There I was sitting in an ambulance, hiding shamefully from other runners, who would continue. I had just resigned, had given my number to an official and was happy for the offer of sitting in the ambulance to hide from the cold temperature at this early morning. From the window of the ambulance I saw a runner throwing up. 'He will not make the finish' was a thought which appeared, but deep down I respected him, tough guy, feeling maybe worse than me and still continuing. I had quit after just 28 km and 3000 heightmeters in 7,5 hours, 75 km short of the finish.....
7,5 hours before I had started in Forno di Zoldo, at 22:30 on Friday evening. The course was slightly changed as the highest part was covered with too much snow, so a lower alternative route was found. After a lot of Italian of which I understood the new route had 'only' 6000 heightmeters and a few english sentences, we were off. About 300 runners were in the long distance (103 km), so a relative small race. The first 2 km were downhill and on the road. I run very comfortable in these last easy kilometers.
After 2 km in something like 11 min there was a sharp turn to the right and everybody was queuing. This is what happens when you move from a very wide road into a path, which barely can be called a path. While standing in the queue, I looked up and saw literally over my heads lights moving: we were going really vertically up. When finally moving again I was running on a very small path which went very very steep up, where overtaking was impossible: 10 cm to the left it went steep down and 10 cm on the right there was massive trees. There was a long line of runners, stopping would cause everybody behind to stop, so everybody was running the same speed. Not a comfortable speed I have to say.... I was in the red zone, and wondering how long it would go up like this. It would continue until the first water post at 5,5 km, which I passed 15 minute in front of my schedule.
A few kms with some downhill followed. I learned that if there was a sign saying 'danger' they meant it and one better be a bit careful. Sometimes the signs were accompanied with persons. Those passages were even more challenging, typically going almost vertically down (sometimes fortunately with ropes). In other words: a very challenging course. It kept going steep up or down. My watch recorded a single km with more than 400 height meters. I was however doing ok and was exactly on my schedule at 12,5 and 14,5 km where depots were. After that last depot it would get easier, was my estimate from studying the route. Boy would I be wrong.....
The next 2 kms were easy, but then the nightmare started. What was supposed to be easy as it looked flat was a real nightmare. Up, down, turns, rockfields, loose stones, fallen trees..... impossible to run more than a couple of 100 meters and no way to get in any rhythm. I started getting breathing problems going up and a little later also going down. That is kind of problematic in a mountain race. My speed dropped to 2-3 km an hour and I started making more and more mistakes, so a couple of almost crashes (those poles saved me from quite some scratches) and started feeling sick. My mind started thinking of stopping. Between 20 and 25 km that decision was more or less taken and I dragged myself to the next depot at the road at 28 km, where I for the first time in a trail ultra DNFed :-(. Bummer. Dolomiti Extreme defeated me big time.
Having had some time to think about what went wrong, this is what I concluded:
- Not enough motivation. When starting UTMB, Lavaredo and other races, I would have the attitude to finish it on one leg if I broke the other. This was just a nice run, which I even expected to finish in around 22 hours. However at the point I dropped I could see it was going to be hard to make the cutoffs, which would mean something like 28 h.
- Underestimation of the course. I knew it was technical but this was very very extreme and way more than I expected. A finish rate of about 35% also shows it is a quite extreme race. Great if one likes technical races and the organisation is good.
- Not eaten well the days before the race and not drinking enough during the race. Classical mistake as lack of food will mess with one's head.
- Arriving at the mountains in the morning before the race, so no adaptation to the height, which may have played a role.
So the mountains taught me a lesson. Right after my DNF I was ready to stop running. But the winner of the short race would tell me the next day while waiting for the bus to the airport: 'find a next race and get going'. She was very right, and after a few days elaborating the deception, I am ready again..
My plans: shorter trail races for now, until i find something longer I really want to finish. Maybe in the fall, maybe in 2017.