Saturday, October 14, 2017

Marathon Trail Lake di Como



No race really starts on the start line, and this was no different! 

Dawn came home one day and said fights to Italy are on special... next thing I knew the tickets were booked and I was looking for a race! My Italian is as good as my Latin so it wasn't easy to find something that could fit into our travel plans, but Lake Como looked like a good detour!

119km sounded exciting but having to leave for Venice the next day and the fact that I had spent most of last year not running I looked at the other options. 
30km or 60km for reasons unknown to me, I went for the 60km (maybe the 4000m of climb excited me and I thought I could put enough training in!)

The training was coming on and I was getting fit but about 3 weeks before we left I picked up a couple of niggles... Downgrade said Dawn, No said Dion. It's only 60km and there's lots of walking involved I'll be fine! The last week of training was done walking the sights of Rome, Siena, Florence as the holiday unfolded. (This walking was the best training ever, easiest way to spend up to 8 hours on your feet)
After the cops had told me to put my shirt on!
Lake Como is amazingly beautiful and the perfect setting for a trail race (or a training holiday). We joined the other runners in the town square of Menaggio... me on the start line and Dawn watching. 
I was on the 2nd row when we started and was looking for a chance to move up as we started down (up) the little streets of Menaggio... some Italian had taken the lead and with a Englishman following him I thought it a good idea to add an African to the mix.

With only 200m or so done the climbing started and wanting to hold myself back I stayed in 3rd place even looking to walk the first stairs!

It took about a km of town running for the 3 of us to come together and while I would close the gap on the flatter sections the other 2 would open up a meter or two on the steeper bits. While there were a couple of little trail sections in the first 3km it was mostly through the old villages stretching up the mountain! I found myself passing the Englishman  and pulling alongside the Italian at about 4km and then...

I took the lead! I promise I wasn't racing but... there was a lovely looking single track and well it was time!

Time? Yes time to climb... ok we had been climbing already to get there!

I was loving it feeling great (this surprised me a bit after the last 2/3 weeks before leaving on our holiday didn't go to my training plan) and enjoying the lower slopes of the mountain. 
Laughing as he was asking how I had time to take pictures
I was first to the first check in (about 10km and the top of the first climb 1500m) I left before the others arrived and set off on a bit of downhill! Thinking the others would catch-up I made sure I kept a solid pace on the smooth bits... I had set my sights on getting to the top of the mountain first and I didn't want to be playing catch-up. It was the Englishman chasing but while he was, I hit the climb first and started to open the gap again...

We weren't on a real path but on a steep grass bank not smooth but chewed up by cow hooves! No running here just power walking following the route flags. At the top, the path became viable... only problem was I wasn't at the top I was now following the ridge line and climbing to the highest point. 
The views from the top were amazing and would have been even better if the haze below was clear. 15km and I had reached the highest point 2h32 after starting... not my fastest 15k but with about 1900m climb I'll take it!

Time to recover I was hoping for nice Alpine trails to wind down the other side ... I was wrong we were too high for nice trails as only a few hard core hikers ever get that high! 

I'm too old and fragile to fly down steep rocky trails so the lead I had would not last. That said we had now been going for 3 hours and my lack of training was about to show!

1, 2, 3 and 4 passed... they reached the lower slopes and then I did... didn't think the gap was that big and the trails had eased so I could start running!
Forests
Into the forests I went chasing the front guys (and leading lady yes she was one of the 4 who had passed me!) but my chase was slow and they disappeared in the trees, I was alone enjoying the trails... the enjoyment didn't last! With about 20km done so was I! We had to climb up to the 10km mark check in... approaching it from the other side we had run 22/23km and would head off in another direction. 
Didn't think the support team would mind!
The path ahead looked amazing but I didn’t have any bounce left in my legs. 4 hours of running on not enough training will do that! (Maybe I should have downgraded to the 30km) too late I had 60km to get through!
A couple more people caught me
That said I had been thinking I would finish in 8 hours and with Dawn waiting for me I didn't want her worrying so I start thinking about pulling out and taking a shortcut back... (holiday more important than the race!)

With most of this down finished and the villages above the lake now coming into view I saw her... yes Dawn had walked (jogged) up to watch us run past! I didn't run past  I stopped to chat! Changing my finish time to 10-11 hours. (That's a long time) I was no longer racing I was out for survival! This is not a game I normally play. Finishing has never been a problem... I like to be up front fighting for top positions. Today's race was turning into a fight to the end. 

I was now running thought the top end of the town / outlying villages and while I could run the downs those ended! I had another mountain to climb... I was jogging as the climb started, but we left the village and entered the forest! While this should have excited me I was stuffed and instead of thriving on the climb I was broken.

7.5km lay ahead of me 1100m of climb would take me to the top of the mountain... 2h08min of fighting gravity and my legs that were just getting heavier and heavier with each step! All I wanted to do was lie down and sleep! I was looking for a way to pull out, I had had enough it was no longer fun! (Not I wasn't even taking pictures anymore!)

Finally the trees thinned and the top was close I put on a smile and walked into the feed station. The food was great and I tucked in bagging a couple 2 chocolate cookies for pudding later! I mentioned that I wanted to pull out that I had had enough, but the guys at the feed station would have none of it! Telling me 2 hours easy down hill all the way back. I said no let's aim at 3 hours I slapped my legs (to wake them up, it didn't really work) I said let's try this...
Look at that trail

I started walking then I tried running and it was easy the legs worked... I picked up the pace and got into a happy place, running on a mountain! The gravel road became a single track and I was flying sub 10 was happening. The path was now steep and the legs were still working! Loving the trails again I didn't even mind the bit of downhill scramble. 
Was wishing it was like this to the end! (but it wasn't)
What an uphill... walk! Legs still to heavy to run up (or I was just lazy)! 5 or 6 km to go and we headed through a thick jungley forest when my leg almost gave way! A sharp pain shot though the leg and it didn't want to hold my weight... (felt like someone had stabbed me)
5km to go 1-2km of fun forests downhills to still get through... a 5-6min weave down the single track turned in 22mins sharp pains with with every step.

I had never been so happy to be out the forests and on the road... I could walk... race walk the straight leg thing was working and as long as I didn't wobble I was moving 12min (not the 6min km I can do when racing) 

500m to the finish line...(I tried to jog in, but no the leg would not let me!). 10h27 that's a long day, but I'm happy I fought through and finished! Not happy I'm injured, it looks like I've damaged my peroneus and there could be more damage in that leg! (Hope not, going for a scan this week!)
that was hard work!

I looked exciting, I should have looked scary!

Friday, August 11, 2017

HBTC 2017



This weekend's HBTC told me a couple of things... the first was: After this rest week I had better put the last 4 weeks of training to proper use... (more about that sometime)

Life at the front of the field and life at the back are very different... and when I say to the back of the field runners that I'm not racing THEY DON'T BELIEVE ME!

I wasn't racing HBTC on Saturday... but that said it doesn't mean I wasn't looking to climb on the podium!
STUNNING MORNING
We set out from Hout Bay Harbour and I found myself next to Kane (who would go on to break the record). Ok I'm not afraid of flat tar... but this was short lived as when we left the harbour it was time to climb! A sandy track between the roads and as we hit this Kane kept running and I started to walk (power walk) for you who don't know the route, this is the start of the first climb... saying: don't race Dion don't race...
Kane pulled ahead, and while someone went with him that was short lived... Mike then past us and powered up the hill chasing Kane, but it looked like he was happy catching the other guy.

Kevin (an old man like me) and another kid I didn't know just followed me up the mountain with Lucas and Wesley a bit back.

Kane was heading down about 1-2min ahead of us after tagging the first peak. And it didn't take long for us to make the turn as well...

That first bit of down went well and while the kid who was running with us old men danced over the rocks past us he didn't disappear as before we drop down to the beach we had a little bump to climb over. Over easy, but down the other side was a different story... a slow story but while Lucas and Wesley flew by Kevin didn't drop me till later!
HEADING DOWN
I was now alone as I hit the beach and started to climb again. Without good climbing legs I was surprised to catch a couple of guys as we reach the top and headed down to the end of leg 1.

1h32:55

I didn't rush through the changeover, and as I left I had lost one place to a team runner and I heard the first lady coming to chick in... with LLandudno corner ahead I set off on Leg 2

I've climbed faster, but that said I was catching the guys ahead... slowly. At first I thought I was making no headway and kept telling myself not to race (it was far to early to put the hammer down).

With the climb out the way it didn't take long to catch one of the guys who had flown down leg 1. I was running nicely along the top, and while I wasn't breaking any records I wasn't killing myself and felt good for what lay ahead.

Unlike the road where the km tick by, it's Landmarks you looks for and one at a time you tick them off.

Not having run a lot of trail in the last year my pace on the rocky / bushy single tracks aren't what they were in years gone by and I was been caught from behind... Meg was flying and I guess she's spent the hours on the mountain trails and it was paying off. (she wouldn't break the Ladies record, but the route was longer and harder this year!) Lucky I'm older now and don't feel i need to race the young ladies, so I settled back into my running, and it was paying off... before the downhill to end leg 2 I had past Lucas, Wesley and Mike... I was 3rd man (still 2nd old man, Kevin was flying).
ALMOST AT THE NEK
Leg 2 2h02:19. While I've run faster, I'll take it, I was younger then...

Leg 3 has a very unfriendly start up Vlakenberg and it was getting hot and the leg now knew they had been out for 3h30. I could see someone ahead, so I set about power walking up the mountain...
IT WAS A PHOTOGRAPHER
I was pleased the legs were still doing what I asked of them and once other the top I set about trying to catch Kevin! That wasn't going to happen I didn't have any downhill dance in my legs, not on those rocks. I could now see a team runner and I was catching... then trouble was I wasn't going fast enough to keep for another team catching me... Last climb and a look back told me that Lucas had come back from the dark place I had seen him on the earlier leg. I had to pull finger! I didn't have any fingers left to pull as I headed to the manganese mines. I could run slow, but this part of the race needed something faster and he had it! I didn't even try go with him. I did catch that team and while a couple of other teams also past me I held onto my 4th place and 2nd old man.
ON THE BEACH CROSSING THE RIVER
Leg 3 1h42:12. slow... I should have been 10-20 min faster, I've got a bit of work to do, and mostly that will be just running on the trails so my easy pace become a little faster.

Total 5h17:31 for the 39.8km with 2500m climb
Old Man Contego can still mix it with the young boys!

Thanks to FB I was able to fine a couple of pictures to tell my story.