Collecting the race number, mainly to be somewhere dry! Monte Pelmo in the picture.
So here I am at 8am on my holiday sat in our car in the campsite. It’s uncomfortably cold, grey and absolutely hammering it down, and had been since we set up camp yesterday afternoon. Palafavera so far had not screamed ‘holiday’ instead a little eerie, misty, and deserted. The ‘Transpelmo’ signs around the campsite and looming mountains seen during the odd break in the thick cloud reminded me of why I was here.
Our drizzly camp just before the rain and cloud really came in.
In that moment looking out the car I had lots of feelings:
Why did I sign up to a race on my holiday?
Maybe I’ll just sit this race out; it’s my holiday after all.
But I’ve paid for it and I never back out!
There might be a break in the rain...
But even then do I really want to run up a mountain after 2 days solid of hiking and via ferrata, my legs are already tired!
Wait is that blue sky….
And out of nowhere blue sky started to roll in and the rain started to ease off. It was a miracle. The last time that had happened was when we went to scatter my dads ashes, but that's another story.
I had already read last night that the course had been changed from 18km to 13km (turned out to be 15km) to ensure the safety of athletes and staff. I was disappointed I wouldn’t do what I had set out to, but I had said from the start I was doing this race for the views and experience and I just wasn't going to get the views today. There was still thick cloud up high where the race would come into its own.
So I headed to the start line for a delayed 10.30am start. By the time I had got there I had stripped off my buff, gloves, hat and waterproof jacket. It was warming up. I became acutely aware that I could be the only English person there as the commentator jabbered away in, what sounded to me, his very passionate Italian.
At the start line before the jacket came off.
I was looking around at everyone wondering if I was wearing the right thing, was I carrying too much, where would I end up in this pack when I crossed the finish line? I was very happy my boyfriend was there to smile at me and look at me with utter confidence. I could do this, and I wouldn't be last.
And we were off! I started at a decent pace running through tonnes of mud on the start line, onto a road, through the campsite, and straight up a very steep trail. Looking ahead I could see everyone was hiking not running. It was single file with the occasional 2-3 wide. Through the trees it was wet, muddy, slippery. Tough. And this continued for around 2.5km. I hadn't had chance to study the alternative route so all I could think was when I get to 6.5km then it will be mostly downhill. During this 2.5km there were times when I thought ‘I don't think I can do this’ but I never stopped. My head wouldn't let that happen. My legs were screaming from being put to the test for the third day in a row. (You can't taper when in Cortina, too much to do and see!) But it was temporary, pain is temporary.
Finally the terrain started to ease off, we popped out of the trees and we had a couple of kilometers of fun running! I got into my stride and we were on a path. I seemed to be running at a similar pace to one green-striped guy whether we were going up or down, and he had a good running style so I decided that I would do everything I could to stick with him. The incline came again but this time I didn't mind as we were almost at the 6.5km mark and what I thought would be halfway. All I had to do was stick with my green-striped guy. I started to enjoy the mix of terrain, leaping across rivers, mud skating across wooden bridges, jumping over rocks. My head was entertained, even if my body hurt. There would have been some spectacular views at points along here. But whilst mother nature had spared us from getting wet (bar our feet and legs), the mountain would not share her views with us today.
One photo I had to take when there was a pocket of sky in the cloud.
And then suddenly we were going down hill. Boy were we going down hill. I had managed to hold my own in the pack on the uphills and undulations, but tearing down grassy banks, muddy trails with tree roots I was not mad keen on. An injury here would put an end to the rest of our holiday plans. Seeing a guy get carried through the woods back to safety was a stark reminder of this. Don't get me wrong I went for it, even going for a slide at one point, but I stuck to my race and my green-striped guy disappeared. The pack had thinned by now and I just started to have the best time. I felt so alive dodging, side stepping, everything was happening so fast all I could do was be in the moment and react to what lay before me. This is what living is. This is what makes trail running so special.
After some time I found myself at a feed station. Having not eaten anything yet I took some chopped up banana and at a slice of apple. After all we were 9km in, only 4km to go and all downhill, or so I thought. Back up hill we went. It felt relentless. A few guys shared some words with me which I assumed was something along the lines of ‘what are we all doing here?’. But choose to do it we did, so finish it we will! Unlike the first incline, this one I was able to deal with better with it being close to the end. I even started to overtake people by running whenever the incline tapered. I caught up with my green-striped guy. I'd given up guessing how far the race would actually be and just focussed on making it to the finish as soon as possible.
3km later we descended back into the trees much like the terrain at the start of the race. Very steep, muddy and single track. I could sense we were nearing camp. I was getting tired when I popped out of the trees and saw my boyfriend. He quickly warned me of a particular muddy trap which I skirted. I stifled the tiredness and started to hit the accelerator. There was a girl about 100m away and I wanted to catch her. My legs pushed harder, my breathing got heavier, and the gap was closing. On the final U-turn up and over the tunnel to the finish she saw me right on her tale and she kicked. Whilst I didn't make it past her, I love the feeling of leaving nothing in the tank at the finish line and mentally thanked her for the chase.
I couldn’t help smiling ear to ear when the commenter shouted “Sophie Kennedy!!!” in a wonderful Italian accent as I ran under the clock. I had made it! My first race overseas at elevation. And guess what happened 15 minutes later.... It started to rain.
Over the finish line.
- Because of the weather right up to the start of the race, I carried my buff, gloves, hat and waterproof in my running vest. I didn't need any of them. I could say I shouldn't have taken them, but I saw how quickly the weather changed and how cold it had been. With more experience of the mountains and knowing my pace I may have been able to make a more informed decision.
- My legs were so tired at the start of the race from previous days’ activities. I wouldn’t have not done these activities, but I would avoid this again if possible!
- Less ‘learnt’ more ‘confirmed’ - I love the trails! (And sometimes the weather is on your side.)