OK, so this post is two months overdue. It's tough to write about the races that don't go well. And this one didn't go well, despite the great hospitality by race director Chisholm Deupree, the incredible organization and staffing of the event.
The race took place on October 26 in Oklahoma City. I arrived the day before and Chisholm showed me the course. The loop was through a park, just short of a mile, and my early take on it looked like a good course to me. There were some little ups and downs, but nothing too strenuous. I also had the good fortune to meet lots of my good friends before race day, which is one of the real special aspects of the national championship 24-hour race.
Generally, I hadn't raced much over the summer or fall so I wasn't really sure what kind of shape I was in or what I might be capable of, so I didn't want to put to much pressure on myself to get a certain mileage. I would just try this one by feel. Looking at the registered entrants, Mike Morton definitely was someone who could beat me for the national championship, but he was still dealing with an injury and didn't come to Oklahoma. Brian Teason also looked like a possible contender, but it seemed like I had a good shot at a win and a third national championship, so I was optimistic.
Things started out well, I settled into what felt like a comfortable pace. After a few hours we had some rain, which never got very heavy, but it dissipated by early evening. There were some technical issues with the timing system that failed to record some runners' laps. I was keeping track of my laps, and the counter was always correct for me, but I wasn't sure about who was ahead of me. Brian always seemed to be just ahead of me, or just behind me, but never more than a lap. I was told there was another runner ahead of me, but no one seemed to tell me who it was or how far ahead. I admit that this uncertainty got on my mind a little too much.
Still, I hit 50 miles in about 7:30 - 7:40. I've definitely had faster 50-mile splits, even though this pretty much matched my split from the 2007 world championship in Drummondville, Quebec, which is still my PR. So I didn't worry too much. In that race, my 12-hour splits were about 80 and 74, so I made it my goal to try to get 80 miles again in 12 hours. That 4 - 4 1/2 hours I pushed pretty hard to hit 80 miles, and maybe pushed too hard, without eating enough, and without realizing it I was probably digging myself into a hole. I did hit the 80 mile split just after the 12 hour mark, and I let myself rest a little after that, by taking a couple of easier laps, incorporating more walking, and more eating. But for some reason, I just couldn't get running again. No matter what I tried to get my energy up, all I could do was walk. I still have no real explanation except that my head just didn't feel connected to my body, and I was in a mental place where I just couldn't get myself running again. I'd run for short stretches but that was it. I basically ended up walking most of the last 12 hours, and finishing with just 117.54 miles. The race was won by John Cash, who was leading pretty much the entire race, with 140.41 miles, 2nd was Nelson Armstrong (in sandals) with 138.48 and third was Dave Ploskonka with 134.3. I ended up 11th overall, 9th male, and 7th USATF male. Connie Gardner won the women's race with 132.71, Katalin Nagy 2nd (but not USATF member) with 124.06 and Cherie Yanek 3rd with 115.59.
It's extremely frustrating to me still because it's a race I could've won, and there was no real reason for me to struggle so much. All I can think is that I was just not ready to race. I just hope I can at some point find something to learn from it, other than that you can't force yourself to be motivated.