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Ed's Trip Report - World Mountain Running Championships, Italy
By:  Ed McCarthy   (2009/09/15)

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The flight here was kind of a pain, but went smoothly. Never lay over in Dusseldorf, it is a terrible airport. My organized lift from the airport to the hotel was also with some of the Mexicans, so I got to meet them off the bat. My communication skills were down, though, what with the long travel and, for those of you who are familiar with my odd tendency to confuse German and Spanish, the fact that I'd just spent 7 hours in an airport listening to German. Got in just after midnight Thursday, met my roommate Adrian, fell asleep. The hotel was great, and fed us more or less like kings. Italian style breakfast buffet, muesli yoghurt croissants ham and cheese, and four course lunches and dinners with salad bar. Team are great too. Interesting to talk to a bunch of runners, all of the guys with 10k times minutes better than mine. Also at least one 2:24 marathoner, and JoŽl Bourgeois is the class of the team, with 13 World cross country championships, 2 Olympics in steeplechase, and attendance at every international running competition except indoor. I've got lots I can learn from these guys.

Course is beautiful. See Tom's article here for links and a course profile with landmarks written, which I'll refer to here. It is without a doubt the most interesting and imaginative course I've ever seen, skiing included. Karl would love it if it weren't 3 laps. It's pretty much all open, cross country style grassy hummocky footing with some gravel path, some stones, a few copses of trees, and some road for a hundred metres in the middle and about 400 through the village at the start. What you don't see on the profile is this. First, there are two very step switchbacked sections at the start, before the Madonna d'Europa. The course goes right around the base of the Madonna, which is huge, visible from the towns in the valley, and the highest Madonna in Europe. Then it climbs a bit more. The little steep downhill before the Lago Azzurro is in trees, has a few very tough technical turns and difficult footing. Tec is a tiny cluster of houses, where we run right past a cattle trough. Very neat. There is an evil little hill before Castegna, which is another cluster of houses, one sick fast downhill corner where there was someone to stop us falling off the course right in Castegna, and then an open drop into the finish. From 400 metres out from the finish/lap, it looks like you're just going to drop vertically down.

Happy with my race. There should be results on the site; I was 95th, time 1:06.27. 5th Canadian of 6, right where I'd been at Nationals, but I think closer to the guys ahead. JoŽl was 1st Canadian in 51st, 1:02.13. The winner was in 54.51. I kid you not. They are INSANE. And African - 6 of top 7 from Uganda, Eritrea, Rwanda. 4th from Italy. Theyre crazy here, and great mountain runners. My race started out just running with Adrian for the first lap and a half, till he started pulling away on the second set of climbing. Legs were already tired at top the first time. I wasn't able to push the downhills as much as I would have liked, which is a shame since the footing should have been good for me. Did some fast-walking, like pretty much everyone else, on some of the steep sections. Found the hardest parts to be pushing over the graduals at the top of the steeps - right before the Madonna was killer. Got into a sprinting finish - an Austrian who I'd pegged in the warmup zone as looking really dorky, and thus being someone I didn't want to beat me, had just passed, and I knew there was a Czech coming hard. From that final little climb I was in sprint mode, passed the Austrian back, and went full bore down the drop into the finish to stay ahead of the Czech. Crossed the finish line with VERY wobbly legs and had to have a little lie-down at the end for the first time in years. Definitely don't feel I could have pushed much harder. Our team was 11th of 24, which is a best ever for Canada, apparently.

The town is amazing. Mountain town at the head of a crazy ravine. The roads up go more or less directly up a cliff face with switchbacks as tight as anything. There are two routes, the one that tour buses can (just) make and the one that is crazy.

Pictures to come!

 
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