track I thought.

The weather conditions were warm and humid, something I am totally unused to, in Banff the air is exceptionally dry and my final run in Banff before flying over for the race it had been a fresh minus 1. I knew I should take care to keep cool so was sponging myself at every opportunity and taking water form the kids along the side of the course between the two GB feedstations which were located at the start/ finish area as well as at the 5km mark of each loop. All still going well. Marathon in approx 3h01 and 50km in approx 3h37. The legs were still feeling good and no niggling pains were appearing. Awesome.

A little into the 6th loop I began to slow. My stomach was beginging to feel a little off. Not awful, just not great. The eventual winner (of Russia) slipped by me to take the lead. Of course not encouraging but the bigger concern was my stomach and just a general feeling of wanting to sleep. I just felt plain tired. At 60km I pulled in to see Brian, Walter and Anne at the GB station. I told them I just wanted to stop. I had no energy. It wasn't that my legs were tired, it was just I didn't feel like battling on for 40km. Things had gone downhill quick and I felt like I didn't have my usual will to fight. The GB crew tried to get my going, they asked if I would regret quitting tomorrow and I said I knew that I would but I really didn't know I could carry on. I took off my bib and say down. I was done.

Well, that's what I thought. After sitting for maybe 5 minutes the crew continued to talk to me and I knew I had to give it another shot. Bib back on and I was off before I could change my mind. My stomach was still not feeling great and I moved on as solidly as I could. 40 more kms didn't seem overly far but I wasn't in the spirit to push hard but I knew my race still had plenty of time to turn around.

At 65km I pulled into the GB crew of Adrian and Peter. My stomach definitely didn't feel great now. They offered me all sorts of choices of things to eat and drink but none of it seemed remotely appealing at that point. Then my stomach turned and I vomited. Having had this happen at Western States, I was actually quite positive about this - hopefully now I had a fresh stomach and could start getting on board new calories for more energy. It was also much harder to quit half way through a loop (though is was a still a tempting thought at this point). Ok, off I went again with a bottle of coke in hand which I drank in very tentative sips.

Now I was running each 5km betweent the stations at a time. I would pull in, get a few words of encouragement as well as some coke and Clif drink on board and then would psyche myself up for another 5km. I was still at the stage that the thoughts of anything more than liquid was just not bareable, though I did force a gel at one point, knowing that any calories would help. At 78km I pulled over to the sie of the road and as I vomited for the second time a very kind Dutch lady came to offer me a baby wipe to blow my nose - much appreciated as I had no water to clear my mouth. Nice!

Now I decided to stick entirely to flat coke. It was possibly my electrolyte drink that was upsetting my stomach (despite it being what I always take, the pounding on tarmac is never easy on the stomach). Just before 80km I ran past Jason Loutit of Team Canada. I told him it was getting tough but I was feeling surprisingly good and 20 more kms seemed totally manageable. I was delighted at the thought that I might finish the race under 8h30, not bad considering the things I had gone through. From 80 to 85km I took no walk breaks!!! Woo hoo!!! This was my first entire 5km run with no walking since 65km, and I was finding that although ladies were passing me as I would pull into the aid stations for a few minutes I would then gain on them again once I was moving.

By now I had resolved to enjoy the race as much as possible and was waving at supporters and followed Amy's (Team USA) lead and high fived kids along the side lines. I am sure supporters wondered why the runner who had led the race for the first 50km was now so delighted to be close to an hour off the lead lady! I was just happy it was almost over and hopefully 1h30 and I would be done.

But as I was at the 85km mark I didn't feel great again. It would be the final slump that I couldn't pull myself out of. My 5kms of running had zapped me and it was the first time that I walked out of an aid station. I tried to run but it was a short lived shuffle. I walked. I suddenly just couldn't run. Despite having switched to entirely coke my stomach was feeling upset again and the legs like lead, there was no energy left in them. From 85km to 90km it was a long slow walk, I maybe ran 500m (though it was maybe only 200m). I was done. Pam (Team USA) ran by and I was so touched when she told me to come with her. But I just couldn't. I would run maybe 20m and then grind to a stumbling walk. I crossed the start/ finish at 90km and then continued the few hundred metres to the GB crew. Just before then I met my Canadian friend Dirk who came to my aid as for a third and final time, vomiting ensued. I was definitely done. 10kms was just not possible. I was checked out. I could not believe I had been running so positively just 7km before, sure I would make it to the finish, and now I was a weak and stumbling mess.

All in all - why did the stomach fail me? Who knows? I think the humidity is likley. I am questioning the cleanliness of the sponges and the water at the aid stations. Other than that, it's hard to tell.

Did I go out to fast? I'll never know. My stomach went before my legs had the chance to fail me. I personally don't think I did and I don't think my fast pace early on was the reason for my bad stomach.

Other than that, I will admit, if I'd have been allowed I'd have run that final 10km later in the evening. I'm not planning on DNFing again. Thoughts of Anita Ortiz braving it out to a slow Western States finish this year kept me going for more than 20km. As Anita has said, 'I'm just not a DNF kinda gal', but I'l also have to concede that I DNF'd this one and Anita is even tougher than I can ever imagine. Absolute respect.

Onwards and upwards (fingers crossed!)

Happy trails, Ellie x


  1. Some days it doesn't work out unfortunately and I know how hard it is to swallow that mid-race when you've been psyched up for that day for so long.

    Hope you feel normal again and get some good running in before it gets to cold in Canadia.

  2. I unfortunately know how those stomach problems go as well. Had similar problems at Leadville this year, 50 miles of slow walking while trying to find my stomach just wasn't fun. Good luck with the next race though. That's the good thing, there is always another! Chin up, you're still a badass!

  3. C. AR. WS. E. Y.A.S.M.H.
    Chuckanut. American River. Western States. Edmonton. You. Are. Still. My. Hero.

  4. Sorry to hear that what was looking like a great race fell apart like that, Ellie. It totally sounds like a complete heat/humidity factor to me. I'm amazed you did so well for so long in those conditions, given you weren't used to it. Bounce back and enjoy your fall/winter season!

  5. Awesome job gutting it out (literally!) for so long. You tried, and tried again. No shame. You've had a super year and there'll be lots more to come.