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Sunday, 7 July 2013

North Face Lavaredo Trail - a different race than expected

When I finally arrived in Cortina at 17:00 on the raceday after quite some traveling, I was prepared to start running, just few hours later at 23:00, over 118 km and close to 6000 heightmeters. To be honest I was a bit scared. 118 km is longer than I have ever have run and 6000 heightmeters is also a new personal record. Add on top a bad throat ache and a not too good shape and you may guess my worry of covering the distance.

The race briefing a little later learned us however that the race was shortened as well and the new distance was 85 km with 3500 heightmeters: Disappointing numbers but, at the same time, somewhat a relief. Meanwhile my wife had managed to get a hotelroom for me, so suddenly the race seemed quite easy and I would even get some sleep before the start.

 Cortina 2 hours before race start

Next morning I was ready: Weather was beautiful and I had decided that on this 'short' distance I should be able to run 5 kmh at least. At 8 o'clock I was ready and after a nice breakfast I moved to the start. I started completely in the back of the around 850 runners, as I wanted to go out slow. After Ennio Morricone's 'L'Estasi dell’Oro' we were off through lot of enthusiastic crowds. The first 2 km were on roads with people cheering us on, kids clapping hands and the sun shining. Fantastic. Then we hit the first uphill. Some queuing but that was quickly solved, so found my own rhythm. At some point halfway I saw a familiar face: Chris van Beem, who I recognized from his blog. He was taking pictures meanwhile, while I thought it was enough to focus on the running. After a short chat and a picture we each other moved on on our own speed.

After a flat part with beautiful views of the mountains around us, we hit a downhill. I was trying to keep my speed down, but the mountaingoat in me came out and I took it down at quite high speed. Now this was fun! In CCC I was not able to do this due to broken shoes, so I enjoyed this 110%. Soon we hit the first aid station, so quickly some drinking and off we were to the next uphill, followed by another downhill. The route was fantastic varying: forrest, great mountainviews, meadows, streams on the side of the route and all that in the most fantastic weather. I hit Cristallo hotel (33km) after 4h40, which meant I was running much faster than the 5kmh I was targeting, but I was having fun.

However I decided to be safe and keep the speed down a bit. This actually happened automatically when I hit the next large uphill so steep that I kept thinking 'what about putting some switchbacks here'. This brought us to lake Misurina. There I felt quite destroyed and was having some problems with dizziness. This is typically caused by lack of salt so I was happy to see there was soup available. I took my time and ate some soup. I met Chris again who was also not feeling too well at that point (btw, seeing his finish time, he recovered quite well :-)). The soup helped and now the new part of the route started. A very long downhill, which I covered quickly followed by a long flat boring part. Here I walked a lot, telling myself it was slightly uphill and I should save my powers.... I was far ahead of my revisited target of 17 hours, so why hurry? This was a mistake and afterwards easy to say that I simply should have moved faster here.

Another mountain followed, which I thought was the last one, followed by a the best aidstation, where cows with bells welcomed us. After that I expected only downhill, when suddenly it went up again. I did not remember the new race profile so quickly called home for the heightmeters of the next milestone. 1750 meter, whereas I was at 1550 meter, so only 200 meter to go. But wow what a steep slopes! Happy to ake it finally to the top! Started to wonder whether I would make it before dark, but 5 km for the finish I had to put on my headlamp, as it was getting quite dark. Quite some runners continued without lamps. No idea how they did do this, without crashing. Running in the dark was nice: one could hear the birds singing and it was kind of cosy. Finally Cortina was there and I finished in 14h03.

I was quite happy about my time at the start, as I beat my target with 3h, until a feeling, about how easy the race had been (so much easier than I anticipated), kicked in. My super quick recovery and the placement (about 70% outage) much worse than normal, confirmed that feeling. Yes, my shape was bad, but maybe my target was set a bit too low. The race also did not give 4 UTMB points as for the original route, but just 2, which means no UTMB for me in 2014. Well, too bad, but this race is simply so beautiful and knowing part of the course will help me to race it faster. So why not going back to Lavaredo next year (and run the full round hopefully)?