11pm, Saturday 23 June, Cortina town centre and the gun went off. It was the start of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail 120km trail race with 5800m of climbing.
It was a pleasant evening which was a relief as on the previous few nights thunder and lightening had spectacularly rolled around the valley producing hail the size of cherries.
Jon was racing too.
We kissed goodbye and the race started. The trail climbed out of the town, head lamp after head lamp winding their way through the trees. I used the LED Lenser MH10 head lamp and it was utterly brilliant; comfortable, good strong beam of light, easy to use and no sign of fading all night.
I had anticipated that the first half of the course would be more runnable and so set a pace that would bring me in at half way in just under my target time.
During the night the course went past the Tre Cime di Lavaredo which is the emblem of the Dolomites. It would have looked like this in the day if I’d seen it!
Forc. Lavaredo was a peak that I did reach as dawn was breaking and the view was spectacular. There was a lower layer of cloud in the valley but above was the sun breaking.
I journeyed on acutely aware that I had not even reached half way but wasn’t feeling great. My energy levels were fine; I had well and truly carbo loaded the 3 days before using 32Gi Endure; I had been regularly eating 32Gi gels and Bounce balls; I was drinking very regularly; and I was sweating well. My legs felt as though they had no power. I struggled to push the pace on on the flats and this was truly noticeable as I ascended. It did not feel as though I was going through a bad patch, although a little nauseous, I just felt rubbish!
As dawn broke I was coming up to half way, Cimabanche. I replenished my stock of energy, applied sunscreen, swopped head lamp for sunglasses and headed off again.
I was overtaken at half way losing my 5th position (although at the time I did not know my position). I was asked ‘what is wrong- why are you running so slowly?’- I had no real explanation. The sun came up and the second half of the course began to test my technical skills descending and my ability to climb at any sort of competitive pace. I noticed that as I climbed I felt really nauseous and as I descended I felt better. I did not put this down to altitude at all at the time but perhaps, in hindsight, it was?
There was another trail race on and as I climbed the 10km from 80 to 90km I got stuck behind hundreds of these runners on the single track winding it’s way up the valley. It was really hot but I could make use of the river.
The rest of the race became a battle to the end. I just kept moving forward. I was passed. I rested on my poles. I shuffled on. I was passed. I felt nauseous. I felt better. My legs dreaded the descents when they knew I would try and run but all they produced was a shuffle. I was passed.
It was such a long 10km to the end. I was so pleased to come into the town. My fellow Winchester and District Athletic Club Runner, Robin Houghton, caught me up here and we ran in together.
I crossed the line and the compère asked me what happened. My reply to him was ‘the wheels fell off!’. It happens and although my pride was a little dented I was delighted to have finished.
I waited up for Jon. I knew he was on his target and I wanted to see him finish. I was so proud. He never ceases to amaze me.