Saturday, 27 July 2013

Trans d'Havet 40km 2013

Initially our plan was to head home after the two races in Canazei, Italy, (Vertical Kilometre and Skyrace) but Brian always kept the option there for me to stay back to race the Trans d'Havet 80km, +/-5500m which was also the European Skyrunning Championship Ultra event. As it turned out I had an extremely good offer to stay around (for which i am hugely grateful for) and so Brian dropped me off at Recoaro Terme, Italy before heading of to Venice to catch our original flight home. Recoaro Terme was a small village outside of the race hub at Valdagno which didn't have any accommodation although it is a bigger town. More on this later.
Getting a lesson in descending from the Europeans. Photo Philipp Reiter.
I wasn't left totally on my own before the race. I was soon joined by some good company to spend the rest of the week with in the form of Ian Corless, Philipp Reiter, Martin Matthes, Lauri van Houten, Marino Giacometti and the lesser known Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg. Hanging out and running with these guys was a lot of fun. The trails we were running on were very different to those I'd been spending my time on since arriving in Europe. The Alps had been very green and cool. This part of the Dolomite mountains that the Trans d'Havet trail passed were dry and hot. It was like running in summer back home. I loved it. I loved it even more knowing it was winter back home.
Checking out the area with Ian Corless. Photo Philipp Reiter.
Having run some of the course in the week prior to the event I was expecting the race to be run at a moderate pace. The course seems to be going either up or down and there were no long sections that were flat. The trail consisted mostly of loose dry dusty rocks which could catch you out if you weren't paying attention. The weather forecast for race day was for hot dry conditions which would make the run that little bit tougher.
Course recce. Photo Philipp Reiter.
The Trans d'Havet 80km race had another crazy European start time of 1am. It was complicated further by the fact that briefing would be at 10:30pm followed by a trip in a bus to the start line a couple of kilometers away. I thought I was all prepared for the logistics but apparently not. As it turned out, I left my hotel room to meet up with my lift, who had already departed. I wandered around for a bit but couldn't find anyone to give me a lift to race central or the start line. I gave Ian Corless a message, pretty much asking for HELP. Ian wasn't my savior that night, but he did suggest that I turn up later in the morning for the shorter marathon distance (40km in this case) which traverses the last half of the 80km course.

Later that morning after a restless sleep, I managed to track down Martin Matthes who was registered to do the marathon and together we traveled to race central. At the registration desk they were a little confused as to why I had registered for the 80km (which I should have already been running) and was now registering for the 40km. I was a bit embarrassed to say the least. They must think Australian's are crazy. So after receiving a new race number Martin and I boarded the bus and headed to the start line at Pian delle Fugazze. At least I was going to race today.

The marathon course measured 40km with 2500m of climbing and starts halfway along the Trans d'Havet 80km course. It was also in the same area that I had been running in the days leading up to the event so I was confident as to what lay ahead. The bus drove up the mountain side and deposited us up top, so all the big climbs on the course had been removed. It essentially became a downhill race. The field for this race wasn't particularly big, so when the race began I wasn't swamped by a crowd of over enthusiastic runners. With the late start time of 9am and the warm morning temperature everyone seemed to be content to start off conservatively.

Trans d'Havet 80km Course Profile.
The first kilometre was all on road which allowed us to spread out a bit before we hit the single trail. Martin was in front and as the field stretched out was soon out of sight. I was surrounded by runners who had all ground to a walk and I joined them power walking up the first steep climb. I passed the leading female in this session and thought to myself if I stay focused maybe I can keep this poison. It was really heating up and I was grateful for the sections of shaded trail as the next section that I had trained on is all exposed. The climb seemed to be getting steeper and steeper, but with all the switch backs it allowed me to run bits of the climb.

When we got to the top of the climb it opened up to some lovely views across the valleys and we soon descended into some paddocks that led us to our first aid station (7km) and the beginning of the next mega climb. This was the toughest part of the race. My pace had been slowed to around 20min/km. The grade of the ascent was so steep I kept slipping backwards but so was everyone else. It was hard work me, it must have been harder for those doing the 80kms. When we got to the top we were teased with a slight down hill before another huge climb to the next aid station. From this point most of the hard work had been done and it was mainly a 30km run downhill with are few shorter climbs thrown in. This downhill section was beautiful running and the views were amazing. We stayed up high undulating and weaving around the mountains for around 16km before starting to descend towards the finish line. The descent was steep and rocky and every time I looked down it seemed I was no closer to the bottom.
There were some flat sections to run. Photo by Alice Maddalena.
The trail eventually spat us out onto the road where the marshals informed me I only had 6km to go. I really noticed the heat increasing the lower I got and I think other runners did as well as I found some lying in the little water troughs that are outside some peoples homes. Knowing that I didn't have far to go I resisted the temptation to cool off and kept going. I picked up the pace just to ensure I held my position all the way to the end. I was greeted at the finish line by Martin who was waiting to take me home.

I was happy to finish in a time of 4:52:44. I think I managed to run all the frustration and some of the disappointment out of my system before finishing. Martin did well finishing in a time of 4:28:04 and bagging 4th place in the process.

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