Seeking asylum in the hills & transcendence on the trails

IAU World Trail Champs – 2015 Race Report

Yeah, a little late with this one. Still for the sake of consistency, a quick report from the World Trail Champs.

Race start was a pretty awkward time. 3:30am from the lakeside in Annecy. The GB team were staying about a 20 min drive away with a few of the other nations, so it meant a pretty early start (to force down some breakfast) and get on the bus to the start / finish area. It was almost not worth bothering to sleep with the usual nerves and list of things to remember.

When I finally got to sleep the alarm went, and then it was all-go. I had enough time but you know what it’s like trying to remember everything and eat, drink, visit the gents. 

We walked down to the bus and noticed that the ground was wet. It had rained pretty heavily in the night not that any of us really paid it much attention. 

Bus was late leaving so we arrived at the start with less than 20 mins to go which made everything feel much too hectic.

The start was crazy. All out sprinting. Runners all over the place as we ran the 2 or 3K around the head of the lake to the first climb. It was almost laughable. We had 85km and 5,200m of ascent to sort things out.

The climb started ok but with the rain the night before i found it incredibly slippy and I was all over the place on the rocky sections of which there were many. I lost places here and cursed my choice of footwear. 

At the top of the first climb there was a small aid station which after having spent the last couple of hours on dark trails was a shock to the system. It was hectic. I picked up some supplies and headed out, only to remember I still had my head torch. I ran back in and handed it to the crew. What a mistake that was! 

It was light enough near the summit but the minute I got back into the forest I could hardly see a thing. I was passed here by a number of runners who clearly had more grip, visibility and talent!

The next climb I knew had some early steep and rocky sections and I took out my poles to keep me moving on the long drag to the top. As the descent started in earnest and I began moving fast I caught a pole between a couple of rocks. I knew it would end in trouble and tried my best to stop but it was too late. I twisted round, heard a crack and landed back onto the rocks and a broken section of carbon-fibre pole. I felt a sharp pain in between my ribs and a shooting pain in my shin. I loudly cursed my bad luck in a way only a Glaswegian would understand. Why oh why!? 

I continued moving anyway and for a moment I forgot about the pain as I was too angry about having just one usable pole. It didn’t last though and the pain took over instead. I felt around my ribcage and nothing felt out-of-place, but there was pain between my ribs on one side – breathing hurt and going downhill hurt even more. 

I was glad when I finally made it to Doussard and the 2nd aid station. I hoped they would have a solution to my pole problem with the next climb being the longest of the race. Sadly, there were no spares (I actually thought about putting some in my drop bag too) and all I could do was leave the broken one and head out again with some paracetamol down my throat. 

From there the rest of the race was never going to be straightforward and I knew I was well down on where I should have been but I pushed on all the same. By the 3rd big descent I had started passing a few runners again as the paracetamol had either kicked in or I’d just gotten used to the gnawing at my ribs. There was blood coming from my shin, but the calf guards seemed to hold it altogether and I was glad I wore them. I saw Robbie Britton and Paul Navesey en-route to the final aid station which was a huge pick-me-up. They were super-loud and encouraging. 

At the last aid station I took some more painkillers, drank a fair bit (not booze) and headed back out into the heat for the final section to Annecy. It went ok considering – I tried to get over the disappointment and move as best as could but I couldn’t help thinking back to a few weeks before when I’d enjoyed the final climb in training. 

I passed another couple of runners as I reached the top of Mt Baron. I was tired and sore by the top. It was hot too and I just wanted to finish. I ran the descent as best I could and was passed only by a Team Nepal runner on the rooty drop through the forest. There wasn’t too much I could do about it.

When I reached the lake it was about 2K to the finish. I checked behind and ran on, thinking about splashing into the lake when I crossed the line. And that was it. Overall I was disappointed – some races go well, others less so. I learned a lot and as team we picked up a bronze medal after some brilliant GB performances from Tom, Kim and Lee. 

I cooled off in the Lake and waited for Paul and Iain to come in. We shared our stories of the day, ate some food and sat around enjoying the hot sun and cool water. It was nice to be part of a team for once and after a couple of hours we met the rest of the team and crew, had some ice-lollies and headed home to freshen up before a well-earned dinner.

Overall, a great experience on an excellent course with a lovely bunch of people.

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