Trail du Vélan - 9th

This weekend I ran in the Trail du Vélan in the canton of Valais. It's a 45km race with 3600m of climbing. The race starts in the village of Bourg-St-Pierre which is the last village in Switzerland before the St Bernard pass going through the Alps to Italy. The route winds through the Alps passing by the mountain refuges of Cabane Mille, Azeria, Cabane Valorsay and Cabane Vélan.

My goal for the race was to work on my nutrition, making sure that I took in enough calories during the run, and to manage my pace consistently and within my ability for the race distance. These were two errors that I mentioned in my Lavaredo report so it felt good to have these as focuses during the race. I was pleased to do a good job on these two objectives and I think that it made the whole race more enjoyable and a little faster.

I still have some strength to work on for the long climbs and descents and I need to be certain that I can execute my improved nutrition and pacing plans in all future races.

The route was spectacular and very, very tough. It felt like a lot of climbing until about the last 7km which was all downhill to the finish. The sunrise was beautiful and the views of glaciers are always something I treasure and look forward to. I highly recommend this race!

Bourg St Pierre - nestled in the Alps.

Coming in to the finish after a good day in the mountains.

Race result: 7:23:14 and 9th.

Lavaredo Ultra Trail

I love the Dolomites!! From the moment Vanessa and I drove up into the mountains after crossing through Tuscany we were blown away. The scenery is spectacular with beautiful green valleys and forests and the sharp contrast of the exposed, grey mountain faces spiking up out of the flora. We arrived in Cortina on the afternoon of the race and felt at home and welcome and excited about the adventure that lay ahead.

The Lavaredo Ultra Trail is a 119km race with 5,850m of climbing. It's part of the Ultra Trail World Tour (UTWT) and it would be my second UTWT race after Transgrancanaria earlier in the year. I didn't have the race I had hoped for in Transgrancanaria so I spent the period between these two races working on the issues I had there. I did some good strength work, practiced long downhills and I felt ready to race well.

However, during the course of the race I made some mistakes and didn't run the pace or produce a quality performance like I thought I was ready to do. Transitioning from stage races to mountain races is proving to be a longer and more complicated journey than I expected. The good news is that I made progress in this race and took some steps forward on that journey. Of course I'd like to run a mountain ultra-marathon, achieve a good result and not have to learn any lessons, but for the time being learning some good lessons and working on areas that need improvement are what I've got to go on.

Positives from the race:
  • I finished even though there were periods during the race where I really didn't want to go on.
  • The work that I had done since Transgrancanaria was beneficial and I ran the downhills strongly and I felt much more at ease in the mountains.
  • I ran different sections of the race at the pace I had planned to. It was possible and achievable to run that pace and I would have been able to keep it up if I hadn't made any errors.
  • The route was spectacular and I thoroughly enjoyed the course.
  • I know what mistakes I made, what areas I need to work on and I have a good plan for future races.
  • Vanessa crewed for me for the first time and she was incredible. It made a world of difference  having her there to give me perspective and the help I needed during the race.

Negatives from the race:
  • I didn't eat or drink enough during the night leading to a very low point after about seven hours on the course. I had great nutrition products, enough water with me and a good plan yet I didn't execute the plan. 
  • Once I recovered from the nutritional low point I tried to go back to the pace I had planned and tried to make up the time I had lost by running too hard. My pacing was poor and I failed to adjust and take cognisance of how I was performing. This led me to dig myself even further into a hole.
  • I let my emotions and negativity overwhelm me and I spiralled downwards in a poor mental state even though it wasn't as bad as I seemed to think (which is easier to know now in retrospect).

Now I have a good view of where I stand in my racing. I know what I need to continue doing and what I need to do to improve.

Cortina before the 11pm start of the race.

Leaving from refugio Auronzo in the early morning.


One of the most scenic races I've ever run.

More great trails.

Approaching the checkpoint at Cimabanche.

Rolling hills during the lower altitudes of the race.

Just like home.

32Gi food and dry clothing in the checkpoint at 75km.

Some of the passes were at over 2000m in altitude.

Not far to the finish in Cortina in the valley.

A long day and a great sense of relief in finishing the race.

Race result: 19:12:25 and 149th.