In the same style as every other race I've done in the Chile, we started with a sprint and there were 20 to 30 people in front of me in the first 100m! The first three to four kilometers were on level ground with wide dirt roads or smooth single trail. In this first section I settled into a rhythm, overtook a few of the fast starters and enjoyed the company of my friend Max. Quite soon the climbing started, a few people ran passed me, and even though it was tempting I kept my effort level smooth. I was slowing compared to most people who attacked the climb, but I wasn't going to push the intensity too high up in only the first few kilometers as I knew from my recon that there was a lot of climbing to do.
|Running easy in the first few kilometers.|
|With Max in the last flat before the climbing started.|
As the climbing continued, I slowly started to catch up with some of the faster starters who had held on for as long as they could. This first section was through a beautiful forest and it was a cool and calm morning to be running a race. I had a plan for this first part of the day so I didn't force myself to run faster. I maintained a run-walk pace right at the limit as the climbing was steep and it felt good. I was making progress and still feeling strong as we approached 15km of which almost all was climbing. The steepness of the trail meant that there were many switchbacks so there were sections that could be run in between the turns and more technical sections and turns that were better walked. By this point I was above the forest and the sun was bright and strong ahead. It was turning into a much hotter day than I had expected. Patrick came into sight above me and he was going well so I hoped that I could catch up with him and run with someone for a while. I caught Pat just before the top of the climb, and past a few other people at this point too, as we entered a plateau with plenty of rough vegetation to run through.
|It was a beautiful course and we climbed to the top of that peak in the middle!|
The top section of the race was absolutely spectacular. As we reached about 18km we could see over the top of the climb and the Andes stretched across the horizon. This part of the mountain is called "la mesa" because it's a large flat plateau like a table. It was an amazing sight to see and helped lift my spirits. Patrick and I ran along the top together as this helped us find the route a little more easily. It seemed as if the tape showing the way had been placed in a bird's eye view of the course, but the trails on the ground definitely weren't following the tape. We went off course a few times and couldn't really make fast progress as we were spending a lot of time looking and searching for our next orientation point. We took the time to eat some food and enjoy a slower pace. We were in the top ten and the route along the top hadn't seen much traffic yet so it was not always clear and we were half bush-whacking and half running in the little rivers that were less obstructed.
At the 20km aid station we were told to head to the highest point ahead of us, that there was no marked route and that we should just run straight there. There was no one at the turnaround point and we only needed to take a small Chilean flag from the bag attached to a big Chilean flag and give this to the people at the 22km checkpoint to prove we'd made it. Pat and I remained together, although I was starting to feel a little sore and my hamstrings were aware of all the climbing we'd done. As we started descending Pat showed how strong he was and moved away from me with impressive speed. I wanted to go with him, but my legs didn't have what was required on the day.
|Making my way back down at a steady pace.|
I struggled on the downhills and I know this is from not being strong enough. I couldn't really pick up my speed and even though it was technical, that didn't slow me down any more than my legs were already slowing me. I settled into a pace and kept on running no matter how slow it felt. The descent really would allow for some fast running on straight and slightly technical sections, with slower running in the turns, but I was stuck in a steady pace and decided to maintain that pace for as long as I could. I must have been doing OK, because no one caught me, but I sure knew that I wasn't running as fast as I wanted to be running. By the time I reached the bottom of the descent and the final few kilometers to the finish I just wanted to be done running. I had been out on the course much longer than anticipated and I was ready to put my feet up.
|Fast and easy final few kilometers.|
|I was happy to finish strong and running fast.|
However, I also started to feel a little more relaxed and I was able to run in the last three of four kilometers at a good pace. I was very happy to be running hard and have a little left in the tank at the end of the race. To me this meant that I had got my fueling right and that I'm getting much better at pacing for longer distance races. I ran strong all the way to the finish line and completed the course in 5hrs 41min for 7th place. It was a good day for me and I'm extremely pleased with how the race went. There's still room for improvement and a large gap to close to the leaders, but that's all work in progress.
|Very happy it's over!|