Thursday, August 15, 2013

"Don't worry about the competition. Just focus on making it to the finish line"

So my mind has cleared, my legs are healing and I’m starting to feel hungry to train again. Guess that means it’s about time I write this entry.
Ok, ladies and gents! Where to begin? Obviously the end is not what I had ever even thought as a possibility, but it is what happened… and, well,  $h*t happens.

The last few weeks of my build up were pretty uneventful. I was logging some good mileage, hitting some pretty good numbers in my workouts, and was sleeping pretty well.  I did have a few moments during those last few weeks where I was starting to doubt that I was in any form of good shape. It took a lot of reviewing my training log; comparing it to my Rotterdam training log, to convince myself that I was in good shape.  Of course I still had a lil’ bit of a niggle of pain in my left hamstring and hip, but that sucker has been a literal pain in the a$$ since November, and aside from a few modified runs here and there, it wasn’t something that I was going to let play on my mind.
I arrived in Germany with my elephant sized ankles and made it to the Canadian training centre without anything too spectacular happening. I chatted with Krista briefly, and we decided to run later that afternoon. Perfect! 2 hours to prop my legs up and try to deflate my elephant feet. I shudder to think what my ankles would do without compression socks.

Krista and I did most of our runs together. I still had a few doubles, but nothing about my mileage was crazy. I was getting regular treatment by the great team of massage therapists and physiotherapists at the camp and was starting to feel like my bum and hip were going to get with the program and help me run that marathon thing in a few days.  I did one last track workout in Germany, took the day off to travel on Wednesday, and then started my carb loading and major taper.
By the time Friday night rolled around I was feeling confident and prepared.  My hip wasn’t perfect, but I was certain it was going to cooperate for at least the majority of the race.  I figured getting to the finish line was going to be a challenge, but not anything I couldn’t handle… haha… yeah right.

Saturday… RACE DAY… finally!  We knew it was supposed to be a warm day. I had prepared in my mind to try and keep with Krista and Mary Davies, but had also formulated the backup plan to not ever press the pace if it slowed. I had my goals in mind and figured it wasn’t going to be a PR day… that’s fine, go to plan B… top 20.

Alright, they struggled to line us up for the start in any order… with about 30 seconds to go they finally just had us line up however we could fit, and then we were off.  It wasn’t until we hit about 150m on the track that I got that “Oh my, this is really happening” feeling. I kept my effort feeling easy and tucked in behind Krista and Mary.  We split the first 1k pretty much on pace for our original time goal (3:28).  The effort felt easy and though we were near the front of the race, I could tell we had a huge pack and wasn’t too concerned with where I was running. Our first 5k was a few seconds quicker than our planned pace (17:16). I was still behind Krista and Mary and was quite content to hang out there. I got my aid bottle, downed it, and kept running. It felt like the liquid was sitting pretty high in my stomach, but that’s how my guts always seem to feel during these things.
5K to 10K

Here’s where things started to get interesting.  Krista had tucked behind me at the turn around. No biggie, we traded out a bit like that in Rotterdam.  Deena Kastor had surged up and was separated from our pack a little bit.  I felt like the second aid station was a little too close from the first one, but decided to go ahead and drink all the fluid.  “Better get it in early, I’m gonna need this to fuel me later”… um yah… huge understatement.  Trent had packed lunch bags of ice for us to grab on course.  I made use of one of the bags, ripped it open to put some of the ice in my sports bra and asked Krista if she needed it.  We must have run near Krista’s coach &/or hubs, because she was asking where Mary was. We hit the turn around and came through 10k in 34:54 (17:40 5k split). Obviously a much slower pace, but I had anticipated the entire field would slow down.  My guts felt full, but otherwise I was feeling more than comfortable.
10k to 15k

Over the next 5k I tucked in with a few girls, and kept my head down. I thought Krista was still with me (there was a shadow of a girl behind me with a hat on), but I soon realized her breathing didn’t sound like Krista. (Krista had actually collapsed at the third aid station… she’s one of the most tough runners I know, so I knew that if she was out of the race it was because she physically could not keep running).  This portion of the race was pretty uneventful. I stayed with the group of 3 or so ladies I was running with, including Madai Perez (legend!) and we had made gains on Kastor (legend!).  I was making use of the water tables in addition to my own bottles, and was feeling great.  We went through 15k in 52:42 (17:47 5k).
15k to 20k

So it was hot, but comparative to the Tennessee heat and humidity, I felt ok. My guts felt full, but I never feel great when I run and drink. Our pace during this 5k portion was a bit slower, 20k in 1:11:11 (18:28 5k split), but we were running into some wind and we had a nice little group going.  I felt good. My bum and hip were behaving and I had been running in the top 15ish places. Well within my top 20 goal… then, that little jerk of a left calf kinda cramped. It wasn’t a huge cramp, but my stride gave out and I lost a few paces on the group.  Frick! I had been so worried about my hip, the weather, my guts… I had totally forgotten about my stupid calf and it’s stupid tendency to cramp up in these longer races.  Kastor gestured for me to close up on the group, and so I put my head down and focused on doing just that. It seemed my lil left calf was just saying hello because it seemed to settle over the next few km.

This wasn’t a super eventful part of the race. I had worked back up to the group and was still feeling pretty ok.  We hit the turnaround point and my calf again started to say hello. Poop.  This is a bit early for it to crap out on me, usually it happens between 25-30k.  I kept my mind focused on the group, which worked for the most part. I tried to run as normal as possible… Rotterdam had showed me that altering my stride too much causes everything else to cramp.  I split 25k in 1:29:44 (18:34 5k).

So things started to go a little bit more south here. My perfect little group had started to pull away from me and it seemed like the rest of my body was starting to RSVP to “Cramp Fest 2013”.  I was still holding in about 15th place and still was thinking that I could have a respectable finish. I had cramped really badly at this point in both Ottawa and Chicago, and managed to finish those ones… this couldn’t be any worse than that… right?  I hit 30k in 1:49:43 (19:58 5k split).  20 min 5k splits suck, but they will still get me to the finish line ladies and gents.

Self accupuncture does not work
I made it through the next 5k moving slowly, but still moving. My left hip, that had been so cooperative the first part of the race was now pitching a fit. I felt like I was throwing my entire left side around just to get my foot out in front of me. My goal of a 20 min 5k was lost, 35k split of 2:13:50 (24:08 5k), but again… be positive Lanni, you’re still moving forward. Famous last words.

Remember how I was swinging my entire left side forward? Yah, that doesn’t work too well.  I had just started to feel like I could finish with this ugly running form when I cramped so bad it was all I could do not to fall over. My left foot pigeon toed inward and was cramping so bad that I thought it was going to turn a full 360 on me. I was in trouble. Girls were passing me like I was standing still… well ok, I was standing still. But this was pathetic. One of the runners ran by and handed me a safety pin… “What is this for?!” I yelled at her… she made a stabbing motion to her leg. “Ok,” I thought, and I stabbed the sucker into my contracting quad. Yah, that DOES NOT work.

Trent found me on the course and I was “moving” forward… then I wasn’t… then I was again. Every time I stopped I kept telling myself that the cramp couldn’t last forever.  Like a cramp you get in the middle of the night, it hurts like hell, but it does eventually stop. How’s that for keeping positive?!
It felt like the dang medics were circling me like vultures… “come on little girl… come to the aid station… you’ll feel so much better”… I politely waved, told them that I wasn’t going to stop… and in my head told them to “piss off and leave me alone”.

40k split 2:50:45 (36:53 5k).

That was the loneliest 2k of my life.  Most of the crowd was gone. I was getting pity claps. And I still was barely able to trot.  One of the guards told me they were waiting on me to close the stadium.  “Good. I’m still out here. They’d can wait all day as far as I’m concerned”. I made my way into the stadium, hoping I could will myself to at least break 3 hrs. No such luck. I did my pathetic lil’ 300m on the track and came across the finish line… I had to ask some random dude if I was in fact done… not at all how I pictured the finish of my World Championships debut. 

Final time 3:01:54.
In these last couple of days I have had a lot of time to think, and here are my takeaways:

I am more than capable of running with the top women. I was comfortable with the pace and have no doubt that if my “wheels” had stayed on I would have been in the battle to crack the top 12;
My left calf is evil and I WILL figure out why it is always the first to raise the white flag;

My training environment is working for me… I just need a better physio/treatment setup;

No marathon can ever hurt more than that one ;D


  1. You go Lanni! You learned a lot from this race, now you can, well, march forward

  2. What you chose to endure makes the difference between a Champion and the runner who will never become one. You just need to pull yourself back up and back straight at it. And of course, if you come back to Kenya and your taxi doesn't show up.....I will be there to pick you up from the airport. Go Girl!! Vince

  3. Thanks for sharing your story and good on you for sticking it through to the finish, for yourself, and for Canada.

  4. Awesome story Lanni! You're tough and it's so inspiring!

  5. Thx for sharing the story. Still can't get over that part abt stabbing your quad with a safety pin!

  6. We are proud of ya. Good job getting out there and running hard. You'll come away stronger than ever next time. Thank you for sharing your story. You are an amazing runner

  7. thanks for putting in such an amazing effort for canada!!!!!

  8. You are a remarkable, talented and courageous athlete! Canadian runners salute you for representing our country with conviction and determination! Better days are ahead!

  9. Hey Lanni, thanks for sharing the Full Monty of your Moscow experience. It's a compelling read ~ and a terrific insight into life as an elite runner on the world stage. You deserve a gold medal for the courage you demonstrated in making it to the finish back in August ~ and, as you so rightly conclude, no marathon (or race, period) will ever force you to dig as deeply as that. I'm one of the Black Lungs you ran rings around (in Toronto) a couple of months back (the English dude to your right on the ride to the start) ~ and you continue to inspire us all... not least with efforts like your victory in the ZooRun this morning. So congratulations on that, too!

  10. Suck down a gel and pure water when the left calf starts its woes. Wait a while and repeat. Works for me.