Wednesday, July 17, 2013

2013 IAU World Trail Championships

The last few races I've done have gone pretty well so I don't know if it's pessimistic or realistic then to assume that I'm due for a bad one. If you race often enough, it will inevitably happen - even if you're doing all the right things in terms of training, nutrition, rest, etc. My only hope was that my bad day wouldn't strike at a big race, like the IAU World Trail Championships.

Fortunately, the stars aligned and I had a good run in Wales to finish 7th in the women’s race, 49th overall – yep, I even beat some dudes. (Full results here.) The funny thing is that I wasn’t even aware of my top ten placing until some time after the race when Ryne, my coach and our Team Canada manager, told me, which was great because it meant that I got to run my own race without stressing about my position. (This lack of competitive fire drives Dave crazy but I can’t help it, it’s just the way I am.)

Check out the stunning Welsh countryside in the background.
The days leading up to the race were pretty relaxed. My travels couldn’t have gone smoother and I arrived in Llandudno, the picturesque host city, on Thursday feeling calm and rested. Ryne was already at the hotel and the rest of the team wasn’t expected to arrive for a few hours so we headed out to grab some lunch and wander around.

That evening we had our first team meeting. Our Canadian crew was made up of four women (me, Bev, Stacie and Suzanne), two men (Rob and Sebastien), Ryne and a few family members. It was a great group of people to hang out with and everyone was really nice - obviously, we're Canadian, eh! :)
Team Canada in our matchy-matchy outfits.
Friday was filled with various pre-race activities, including the opening ceremonies and checking out the course, and the time flew by. Before I knew it, it was time to organize my race stuff and go to bed.

There was some tossing, turning and clock checking throughout the night but I still managed to get some sleep and awoke relatively well rested. After getting dressed and scarfing down my usual pre-race breakfast of oatmeal with chia seeds and almonds and a cup of black tea, Stacie (my awesome roomie for the trip) and I headed down to the lobby to meet the rest of the team to walk over and catch the shuttle to the race start.

Once we arrived at the race site, there was some time to hang out, pose for photos (see below), make multiple trips to the porta potties and do a short warm up and then all teams were requested to line up under their respective flag for the procession to the starting line.
Big smiles before the race.
The race began on a beautiful historic old stone bridge with the first kilometre on the road and all uphill to the start of the 15-kilometre trail loop that we would run five times. (We would run this short road section at the end of the race too just to punish our quads a bit more.)

It was a gruelling start to the race with approximately 900ft elevation gain in the first four km. I love uphill running so it was good for me! After the big climbs, it was rolling for a bit before a fairly gradual, fast descent. The course was wonderfully varied and challenging, for sure, but almost entirely runnable and there was only one km of really technical running.
Navigating my way through a tricky bit.
Lap one was spent learning the course. On lap two I focused on settling into a comfortable pace. By lap three, I was happy with my position and just cruised along high fiving the crowd and throwing in some airplane arms for fun (and for Shannon). I spent lap four wishing that it was lap five and by lap five I was super excited to be on the home stretch.
Although I had been warned to expect cold, wet weather in Wales, we had perfect conditions. It was even a bit hot for running so I was grateful to have brought some salt tablets. Unfortunately, over the course of the day they dissolved in my shorts pocket because I was dousing myself with water every chance I got, so I ran out mid-race and had to resort to licking the salt off my forearms. It wasn't a bad plan, but I had put on a thick layer of sunscreen in the morning so the taste was a bit nasty.
Already thinking about the post-race beers!
I crossed the finish line in 7 hours and 12 minutes and was greeted by my teammates Sebastien and Rob, as well as Rob's wife Hilary and new baby, Gwyneth. It felt great to be done and I was happy to hear that the guys had had good races too. Not long after I finished, Stacie came in and we all headed down to the river to soak our legs.

Bev and Suzanne also had solid finishes even though both had been suffering with stomach issues for much of the latter part of the race. It just goes to show how stubborn ultra runners can be! Our women's team finished in 4th place in a very strong field so we were all quite proud of our efforts.

After the race, we were shuttled by bus back to our hotel and had just enough time to get cleaned up before we had to head out for the closing ceremony and awards banquet. We were all pretty bagged after a long day so we didn't stay long and I was grateful to crawl into bed that night.

The next morning we said our good byes as Ryne, Stacie and I caught a train to London for a day of sightseeing before heading back home.

London Bridges not falling down.
It was amazing trip for a number of reasons but what has left the strongest impression on me is the spirit of people everywhere. I was buoyed by the energy of my teammates, my competitors, the Welsh folk and the race organizers, volunteers and spectators (especially the French supporters - they were incredible). Everyone was bursting with goodwill and it was infectious.

I'm looking forward to enjoying more of that positive vibe at the TransRockies race in Colorado next month!