4th IAU Trail Championships
Being selected to run for Great Britain after becoming the UK's Trail Champion (a lil title I picked up at the Hoka Highland Fling race) was just something I couldn't quite comprehend. How on earth had this happened? Yes I’ve been progressing well but... 'I've only just started' and well.. for me it suddenly seemed premature. This is the battle I’d have with myself as I got cold feet in the week before the race on the 6th July 2013.
Sandra Bowers, Isobel Wykes,Tracy Dean, Fionna Cameron, Jo Zakrzewski.
Craig Holgate, Andrew James, Lee Kemp, Ricky Lightfoot, Iain Ridgway Matthew Williamson.
Needless to say, in spite of a nursing the calf back to strength and having a few stitches in my knee following a fall at Wharfdale half marathon, I made it to the start line in one piece, if not slightly discouraged as training had suffered a little.
Kit: (on start line)
Lycra GB shorts- check
GB ankle socks - check
Inov8 wrag - check
Inov8 trailroc 236 - check
TORQ gel - check
GB VEST...blummin Check
Bag of nerves – check
Distance: 47.5m / 77k
Nutrition: TORQ gels every 30 mins and half a wholemeal turkey bap, (no butter) every 90 mins.
Fluid: TORQ energy drink (vanilla) (and a bottle of water over my head).
Race plan: Can't tell you, I think it's either an omen to or an unwritten rule, I don't know yet.
It was a beautiful day weather wise, temperatures reached a blistering 27 degrees, I adore the sunnier weather. The general plan was to start slowly and keep an even pace for each of the 5 laps through the Gwydyr Forest in Llanrwst, Conway in Wales.
Initially there was a short 3/4 mile road section which would attract a fast pace for many before a steady climb to Saw Bench Car Park, then a sharp lung burster of an ascent into the forest. The first 30 minutes was essentially a steady climb, then once you're up you're up, knowing that in an hour ish you'll be coming down again.
So with all good intentions, my relative inexperience of pacing over different (flatter) terrain and general unfitness (comparatively) all shone through immediately as I sped off. I'd placed myself at the back of the start line (as usual) however also as usual I consistently had to tell myself to slow down.
The climbing however kept it relatively safe and even paced for the first part of the lap. The problem, and to be honest the misnomer for me, was that this race had the potential to be fast and certainly suited those who have fast road legs or accustomed to flatter trail. There were no big climbs, and the terrain whilst, technical in places, was short lived before you were on metalled path again.
During the first lap, team mates Jo and Fionna (Scottish Trail Champion 2013) sat behind me. The three of us chatted and ran and as I forgot myself a Canadian guy and I squealed and whooped as we ran alongside Lyn Parc, I adore playing in the trail we had fun. Nonetheless, I usually run alone during a race, I get in the zone and plod along. The company was inspiring, yet, I was painfully aware that I was running too fast, I was being swept along, this was not my race and yet, I didn't feel that I could ease off the gas pedal and be smart.
Just as we came into the first Checkpoint at the Outdoor pursuit centre Jo turned up her gas, she is super fast and has a solid road and trail background having just completed Comrades in a very respectable 4th place. She was always the favourite for the GB women’s team and was always going to do remarkably well during this race. She timed it perfectly as the TV crew ran with her and from that point on I didn't see Jo again until after the race. You'll be able to watch TV highlights 30-minute program which will feature on Channel 4, Eurosport and Sky to be first broadcast by Channel 4 on 4th August at 7.30am.
Fionna dropped back a little, she too felt she'd gone off too fast, and so, by the end of the first lap I was running alone and settled into my race. The terrain was everything you would want out of a trail race. Forest floor, rocks, track, trod, green and mud. Whilst the weather was unaccustomedly warm, there were plenty of moments of respite when the trees offered shelter. Besides two checkpoints there was a water station set up on the course which was a life saver. The organisation of this race was perfect, from the opening ceremony the details and logistics during the race, to the thank you's at the end. No stone had been left unturned and I take a bow for how beautifully orchestrated this event was.
I admit, that whilst I've not competed in a 'lapped' route previously, there was something reassuring about it. It enabled me to gauge my performance, although observing that I was slowing down lap after lap, sooner than I had anticipated was not giving me any confidence that I was even going to finish.
Regardless, I maintained what I believed to be a 'steady pace' (no gps's to tell me) and tried to focus on what I was doing. By lap three and In spite of it being a lull period (and certainly where I was plodding not running), it was the point where I started to overtake some of the faster starters. From that moment onwards slowly but surely I began to move up the field. In terms of my team mates, Jo was inevitably in front and Fionna just behind me. Isobel and Sandra were a little further behind. I learnt later that Izzy had taken a 'wrong turn' in the later part of the race, which put half an hour on to her finish time. Brave her to carry on and try to pull some of that back. A mark of resilience if ever I’ve seen it. Sandra was the only other person who'd tried to put a time to her race plan and it was pleasing that she finished thereabouts in the time she'd specified, someone who knows her capacity well I’d say. I'd believed that I was capable of about 7hours 30 on this course, so wasn't too far off in the end.
By lap 4 Fionna and I spent some time together before she started to pull away. She was solid and consistent. I on the other hand had got this race all wrong somehow! Ricky Lightfoot one of the GB male team members came breezing past, I had been lapped... gulp, who better to have lapped me! He led the race and finished in the same position, remarkable race for Ricky. His outstanding performance coupled with the strength of the other GB chaps secured the Gold for men’s team.
The final lap was the most exciting for me. With hindsight, I’d not been race focused, not how I believe you need to be for this type of event. Perhaps knowing that I was never going to win or come close made me far too relaxed about the whole thing. However, on the approach to the final checkpoint, I was informed by Adrian Stott, (GB team coach/manager) that we were sitting in bronze position. 'Do not let the Canadian girl catch you' he gently and calmly said, 'every second counts'. The bronze position was resting between GB and Canada. This is where it got interesting for me. I was faced with a challenge. When I'm faced with a challenge I pull things out of the bag. 'I'm on it' I whooped as I sprinted out of the checkpoint'.
I had convinced myself (maybe because that's what I needed to do to perform) that the Canadian girl was on my heels and so, I ramped it up. I started to run. I had about 4 miles to go and I was 'not leaving Llandudno without a podium finish', (is what I was telling myself). I sprinted harder and started to overtake more and more folk. French lady Maud Gobart, the winner at the 3rd Trail Championships in Ireland was just in front and as I overtook her she said 'I’m not used to this flat', and started to make circles with her hands, she wanted more mountain is how I interpreted her struggles.
Where on earth had this strength come from. It confused me as I'd truly believed that I was going as good as I could have up to that last check point. I believe mental states have a lot to answer for. This is further an indication of how little I yet know my physical capacity, but, I'm learning and gaining more confidence with each new experience. The final little climb was a very short sharp road section before swinging a right and descending on trail, I flew that tough little hill and when I hit the top, I said, out loud, 'that is the bronze'. Yes, mental states have a lot to answer for. You can choose to see it as arrogance or you can choose the reality in that it's just me trying to get the best out of myself and being brutally honest about it here.
By the last road section I was close to anaerobic threshold, 'jeez, strong finish' shouted Amy Rusiecki a USA runner as I sprinted past her. The thing is I felt like I could have kept this up for another few miles at least and yet, the race was over, the finish line appeared sooner than I was expecting, the race was at it's end, it all felt so, so premature, I needed more time!
I was 14th female, and third counter for the GB ladies team not bad for a début maybe.
4th IAU Trail World Championships medal results
Gold – Ricky Lightfoot (Great Britain and NI) 5:36:03
Silver – Florian Neuschwander (Germany) 5:45:16
Bronze – Julien Rancon (France) 5:54:21
Gold – Nathalie Mauclair (France) 6:38:45
Silver – Aurelia Truel (France) 6:55:51
Bronze – Maria Chiara Parigi (Italy) 7:00:30
Gold – Great Britain and Northern Ireland 17:47:59
Silver – France 17:58:14
Bronze – Germany 18:42:29
Gold – France 20:46:16
Silver – Italy 21:28:22
Bronze – Great Britain and Northern Ireland 21:43:01
Full World Championship results are available online via this link http://www.tdl.ltd.uk/race-results.php?event=1386
Notes and acknowledgements: (sounds like a film production)
In the first instance a huge huge thank you to coach John Danahay. I've been training with John for three months now, my first experience of any kind of coaching/mentoring. There is a long way to go yet, and I'm honored that he's agreed to continue to guide me over the coming months. To Adrian Stott, Walter Hill and Eleanor, who have been so professional in spite of us all and knowledgeable of every detail.
Sponsors TORQ for supplying me with all of my nutritional needs throughout the race, TORQ products work brilliantly for me and not once was nutrition an issue, thank you immensely.
INOV8 for supplying me with a selection of shoes for this race, I have been using their products since I stepped onto the fell side and it's with huge thanks that you are now supporting my running in return.
A final observation and one that was made obvious to me by another. In that, these types of events are the epitome or gem of a runners experience. Of any athletes experience. How amazing to have the opportunity to represent your Country, it is a dream for most. Athletes work hard, they dedicate their lives and yet, such a major event gets very little publicity compared to events that are privately administered. It is hoped that Trail and mountain running of this nature ie World Championships, one day gets the recognition that it deserves. So a huge thanks to all who have put it out there for trying to acknowledge the sheer talent that the trail and mountains attract.