I think it’s fair to start off this report by saying this turned out to be a very disappointing race. I hate to be negative and I can still even find some positive aspects to the trip to Poland but at the same time it was an important race for me to do well at. In a situation like this there’s no reason for me to be mad because there’s nothing I could have done to prevent a mid-race misstep so I’m not mad, just disappointed. Those races that go poorly due to how I perform are much harder to take because I’ve had an impact on those and ultimately it comes down to how hard I push it and what my body feels like. In this case, it doesn’t make it any easier but it was also out of my hands.
I went into the IAAF World Mtn Running Championships in Krynica, Poland with high, but not unreasonable, expectations. I had to right? I mean, I did win the last up/down race in 2011. I was hoping for a top 5 finish knowing there would be the usual suspects of US (Joe Gray), Turkey, Italy, Uganda and Eritrea so a finish that high would be great. But I wasn’t going to be unreasonable and expect that I would win the whole enchilada again, after all, I still feel like 2011 was a bit of a fluke.
Poland was cool but aside from the town looked a lot like the east coast in spots with nice rolling hills, green grass, and a few more evergreen trees. A small town like Krynica has a lot of very old culture which I’m sure if we were there a bit longer we probably would have seen.
We were staying at a ski resort a few miles away so didn’t get to experience it in all its glory.
The course was remarkably similar to this year’s national championship at Cranmore in NH. It started with a 200-300m uphill straight into a steep downhill with a few corners and then into a straight very smooth downhill road section that everyone can blitz. The bottom of the course starting up was very steep grass ski slope zig-zaging in large switchbacks across the slope making for awkward and difficult footing.
This would prove (on my one loop of the course) the most difficult section by far. This transitioned at the top of the slope into a short flat section then into uphill singletrack the rest of the way up to the top. This was a great section. Nice shaded singletrack with a roller in the middle to move the legs then finishing with a mellow 200m uphill road section before heading into the next loop or the finish (that I never got to).
My race started out like a cross country race heading uphill over a grass slope. I was in about 5th position at the top but quickly moved into first on the top corners of the downhill. I knew I would need all the speed I could muster on the downhill if I was going to finish in a high position so I tried to extend my margin on the downhill as much as I could while still being relaxed. Reaching the uphill section at the bottom I dialed it back a bit to stay comfortable on the first climb while the field caught me from behind. On the singletrack I had the whole Ugandan team right behind me and I know they didn’t want a repeat of two years ago where they completely fell apart one by one. I half expected this from a couple but I was amazed when they never did. Up the singletrack I had some control of the race and I backed off the pace a bit. The Ugandans didn’t go by. I waited and waited and still they stayed right behind. It wasn’t until the last 400m of the uphill that they finally went by and I stuck right on the back of them. I wanted to make this first lap as easy as possible knowing the next two wouldn’t be. At the top again I was about 5m back of the Ugandans and Joe Gray, right where I wanted to be.
I started moving past them one by one on the downhill again. I was in second about 600m down the hill moving into first when, snap! Nothing hurt, everything seemed fine. For about 5 sec…then Boom. My ankle blew up like a balloon. I continued to run but ankle range of motion was gone slowing me down to a jog. Then I knew it was over. It really didn’t hurt, too much adrenaline, but that ankle it turns out is an important joint when you’re trying to run. About five minutes later as I tried to walk myself out is when it brought the pain. Ow, it hurt. I hobbled my way back up the course cheering on the rest of the team and letting them know I was out of it. Glenn wasn’t having a particularly good race and as he went by an realized that I was out and he might need to stick in there the look on his face was priceless. It was great to get to watch the race unfold but I would have much rather have finished. I got to see Alex and Ryan make pretty significant gains on the field in the last lap to bring us up into 4th place. I think I was on the verge of having a good race but one will never know. That’s really all I have to say after that.
I went straight to shoe school in Boston to see how American made shoes are put together, I got to make my own shoe (in size 6), and meet many amazing people in the American workforce that make shoes that I sell. Pretty cool.
I’ve taken a few days off to let the ankle heal up but with Xterra coming up next weekend I’m feeling like I’ve got to get back on it to work out some kinks. Everything with it seems fine, meaning not broken, but only running will let me know. Don’t worry, I’ve done this before. I’m a professional so don’t try this at home.
UROC in two weeks. That one might hurt.