Sunday, 21 July 2013

Dolomite Skyrace 2013

The Dolomite Skyrace was another race format that I hadn't experienced before. It is a 22km trail run,  this time on the other side of Canazei, Italy, to the VK, broken up into a 1750m climb over 10km followed by a 12km decent back down towards the finish. This particular race was also doubling as the European Skyrunning Championship for this particular format.

Prior to the race Brian and I had done a course recce on the first part of the course (uphill section). From what I had seen of the course didn't particularly fill me with confidence. There is one part of the course that climbs a sketchy scree slope which had large patches of snow on it up top (from the same snow fall that resulted in the Lavaredo Ultra Trail race being rerouted a month earlier in a region not far away). We got to the top of the climb and I was disappointed to see large tracts of snow extending out to the highest part of the course,  Piz Boe at 3152m. You could see that the race organisers had started to cut a trail through the snow, but it didn't fill me with confidence looking at it. I wasn't ready to face the rest of the course so much to Brian's relief we both turned around and took the cable car down to Passo Pardoi then retraced our steps back down to Canazei. 
Sketchy scree slope with snow at the top and Rifugio Forcella Pordoi.

I went to prerace briefing where they informed us that all was well on the trail (English translation seems to be much shorter and to the point compared to Italian, French and Spanish). Runners were told to expect snow up top. We were also encouraged to take gloves to help us use the ropes that had been installed on the course. Runners wishing to use poles could pick them up at the bottom of the sketchy scree slope (Passo Pordoi) then deposit them at the top (an option that a lot of people took up).
Start line.
Come race day I was pleased to have recovered from my first VK two days prior. The start of the Skyrace was a mass start with the elites again placed in an advantageous place at the front of the field, a bit like First Class with airlines.  When the race started I was startled by the speed at which the field took off. It was something more akin to a flat road race. As I'm a slow starter, and runner in general, I quickly got shuffled back in the pack.
The climb was similar to the VK, just on a larger scale. We quickly excited Canazei and its streets to follow a short section of gravel fire trail before crossing a timber bridge over the river and then the wide grassy ski runs. This is pretty much the trail up to Passo Pardoi (Brian met me here and let me know that I was 11th girl), where we cross the road and then start the climb up the sketchy scree slope. The climb up this section was a bit crazy. There were switchbacks up the slope which I had taken on my recce, but this was race day and people were intent on just getting to the top any which way. Some made a bee line straight up, others followed the switchbacks and more still did a combination of both (which was me). At the top of the climb race officials had made a snow tunnel for us to run through which was quite novel. The tunnel must have been of quality construction as there were spectators standing on top. My previous apprehension about this part of the course was replaced by the excitement of the race and I followed the long line of runners in front of me towards the highest part of the course, Piz Boe.
Passing through Passo Pardoi
The climb up to Piz Boe involved some rock climbing but at the end of the ascent it was as though I was on top of the world. After a quick refuel at the refreshment table it was mostly all down hill. I'd made top 10 by this part of the race, but I was about to have a lesson in descending steep technical trails. Coming off the mountain we followed another sketchy scree slope which had defined switchbacks in it,  but like before it was caution to the wind for most runners and they just let gravity take over. The way most people ran past me is best described as a controlled fall. I lost two positions on this section and that is where I remained for the rest of the decent down the grassy ski slopes, gravel fire trail then paved roads of Canazei to the finish line. 

I was pretty happy with my performance and finishing 12th in 2:50:53. The competition was strong and the racing was at a furious pace. The downhill technique used by the people around me (presumably all European and skiers) was impressive and something I think I could work on.

James Stewart and I at the finish.
James Stewart again joined me as the other Aussie in this race. He wasn't 100% committed to running the event the night before but woke up ready for the challenge and so joined me on the start line in the morning ready to race. He managed to get to the top of the course without being chicked, but like me got a lesson in descending. Overall James did well finishing in 2:40:24.

After I got cleaned up I went down to presentation. As the announcer started calling names he read my name out. Surely not, but yes, apparently for this race the extended podium was extended to top 15. Luckily I had washed my hair.

Below us a YouTube clip showing highlights of the Skyrace. I even made an appearance at 2:30 into the clip.

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