World Mountain Running Championships 2009
So before I give you the official results, I have to give you the interpretation of the results because, not to make excuses, but it’s important to know what the competition is like in Europe. The Italian women dominated our field - taking all three podium spots. Must be awesome to have won on home turf!
As you can see - I was about mid pack. This isn't amazing but it's also a big improvement for me from when I went in 2006 and considering Joel Bourgeois - an Olympic runner - finished in a relatively similar position, I am pretty ok with my placement. It was an honor to compete at that level and to represent Canada and I really felt like I got a good grasp on what it would take, when I can put in the time, to place even close to the top 20 in the field. It's pretty incredible that the IAAF has now recognized mountain running as a sport and the more countries continue to show up at these events, the closer we get to getting a spot at the Olympics and really getting recognition for what I would say is the hardest (most prolonged pain for sure) type of running I have ever done. Looking at the results, the winner was about 8 minutes ahead of me, so about 1 minute faster per km. That's a lot but it was also encouraging to see that Melissa Moon from New Zealand - who has won worlds a few times before - was only 4 minutes ahead of me. I know without a doubt that I can work hard enough to get there and with the kids starting grade one next year, it will become more of a possibility. Up until now it just hasn't been an option without really throwing my life out of balance.
Women (69 finishers, 14 teams)
13 147 CANADA
46 0.51.19 9 Sylvia CORBETT
47 0.51.50 10 Amy GOLUMBIA
54 0.52.43 11 Jessalyn O'DONNELL
63 0.56.52 12 Emily SOLSBERG
Men (138 finishers, 24 teams)
11 254 CANADA
51 1.02.13 14 Joel BOURGEOIS
55 1.02.38 15 Jason TERAUCHI-LOUTITT
64 1.03.08 17 Kris SWANSON
84 1.04.35 13 Adrian LAMBERT
95 1.06.27 16 Edward MCCARTHY
117 1.11.34 18 Trevor CALDWELL
Junior men (68 finishers)
66 82 Gord MINAKER CAN 93 0.50.41 66 + 12.15
The Italians did an incredible job organizing the event. ValChiavienna is about 2 hours north of Milan, up a little tiny narrow valley with incredibly windy roads. Seriously, I wish I had a picture. You would look at the cliff and think - oh wow, that looks like good climbing, and somehow they manage to get cars up the cliffs! The 3 day event took place between three of the little towns, all about 8km apart.
We walked the course as a team on Friday and Jessalyn and I did some sprints up one of the hills- which was a great way to feel the altitude. The entire course was in a cloud so we really couldn't get a good overall picture, but I tried to pay attention to the footing because it was treacherous. Ideal ankle breaking grounds. Similar to what Canmore is so I felt fortunate to already have trained at that level. Nothing incredibly painful but after a week of tapering my muscles weren’t really sure what I was expecting of them.
Friday afternoon were the opening ceremonies and parade complete with entertainment!. All of the athletes were paraded through the town and the streets were absolutely packed with supporters cheering for us. I was too nervous to eat dinner after the race, so grabbed something light and spent some time meditating and focusing alone in my room. Fell asleep early and fortunately had a great sleep.
Morning of the race I had some really strong Italian coffee and a light meal. Race wasn’t until 1045 so my main focus was staying hydrated. Caught a bus up to the start line which was at the bottom of the ski hill. In full sunlight the hill was intimidating to say the least - looking up at the Madonna d'Europa which by the way is the highest Madonna in Europe, and knowing that she wasn’t even the top.
I always start to get nervous at the start line, standing around with all of these incredibly ripped women. The morning seemed to go by pretty quickly and before I knew it we were racing through the little ski village and starting the first 400m climb. Fortunately I went into the warm up really warm so the steep climb wasn't too much of a shock but you always reach a point in mountain running where you just have to succumb to the need to walk. It's impossible to "run" any further and I always beat myself up for it but found out after that even the leaders walked a good chunk of the hill.
I know now that I didn't push hard enough on the downhill the first lap, so after the second climb I tried really hard to gain back a few positions with aggressive downhill speed. This was a bit of a risk as the footing was really really horrible and the risk of rolling an ankle was very present. The second climb was more painful than the first for sure but once I hit the high point, I knew that it really
was "all downhill from here". I cooked into the finished, fought hard for a few positions and tried desperately to catch
up to Syl but she just had it in her that day.
It was great to stand around with my team mates at the end of the race and watch the three Italian women take their
spots on the podium, one of them with her son, and tears of joy in her eyes.
We did a quick cool down and somehow I was coerced into going partway back up the hill to cheer for the men.
"Seriously you guys want to go back up that thing? Are you nuts? Let's just watch their three laps at the finish line!".
I would have been ok not to see another hill for a week.
Fortunately, all the pain of the race dissolved quickly with a nap, and a bit of wine and gelato, something I had been holding back on since arriving in Italy.
And boy was it worth it! I took the next week off for the most part, other than lots of walking and sightseeing and eating. Back in Calgary now with my family, I have regained my strength and the desire to get back out there and keep racing. Sometimes events like this can really leave me feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and unwilling to put my shoes back on until I really want to, but this time I was inspired. I've already got three more races lined up for this fall and while I'm still not sure about the "up only" course in 2010, I plan to work hard and stay focused on a top 20 position in 2011.