Lavaredo Ultra Trail once more
Last year (2013) Lavaredo Ultra Trail was shortened, and even though I beat my target time, I was not happy about the result. I was in the slow half of the race: I know I am getting older, but still not used to that yet. Most important the promised 4 UTMB points turned into 2 UTMB points, leaving me just 1 point short of the UTMB lottery access. At the same time the course was stunning, one of the most beautiful courses I ever have run. So here I was this year back to complete some unfinished business.
To improve from last year I changed a few things in my training. My training was getting too much comfortable, so I decided to run less junk miles and made every training hurt, which in practice meant more height meters, more speed training, and longer runs. Some days I hated this, but I believed in it, so I continued. My test marathons did not show any progress. All run in around 3:45 and I even had to quit the hilliest one due to pain in the butt. I got quite concerned and uncertain on what I was capable of at the Lavaredo trail.
Lavaredo Ultra Course Profile
I had 31 hours to complete the distance of 119 km (19 more than I ever had run) and 5850 D+ (about 2000 more than I ever had run). Counting on some improvement of the last year performance I agreed with myself that 24 hour would be a good target. With the race starting at 23:00 on Friday, this would also avoid a second night without sleep. Still I kept being rather unsure about it.
We (my wife and 2 year old son joined me this year) arrived on Wednesday, leaving some time to rest and enjoy the atmosphere in town before the race. However the enthusiasm hit me only Friday evening first, at the starting line where runners were gathering. At that point I felt optimism: I was ready to kill the beast.
20 minutes to the start
The start went after the traditional start melody from Ennio Morricone (L'Estasi dell Oro'). Goosebumps. In the lights of Cortina D’Ampezzo and darkness shortly after when leaving the town. Running in the dark is cool: moving lights are up and down from runners in front and back. Actually, I knew the part we would be running in the dark as I run it last year in the light (last year the start of the shortened race was moved to the morning). However it became clear at the first mountain that this race was different from last year. Last year I was overtaken on the uphills and even though this year I started more in front and was moving around the same speed, I was the one overtaking people. I started to feel comfortable and loved the running.
I was taking the downhills a bit more carefully than last year, as I decided not to take any risk. I did not want the end the race during the night by a jump off a mountain. Instead I concentrated on drinking well, refilling my bag at the first depot at the 18 km aid station after the first of 5 mountains. After that aid station the second mountain followed. I moved smoothly and felt strong. Still enjoying running in the middle of the night, I felt like I was always meant to do this and let the boy in me play in the mountains. This came a bit as a surprise as normally I may have a hard time keeping my eyes open after 23 o'clock. I reached the second aid station at 33 km only 9 minutes later than last year and ahead of schedule. During the next stretch to Lake Misurina it started to become light, which really gave a boost. The mountains were waking up, birds singing while we run through green forests wet from the night.
I reached Lake Misurina one hour ahead of schedule. It looked wonderful in the early morning light. Quick picture and on to Auronzo. Those who have driven this part, know how steep the road is. Well, the path we took is much shorter and thus much steeper. I believe the last km had a 30% slope, which clearly was too much for my motor. The 7 km stretch took me 2,5 hour and made me lose my hour advantage on my schedule. But where in other races I typically was one of the few suffering, here I was in good company. Again an indication that my training was paying off.
In Auronzo (49 km) I got my drop bag. Happy that I had put the old backpack into the drop bag, such I could change it. Two days before the race I had found out my Nathan backpack was a bit too small and bought a North Face vest which was bigger. Problem was that one of the shoulder taps fell off my shoulder all the time. Not a big issue, but it happened so often, it got an annoyance. Changed backpack, I minimized what to bring, such it could fit, got some soup and got going again. The next part brought us around Tre Cime di Lavaredo, which were being lit in the morning sun. Fantastic and the most wonderful views.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo
This stretch was a long downhill, but the climb to Auronzo had done some damage, so I was having walking breaks now. This way I made it to Cimabanche at 66 km. I was still on schedule. I got a message from my wife that she was with my son at the next aid station (Malga Ra Stua). Only 9 km to go and a mountain in between which I passed rather smoothly. As soon as my son saw me, when I got down again he came running at me. Nice! Happy to see family I took a bit a longer break and refilled some depots and then off to what I have called afterwards The Death Valley. If I only had known I may have stayed at the Malga.... This is an endless, very raw valley which goes up, up and up. This was expected, but what had happened to my feet I had not expected. I had bad blisters on the back of both of them and at the start of the lovely valley one of them burst open. I continued for some 100 meters hoping the pain would disappear, but it did not, so things started to look rather bad. So I took a break, tried to repair the open blister with some Compeed, ate some energy bars and then tried to find my own very slow rhythm and move my way up the valley. It worked somehow and I slowly dragged my more or less dead body up. The valley got increasingly raw with snow and a river which we had to pass a couple of times. Some runners took off shoes for that. As I believed I would never be able to put them on again, I just walked through. The cold water was actually refreshing on my feet and blisters. It felt like hours to make it to the top, but when I reached the next aid station after the top, I was still on schedule.
What followed in the next 15 km was the toughest part of the course. It went constantly up and down and was very technical. With about 100 km in my legs, I was cooked and fried; this part was just about keeping moving, which often meant crawling. The place was still beautiful with Cinque Torri at some point rising in front of us, but the weather had worsened, with wind blowing up, and rain and clouds moving in. Finally when getting at Passo Giau I was happy to see the sign 16 km to go. I had used 20h, so with a pace of just 4 km/h would make my target. Still a bit of climbing remained, but most of it was downhill. I walked a lot and was very well on schedule until in the last 5 km a very steep muddy section appeared. Every time I tried to move fast I would crash. After two rather hard crashes, I decided that I would just walk and not break any bones. With a small jog in the last 2 km I still managed to get under the 24 h and reached the finish in 23:57.
Very very happy!
- most beautiful course ever run
- toughest race ever raced and ending as number 358 out of about 1000 runners (about 40% dropped)
- also tape the back of my feet.
- continue with my quality training
Great video from the race can be found here: http://vimeo.com/99552313
Great video from the race can be found here: http://vimeo.com/99552313
And now I have enough points to enter the UTMB lottery :-)