Sunday, September 9, 2012

2012 World Mountain Running Championships

The 2012 World Mountain Running Championships took place September 2 in Ponte di Legno, Italy. Team Canada consisted of four senior women, six senior men, one junior, a number of spouses and family members and our awesome manager, Adrian. I may be biased, but I think our team was the nicest! I enjoyed every one's company immensely.

Having arrived almost a week early, Dave and I had a some time in Milan to wander around, visit the famous cathedral, Duomo di Milano, and eat copious amounts of gelato. I was almost distracted enough to forgot the reason we had come on this trip and then it was time to repack our bags and catch the shuttle to Ponte di Legno.

What should have been a three hour bus ride turned into five and half thanks to heavy traffic, pouring rain and windy mountain roads. We eventually arrived at our hotel, which wasn't in Ponte di Legno at all but significantly higher in Passo Tonale where the race would finish. It was after 10 pm and we were all famished so we raided the cafeteria and devoured whatever scraps of food were leftover from dinner.

Then it was off to our very basic but adequate rooms to get some sleep. I was virtually comatose seconds after my head hit the pillow and slept soundly through the night only to be awoken by heavy rainfall in the morning. The rain was to last most of the next 48 hours. I hadn't packed for the possibility of such prolonged and substantial showers so wasn't that enthused about venturing out. Plus, we were at elevation so it was pretty darn chilly. In fact, the snow line wasn't much above our hotel.

Eventually, a few of us did head out to run the women's course. It was a challenging course due to some super steep climbs but none of it was too technical and most of the trail was wide open for passing so I was reassured. My confidence took a hit later in the day, however, when one of the guys warned us about how physical the race would be and to expect lots of pushing and shoving. That stressed me out..a lot. (It was a non-issue. Maybe the ladies at the front of the pack were throwing elbows but us middle packers were quite civilized. Thank goodness!)

My parents arrived in Ponte di Legno on Friday and we had a nice visit with them. On Saturday morning, Dave and I checked out of of the shops in the village, which was very picturesque even in the rain. That evening, the athletes were paraded (literally) through town to the sports hall for the opening ceremonies.

Race day dawned with near perfect weather. The late start time allowed for a leisurely morning so we took our time getting up and lingered over breakfast. I got in a solid 30 minute warm up run down in the village and it was one of the best parts of the weekend for me. Being alone in the forest on a pretty trail. That's why I run. I like racing because it allows me to push myself in a way that I am unable to in training, but the rest of the hoopla and hype I don't need.

After receiving some final words of encouragement from Dave and my parents, I headed over to the starting corral with the rest of the women to await the final countdown. And then we were off. I found the first couple of kilometers extremely fast coming from an ultra running background where most races begin at a fairly pedestrian pace. I tried to keep in the mix as we en masse navigated the cobbled streets full of tight turns, stray dogs and decorative planters.

My watch wasn't working so I don't know my exact pace, but I could tell by my breathing and how I felt that I was working hard and I just tried to keep that intensity up. For most of the race, I ran closely with my Team Canada teammate, Catrin, an elite road runner from Victoria. We finished in just over 55 minutes(about 8:30 minutes behind the winner) for 50th and 51st place, with Shannon and Mirabelle not too far behind us in 65th and 78th. The Canadian men's team also posted some good individual results and placed well in the team competition.

I'm proud of how we did. Do I wish I'd placed higher? Sure, but I'd guess that everyone except the winner thinks that. Participating in a world championships was an amazing experience and I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to do it, but I don't think that this type of competition is necessarily my thing. Call me crazy but I'd much rather run 80 kilometers than eight!

For more info about the race, go to the Canadian Trail & Mountain Running website.

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