This past weekend I had the honor of being selected to represent Latvia at the World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff, Wales. My first World Championship race! It was a very quick trip, I flew out of San Diego on Thursday morning, arrived in Cardiff Friday morning, raced on Saturday afternoon and left Sunday morning to head home. Unfortunately I had brought along the wrong electrical adapter for my phone so I don’t have many personal pictures!
On doing some research on how to avoid jet lag, I decided to arrive in Cardiff on Friday instead of Thursday. It is a bit risky in case something happens and your flight gets delayed a day which has happened on travel to Latvia, but luckily everything worked out. I fasted for 12 hours overnight on the airplane and resumed regular eating at breakfast on Friday morning. Apparently this helps your body to adjust a bit more quickly to the new time zone.
The weather was gorgeous on arrival. After checking in to the hotel, I went to the Accreditation Center to sign in and receive my race information and bib numbers. I then went on an 8 mile run and was able to run in a vast park with a path that went on for miles. Honestly, I felt pretty awful and sluggish while running, but I knew it was to be expected after traveling for so long.
I started to get tired around 4:00pm but I had to hold on and power through the rest of the day without a nap so that I would sleep well at night. Dinner wasn’t served until 7pm so I decided to eat some oatmeal and banana with my Generation UCAN Protein drink for dinner in my room. I fell asleep at around 8:00pm and slept like a rock. Probably the best sleep I have gotten in a long time! I slept until about 8am and woke up feeling great.
Saturday morning I woke up, had some coffee and relaxed. I went for a short 10 minute shake-out run and ate my breakfast of 2 oatmeal packets and a Tropical Orange/Vanilla Protein Generation UCAN mix. At noon, we all headed to the start line. The weather was looking pretty horrible. Little did we know that it would only get worse as the start time drew closer. In the elite athlete area I was able to find a place to sit and visualize my race. I did a warm-up for 20 minutes and then it was time to go to the call room.
Photo above of the Latvian flag on the castle wall by Jānis Višķers.
Each runner had to be checked for uniform and number and we were then corralled into a little holding area outdoors. I was in the holding area when I realized I forgot to bring my usual pre-race gel. Unfortunately I was not allowed to go back to get it from my bag. Gah! I wasn’t too worried though, I knew there would be water for us on the course and I have run plenty of half marathons without one.
We started in front of a castle! Photo Credit: Run 4 Wales
There was so much excitement and buzz in the air as we went to the start line. I could not believe how many people came out to spectate with the weather being so temperamental! At the start line, the rain had just begun. The elite women started 10 minutes ahead of the elite men and the people’s race. My plan was to start at 5:50 pace and progress down. The pack went out a bit quick and I made the decision to go with them as to not fight the wind alone. Our first mile was 5:30 and then we settled a little bit into 5:40’s. I knew it was fast, but I also felt really good…until about Mile 8. I fought hard to stay in it and was at about 53:51 at 15k after being 17:41 at 5k and 35:32 at 10k. The last 4 miles were directly into the headwind and took a lot out of me. It felt like I was walking at some points! I finished in 1:17:11 in 67th place. If not for the wind, I really liked the undulating course. I would definitely run this race again if I had unlimited travel funds!
Photo Credit: Run 4 Wales
Photo above is the start of the Elite Men’s race along with the mass race.Credit: Run 4 Wales
Post race I was so cold and forgot to bring along a change of clothes. I went back out to try to run a cool down, but 20 seconds in, it started to hail. That was the end of that. I walked back to the hotel shivering, I am sure my lips were as blue as the sea. That night there was a banquet and I was able to chat and practice my Latvian with my teammate Jānis Višķers who nearly PR’d! He is running the Riga Marathon in May to achieve the Olympic Standard. I know he can do it!
Although not the smartest race I have ever run, I had the most amazing experience. Running at a World Championship, representing Latvia, was a dream come true. During the race I was remembering my relatives who had fought for Latvia and the difficult decision that had to be made by other family members to escape oppressive forces and emigrate to the United States having nothing and leaving everything behind. It definitely puts race pain in perspective.
Being in Cardiff allowed me to experience what it was like to compete on a World stage. It helped me to see how these major events are staged just in case I am able to represent Latvia in future competitions. I am so thankful that I was able to go. I was quite nervous about traveling overseas alone but everything went very smoothly. Thank you so much to Matt for giving me the opportunity to run down my dreams, to my Coach John Reich who encouraged me to go and offered support, to my family and friends in the USA and in Latvia and to the Latvian Athletic Federation, I am so thankful for your support and well-wishes! Thank you to my sponsors, Pantene, Brooks Running, Generation UCAN, Barnana, and Sole Sports for helping to make this girl’s dreams come true. It takes a village to be successful and I am eternally grateful for mine. XO