A summer in the Life…Part 3 World Trail Championships…Ireland
It’s been a busy and crazy fun summer…no time to write blogs…hence this blog is a month and a half late….oh well, better late than never.
So if you have read previous blogs of mine, you’ll likely already be aware that based on my results at the Mt. Si 50 miler, I was chosen to represent Canada at the World Trail Championships on July 9, 2011, in Connemara Ireland. This was all very exciting and nerve-racking at the same time as I was scared out of my tree!! However, with threats from my friends and family that if I didn’t go I would be disowned I took the opportunity and went with it…
After many e-mails from our team manager and teammates, confirming dates, flights etc…I hop on a plane on July 5 at noon bound for Shannon Ireland, where I hopped on a bus and arrived in Galway to most of the rest of my Canadian teammates who were arriving from Dublin. We then hopped on another bus to Clifden which was met by one of the race organizers…Lorna who was a bit frantic with so many of us arriving, but managed to shuffle us off to our cute little thatched cottage accommodation in Tullycross ( a town that spanned about 2 miles and we were across the street from the only Pub…Paddy Coyne’s, which we would grow fond of)…finally arriving at our destination at 5:30pm. We settled in, had some naps and were treated to our first official pint of Guinness and the best Irish Stew I have ever had…made by Jerry (owner of Paddy Coyne’s Pub) at Paddy Coyne’s along with the other teams that had arrived that day (Australia, Argentina and the US). It was all very relaxed.
The next couple of days leading up to the race were relaxed…we explored the area a bit, went for some short runs and chilled out. On Thursday night we had a team meeting to get our uniforms…which should be really exciting, and it was; however, given that trail running is not the most prominent of Canadian sports…there is not a lot of dollars allotted and therefore, our uniforms were a mishmash of leftovers from previous Canadian teams. We had to trade around singlets to find the “best fit” for everyone since sizing was limited and although our jackets and pants were all black, a few of the guys looked like they were about to go on a sailing trip, while my jacket is much more stylish and “sort of fits” except for my “football player” shoulders.
Friday, was mostly a relaxing day….with us all doing our pre-race routines of short runs, eating well…and then we had to be ready for the “Athletes Parade”. We had a laugh outside the marquis wandering around with all the other teams in their stylish, matching uniforms, especially the European teams…then there was the US whom you would be surprised, only had their singlets and no warm-up suits at all! The town was about a km long and in the middle of nowhere, so the “parade of athlete” was held in the marquis tent which was pretty crowded and hot given all the people that were squeezed in. Anyhow, all the teams were introduced, they had some local kids carry signs and we were treated to an Irish band, a few speeches, a dinner of curry (must have been an Irish joke…as most of us would never eat curry before a big run).
In the morning luckily, we awoke I think of 4am to have an early breakfast and be shuttled to Kylemore Abbey (the race start)…it was a beautiful site, although we didn’t see much of it as us ladies spend much of our time in the bathroom line up and then hurried back for a few quick photos and then we were off!
I was nervous…really nervous, since it was world’s I didn’t know if everyone would go off super fast and just leave me in the lurch, and wasn’t sure how to pace myself….in the first 500m hilariously a donkey ran straight through the middle of the pace…it was an odd site, but gave us a laugh and allowed me to relax a little! I sort of got running and thought, the hell with it, just see how this goes! First, 5k was a road, then off to the top of Diamond Hill twice….this was a beautiful trail leading up to some stone stairs to the top of this pretty spectacular hill! The weather was awesome and the view was amazing!! On my first loop I ran into my teammate Bernadette on the way down and stuck with her to the first Aid station…we ran in together, grabbed some stuff and then I decided I was hungry and needed to eat a bit on the climb back up so I lost Bernadette. After the 2nd climb of Diamond Hill, it was off to the boonies!
We were off on the REAL Irish trails….farmland and bogs! For a little bit we would run from army guy to army guy through farmers field and then it was a broken road for awhile….just as I got sick of the road there were a few army guys standing on the road pointing left…”hop this fence and be careful”…off I went through the Irish Bog for what felt like eternity (but was only about 5km)….I could see some people ahead of me and I worked on trying to catch them but the footing was wet and difficult, sometimes you sank, sometimes you didn’t, and sometimes I just fell on my butt…it was a bit of a guessing game….but next up…Aid Station #2….here I was excited to see Kim’s smiling face giving me updates on everyone else and was shocked to see my buddy Ryne at the aid station who said he was struggling. I felt fine, grabbed some grub, filled some water and was off on a sort of forest service road playing leapfrog with a few women. Just as I was getting tired of the road and thinking…”I just want to climb the mountain for a change of terrain and scenery”….we turned left and into MORE BOG!! Oh well,…up the mountain through wet grass and bog land I guess, following more military guys pointing me in the right direction. The climb was fine, but I was definitely a little frustrated with the lack of traction on the wet, muddy climb and being as there was no defined trail, there were no switchbacks so straight up we went! Near the top there was a bit of a scary section that went straight up (or felt like it did) and I was really nervous being as I’d fallen on my butt several times and didn’t want to fall here…as there were no trees or rocks to grip on….just wet, soggy grass! Over the top I went and was treated to an absolutely spectacular view of the Irish hills and countryside with a lake in the background…I had no camera so it’s etched in my little memory. Now Excited for some downhill running on the other side…well…not exactly! I ran into the leaders on there way back and my teammate Jason was in 2nd place as I cheered him on he said “be careful coming down this side it’s really steep….and then I looked down…running….not so much, I followed a Spanish girl for awhile as we were both being super careful running down and then an English girl came flying by…so I said screw it I’m going…so off I went to fall on my butt about every 5 steps but it was faster than my shy little steps although I was afraid I was going to take someone out who was coming back up the other side! At the bottom there was another couple k’s of forest service road before the aid station where I was happy to see all my teammates, Glen, Andy, Denise and Mel coming back up toward the climb. As I made my way down to Aid station 3, I decided to do the out and back before refilling water, so 4km out I went and 4km back..on my way out I met my teammate Bernadette and on my way back, I was surprised to see my buddy Ryne as I thought he had dropped so we chatted for a minute and then I made my way to the aid station where I stopped to see Kevin, Adam and Armand as they filled my water, gave me some food and washed my hands a bit as I was a bit of a mess, my bum was full of mud from falling so much, my hands were a mess and I was using them to eat and my number was falling off….not a pretty sight! All I could say to them was “I just want to stop falling and run!!”…
Anyhow, all I had to do now as getting back over the mountain make it safely over the other side, run through the bog AGAIN…and I was home free! So…after working hard to catch a few people on the climb so I didn’t have to go down the scary section alone, I watched and learned and then learned that crab walking was the best option to descend the scary section…made my way down the mountain and then was out of water….oh no!! Well, I figured I didn’t have long before the aid station and just hoped I didn’t start to cramp beforehand…I tried not to push too hard but kept seeing women in front of me and wanted to catch them. I passed about 4 women on the way down and was excited about this…got to the aid station see Kim’s smiling face again, fill my water, drink some coke, half a snickers and I was off to tackle the bog for 1 last time!! Things were going well, I was running the uphill, and then I entered the bog and sank to my knees…ON BOTH LEGS! Yikes…”How am I going to get out of here without cramping,” I thought!! But I made it out and hoped to stay out of the bog for the next 8km….ran some of the bog uphill, and finally the tarmac (never thought I would say that)!! But I saw a girl ahead of me, could tell I was making up time and finally passed her…and then another girl…I was feeling good about the finish…and then I turned into the km of farmer’s field…after 68km this was not my favourite part of the run…I just wanted an easy flat/downhill finish and instead, it was difficult footing and follow the markers through the field, and hang with the sheep until you FINALLY make your way to the road down to the finish…..needless to say…I made it in 10:06, not my exactly what I was expecting for 70km but good enough for 19th out of a field of 38…so I’ll take top 50% at World’s! And in case you are all wondering the Guinness tasted absolutely fantastic after the race…and I tried my best to get Jerry to hand me one as I crossed the finish line…but apparently he was a little busy.
As a team, we Canadian Women came home with the Bronze. Congrats to my teammates Mel Bos who came in 9th, Denise McHale 10th and Bernadette Benson 17th. And to Jason Louttit who came in 2nd overall and the rest of the men who also had great performances!!
And a big thank you to Kintec for helping out with some of my travel, HokaOne, and Smartwool socks as well as Armand for all of his team Canada organization and Jerry (from Paddy Coyne’s pub) and the rest of the fantastic organizing committee in Connemara. Definitely an experience I won’t soon forget!