My last long run is done and the race is just around the corner. My legs feel strong and my mind is psyched to get started now. I’ve wanted to return to Cortina since discovering this beautiful alpine town last year while climbing the classic Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Now I’m heading back on Wednesday to race in a stunning and difficult trail race.
The Ultra-Trail de Lavaredo
I was first approached by The North Face to take part in the Ultra Trail de Lavaredo, touted as one of the most stunning ultra distance races in the world. An ultra is any race over a marathon, so 42km, and, at 119km the Ultra Trail de Lavaredo is a monster. Just shy of 3 marathons, it is the ascent and style of ground, however, that makes this one of the toughest foot races on the planet. Over this distance, the runners will climb 5,850m over loose and technical ground, all in less than 30 hours.
Thankfully, after asking if I could race in one of the shorter distances, the Cortina Skyrace was suggested and, at least for now, this is something much more my level.
I have run 100km before, fine on much easier terrain, but, for me, these distances become all about the journey, about even completing the distance. The Cortina Skyrace is a little different.
At 20km and with approximately 1,000m of ascent, the race is not too long and the climbing not too severe. This will change the race massively as race becomes the operative word. I am by no means competitive for the field but I most certainly am going to give it my all. I want to get into the race and push as hard as I can, run the course in the best time I can, and, most importantly, enjoy it.
Training for the Cortina Skyrace
I love training for mountain sports, so much so that I qualified as a personal trainer and created The Mountain Foundry, and preparing for the Cortina Skyrace gave me the perfect opportunity to put my theories into practice on myself.
At 20km and with 1,000m of ascent the race is very much a power/endurance challenge. Speed is going to be crucial but so is the ability to keep stepping up, driving myself up higher and higher before racing all the way back down to town.
The highly technical nature of the terrain means that mobility and stability in my ankles, knees and hips will be essential coupled with a strong back and core to maintain integrity and form.
In short, it is going to be a truly full body beasting and one that I needed to prepare fully for.
I recently wrote about a training session I developed for the Advent Running Collective who were passing through Chamonix and it is the foundation for a lot of my own training to build a strong foundation – lots of single leg and stability work to improve proprioception, and mountain movement.
Aside to this, building my maximal strength has been a huge priority. The ability to just be stronger can be massively underestimated in trail running but it is something that I believe to be essential. Squats, deadlifts, pull ups and presses all build the raw strength that enable us to be not just strong but safe in the mountains.
My strength and movement training has then been complemented by just getting out in the hills more, running. Chamonix is a stunning destination for runners and having it on my doorstep makes for easy motivation. The weather has been far from ideal recently but lightweight waterproofs and a bit of grit have made it all manageable.
The steepness and technicality of the Chamonix trails, I hope, will put me in good stead for Cortina but only running there will tell!
En route to race day
As race day gets closer and closer, I am starting to put together a plan of action. I am new to racing like this and so searching around and talking to as many people as possible to any tips the can provide.
It is getting closer and closer and, though I didn’t expect it to this level, I’m getting more and more excited! Arriving in Cortina on Wednesday night I will have all day Thursday to have a recce of the route and get myself ready before racing on Thursday evening.
After that, we get the best part of being in Italy – ice cream, coffee, and pizza!
Bring it on!