Monday, August 14, 2017

2017 24 Hour World Championships - Belfast

“We didn’t bring anyone here to die, but we’re going to let you get damn close”
That’s the kind of motivational talk we got prior to the 2017 24 Hour World Championships in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

I went into this race under-trained, overweight, and wound up having intestinal issues for the last 5 hours, yet I still managed a PR and had an absolute blast.

Opening Ceremonies

The course consisted of a 1.02 mile loop around Victoria Park, near the Titanic quarters in Belfast.  Yes, that’s right, we were within sight of where the Titanic was built.  The path was about 14’ wide, exposed aggregate concrete, with 15’ of elevation gain/loss, mostly on one hill.

my beloved wife and one-woman crew, Brenda
the 3 alternates, prior to the start
Prior to the start, I placed myself in the middle of the pack of almost 400 runners.  The first couple of laps were all about runners sorting themselves out based on their respective paces.  I fell into a comfortable pace and was mainly surrounded by women, as most of the men went out quite fast.  Over the first 30 miles, I slowly picked up the pace, going strictly by feel.  I was even able to run a couple of laps with Jon Olson.  It was a real mental boost to run alongside a former World Champion.

The weather forecast proved to be quite accurate.  A couple of hours into the race, the drizzle started and eventually turned into a steady rain, which lasted an hour or so.  With temps in the low 60’s, I was comfortable the whole time and eventually, my thoroughly soaked singlet dried out.  Yup, that’s right, I wore a singlet.  International rules required a shirt or singlet top.

Aid station alley
The cool, humid weather made hydration a bit of a different game.  I drank less than I’m used to in the high altitude, desert climate of Colorado and Utah, yet for the first 5 hours, I was making numerous trips into the bushes (it was quicker and easier than going into the port-a-potties).

Making minor adjustments to my pace, I felt really good.  Eventually, the runners who were lapping me early on, stopped doing so.  I was even starting to claw back some of those laps.  It wasn’t until about 70 miles that I took a short stop to have a blister attended to.  I got back out there and continued the good lap times.  Other than a few feet every time I got a drink, I didn’t do any walking until about 110 laps in.  Even then, it was a short distance, up the one main hill on the course.

In addition to half a bottle of an energy/hydration mix early on, I mainly drank club soda, with a few Cokes mixed in later during the night.  My fueling consisted of Doritos and ginger snaps, with a few Honey Stinger waffles and cups of ramen noodles.  Historically, this has worked quite well for me.

Doritos - fuel of ...
Physically and mentally, I was having an awesome race.  All I had to do was continue on.  Unfortunately, after about 125 miles (19:30 into the race), my stomach started to rebel.  The next 4 ½ hours my pace dropped from 9:20/mile to 11:40 as I made a number of pit stops and had to work extra hard on managing hydration and nutrition.  With about 2 hours to go, this started to affect my legs, as my calves started to tighten up and I could feel them pulling on my Achilles.  I had no choice but to pull off twice and have the team doctor work on me.

Despite the issues over the last 5 hours, I had a decent race with a very respectable 148.13 miles, 31st out of 159 men.  Best of all, I proved to myself that I am capable of even better performances.  If I can train a little better, drop a few unneeded pounds, and manage my stomach through the latter parts of the race, I can truly be competitive - not a Worlds podium, but closer to the top.

the end - waiting for the final measurement

Here’s the biggest negative about this race - the timing system experienced huge failures.  Luckily, the lap counting system seemed to work (or so we thought).  Unfortunately, the display screen went out just shy of 12 hours into the race.  It came up a couple of hours later.  As soon as it did, I took the time to read my data and saw that I was at 100 miles at just past 14 hours!  Needless to say, I was elated.  This was 1 ½ hours faster than I had ever hit the 100 mile mark.  I couldn’t believe how totally awesome I was running.  However, I soon started to do the simple math that my brain could still manage and realized that there was no way I could have gone from a 7:38 first 50 miles to a 6:30 second 50.  Clearly something was wrong.  I soon hooked up with fellow American runner, Gina Slaby and checked with her.  She was tracking on her watch and we soon determined that the system was off by at least 6 laps.  I couldn’t believe that kind of a screw-up could happen in a World Championship event.  Eventually, the display system went out again, PERMANENTLY!  And, to make things even better, the race clock went out for a number of hours.  The display never came back on and unless runners had crew keeping track, or were wearing GPS watches, we were running blind.  I don’t know if I could have run any farther, but not knowing where I am that far in a race is beyond frustrating.

The other negatives about the race organization was the Opening Ceremony/Pasta Dinner and the Final Banquet.  I found the Opening Ceremony to be a bit underwhelming.  The venue was a small soccer stadium which meant that audience was limited to crews and family members.  The pasta dinner afterwards was a flop.  The space was less than half of what was needed for the number of people present.  The two buffet lines were long and slow, and there was nowhere to sit once you did get your food.  They actually made a PA announcement asking people to eat and leave so that others could have a turn.  Seriously?  The American delegation just skipped this altogether, as I’m sure numerous others did.

The Final Banquet was even worse.  Just hours after all these runners completed the race, they put out two stations with four types of hores de vour, which they ran out of in the first 10 minutes.  It took them another 30 minutes to replenish, and let me tell you, the snacks were a joke, both in quality and quantity.  Again, many of us left and went out on our own.  These failure on the social venue were quite disappointing, especially since the American crew was so large (with crews, family, and support staff) that we stayed in a hotel, rather than at the college with the other national teams.  This really limited the interaction that an international event of this nature should encourage.

I don’t want to focus on the negatives, but I hope the local organizing committee got a good earful with respect to the Pasta Dinner, Final “Banquet” and especially the timing failures.  These were not complex issues to avoid.

Seriously - As of this writing, 15% of the women's and 30% of the men's results were adjusted (mostly up) almost a month after the race.  The US men's and women's teams got knocked down a place to 4th and 2nd respectively.  Appeals have been filed, but no new information has been provided.

even the helpers have to stay up for 24 hours

I want to end on a positive note:

Not being part of the actual team, I did not have an official USA uniform, but I did wear the USA singlet from Run4Water, and for 24 hours (to all but my wife), I was no longer Adrian Stanciu.  I was “USA” – “way to go, USA”, “keep it up USA”, “looking good USA”, etc.  It was an awesome feeling.

To most people (even runners), the 24 hour ultra is an obscure, insane sporting event.  But to those who have participated, especially in a National or World Championship, the energy, camaraderie, and support are infectious.  I got to run side-by-side with some of the best runners in the US and the world and I proved (mostly to myself) that I have earned the right to be there.

I am absolutely glad that I went along, as an alternate.  And I am so incredibly grateful to my wife, Brenda for everything she has had to put up with for me to get to this point and then to single-highhandedly support me during the race.  This experience motivated me to try to get onto the team for 2019, but if that doesn’t happen, I will always have Belfast to look back upon.


  1. What a mess. Glad you prevailed thru it!

  2. You made the best of your 24 hours, that's what it is all about. Run! Unfortunately, there were too many negatives for all those participating. You excelled in less than ideal conditions, now imagine what you will be able to accomplish in ideal conditions. See you in a few miles...roy