|America! PC: Senor Stern
short(er) report at the beginning, and then A BUNCH of crap at the end. It
wasn't just a race, it was a week-long trip, so I had to document a bunch of
pointless crap. Moving on…
|Howie has a knack for capturing the essence of Chris Roberts.
around the world, there I was, over 17 hours into a race. Not just any race.
The 24 Hour World Championships. Little ole me, representing the United States
I limped my
way around yet another 2 kilometer loop, resigned to speed walking most of it.
As I dragged my non-responsive legs around the final few hundred meters of that
loop, I started tearing up. Then I stumbled into the Team USA tent and
immediately broke down crying. No. Not crying. Sobbing. Uncontrollable sobbing.
Without a solid performance from me, Team USA was completely screwed. I just
lost any chance of a podium for the team. I fucked up. I let everyone down. I
let my country down. I don't belong here. I'm a fraud.
despair, self-hate … absolutely overwhelmed with every shitty feeling
imaginable. I can only think of 1, maybe 2, other moments in my life that I
have been that far-gone emotionally. It sucked. IT SUCKED!
and Bob Hearn, our team coaches / leaders / unifying forces of awesomeness,
immediately came over to figure out what was happening, and then quickly
transitioned to consoling me. They did their best, as I worked to regain some
semblance of composure. I was laid bare emotionally, bawling into my hands, and
they were there for me, immediately, kneeling beside me, wrapping their arms
around me -- I could feel them holding me, protecting me, caring for me
-- I can't quite put into words how truly meaningful that was. A kindness, a
compassion, that I will never forget.
weird running sub-culture of ultrarunning, there is this tiny little niche
corner for timed events. The grand-daddy of that microscopic sliver of the
running world is the 24 Hour event … run as far as you possibly can in 1 day.
Simple. Straightforward. Dare I say: elegant. But also: unrelenting and cruel.
enough, there is a bon-a-fide World Championships for 24 Hours, typically held
bi-annually, where some of the best (dumbest) runners from all over the world
come together to act like hamsters in a cage in representation of their
country. It's kind of like the Summer Olympics … in much the same way dual
credit from a community college is kind of like getting a PhD from Berkeley.
24 Hour World Championships were just held in Taiwan, and somewhat
miraculously, I found myself there, representing Team USA. 5 years ago I tried
qualifying for the team -- basically, you post one of the 6 best men's or 6
best women's 24 Hour distances during a 2 year qualifying window and you're in
-- but I failed miserably (here and on a black track in the middle of summer). This time around, I eeked out a performance good
enough for the 6th and final spot on Team USA (at The Dome). It should be noted that by
making the team, I kicked off Harvey Lewis. Take that, Harvey! You may have
bested me (and my janky knee) at the Big's Backyard World Championships in
2021, but who's got the last laugh now, huh!?!! (oh, it's you? With the
backyard world record? And it's, what, a full 24 hours more than what I did?
|Can't wait to abandon these kiddos for a whole week!
known to rail against flat running (honestly, if a 100 Miler has less than
20,000' of vert, why bother?!), and I have practically zero experience with the
specialty, but I was beyond elated to have the opportunity to represent my
country in international competition. I don't have the skills, mentality,
dedication, or genetics to be an Olympian. And race distances for the World
Mountain Running and Trail Championships are too short (aka: I can't keep up
with young, fast whippersnappers). So my only options to compete with a big ole
"USA" across my chest were to give it a go at 24 Hours or, I dunno,
go work on my mini-golf skills (World Minigolf Sport Federation, it's a
thing…). And so, I was off to Taipei to run around a 2 kilometer loop over and
over and over again for the Red, White, and Blue.
|I joined Team USA for all the Nike swag.
experience was beyond anything I could have imagined. For me, it was all about being
a part of the team. I had the chance to meet and get to know an amazing
group of runners, and, when the going got tough, bond through our dedication to
and support of one another. Plus … sightseeing adventures! Plus Plus … the
guilt of abandoning your spouse with your two progeny for an entire week!
race ended I honestly wasn't sure if I wanted to try to be a part of the team
again. I'm just not sure I will ever have the right skills to succeed at a flat
24 Hour race in a way that is needed to help the team compete for a podium
position at Worlds. But the camaraderie and the memories of Taipei have me
convinced that I owe it to myself and to the team to give it another go. So
we'll see if I can get some good training in, and put together a better race
plan, and secure a position for 2025. Bonus: it's in France next time around!
|Post-race team bonding, crammed into an Uber, desperately trying to get to the airport on time.
wrote a bunch about how I cried a lot in a race, so that should suffice for an
obligatory race report. But for people looking to waste more of their time,
here's a somewhat random run-down of my 24 Hour World Championships Experience
(aka: that time Chris abandoned his family for an entire week to fly halfway
around the world so he could eat weird food and run in circles while
continuously shouting "America! Fuck Yeah!")
that, the thank you's:
- First and
foremost, to Kristin, for supporting me in pursuing this silly little
dream of mine. I truly do not know what I'd do without you by my side. You
should probably go book yourself a week-long solo trip to Europe, you've
- Thanks to the
family and friends who reached out about donating to support the team
financially. It really meant a lot, to everyone on Team USA.
- Thanks to my
nutrition sponsor, Hyle Hydration. Man, whoever came up with that product
is a genius!
- Thanks to
Squirrel's Nut Butter for keeping me well lubed.
- Thanks to my
teammates for their incredible support and for making the trip an
all-around awesome adventure that I'll never forget!
- Pam and Bob,
you guys were incredible. We were beyond lucky to have you leading the
- Nicole, thanks
for taking care of my poorly conditioned muscles and tendons and for being
such a cool person to chit chat and explore with!
- Howie! Thanks
for the awesome shots, and for being a cool dude that puts up with me.
- Bill! It was
so great getting to spend some time with you away from an oval. Thanks for
all of the nutrition hand-offs!
- Tracy and
Dobies – hanging out with y’all is so much different than when I’m feeling
like crap at Big’s. It was a welcomed change of pace!
|Behold, the Jade Cabbage!
- Something like
10 of the Team USA members were on the same flight from SFO to TPE. That
felt pretty cool, all hanging out in the airport terminal with our team
- The team race
kit is sponsored by Nike and USATF, so it's literally the same stuff
"real" athletes wear at the Olympics and whatnot. Pretty freakin
cool. Well, not getting financial support from USATF is pretty freakin
un-cool, but I digress…
- I backed out
of Big's to make sure I was "fresh" for Worlds. I still feel
that I have unfinished business with the backyard format, but my next
backyard failure will have to wait another year. Also, my favorite race in
the world, Hellgate 100K, was 7 days after Worlds, so I gave up any chance
at a good performance there, all for the glory of the U S of A. I just
need you, dear reader, to know how much I sacrificed for my country. It
should bring a tear to your eye. And if you'd like to acknowledge my
sacrifice with a tiny violin, then so be it.
- I grew a
mustache for Worlds, as one should. My mustache was 20x better than
Harvey's Big's mustache. This is a fact.
- In the lobby
of our "hotel" (it was a youth hostel), Andrii Tkachuk of
Ukraine (eventual 3rd place finisher) pointed to my mustache and said
"You look like a Ruski". Interpret that however you'd like.
- A majority of
the 250+ runners were staying in this crappy youth ho(s)tel, and they
served breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But it was fun cuz our food options
were either bland "Chinese food" (fried rice, noodles, soggy
vegetables) or a super fun spin on Western Cuisine (who doesn't love
spaghetti and chicken nuggets for breakfast?!). Most of the westerners
complained voraciously about the food situation. One day, I broke down and
went to a nearby Subway for a mostly normal sandwich. And the beds
were basically just a sheet of plywood. Yeah, it was so awesome!
- I got all
Cultured As Fuck out there. 2 days before the race, I went with some of
Team USA to the National Palace Museum to check out buddhas and
calligraphy and what not. Then I opted to be a loner and walk back to the
ho(s)tel by myself. Along the way I stumbled upon a massive Chrysanthemum
Flower Festival. In the days after the race, I checked out some more
sights with the team, happened upon a random Reading Festival, and also
got to see a parade in honor of some god's birthday at a temple (I think).
- The day before
the pancake flat race, I had to scratch my itch, and went for a hike up
along a ridgeline in the city to seek out some dirt trails and good views.
Specificity be damned.
|The beautiful Palace Hotel behind our youth ho(s)tel... some of us did book a room there for the final night of the trip, and it was glorious!
- As the 6th
place qualifier for Team USA, I fully anticipated being in a supporting
role -- racking up miles for as long as possible to serve as insurance
since team scoring only accounts for the total distance ran by the top 3
runners. I had no real race goals other than to help the team, but I
settled into a somewhat comfortable groove that I thought might get me
somewhere between 152 and 155 miles.
- Somewhere in
the evening, everything changed. 2 teammates -- Jake Jackson and Jeff
Urbanksi -- had resigned to the tent after problems arose for them. I came
into the tent for a minute and dawdled around, then asked how Scott Traer
was doing. I got a look of sheer confusion from Coach Pam, who then
informed me that Scott also ran into trouble some time ago and was
sleeping in the back of the tent. I was now a scoring member of the team.
A sense of panic came over me and I hastily shot out of the tent, awkwardly
apologizing for pissing away a couple valuable minutes.
- I soldiered on
for some time, but had really weird stomach issues between 12 and 15
hours. My body seems to want a different nutrition plan for these flat
races than what I've typically utilized for trails, and I still don't have
that locked down. Or … maybe my body hated whatever the heck I'd been
eating at that weird ho(s)tel buffet lately. At any rate, I got to spend
quality time with the port-a-potties -- some of which were "Turkish
style", which was fun!
- After I got my
gut back under control, I cleared 100 miles unceremoniously and felt like
I was plodding along pretty well. But then the wheels came off. In the
span of an hour I went from feeling perfectly fine, to having multiple
joints aching in pain, to having full-on quad failure. And somewhere in
there I got really queasy too … I faintly remember having a half-coherent
discussion with Nick Coury's crew about mashed potatoes, maybe…
- I then limped
around the course and cried like a baby for an eternity, but you, dear
reader, are already well aware of that scene.
- Once I
composed myself, I could see and hear Nick in the tent, discussing whether
he should continue or not, due to problems he'd spent hours failing to
remedy and with genuine concern he was on the verge of limping his body to
competitively meaningless result at risk of prolonged injury.
Jeff joined Nick and I in a fun little self-pity circle now that there was
only 1 remaining American dude still out there doing his job. Then I had
our amazing team doc, Nicole Yedlinsky, give me a bunch of random drugs
and try to "fix" my quads. Then we sat around some more. Then
Nick and Jeff said "screw it, let's go mall walk!", so I threw
on some warm clothes and joined them for a very, very sad lap of slow
walking where we all complained about how awful we'd done and blah blah
blah. Then we sat down in the tent for an eternity, ate a bunch of warm
food, and continued the parade of self-pity. We ventured out once again
onto the race course for another sad stroll in the middle of the night.
Only, this time, at some point I decided I would try to shuffle jog. And
I'll be damned if my legs didn't feel normal again. A miracle!
- So I ventured
on for the rest of the race, about 4.5 hours, logging a somewhat
respectable pace, doing my best to let Chad Lassater know that he wasn't
the only American out there suffering anymore. My mileage was nothing
stellar, and without a 3rd runner out there putting in consistent miles
too, we were completely unable to compete for a good team position.
- But I'll be
damned if it wasn't amazing to be out there in the final hours of that
race. It was something special to be a part of.
- Chad Lasater
was grinding, putting in the work. He ended up with 155+ miles and 2 age
group national records.
- Nick, Jake,
and Jeff frequently popped out from the tent to walk more laps and cheer
on Team USA, and when they were in the tent they were helping with
nutrition and cheering.
- In the final
hour or so, Jake even got back out there to help pace for a couple laps,
which was friggin awesome to see.
honestly, looked like a bombed out shell of a human being, but when he
arose from his mummified state, he did his best to provide emotional
support for the team.
- And the women.
Good grief, the women! Absolutely inspirational!
- Marisa Lizak
flew half way around the world to be a part of the team, despite having a
stress fracture and hobbling around in a boot. She put in a couple of
ceremonious laps in the beginning and end, and spent the rest of the 24
hours up front in the tent being the world's most supportive teammate:
cheering, crewing, working problems.
- Mandy Holmes
was dead and gone in the tent after her day went south. But then she
revived in the final hours and started blasting out laps left and right.
- Jenny Hoffman
just finished running a transcon in record time and still found a way to
pull her body to nearly 140 miles. Honestly, not a one of them looked
easy. But she was persistently grinding it out, hour after hour.
Springer was working her ass off towards the end. I finished the race
pretty close to her and had the pleasure of seeing one of the most
adorable scenes ever when her kids ran up to greet her with great big
- And Aly Allen
was on fire! For the first 18 hours of the race she just kinda seemed like
she was doing her thing, nothing special. But at some point in the final
hours, watching her go around those laps, it became apparent that she was
really putting in the work and racking up the miles. She ended up with 148
miles and 10th place. Awesome!
|Post-race temple explore.
More Non-Race Stuff:
- Some of us
were still in Taipei the day after the race. We made Chad and Aly walk up
and down a bunch of stairs. Like, A LOT of stairs. They looked so
miserable…1st time marathoner miserable.
- I got to meet
Laura, a member of the Canadian team, who lives a couple hours away from
me in Missouri. I hope I can carve out some time for a long run with her
one of these days.
- Stinky Tofu
smells like rotting garbage that's being cooked in an oven. That smell
will haunt me for the rest of my life.
- Bob tried
ordering "drunken chicken" at lunch, but was forcibly told
"no, you want the duck!" instead. Post-race duck … delicious!
- After a week
of salty, cliché chinese food, I was dying for a fresh fruit smoothie. The
night before our flight out, I had to make due with sharing a few rounds
of daquaris and margaritas with the team. That was pretty freakin awesome.
- I upgraded to
"bougie seats" on the 11hr flight back stateside. United calls
it "Premium Plus" or something dumb like that. I didn't realize
until I got on the plane that it was legit 1st class -- not business class
fancy, but fancy enough that I immediately felt guilty for splurging when
I've never, ever shelled out for first class seats for my wife. That guilt
quickly receded after I slipped on my complimentary slippers, noshed on my
superior meal, and stretched my legs all the way out.
|Tracy knows *exactly* what he's gonna get. Bob thinks he's getting chicken...
|Teammate selfie at Liberty Square.
|Chang Kai-shek doing his best Lincoln impersonation.
- I called an
audible and went with a new pair of shorts for the race. I've worn
Patagonia Strider Pro's for years. I wore a pair of Rabbit FKTs for like 1
hour a week before the race and thought, "hmm, maybe I like
these…". For about Hour 2 through 12 I repeatedly thought "these
shorts don't feel right, they're going to ruin my race!" But they
ended up working out just fine. I dunno…
- I've only ever
worn 3 types of shoes in races: Altra, Topo, Pearl Izumi (obligatory Rest
In Peace). I went with Saucony Endorphin Pro at Worlds. I've worn them for
most of my speedwork in the past year, but never tried them on long runs.
I was afraid the toe box was too small, but that fear was more than made
up for by the 8mm drop to support my achilles -- I've pretty much given up
on Altra because I'm now convinced they've wrecked my achilles at Big's.
The Sauconys definitely required a bit of a biomechanical change at slower
paces while tired, but I mostly figured it out. Pretty sure I'll be using
them or Topos in any flat races going forward.
- Bidets with
- It’s possible
to fit 3 people and 4 full-size suitcases in a compact sedan.
- I'm forgetting a bunch of stuff. Oh well...
|Fancy balcony view.
|Forcing teammates with trashed quads to walk up and down stairs for no reason.