Monday, 22 October 2012

The Italian Job

Sometimes it just isn’t your day……….and Saturday was just that…….but the main thing to do is learn from it, focus on the positives and move on!

A 12 hour journey from cold, wet Scotland (via England and France) to the hot sunny Italian Riviera, arriving in the dark 14 hours before you race, may not be the ideal pre-50K preparation, but some things cannot be avoided.

The "commonwealth" roomies!

The Lungo il Mare in Vallecrosia-Bordighera was the race chosen for the 9th World Trophy 50K Final and so I headed out as the lone Scottish representative in a field that included 8 English vests. It was not the easiest place to get to out of tourist season, so my trip there involved driving down to Liverpool (picking us Russell Maddams in Cumbria on the way) and catching a flight to Nice, then getting a bus to the train station, and finally a train along the coast into Italy. The others were flying out from London, they all arrived at lunchtime and so got to check out the course – complete with hot sun and strong winds. We arrived after dark and so all we had time for that night was to load up on pasta and find out about the feeding stations for the following day. It was great to see my room-mate Emma Gooderham again - we’d met at the same event in 2011 (when Emma won in a fantastic 3:17), and last saw each other out at Comrades.

The race was due to start at 10am, so we had time to sort out our gels and bottles of water after breakfast before heading down to the start. Having been spoilt by a great course in 2011, I didn’t think I was going to enjoy the run as much this year. The route consisted of 8 there-and-back laps of 6.25K along the beachfront promenade/road, with very tight corners at each end (round a cone in the road). There were many speed bumps across the road ready to catch runners out if they had a momentary concentration lapse.

The lone Scottish vest almost swamped by 8 English vests!

It was quite warm when we started – about 22 degrees – but the wind was blowing across us out to sea and so didn’t really affect us much. Despite the travel and a relatively sleepless night, I was feeling good, and so happily set off at the pace I’d planned. On paper, the Japanese lady had looked like she would be one of the fastest in the field, and so I expected her to have been leading us out, but over the first few laps I gradually built up a lead of a few minutes.

Nearing the end of the 3rd lap is about where “my day” ended, as a knee problem forced me to stop at the feeding station. I thought that was the end of my race, and cheered Helen on as she ran past to take the lead for England. After about 5 minutes, Walter and Andy (the UK support team) encouraged me to “jog it out” and suggested I do it along the course to cover some distance while doing so. It had heated up to about 26 degrees in the shade and the wind had strengthened to become a strong head/tail wind and so people were starting to drop from the race. This meant that even after jogging round a 6.25K lap, not many ladies had passed me, though I was not really paying attention to the actual race. Andy worked on my knee again for another 5 minutes when I got back to the feeding station and it didn’t feel any worse that the lap before. With their support, I decided to continue running and take it one lap at a time, having decided to stop if I felt any more pain. It was impossible to get the adrenaline flowing and my “race head” was gone for the day, but it was good to be able to continue and encourage the others as they passed by. The conditions were tough - even running with a tailwind didn’t feel great due to the heat from the strong sun, so runners had to pour a lot of their drinking water over themselves to prevent overheating. To give you an idea of what it was like….I actually developed tanlines from my underwear through my vest!

I was really pleased that I’d managed to continue (so avoiding a DNF against my name) and worked my way back up the field to finish in 5th place. A more impressive performance came from Steve Way, winning the race in a time that was within 20 seconds of the British record! Helen and Emma took out the first 2 places on the ladies’ podium, and Emma made sure she was there at the finish line to give me a much-needed hug.
Unfortunately the long time spent with the hot sun beating down on me took its toll, and I wasn’t very well when we got back to the hotel, but I managed to perk up enough to go and take photos at the awards ceremony and drink some celebratory wine!

Looking across the yachts at Monte Carlo casino

The trip home was amazing, even if it took 14 hours from door to door. Having not seen anything of the scenery due to the lateness of the train ride on the Friday evening, I was stunned by the beauty of the coast. Several of us decided to leave early on the Sunday, so we could spend a couple of hours in Monaco looking at the boats, watching the changing of the guard and eating ice cream in the sun. Magic!

All in all, it may not have been the perfect race for me, but I finished it, learnt about the courage and strength of character it takes to keep going when you know that you will not finish in either the time or position that you might have been capable of, and above all else, I had a great weekend with lovely friends in a beautiful place!

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