Wow, so where should I begin? The last few days have been a roller coaster of emotions. Winning the World 50k Championships has been a dream come true and something I believed I could do, but never really put it into perspective how difficult it would be and the obstacles to overcome. Let’s start with the traveling to Doha…
I drove an hour to the Cleveland Hopkins Airport to embark on the journey to Doha, Qatar. I’ve never traveled internationally, and I was doing it alone. I really wasn’t to worried about it, and figured I’d just keep to myself and things would be fine. I didn’t realize how taxing it really is on the body traveling so long though.
My first flight was Cleveland to Atlanta, and that was simple. Next was the long one, Atlanta to Amsterdam. It was about 8 hours and I was stuffed in the middle of the economy seating like a piece of sausage squished between two slices of an english muffin. It was cramped and extremely uncomfortable, but hey I got two pretty good meals out of it! I didn’t sleep at all, something about sitting straight up in close proximity to others makes sleep unappealing and difficult.
I arrived in Amsterdam around 6AM Amsterdam time and my next flight to Doha wasn’t for another 4 hours. I walked around not doing much, bought a panini and a water, and that was about it. The water was carbonated!!! ( Made the mistake on the way back too. UGH ) So I took my good ol’ time drinking that puppy.
Next I flew from Amsterdam to Doha. This is where I finally met some of my USA teammates who were on that same flight. I met Camille, Zach, and Geoff. You couldn’t ask for better teammates, some of the friendliest most down-to-earth people you’ll ever meet. I pretty much slept this whole flight though, I was tired.
We arrived in Doha finally, some 24 hours later. We departed the plane and made our way to immigration. Zach forgot his glasses on the plane though and decided to backtrack to try and pick them up, his effort was futile, and the glasses were never seen again. We had a little issue getting our visas, but finally figured it out and paid 100 Qatari for them. (Not so bad, only like 27 dollars). We were finally in DOHA
We got our luggage, took some pictures with what seemed like Doha dignitaries. Then we had a taxi van waiting for our arrival and made our way to the hotel.
(I have cool pictures of the Torch myself, but those couple aren’t downloading)
That torch looking building right above was our hotel. It was the most beautiful hotel I’ve ever stayed at. My roommate was USA teammate Tyler Andrews who runs for Hoka One One. We use the same running log site, and I’ve always kept track of his training, but it was finally nice to meet him face-to-face. Tyler is awesome, and it was pretty cool rooming with another guy that works just as hard as me, possibly even harder! Our hotel had a great view of the whole city, and we could change the color of it to anything we wanted. When we first walked in though this was the color…. (Not our room, our room had two beds!! Same layout though, my picture won’t upload)
We also had full board at a 5 star restaurant inside called the Aladdin room. Probably named that because of the flying carpets on the ceiling.
My sleep the whole time divided into two 4 hour naps pretty much every day at the same time. I was usually getting to bed around 11pm, but waking up at 3. 11pm in Doha is 3pm in Ohio. So it was just weird and I never acclimated. The next nap was a little after breakfast from 9AM to 1PM.
I spent a lot of time going to the amazing mall that Doha has. There is a walkway to the mall (I’ll post a picture) from our hotel, and it’s pretty sweet! The mall had everything, and it was GINORMOUS. It had a cinema, an ice rink, a grocery store, laser tag (Laser Wars), a canal with a gondola, and a theme park!! It was the coolest thing…I walked around it a lot, and still don’t know if I saw everything.
Wednesday night Susan Dun, who was our team leader, and I hope is always our team leader for possible future events, invited us over to her home for a taco night. She lives in Doha and is literally the nicest, sweetest, most amazing person you’ll ever come across. She was so extremely prepared for this event and blew us away with her dedication to every detail. Honestly, without her this would never have happened the way it did. I can’t thank her and the whole support team enough. Her neighbor Craig was also on the support team, he road his bike with us for a run, drove us around, helped at the aid station, and did so much more. It was a sacrifice they made that I don’t think I could ever repay.
Anyways, we had a taco night at Susan’s where we ate and drank and talked race strategy and got to meet our individual aid station person. Mine was Joyce, a Judo champ, and a very nice lady. She took care of me during the race.
Friday was the race. I feel like you’ve all heard enough about that from media outlets, to my running log, word of mouth, etc etc, so I’m not going to talk about the race details. The Men took home a silver team medal, and I won the individual race over Kenyan’s who got 2nd,3rd, and 4th place. Camille being her beastly self, won her 2nd world title this year in the women’s race. The whole team ran hard though, and did the best they could on that day, and I’m more excited now about our friendships than the race itself. It was so cool being on a team again and getting to represent the USA.
(above pictures are from the opening ceremony, the day before the race.)
The awards ceremony the day after the race was pretty cool. First though, in the morning we attended a local 5k and 10k and took pictures and signed bibs. It was a lot of fun! Camille and I then had to do some press stuff. I talked to like 7 different reporters and then Camille and I got golf carted to a mosque to take more pictures. It was pretty surreal, and a lot of fun.
At the awards ceremony it took forever to get food, and I was starving. It was worth the wait though hearing your national anthem go off. I can’t believe that moment happened to me, and I’m going to cherish it forever. After the individual awards, it was so awesome to stand up on the podium with Team USA for the team awards. We all worked so hard for this and now that it was finally over, I couldn’t believe how far we had come as runners, teammates, and most of all, friends. (sorry about blocking you on this last one Susan)
My flight home was Sunday at 12:05. I left the hotel via bus with Zach and Camille. Typical Geoff was late for our departure and had to catch a ride with Nadeem. Cmon, Geoff! I tried to get the bus to wait, because I was there at 9 and Camille, Zach, and Geoff all hadn’t arrived yet (suppose to leave at 9) and the bus waited a little longer, but not for Geoffey boy.
The flights home took so much longer! The flight from Doha to Amsterdam this time was an extra 1.5 hours, and the flight from Amsterdam to Atlanta was now 10 hours. That was terrible! I was so tired and stressed from not getting much sleep since the race, I just wanted to be home. I bought another carbonated water in Amsterdam like a fool. What is up with all the carbonated water in Europe!?
Eventually I arrived in Cleveland 32 hours later after leaving the Torch in Doha. The Opeka’s drove all the way out to cleveland to pick me up and drive me home. I love Dan, Jan, Rocks, and Ryan so much! It was so incredible to see familiar faces at the airport and to know everything was going to be okay. We got dinner at Outback Steakhouse and finished watching the Carolina Panther’s remain undfeated, and my meal got comped. Thanks Mrs. Opeka for letting them know I was a World Champion, I didn’t really think they’d care much. They seemed to be pretty stoked about it though!
I finally got home and on my garage door were a couple congrats signs and some non-carbonated water (haha!) from Carol and Tessa Polatas. Awesome that they went out of there way to do that for me. I feel so blessed!
I got home, took a shower, then crawled into my own bed. Life is good.
A few cool pictures finishing and after race: