Belfast 24 Race Report

Let me start by saying it was a complete honour and privilege to represent Canada at last week’s World 24hr Championships in Belfast Ireland. The race took place on July 1st, the same day we Canadians celebrated our country’s 150th birthday. As the horn sounded at noon signalling the race start I knew I had done everything right in preparation to assure success only 24 hrs later. My fitness has never been better, my mindset was solid, and I really, really, really wanted this.

The first 50kms went off as planned. My pacing was a steady comfortable 4:55min/km and I passed the time chitchatting with old friends. The 1.7km looped course was very busy so winding in and out of slower racers was a challenge but right around the 70km mark I felt the stiff concrete surface tightening my hamstring. At this point I decided to change out of my Zantes and into a fresh pair of 1080s. This made a world of difference and the hamstring tightness cleared. A heavy rainfall came in but cleared within the hour; besides that the weather was moderate and perfect for running a fast race. My 100km split was on target at holding 5 min/km. The sun went down at 10pm and by 11pm trouble started. My legs felt fine, I felt motivated, but I now started yawning and my eye lids felt heavy. Sharon handed me a Red Bull which is my go to when it comes to giving me a jolt in these races. The effects were quick and within 10 minutes felt back to good and ready to tackle the world. Sadly, only 30 minutes later I struggled getting back to the Canadian tent as I was nearly falling asleep running. I sat with Sharon for a bit as she motivated me and spurred me on to get back on the course but as I sat their my eyes started closing and I started drifting. Out of desperation Sharon gave me a 5 hour energy shot, this is something I never tried before. I forced myself back on the course only to find myself 5 minutes later sitting on the neighbouring park benches asleep. My friend from the Great Britain team Robbie Britton grabbed my arm and forced me to run with him. He asked me questions to assess my mental state but quickly realized I was fine just dog ass tired. We ran two laps together until I passed by the Canadian tent again. I knew then that this was not going to be a good day. I knew that only 11 hours into the 24 and needing a nap only leads to a disastrous result but I sat there with Sharon and concluded that the only thing that would break this sleep spell was sleep itself. Sharon bundled me up in a sleep sac and I slept well for two hours.

Now I know what you are thinking. Why on earth would Dave need sleep after 11 hours of running? Is that normal? The answer is NO WAY. Truth is we had a terrible time flying into Belfast 5 days prior, I don’t sleep at all on flights or in airports and since arriving I’ve struggled getting more then 2-3 hours per night. Jet leg officially kicked my ass and I cried like a little school boy. 

I awoke after my glorious 2 hours and felt like a million bucks. Knowing my race was shit and I wouldn’t have the result I wanted from this point on I decided to just have fun out there and celebrate the fact I was in Belfast running for my country. I got back on the course running with Dan and James from Great Britain. These two chaps looked great and were cruising at this point. We had a great time chatting and talking running stuff. Both James and Dan are good lookers so all the Irish ladies were hooting and hollering as we passed. True to form it seemed like every second spectator overnight was holding a pint of Guinness. That gave me chuckle and left me wanting. We ran for the next few hours in good form. Once again like before and just as quickly the sleep monster crept up. Sharon gave me half a Red Bull and we devised a plan to hammer a Red Bull every three hours until the end of the race (probably not a decision made on a clear mind). Sadly the Red Bull lasted no longer then 20 min and I found myself in la la land once again. Sharon was very kind to allow me another nap. After waking this time I knew my race turned from shat to a heaping smelly pile of shat. Feeling the need to make myself useful I latched onto fellow runner friends to help them achieve their goals. My main focus was on my main man Wayne Gaudet. Now Wayne is an old fart, but a strong fast one at that. Four years ago Wayne set the over 55 Canadian 24 hour record and was setting out that race day to break the over 60 record. He was on pace but as we all know the pace can diminish quickly approaching the end of a 24. I latched on to him, kept the mood and conversation light and helped him focus on small little goals. Lap by lap we plugged away creeping closer and closer to the elusive mark. Wayne looked good and steady. His crew and wife Trish was calmly cracking the whip and he obeyed like a little boy in Sunday school. The last few hours are always a treat in these races as the spectators show up in hoards, the beasts become more beastly, and each runner runs holding there flag with such pride. 

When the horn sounded I didn’t have a second to feel sorry for myself. Wayne my great friend and running buddy gave me the biggest hug a man can muster. This felt good. What also felt good was embracing all my friends – some having brilliant days and others just as bad as mine. What I love about this sport is even if I had a terrible result my friends generously shared their great results with me. I left the park that day feeling like a winner and for that I wanna thank all of you who shared your wins with me.

Since then my feelings are difficult to explain. The morning after I got on my phone to the race director of Sinister 7 (a race only 6 days after Belfast24), I started to plan an early departure from Ireland to go home and race right away. This was a stupid idea on so many levels but the main one was I’d be leaving Sharon and Julia to finish off the rest of the Ireland trip on their own. I’m so glad I stayed in Ireland and got to travel with my girls. Every day had been different, some days I felt like I got kicked in the gut. I started second guessing myself and wondered what I could have done differently. Other days I felt indifferent and questioned why I do this stupid sport. 

One thing is for certain, when there is a void I always, I repeat always start planning the next move. Planning occupies my every thought. The conclusion of this 24hr race signals a change of focus for me. Up until now I have raced almost exclusively within a day. My goals from here on will change from the singular to the multi-day. 

I’ll write a post in the next few days discussing a plan to conquer the six day. This is all new to me so I feel giddy just thinking about it. 

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