Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Shibamata 100K: On finishing 2nd

If you want a happy feel-good race report, skip this one, and read the previous post.

I'm a stickler for details, and I tend to dwell on things. But, I need to move past last weekend, so I'm going to write the story how it happened, because I can't tell it any other way. And then I'm not going to talk about it or stew any more.  Because right now it's driving me fucking crazy. And I'm sick of answering the question, "How was the race?"

Meghan said to just say we tied, because we tried to, and no one can read the Japanese results anyway. That's not exactly true. The results are out there. So what do I say when people ask me, "So, did you win?" Answering that question in any form is complicated. I can say I was second, but that doesn't tell the story. I can't say that I tied for the win, because the race results indicate differently, and the race organizers have confirmed (after I complained) that Meghan was the winner. Not that the people I'm telling would know, or really care, but I do. So, while I'd like to just write that the Shibamata 100K was a great experience and finishing hand-in-hand with my friend and mentor was really special, I don't feel that way. At all. Yes, I mentioned I tend to dwell on things and can be a bit petty, as writing this would indicate. But I went to Tokyo to race, and would not have suggested a tie had I had any idea I would have finished second in the process. It's one thing to be outrun for second, but I wasn't outrun. I've happily been outrun by Meghan many times. If Meghan had outrun me, I would have graciously stood beside my friend on the podium. But instead I stewed. I had run slower than I would have in the second half and waited on a few occasions while Meghan used the bathroom, so that we could run and finish together. And to not call a tie a tie, which the race organizers refuse to do even though we finished hand-in-hand clearly intending to tie, is complete bullshit. For whatever reason the results really mattered to me.

The race started at 8 a.m. and we went out at a good pace (averaged 7:12 for the first 50K). We came through the marathon split around 3:08, and the 50K around 3:44. I felt good, physically, the harder part of the race was mental, and I was bored more than anything else.  It was warm and sunny for the first 5 hours (probably 75 by 1 p.m.) until some cloud cover rolled in. My stomach felt good all day, and besides a pee-break in the first half, I never needed to stop. I did feel a bit water-logged at times, but I was able to get gels down throughout, and just stopped drinking whenever I started to feel sloshy.

At some point after the midway point, I assumed that Meghan and I were not going to be challenged (out-and-back nature of course made it easy to see the competition), so I suggested we finish together. The course was flat and tedious, and company for the last half sounded much more appealing than going it alone. Plus we'd made the journey over together, had shared the experience together, along with many others, and it would mean a lot to tie. So I suggested it. And we did. Well, at least we crossed the finish line hand-in-hand.

Lessons learned:

If I learned anything this past weekend, it's that I'm really freaking competitive, and I took an option this past weekend that I probably wouldn't consider again after the experience on Saturday. I wanted to win that race. Or tie with my friend for the win. If I'd known that my suggestion to tie was impossible because of a timing system, I would have raced the second half and pushed the pace.

Never try to tie when there is chip timing and a culture you're unfamiliar with involved. At least not unless you're willing to accept second place graciously.  I was not.

Run your own race. Had I run my own race in the second half and finished second, I would have no one to blame but myself.

Saturday reinforced that while I love running for the US team in the World 100K, a flat road 100K is not actually a race that I would opt to do very often (once a year is enough). Prior to the race, the idea of an out-and-back actually sounded more interesting than a loop, but for a 100K road race, a loop format now makes a lot of sense--easier aid, better crowd support.  Of course an out-and-back through a more varied landscape or a more heavily populated area might not be so bad. Based off of my reaction to the results, I won't be invited back, but I'm OK with that. It's not the type of race that calls to me. It's no UTMB.

Running 100K on roads reinforced that I would rather race 100K on trails any day of the week. The course was fairly brutal--45K out and 45K back and then 5K out and 5K back along a flat bike path.  I'm from flat open spaces, and there's a reason I live and run in Oregon.

A shot from the race course.  Not a single spot of shade (well, a highway underpass or two, which also resulted in the only hills on course). 
The positives:
I'm fit. We ran 7:50 (7:50:31 and 32, to be exact) and I felt like I could have run 10 minutes faster if I'd run my own race in the second half. It was a hot day--sunny, windy and exposed--and the aid situation wasn't ideal in terms of speedy racing (had to stop to get aid/fill bottles instead of running through aid stations, like at worlds), so I was pleased with where I am fitness-wise on that course with those conditions. I ran 10 miles Tuesday night and my legs felt OK, so I hope that means I'm recovering quickly and in time to get some good WS training in before tapering.

I had no issues except that my hamstrings/butt got pretty tight. But I felt strong, and didn't have any major physical issues. Well, my feet got pretty trashed, but blisters are more of a problem once you're finished. They didn't affect my race.

I got to finish hand-in-hand and cross the line "together" with my friend and mentor. I just wish that I wasn't so hung up on the results such that I could enjoy that detail.
The finish.
I learned a lot about myself. Most of the things I learned are not positive things--I have my share of personality flaws, and this race exposed them. It was a lesson in what I need to work on. An example being the fact that I know exactly what happened and how the race unfolded and what the intent was, and just because the race results don't indicate that drives me nuts. Also, I could have graciously accepted the decision and made a much better impression, but I didn't.  Instead, I complained. And it looked especially bad because I, the one who finished second, was the one questioning the results. I could go on, but I feel bad enough about myself as it is. All races teach you something, but this one revealed more than I wanted to see.

Podium shot. I had no idea of the results until we were called up on stage.  My face = "are you fucking kidding me?" Photo by Mikio Miyazoe.


Tropical John said...

A gracious RD would have seen you tie, holding hands, and politely asked if your intention was to have the same time. And then published the official results accordingly.

But look at the bigger picture. You got a cool trip to Japan, got to run with the Queen for several hours, found yourself to be in top form, and saved yourself a bit for the Big Dance at the end of June.

Plus, your name is in the results phonetically in katagana. Who can tell what really transpired there?

Anonymous said...

I'd look at the big picture. I hear ya, that is a stinker. But, there are much worse things out there. If there was money involved it would be one thing... as I do think that should be split equally. But, also, just honestly, you were the one who suggested the tie, right?
Anyway, it was tough luck for sure but I wouldn't let it get you down. Be stoked that you are able to do what you are and that you did get to go run someplace that others would dream of doing.
Rod Bien

Candice said...

Love the personal insight thanks for the honesty. I would have reacted the same! I think I would've been so mad. Oh, man that's tough. By the way, a lot of races don't allow ties, which you probably know. I think it best to ask beforehand. But how would you have known to ask? It's just one of those things that seems fine in the present but in retrospect is not a good idea.

Olga said...

The raw honesty is refreshing.
Did Meghan try to complain, or not at all? As John said, may be that saved you for the WS better day, but it doesn't really fix emotional "why?". I hope putting it in writing lifted some of it off your shoulders and mental state.

ultrarunnergirl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ultrarunnergirl said...

That totally sucks, Amy. Who knew there were races that disallowed ties?
Honesty is worth way more than lofty platitudes. Love the way you lay it out there.

amy said...

I'm not sure that they didn't allow for ties--it's not a question you would ask before a race, and the rules were all in Japanese. It was hard enough to figure out any details of the race beforehand. The page didn't easily translate through google translate.

In their mind we didn't tie because our chip times were different. It could be that we started a fraction of a second off when we crossed the start mat. Or that Meghan's foot crossed the finish before mine. I don't know. And as they said after, in fairness to all competitors, computers don't lie.

We had just watched the Jim movie at WS (Desperate Dreams II), and it was the mention of Doug Latimer and Jim Howard's tie in 1981 that put the idea in my head.

Happy growler said...

I feel for your anger and sorry.
Shouhei, Kobayashi, the RD of Shibamata 100k, commented later on FB that if this was not Chip-Time based, the result would easily be tie for you and Meghan. But unfortunately the Japan Association of Athletics Federations accepted the race course for an official 100k in last minutes, which makes even difficult to change the chip time results to tie as consideration of record fabrication. So it was out of control by RD's hands, and he sincerely apologized you about this matter.

I agree with Rod Bien's statement that look at the big picture, and you can keep it perspective not to try to control the past anymore. Plus you are already looking forward to focus on your next race, WS100. May be this was a small hiccup when you look back this a year later.

Mikio Miyazoe

amy said...

Thanks for your comment, Mikio. It was wonderful to see you, and I hope you have a great summer running in the US. Writing about it was therapeutic and it seems very distant at this point.

Ruby A. said...

Wow. Talk about petty behavior.

You know, you should really give my mom credit. She put up with your unhappiness over the results, which is totally unwarranted, and even gave you her medal to try and make you feel better (which I can't BELIEVE you took). She behaved with far more grace than you deserved and you give her no credit for tolerating your ridiculous behavior.

I am embarrassed that you represented our country in this manner. I am glad my mom was there to show that not all Americans behave so childishly.

amy said...

Ruby, I have to agree with you 100%. I am super upset with myself for how I reacted to something as trivial as results. Meghan and I knew how the race unfolded, and that was all that should have mattered. With regards to the medal, Meghan knew that I was irritated and being that we had tried to tie, she was trying to make me feel better. I shouldn't have accepted it, because again, it really shouldn't have mattered. I wish I could redo how I reacted to the entire situation from about 2 minutes until we walked onto the awards stage, when Meghan told me that they were awarding me first and her second, and I told her that I thought that was fair because I'd waited for her. That decision wouldn't have been any more fair and I never should have said that. I should have kept my mouth shut, waited for the announcement, accepted second, and who really cares, because it's trivial. Up until we walked onto the award stage, we'd both just assumed it would be a tie, although I'm sure Meghan wouldn't have cared had they announced her second, tied, or first. Because, as you mention, she's always gracious, and the result wasn't a reflection of the day. I wish I had been.

I reacted poorly to the entire situation, and I'm not pleased with myself, as I think I tried to convey in the post. But when I wrote the post, I was still angry. Now I just feel stupid because it's trivial. I let something as petty as a result, frustrate me, and first, I wish it hadn't, and second, even if it had, I wish that I hadn't externalized those frustrations.

Anonymous said...

grae says...

I like this post because you use the work "Fuck" and "Bullshit".

amy said...

Grae, Yes, I'm a terrible person, with a terrible vocabulary. I've learned all of this since posting this.

Anonymous said...

You are by no means a terrible person. A terrible person would not feel the way you do about this obviously isolated event. Judge yourself down the road to reflect how this has changed you. But if you and Megan are coming on to the track at Placer High together in the lead, it might not be a good idea to tie (; -grae

Chris said...

Amy, it is refreshing to hear honesty! We ALL feel those things at times in life. You are awesome for having the ability to accept it.

Jill Homer said...

Amy, thanks again for inviting me out to join your crew at Western States. I loved being out there for the event and am super impressed with how you handled the difficulties and finished strong. I hadn't read this post before I saw you. It's a tough situation and I think you reacted in the way most people would.

Bret said...

Amy, we have never officially met. But we see each other at many races. I am just some old (1 year over Meghan) mid-packer who loves to trot. I give you credit for posting this blog. I could never do that. Glad you are coming to grips with what transpired. When someone like you works so hard to be at your level I understand your frustration. Learn from it, whatever that may be. And congrats on WS, you did great.
Bret Henry

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