3.-4.10.2020 DUV Challenge Bernau bei Berlin
No. Spartathlon is cancelled. 3 weeks before the race. REALLY? Speechless. The race I have been preparing for (yes, also many other Athletes, but as we know- sometimes we are a bit selfish) won’t be taking place. Impossible! No! Why?! Anger. Disappointment. Anger. Anger.
It took me more than couple of days to digest this race cancellation. But it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t try to make the best out of this scenario. And there it was- 24-hour run in Germany, Bernau. Google Maps says about 8-hour drive. Fine. Could it be that my dream to break Latvian Female Record in 24-hour run could be given a second chance (my first attempt was October 2019 World Championships)? Hell yes- I must try.
So I wrote a message to my trainer (This is the first year I have one because I really wanted to get the best preparation for my ultimate race- Spartathlon).
“Hi Gerhard. Considering my training up to date, is it possible for me to run at least 223 km in 24 hours round course?”
“Theoretically yes. If you start it easy, and don’t make too much hopes”.
Me thinking: “Fantastic! Possible!”. And the registration was completed.
Me writing: “Great, can you please adjust my training to this goal- the race will take place one month later- on 3rd of October.”
The week before the race.
Sleep. Good sleep is not only the key to a successful training (regeneration is very important during high intensity trainings) but also to a successful start at the race. So, it is no wonder that the days before race I tried to sleep as much as I could. And lucky is that runner who actually manages it. Tired body, millions of thoughts running through the head. Is it possible to sleep at all? This time it worked for me- I had a little cold and was overtired. 2 weeks before the race, sometimes I managed to sleep 12 hours a day. YES! WOW! I looked awful (I was actually told from the few contacts I had, that I look like a crap), I ate too much junk food (I paid for that during race), I gained valuable 4 kg that I felt like I needed to run that minimum of 223km to break the national woman record (one week before the race I managed to stop eat sweets) and felt really nervous because of the COVID restrictions- will I be able to leave Austria at all to go Germany to race?! I was a tired, ticking bomb not knowing what to do with my frustration. Ahh yes, I have a normal job and I did work as well.
The days went on and finally it was 3am when I woke up and had all my things (yes-ALL – what´s needed and the REST ) packed together and ready to go. Dominik was coming at 4am. Without any doubts, I can call him my key to this race success. Without him, the race would have been totally different. And I´m not really sure if I would have made it.
Because of the COVID, the highway was empty and the drive to Germany easy- the hours passed fast, we chat a bit, I sleep a bit and was happy to have my training buddy with me.
Arriving at the hotel, unpacking car, finding some food, checking the race location and trying to not be nervous- no big happenings in between except for setting up the race tent As it turned out, I did not pack ALL with me! We were missing some fixing sticks for the tent and had to drive around to look for them. I was just happy, that I insisted to set up the tent the night before the race, otherwise it would have been really funny the next day. Dominik´s easiness to accept things how they are, were also very helpful to not stress more than needed. It is great to have somebody with you who doesn´t stress you extra.
Anyhow, we were back at hotel early enough to eat and go to bed. There were not much of a sleep. But it was to be expected. I would like to meet the person who can sleep the night before racing. Time to wake up. And give some shock to the breakfast personal with the amount of food I eat -my pre-race breakfast. This scene was even more funny because we actually were not allowed to collect our food ourselves- we had to stand there and tell the personal what we would like for them to serve us (COVID Restrictions). I don’t know what this guy thought about me but I was surely not shy on my choices I still remember the Cheesecake melting in my mouth- it was probably the best I ever had. I´m not a fan of German food. But the cheesecakes they can make really damn well. I have to go back there to have more of them
Time to go. Race time. What a happy feeling I made it so far. I was never sure to be here- Covid has making things insecure and complicated. Grateful.
Adrenalin was hitting in. It was the first day I didn´t feel my cold. But I could feel my stomach muscle pain from carrying the heavy tent and boxes yesterday. (I had a stomach muscle overstretching during my prep-time). Trying to not think about it. I´m getting really nervous. Checking out the wind. Checking out other athletes. I feel like I´m in the right place. At the right time. Time is running- am I ready- did I forget something? Did I tell everything to Dominik that he needs to know or just assumed he knows everything anyway? Probably the 2ndone. Time to go to start line. I’m feeling overwhelmed to feel all the emotions of other runners around. Again, after so long time. I can´t explain it. It is just great. We are all there for the same- to run and enjoy the run. To suffer and feel great about it. To give ourselves the satisfaction of whatever we have been seeking for. To complete the circle of our training and be proud of what´s achieved. And after the pain is gone- to laugh and be happy and ready for the next challenge. Because we never quit, do we
The sun, the wind, happy runner and finally gunshot to start. So many happy voices. Everybody chatting. I prefer to not chat during my races. Observing is more my thing. The first 8 hours we are not allowed to run with music- this is to to stay aware of the very fast 100km runners. Surprisingly I find it fine. Until this race, I always listen to music during street runs (only on trails there is never music playing for me).SO I was a bit worried, but it turned out I´m enjoying it the way it is. It helped to be more engaged with my thoughts.
The wind was changing the directions very often, it was kind of hot but I couldn’t really feel it (because of the wind), following the pace was really difficult- Dominik was telling me to cool down and run slower- I was trying very hard but because of the weather conditions and small uphills and downhills on the track it was a bit confusing and it took some strength for me to not start too fast. I was really focused to not make any silly mistakes.
My piriformis issue on the left side started to bother me very early in the race and I just could find my rhythms. Domink was not having a happy face hearing me only to complain that I´m not feeling good and after 30km we both looked at each other with frustration in our faces. I had to start to put a pain relief cream on my butt much too early – but the left side curves were too sharp for my chronical issue with my butt. My body didn’t want to accept it and hell no, I was not making it up. Domink said it loud: did we really came here for you to run 4 hours and go home?! After few more rounds I looked up at him and said: we didn’t come here for me to run few hours. We will get this. And I stayed focused. And smiled each round. And kept my pace under control. I was following strictly my nutrition plan made by myself. I wouldn’t forgive myself to break down because of not filling my body without enough energy. With all that I felt very stressed and at km 80 I was still not finding my flow to run easy.
I looked at other runners around. There were not so many happy faces anymore. There were struggling faces, focused faces and faces that gave me a smile every time I passed them. And I dived into it. I started to feel. I started to feel others and forget about me. I saw 100km fast runners breaking and they carried me away. I was amazed to see the struggle of mind and body, I tried to cheer them up to give them a reason to push themselves to go beyond the pain and mind and keep running like nothing else matters. The breaking point. I found myself to run easier. The inspiration, emotions, the feeling of impossible to be possible by doing what you love. Finding yourself in a place only you can break yourself out again. I was feeling again. The world didn’t matter. Just the moment, the sound of the steps and that feeling you have it all in your own hands to make it. But it didn’t mean that I got easier to deal with. At this point my acting like a diva was already too much for Domink. I felt really horrible – he didn’t have it easy until now. Good thing he didn´t know it can/will get worse.
After of 8 hours of music free running, it was allowed to use the headphones again. And it turned out my earphones didn’t work. User error?! I was asking myself. Empty battery? What is this?! Before the race all was working and I I´m sure I charged the IPod. Doesn’t work. Oh well. No music. Fine. I won´t let this stress me. And it didn’t. I could actually observe and feel more as ever. As the night hit in, the track would get very quiet. I liked this change. Night runs are my favorite. Hearing my own breathing, steps. And at round races- observing the change of other runners. There were no wind anymore and the world seemed to be a quiet, safe bubble again.
Dominik was also getting very tired and he didn’t get any peace from me. My acting like a spoiled actress, not being happy with anything– at some point I felt he will leave if I don’t shut down my silly complains.. I hated myself at this point. And was really grateful he is there for me. Even though also today when I ask for salty brezels and instead get salty sticks I still prefer to get salty brezels! Or if I ask for toilet paper and instead get wet tissues, I still prefer toilet paper! Or if my breads has a hot cream on it and my tongue is on fire after eating it, I will still get mad. But I will also appreciate that somebody is there for me to put up with all of this having no rest and sleep. I know he will never forgive me for that Solletti thing- how can somebody say I don’t want Solletti sticks, I want Solletti Brezels well..I really don’t like the sticks..Brezels are just somehow crunchier. Thank you Domink for being there for me-To cream my butt, to feed me, to give me a worried look, to change my shoes and to hear me bitching. And thank you for all the upcoming races you will be there for me again! That’s a real friendship!
It was km 115 or something when I started to feel sick. I was still on track to reach my goal. But this got me very scared. I had a coffee and afterwards I didn´t feel well anymore. Until now I was taking regularly my Maurten Nutrition- gels and Drinks, but now I had to stop. As I already had a bad experience from the World Champs in France the year before ( I got really sick and started to vomit and had a diarrhea for the last 12 hours of race not being able to eat and drink), this one got me very worried. So, I was being very careful. I knew I have to get myself back in balance and should not stop eating and drinking at all. Small doses. Couple of hours of running very carefully and observing my body, making more pit stops than I should, I started to feel better again, still staying careful of what I take to me. I already lost lot of time and energy making stops all the time as I needed to get creamed for my left butt pain, so I didn’t really want to spend more energy getting in the toilet every round and then keeping the pace on the track to not lose the track of my goal. Because the one very important thing never left my mind- even if you are now on the plan, you didn’t finish it before you actually reached your goal. And no matter if it is 100-50,30 or 10 km more to go- it is not completed until it is reached. And until then anything can happen.
It was about km 190 – I started to feel better and more stable. The night was doing good for me- I was watching other runners, cheering them up in my thoughts when I saw them from far and it seemed like they are not doing well. And then I was happy for them when I saw they are doing good again. It is the magic of running in rounds- seeing the same persons again and again changing all over again- so many emotions. And every each of us, no matter how fast or slow, every each of us are feeling very same at many moments. It´s beautiful sharing- happiness, pain, confusion, admire, tiredness.
I was a bit scared what daylight will bring. Staying focused on my goal, I run through the morning hours and realized it is possible to reach what I wanted- to run over 223km. I had to think about all the people thinking about me – surely there were many to follow my rounds. I felt strength. I felt motivated and thanked in my thoughts to everybody who is feeling for me. Around km 215 I realized I was the leading runner on track. WOW. I was impressed with myself. You know, all these hours I was very much concentrating on my own goal- being the leading woman or the leading runner- it all didn’t matter for me. I just wanted to reach at least 223km mark. So being the leader was just an extra bonus- compliment for my runners’ soul. At km 219 I suddenly heard my knee knocking- at first I thought it is my imagination. But then it happened again. And after couple of minutes again. And as it happened 4th time and I just had 1 more km to run to break the national record- I thought…man..will they let me crawl on all 4 if my knee breaks and I can’t run anymore? Just to reach the mark..?!
And then it happened..the round of 223km..the round that made me cry and still makes my eyes watery as I write it now. The round of honor..the round where I made a history for my country. Running with a Latvian flag in my hands, reaching my dream I worked so hard for. The dream that disappointed me a year ago leaving an enormous scar in my heart. I felt so blessed. I felt happy. I made it- and nobody can ever take it away from me. This feeling of making impossible possible, this feeling of completion. I’m a happy runner, damn happy runner. And I really grateful my legs and my mind that they can take me so far. My knee was ok..I kept running. And then the round of 227..I decided to walk..it was still about 30 min to go or so ..but I felt l can’t run anymore. I don’t want run anymore. So, I walked. And suddenly I couldn’t anymore. I was finishing the round and Domink was there and Martin was there (Martin was one of the very nice race organizers) and I told them I´m finishing..And they said no, don’t do it- make it 230km. And I was like no- I can’t. I came to run 223 and I did it. “But you will be sorry all your life you didn’t make it 230!” I was like – no, I won’t be. (And today I´m still not sorry about it).I had to sit down.
I sit on the track and I couldn’t anymore. I tried to get up. Once. Twice. No. No chance. I was laughing. I was finished. Only 20-30 meters to my tent. I couldn’t make it. I was laughing again. Trying to get up. Finally, I managed to get to my tent with a help of others. I was done. My body was done! Sleep was all I wanted. There I was – laying on the ground with a smile on my lips barely able to speak. Doc came to check on me- all good. But I couldn’t get up. I tried 2-3 times to get up for the ceremony. But as much as I wanted- there was no chance. I´m still sorry today that I never made it. Same time, I know- it was really not possible. I was carried by 2 man in the car. Embarrassing? No…not at all! Not then, not today. I gave my everything and at some point, there was nothing more to give. Driving to hotel, trying to get sleep after I impressed myself to somehow get in shower and wash myself. And after few hours- driving back to Austria. With my hero- Domink. This guy is the best running partner and friend ever. Putting up with me so much, taking such a good care of me. And still smiling at my silly jokes. Friends forever.
Next day waking up at home I was happy my girlfriends came over with a breakfast and therapy. I was well taken care of. Recovery meant all to me. I was really good this time with thanking my body for what it has given to me. I still couldn’t believe it actually has happened. Therefore, I was even more happy to get a message from Silke- the wife of Jörg- the person who was organizing the race and the person who made it happened it won´t be cancelled. They are coming to Vienna and will bring my trophy with them. Amazing. I have a trophy! I couldn’t wait to meet them- I was very thankful to them for giving me this chance to make my dream come true. Silke and Jörg is the most amazing couple I have ever met. Warm hearts, happy souls, so much love in them. I felt honored to meet them and to get to know them. My heart literally broke as some time later the news of Jörgs dead crushed in. It is a loss that won’t ever be forgotten. I feel for Silke and think about her very often.
Today I still can’t imagine I have run 24 hours 228,9km long. It is just sick. How was that even possible? Honestly- it is for me like an impossible wonder. Wonder, that made me feel so many emotions to be carried with me until I breath. I’m really proud of my body and my mind. I’m a damn happy runner.