World 24hr Championships Torino

My day started in tears and ended in tears. It was 7:30am Saturday April 11th, a quiet nervousness filled our Torino hotel room. I was putting on my Canadian kit when Sharon asked me if I would sit down so she could show me something. She pulled out her phone and showed me THIS VIDEO. Immediately I broke into tears. Any regular reader of my post knows that I get all my courage and strength from my children and within that moment Sharon gave me the greatest gift and from that point I knew this was gonna be a day to remember.

We arrived at the track at 8:00am to set up. The Canadian tent was smack dab in the middle of countless white tents all lining the inside of a 400m track surrounded by stadium seating. The 2km course ran out from the track up a winding steep ramp and onto an asphalt road/pathway that circumnavigated the stadium with an out and back hairpin turn then back down the ramp depositing the runners back onto the track. There was a lot of talk of how the ramp and the hairpin turn would ruin some runners but I minimized it and decided I wouldn’t let that play into my strategy. At 9:55am I made my way into the front row relaxed and ready to hurt. The gun sounded at 10:00am and the group forges forward at a snail’s pace. The first quarter of the race is a tricky section where you should feel like every little effort is being exerted yet fast enough that you aren’t braking and ruining your legs for the remaining hours.

Early stages 

At the 42.2 km marathon mark my split was 3hrs28min…sweet! My fuelling strategy was similar to my last 24hr race at the Desert Solstice Invitational where I ate every 30 minutes going between fructose and glucose and meat every 2-3 hours. My hydration strategy was to take 500ml of half RE7 half water and a half Nuun tablet every hour and adjust as needed as I went along. Sharon would be monitoring this and I gave her consent to change course if problems arouse. To those of you that don’t know Sharon she has never been much of of a runner nor has she ever run an ultra but she does know ME more than anyone else on this planet and her knowledge of me especially when I’m in a state when I don’t know what’s up or down could prove to be invaluable. Around the 10 hour time I noticed I hadn’t passed gas or burped for a couple hours. A pain lingered in my stomach and abdominal bloating started to show signs of

GI issues. Immediately I stopped fuelling, decreased my pace and started stealing ginger chews from Lisa Miller who was crewing for another Canadian runner Dennene Huntley. This eased the discomfort but no movement was experienced. Next came the Tums with similar results. With the lack of fuelling my energy was slipping, needless to say I was getting very concerned. Sharon later told me that I was coming into the aid station not making any sense and stumbling, obviously her protective wife meter started climbing. Finally an Imodium was offered to me. This is something I’ve never tried while racing but I was at wits end. I took the tablets and about 30 minutes later I started passing gas, praise the Lord! Now feeling much better I approached the 100 mile mark just after 14hrs40min. I wasn’t unhappy with this time but earlier in the week I thought a 14-14hrs10min time would’ve been ideal. At this point of the race it was clear that a lot of the top runners from Japan, Russia and Latvia

Crashing around midnight while talking to Mama Lisa

that sped ahead in the first 12 hours are now starting to die a long painful death. It seemed to me that around 1:00am-2:00am was the dropping point that those who didn’t pace well and show restraint slowed and those with patience sped forward with continued momentum. My TSN turning point happened around 1:00am. Sharon gave me a RedBull and about 20 minutes later the lights went out in the stadium. The smell of an electrical fire lofted through the air which spurred the coaches to start handing out headlamps to aid the runners vision. My worry was that the chip mat would not pick up the laps run but as I went atop the mat 4 beeps rang out, it did read the lap but nothing appeared on the now powerless jumbo tron. Next time I passed Sharon she had a headlamp in her hand, she offered it, I declined. As I ran away from her I knew that this was my chance, my turn to make my move. With no head lamp and smoke clouding the air I increased my pace almost feeling like a ninja slicing threw his enemies left and right passing every runner on the course multiple times. The dark offered a sense of strength like I was almost surprising runners as I passed them with solid speed and general ease. After maybe 2 hours of blackness the lights came back on. Before the lights went out I was told I was in 25th place now only two or so hours later I was in 12th. Fellow Canadian athlete Wayne Gaudet suggested to me that I keep the flow but consider slowing a bit to conserve for the sunrise hours. When a Canadian ultra legend speaks wisdom I think it best to listen. My pace slowed slightly and with anticipation I kept my eye to the the east awaiting the sun. Upon the sun cresting the horizon just before 7:00am Sunday morning I was approaching the 226K mark. The glow of the sun was a welcome sign that the suffering would soon come to an end but the end was the furthest thing from my mind. The only thing that was in my focus was the Canadian 24 hour record that’s been held by Peter Holubar since 1990 of 242.917K. To be honest, that was my goal coming into these championships and I knew now it was an inevitability. The combined energy of the Canadian tent, coach

The best crew around

Armand LeBlanc and my greatest supporter Sharon built as I approached the record and at 22hrs35min I passed the timing mat making it official; I am the best 24 hour runner in our country’s history! Yaaaaahoooooo!!!!! With a kiss from Sharon and a high five from Armand the next lap was pure bliss, thinking of my accomplishment it almost felt like I had a fresh pair of legs. All good things must come to an end and that end came quickly. Reality set in as I finished that lap and approached the Canadian tent where I saw Armand with a certain look of absolute intensity. He handed me a small scrap of paper and said “Dave you are in sixth position, here on this paper are three numbers, they are all half a lap in front of you. If you catch them you are on the podium, GO!” HOLY SHIT BALLS! Now this was not something I expected to hear. I mean, me on the podium at the world championships? I heard the Dukes of Hazard horn and off I went. Arms pumping, knees driving, I knew I had to giv’r everything I had to drain the tank. I ran a solid lap all the time looking at my precious scrap of paper and up at the

NB Zantes

runners ahead of me and no numbers matched. Another speedy lap and still no numbers matched. This went on for many laps and with 20 minutes remaining, YES a match. I passed him easily as he was suffering big time but while I passed him this other dude came screaming passed me like grease lightning. Shit, was that seventh place? I think every other runner got similar advice as I did from Armand and all were gunning to move their position up. So catching up with number 5 was becoming more and more unlikely as all my matches had been burnt. Upon the completion of the 128th lap my watch showed 23hrs53min and I knew this would be the last time I would complete the 2km course lap. Sharon handed me my marker cone and the Canada flag and I told her to come find me on the course. Waving the flag and decreasing my pace I exited the stadium feeling a wave of relief that this damn thing was coming to an end. I suddenly noticed a lot of runners sprinting past me. WAKE UP DAVE this thing is still happening and you might have just lost a placement. I found another wind and my old sprinting legs got reborn. Driving ahead the one minute warning shot went off and before I knew it the final gun shot rang signaling the end of the race. I crumbled in a heap on the asphalt draped in the Canada flag. It may have been victory maybe exhaustion but the tears came out like rain. Then followed by cheers of exhilaration and pride for this damn beautiful country. I laid there at 257.093 kilometres after 24 hours of racing, the new Canadian 24 hour record holder and the IAU World 24 hour championships 6th place finisher.

Big shout out to the IAU for putting on yet another amazing WC. The ACU for the support of the Canadian ultra scene. My fellow team mates, old friends and new ones. Coach Armand for your years of service to our sport. My friends and family as there is no better. Meow. But mostly to Sharon, Julia, Sam and Adele because with them in my life EVERYTHING IS AWESOME.

6 thoughts on “World 24hr Championships Torino

  1. Thanks for the detailed and entertaining recap. This is the stuff that rookie and veteran ultra runners can use to help them prepare for their toughest journeys ahead. Welcome to the abyss.

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