Trail World Championships 2016
Also known as the World flag-spotting championships. Something to keep you occupied whilst chipping away the miles. Well, it beats train-spotting, right?
So how did this one go for me? It’s always a bit tricky to gear up for a late-season race. Peaking in the spring or summer seems easier and more natural. By the 29th of October the year had already been a long one for a lot of the runners towing the start-line at these championships, and I was no exception. June to July was probably when I hit peak form this year and since then and particularly after the utmb failure, I’ve not really been too focused. Don’t get me wrong, this was my first GB vest (just England vests until now) and I wanted to do it justice, but at the same time I was fully aware that I wasn’t in the physical shape that would be required to battle right at the front, medal-end, of this race. So the tactic was a simple one: Be prudent. So I set off steady and enjoyed running for the first couple of hours with team-mates Tom Payn and Kim Collison, neither of whom I really knew very well before coming out here. I know the French team much better than the Brits these days!
The tomato red T-shirts of the 2016 GB trail running team:
As daylight started to hit the rocky slabs above Vila do Gerês, I was cruising up the hill with American Alex Varner. So we chatted a bit of politics and flag-spotting. I learnt all sorts of interesting facts, such as that his fourth-grade project was on the Nepalese flag, the only non-rectangular one around (we had just overtaken a Nepalese runner). I’m pretty embarrassed about the state of British politics at the moment (leaving the EU on a conned decision, building expensive and nonsensical nuclear power plants, airport runways, shale gas,.. the list could be long), but hey – conversing with an American always puts things into relative perspective!
Cruising into the final kilometers
The scenery was varied and spectacular. At times it reminded me of running back home in the UK, but with the weather conditions of the south of France. Late in the morning heat became a major factor and the rising mercury took a lot of runners down. The Peneda-Gerês long-horned cows seemed little phased by the warmth however. "What funny creatures" - Who thought that? The runners or the cows?
Re the running: Over the course of the last couple of months my priority has been to get fresh and speedy again, so I’ve done quite low mileage, virtually no long runs and I’ve concentrated more on accumulating a good set of speed sessions. It felt like this approach was paying dividends, as I was quite fresh and relaxed for the first two thirds of the fifty mile race. Having started in around 30th position, over the middle climb I was picking off a lot of places, I moved into the top 10 and even thought top 5 might potentially be feasible, peut-être. But I needed to be wary and not get carried away, as I really wasn’t convinced I’d have the strength to close it out. And that’s exactly what happened – by 55km I had pulled though to ninth place, and that’s where I was to stay all the way to the finish-line. In the later stages my legs started shutting down and the final 20km were a little complicated. I made a final effort to speed up over the closing 5km to out-run a German chap, but it was a risky thing to do, as with a few hundred meters to go all the muscles of my legs clubbed together for a harmonious cramp-style shut-down! Any earlier and it would have been really messy.
A not-too-frequent sight - me and a Union Jack. Unfortunatly there were no European ones to hand :-)
So, in conclusion: great course and exactly what trail running should be, very happy with a top ten, tactics worked a treat, but I’d have to be fitter and stronger to fight for a higher place in the future.
Results: Top 10 men
(action photos : iRunFar)