In 2019 I chose three races to focus on. I wanted to do my best performances of the year in these goal races and designed my year plan around them.
The first goal was Transgrancanaria in February. After a winter of focused training and preparation I was in good shape and I had done a lot of work to replicate the climbs and the type of race I expected to run. I started well, but ended up dropping out at the last aid station struggling with the early signs of heat stroke. It was a disappointing start to the year and hard to swallow after such good preparation. I learned from that experience that going from winter to a a hot race is not ideal and that it requires careful acclimatisation for me.
The second goal was Gran Trail Courmayeur (GTC) in July. I was even more diligent this time around and prepared for all the conditions and possibilities. I spent two long weekends training on the route, went camping at altitude, and replicated the route and climbs in all the key training sessions. This time everything worked out perfectly and I was rewarded with a second place finish.
After GTC I was super positive and I was excited about my third goal of the year: CCC. I replicated all all the things that I had done well for GTC, I took the lessons I had learned at previous editions of CCC, and I did some training with friends on the route. The week before the race I felt the best prepared I had ever been. I also felt like I knew the route, that I had my gear and nutrition perfectly prepared, and that I was about to run my best CCC performance ever. Unfortunately it was not to be.
On Wednesday I woke up with a sore throat. I didn't think too much of it and traveled to Chamonix for the race. However, by the evening I wasn't feeling well and I didn't sleep that much and it was two nights before the race. On Thursday I woke up feeling terrible and started to worry seriously about what impact it would have on my race. I left the apartment only once and that was to go to the pharmacy. I took everything they would give me to try and get better before the race. On Friday morning I was feeling a little sick, but not terrible. It felt like the paracetamol and other medication had maybe worked. I decided to go for it.
In the starting pen I felt a little dull and not really engaged or even excited about the race. I was happy to be there and knew what I wanted to do and how I wanted to race, but I was not present and I was going through the steps I had planned without much energy. From the start I tried to settle into my rhythm and I was able to hit some of my more conservative pace goals yet it was taking a lot of effort. I felt like I was grinding just to hit the goals that I had run easily on training runs on those sections of the route and on tired legs from weeks of training. I kept at it hoping to ride out the negative sensations and hoping to start feeling like myself.
On the descent down from Col Grand Ferret my dull headache started to throb and intensify. I knew it was not an issue with the altitude (I have struggled with that in the past, but before GTC and again before CCC I did long acclimatisation camps to prepare for the altitude) and combined with my throat starting to hurt and my breathing becoming ragged I realized it was my cold that was the problem. I think that perhaps the medication I had taken was wearing off and symptoms of the cold were showing up and therefore feeling worse than before because I had run 40km in that condition. I knew it didn't make sense to push through another six or more hours in that condition and pulled out just after La Fouly.
It was a huge disappointment for me to have to stop. I felt like I had done everything right and that I was in the best condition I have ever been in. It was merely bad luck and an uncontrollable factor that I ended up with a cold and couldn't race the way I wanted to. I'm not even sure there's much to learn from this. Maybe take some extra zinc, use even more hand-sanitizer, and avoid other people completely?
Now I want to find another race to use my fitness and show the good shape I am in this summer. Hopefully there's something on the near horizon to run.