World Cup 2004: Winschoten, Netherlands Sept. 11, 2004
Submitted by Jennifer Johnston, Women's Team Leader
The 2004 World Challenge 100km ultramarathon was held in Winschoten, Netherlands under initially sunny skies and relatively mild temperatures. Over 25 countries were represented, and one member of the German team wore a FDNY shirt for the race to commemorate the tragedy and loss of Sept. 11th, 2001. It was inspiring for all of the runners to see this shirt, and certainly provided motivation to continue as part of a higher cause. The temperature at the 1 PM start and for the first two hours was the highest, and as the day went on the temp continued to decrease. I think they start the race at 1pm so that all of the many spectators have a chance to get their barbecues and beer arranged for the full day of cheering—this town of Winschoten stays out for the race until the last runners have come through. They cheer out runner's names from the program and are a great fun to have—quite different from 100km races in the USA, where there are generally no spectators at all! This year' s USA team was composed of accomplished ultramarathon athletes, but with only a few that were experienced at the 100km distance and only one person from men's or women's teams that had been a member of the USA 100km previously.
As usual, the race started out with a bang as the runners took off at an optimistic pace. For the first three of 10 ten-km loops, the men's pace was for a 5 hour 50 minute finish, and the women's pace was on for a 7-hour finish. Scott Creel and Mike Buchanon looked strong and confident as members of the top ten men in the race. The USA women established a fast, yet wise pace immediately and hardly varied throughout the entire race. Mary Fagan lead for team USA right down to the last half mile, where the Laura Nelson Machine passed her. Laura had started out near the back of the pack and strongly and wisely maintained her pace, and even increased a bit as the race went on. Laura ran without a hitch in this race, executing her pre-race plan exactly. Mary Fagan's race is especially impressive if one considers the fact she has never run longer than 50 miles before, and was informed of her status as a team member only a month prior to the race! Mary commented, "I had great difficulty between the 60k and 70k as well as the last 10 k of the race. The cramping in my quads and calves was pretty extreme during those points." However, she adds later, "After finishing the race I was really happy to be done and was surprised to find myself examining my splits and wondering when I would get a chance to improve this time. I definitely want to try another 100k." Great job on new PRs for Mary and Laura! There is no doubt they will have new PRs the next time they race 100km.
Rena Schumann was also informed of her position on the team less than a month prior to the race. Rena was a paragon of strength, focus and self-reliance. She ran like Laura Nelson: a strong, even pace throughout, always with a smile and calm demeanor and finished strong. Rena is a very accomplished runner from Northern California and the only master's runner on the women's team. Rena also grabbed a 30-minute PR for the road 100km. Rena commented, "It was thrilling to gather at the starting line with competitors from all over the world. I went into the event certain I could capture a new 100K PR." Accurate prediction!
The other women on Team USA were equally impressive. Siri Terjeson, fresh from her victorious European championship race earlier this year ran a consistent and focused race finishing strong right behind Mary Fagan for a third place USA finish. Siri is a graduate student in England and everyone on team USA benefited from the crewing help of her Mom and dad and boy friend, Per, at aid station #1. And also her brother and sister in law at aid station #2. Mr. Terjeson must have put in over five miles running back and forth on the course with Gus and sports drinks for his runners as they ran through the aid zone! Mrs. Terjeson set up a spreadsheet and kept track of all the runners and their splits as they came through aid station #1. Thanks to you Siri for your family's generous help in the race—it wouldn't have been easy without them! Now that you have a well-trained crew I am sure you are going to have a new PR soon!
Lucy Carr and Carolyn Smith ran the whole race together after discovering before the race that they had similar goals for the race. Both women succumbed to devastating cramps and intestinal distress in the middle of the race but never lost focus on regaining their composure. Although the initial time goal for the race was not to be, both women showed remarkable grace under unfortunate circumstances and were able to persevere to finish strong, and to finish together. I think Lucy and Carolyn demonstrated the meaning of teamwork by helping each other out and by doing it with a smile. I am so proud of Lucy and Carolyn for finishing the race and never giving up that they would feel better around the corner. Carolyn also brought her family along for crewing and I think her sister Cindy should start a crewing business because she is a pro! Cindy logged at least ten miles because she not only crewed Carolyn at Aid station #1, but frequently made the run over to aid station #2 to help her sister out when Carolyn was experiencing difficulties. Cindy was a fantastic crew and helped to make sure no one passed through station #1 without whatever they needed to get through the race. Every one of her ten pockets were full of Gus, aspirin, ibuprofen, water bottles, salt tablets, Imodium, Tums, you name it, she had it. Even in the last lap, when Lucy and Carolyn came through and it started to downpour rain, Lucy, Carolyn and Cindy never lost their sense of humor or their ability to focus through whatever challenge was thrown at them during the race.
On the men's side, both Mike Buchanon and Scott Creel felt the effects of the early pace and had to retire at around 50km. Dusty Olson was running in third place Team USA for almost 60km before he too had to retire early from the race. Mark Werner, in his second 100km race showed stamina and perseverance in his pursuit of a new PR. He was also the first USA man to finish and did so on only Gu and water! Mark was running so fast on his last loop he didn't even stop to say hi to the aid station on his last lap—congratulations to Mark on his great performance at his first international event. Jarrow Wahlman was the second USA man to finish. Jarrow started out at a casual pace and stopped a few times to adjust his footwear—apparently convinced that he would be the slowest person the Team USA, but focused on the race to the best of his ability nonetheless. As the race went on Jarrow became stronger and stronger and hardly varied in his consistency throughout the whole race. Jarrow also had a new PR and like Rena, was a shining example of a master's runner with strength and experience, and mental focus leading to a great performance. Jim Ramacier was the final men's team finisher and was determined to finish the race regardless of what challenges were thrown in his path. Like Carolyn and Lucy, Jim had stomach problems throughout the entire race but never wavered in the commitment to finish, or to try anything to feel better!