One week out from the World champs we did a warm up race in Meran/Merano called the Berglauf Meran 2000. As it was just a warm up we were all pretty much taking it easy and not pushing too hard. For me it was going to be a difficult task as I like to always do as well as I can so I needed to practice some self control and I did it by making sure I kept my heart rate in the right zone, pushing but right on the threshold so that I could keep my legs from being sore the next day!
It was roughly an hour and a half drive from Ziano, but following Jono in the early morning traffic we got there much faster. Is wasn’t a huge race but there was still a solid field of runners for the race. We were all individually called up and ticked of a list which took a good 15mins or so beforehand. Once we were underway us kiwis which were taking it easy gradually made our way through the initial rush of people at the start. It was mostly a gradual uphill on smooth surfaces to begin with but eventually we got onto some real track and it was a bit steeper. Through this section it was also a bit more technical and even going at a measured pace I made my way past a few people. The 4km mark took a long time to come up, and I realised I had gone quite a short distance when it felt like it was much further. Through the lower section of the course the track followed and crossed over a sealed road for quite away then about halfway through there was a section of asphalt about 1km long. I dropped off the pace on the seal as it was tough work, hot and steep. Three people passed me and I wasn’t feeling all that hopeful for the last 3 kms of the race.
Luckily for me the trail soon left the seal for good and we were back onto a gravel and root covered single trail, my specialty. The three that passed me were soon history and I was back feeling good again. The next little bit of the race allowed for some downhill and some easy gradient for a brief moment. I had to walk some of the steepest parts near the very end of the forest section then it wasn’t long before I could hear a loud speaker…I though surely that must signal the end of the course, and as came into the open one of the NZ team supporters yelled out to me: “only 300m to go…and its all uphill”
I knew the last section was straight up a ski slope but until I saw the tapes heading straight up a very steep slope I realised what I had in store for myself. It looked like a reasonably short little bit, but 15 steps in it seemed to get higher and higher. I had 10th place in my sights and I could maybe have got him if I pushed a little bit harder but not wanting to put myself in the hurt box a week out, and with a big gap behind my I just walked hard for a little bit before managing a jog across the line.
I finished up 11th, Dougan was 9th, Glen 7th and Jono won. I was pretty happy with the race, as it was just a training race after all, I didn’t push myself too hard and ended up with and ok place, just a few minutes back on Jono. First Mountain race in Europe and good to get that under my belt. Helen (SW) and Thomas (JM) won their sections also.