Hi all. I’m writing from a bus en route to Cork in southern Ireland. Eliot is next to me reading a novel about ancient Ireland. Lots of high kings and bodice ripping from the looks of it. The IAU (International Association of Ultrarunners) World Trail Championships in Connemara was incredible. It was incredible to be a member of the US Team (though, to be clear, the nine of us weren’t representing the United States — We were just the US Team. Confused? So my grasp of the details still feels tenuous, but basically, the USATF (USA Track and Field doesn’t recognize this event as a championship race — because the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) hasn’t given the trail championship its “patronage” yet. The 100km World Championships in the Netherlands in October is an IAU event that does have IAAF patronage, so the US Team will represent the US there.) IAAF patronage or no, every team besides the US and Nepal had team uniforms and racing kits. We would have looked entirely disrespectful in our street clothes at the opening ceremonies if Gabriel Rodriguez, a runner on our men’s team who works for Under Armor, hadn’t brought racing singlets for the men and tops for the women with USA printed on them. We put them on over our shirts when we walked up to accept the US flag and stand before the tentful of uniformed athletes and officials. I imagine the trail championships will get IAAF patronage in due course — just like the 100k did, but in the meantime, I think the US Team should dress appropriately if we’re going to enter a team. Otherwise we should just run as individuals in the open runner category.
In any event! The 70k course itself was a beast. I didn’t get to run because of my darn foot, but I heard enough stories and saw enough mud covered runners at the aid stations to form a good impression. Eliot and I worked the aid station at the 26-ish and 60k point. We were there to help team USA, but we ended up running the aid station with a fellow from South Africa. Most runners looked entirely dazed when they came through. Irish bog and fell running. David James hollered that he’d gone up to his neck in water in one of the bogs. Josh Brimhall said something to the effect of “This is CRAAAAZY!” I’ve won Zany Gray twice and this is CRAAAAAZY!” Alison Bryant said she had to crab crawl down one of the mountains it was so steep and slippery. Ben Nephew, who ended up in 6th place, had everyone laughing with his stores of having to use his “bog muscles.” Man I wish I could have given it a try.
Working the aid station was delightful though — because of the Italian crew. They were out of control. Imagine the most fervent fans at a football game and then double that intensity and you’d have the Italians. One fellow would run a few hundred meters down the trail and then sprint back hollering when he caught sight of one of their runners. “Octavio!!!! OCTAVIO!! Stream of Italian!!” Then everyone on the team would break out with “Allez!! Allez!! OCTAVIO!! Allez!!!” They had the largest contingent of runners, so we were treated to their excitement and antics most of the day (along with some of the fine cheese they brought along.) And, of course, the lookout was smoking cigarettes between sprints back and forth. One of the crew members became apoplectic when he found out the aid station hadn’t been provided with Coke and he convinced Eliot he should ask one of the shuttle bus drivers to go back in for it (probably an hour and a half trip).
“You ask! When Italians ask, people think ‘Berlusconi, Berlusconi, Woo Woo.’ But American. ‘Obama! Yes we CAN!’”
Total wingnut. We got the Coke. (They also brought a ton of Diet Coke. Don’t get me started…)
The battery on the computer is starting to run low, so I’ll leave off for now. More stories and pictures to come.