Tuesday, February 10

100 Miles Sud de France report (in English) 10/10/2014

I don't know how much sense does it make to write a race report after three months.

Well, I don't know how much sense does it make to write a race report at all.

But it seems like few crazy souls are still willing to have a go at my reports, and just last week a good friend asked me some infos about the race, and I always Google around as much as I can to try to understand something about the races I'm signed in. Not sure how, but it might help someone.

Therefore, here we go again.

I recovered quite well from Lakeland 100, but I wasn't willing to commit immediately to another hard and long race. I just waited few weeks without pushing too much, no speedwork, a lot of easy recovery run and some nice longer runs with MC, before calling Pierre, the organizer, who was kind enough to get me an entry.

We decided to go there by car, since it's not that far from Genoa and it would have been a nice trip through South of France. I started my taper by crewing Maria Carla in her first three digit race, where she placed an incredible second after running smooth and easy all day long. She didn't need much help, but it was great to be on the other side of the game for once!

Most of the guys I talked with were pretty adamant that Pyrenees are no joke. And I trusted them. But on the other hand, the race in itself didn't have that much climb, and it was mostly run on GR10 with just the first part at altitude. And the race organizers had a 20 hours forecast for first place, which sounded quite fast to me. Oh boy, if I was wrong. We were all wrong, actually.

The trip was smooth sailing, we left rain and bad weather behind and laughed our way to Font Romeu, were we settled in a nice and cosy hotel room after picking up the number and race pack. Time to have a walk and cook some healthy pasta and I was developing some sort of flu: headache, cough and a general sense of fatigue set in, but I took some homeopatic pills and went to bed early with the hope of sweating it out. During the evening, we got also few alarming messages about the rain back home in Genoa: it was getting worse and worse, and new floodings were announced. Worried, but with nothing to do but wait, we slept well and had a glorious breakfast in the morning.

With the race starting at 3:00 pm, I had time to stretch, relax, sleep a little bit more in the car and then, with 15 minutes to go, dress up and head to the starting line. I looked around and saw that most of the people looked local. I felt good and relaxed, ready to tackle the beast, and when the gun went off I tried to not get caught in the usual frenzy of the first few miles.
It always takes me a while to warm up...
Upfront some guys were already battling it out, and I wasn't holding back that much, but after first CP at the Citadele de Mont Louis, where soldiers were manning the aid station, I was in something like 20th position, which suited me fine.
The leading pack enters the Citadele
Some easy trail and after the second CP of Planes, things started to get serious. It was time to enter the mountainous part, which presented immediately a long climb that for the first part was still runnable. As usual, I didn't feel that great early into the race, therefore, I was power-walking most of it, with guys motoring past. The view was incredible: long valleys with severe peaks and the sun coming down behind. But after a while it got really steep and nobody was checking the panorama anymore. I grunted my way to the top and started the long descent to Refuge Caranca, where we arrived in a pack of three due to my well known disabilty with downhill.
Still smiling early on
I run in the dying light with a cool spaniard, who offered me half of his giant jamon sandwich, telling me it was good for the energy. Had he known I was planning to go on exclusively with gels he might have killed me then and there, but I just declined politely and proceeded to move ahead while he was digesting the beast. I switched on the lamp and it started to rain, lightly at first, but going further it became stronger and colder: another short stop for putting my jacket on and up again. At this point, I started to finally feel better. I found a good rythm and started to pass few runners in the dark. The rain was now a proper downpour, but the temperature was still quite warm; I coupled with a french guy and on the following descent I had the first meeting with pyreneean technical trail. Still quite fresh and springy, it didnn't bother me that much, but when I discovered at next AS, in the beautiful village of Mantet, that I still had 6 km to go before seeing my crew, I started to understand this race would have taken me longer than expected. How longer, I discovered in the following 40 km...
Before the storm
I got briefly lost climbing to the col, due to the pouring rain and fog, but once on the other side, the sky cleared up and I started bombing (well, not exactly, let's say I wasn't slogging it out as usual) the descent to Puy, anxious to meet MC. I entered in 13th place, almost an hour behind the leader after only 44k, but willing to move forward. Maria Carla was spot on as usual: I changed my socks, put a wool long sleeve shirt on and went out to her words "now you have a long but easy climb on good terrain, that's what I was told by a local!". Good, my kind of turf.

And the first part was quite amusing, climbing in the forest on a good jeep road, but it seemed to last forever. After a while, the jeep road became a double track with lots of big boulders and from amusing it became harder and steeper. At a certain point, the double track ended and it became a "spot the mark" game between the trees. The course was really well marked, but the climb was getting the best of me. And I was moving reasonably fast, but no sign of other humans. I finally reached a jeep road that we followed for the next ten mins before finally reaching Refuge de Mariailles and catching up a guy I talked with in the early part of the race. Some Coke, bottles filled and off in the cold of the night. I immediately had to put the jacket back on, we were at 2800 m in dead middle of the night, but I was doing fine and in the following kilometers I started to reel in a lot of runners in the flatter sections around the remote valleys we were traversing. The runnable parts where often interrupted by incredibly slow scree of rocks and boulders with the trail faintly recognizable: a real pain in the ass, but at least it was a slowdown territory for everyone. I was feeling good, and passing people is always a morale booster, but I could tell it was taking me a lot of time to cover the distance. I finally reached the Refuge de Cortalets quite tired, but happy, because in 15 kms I had climbed up to 6th place (unbeknownst to me at the time).
Bitchin' traverses
I kept running in the following flatter stretch even if the stomach was turning a little bit sour on all the gels, but I had two secret weapons: a pack of Powerbar wafer that I slowly munched during the hard climb to Col de Ciriere, and the "eau petillante", sparkling water, in my bottles. Even if the UD soft flasks looked like Pamela Anderson tits with all the gas in them, it was a blessing for my stomach.

I was tailing a cool guy on the climb, but as soon as we reached the summit, I opened a small gap on him. Soon I found myself stuck in the thickest fog I've ever seen: not good, but the course marking was perfect and after ten or fifteen minutes we started descending and I soon left the fog behind. I turned to see the other guy coming down fast, and I decided to not indulge at the Gite de Batere aid station and start the downhill to Arles, second main CP of the race. God knows why, I was pretty sure it was a quick 4/5 kilometers to the city of Arles... it turned out to be a 11 kilometers downhill pounding on my battered legs. The good part was that I caught the 4th place guy close to town, which gave me the usual boost. But I was really tired, and I realized I was just at the midway point. I hoped Maria Carla and the new day rising could give me some strenght, but to be honest, I didn't feel great. I wasn't that sure I could really finish the damn race, let alone in 4th position. But I pressed on, remembering what Pierre said, that the climb out of Arles was a crucial point of the race.

It wasn't that bad, especially after almost 20 kms of runnable terrain, and it offered a completely different landscape from the high mountain part we just finished. At the CP I asked Maria Carla (out of sheer curiosity) how much the third place guy had on me: one hour and a half. Right, game off for a podium place. Quick stop at the lovely village of Montalba, where I started sucking on lemons and oranges in order to take away the sweet taste of gels, and off to the climb to Col du Puys de Neiges, right under the Roc de France. This was the hardest part of the race for me: the climb started slowly, but it soon became a monster direct climb in the wood, followed by a long stretch of higly runnable trails. It was hot, humid and brutal, and I started to have mild hallucinations: I was quite sure someone behind me was catching up, but whenever I turned to check, he was hiding behind the tall trees. Funny, I know. Not at the time.

It took me an age, but I finally got to the checkpoint of Puit a Glace, quite sure I covered at least 20 kms from last CP. Not quite, just seven. To give me the final hit one of the volunteers told me "come on, you have the third place ahead..." at which I responded with a blank surprised stare. He soon added "...of one hour and a half" to the laugh and joy of his mates. I forgave them, because they were nice and had "eau petillante". The sun was now becoming an issue, the legs too and stomach followed soon. I ventured on a jeep road, amidst people on the hunt for mushrooms. The fact that everyone was speaking spanish worried me a little bit, adding a bizzare twist to an already comical situation, but the village of Illas came up and it was a welcome sight. Quick stop, more Coke, more oranges, more eau petillante: I had to keep the belly working, and I took care of it the best I could. Of the following 15 kms I just remember the change of scenery and vegetation to a really mediterranean zone, and the fact that it was mostly running material. More people turned up along the trail, and I have to say it was great to have some cheering after all the solitude of the night. Finally, I spotted MC which run with me the last two kms to the Aid Station of Le Perthus.
Scenic, innit? 
A guy offered me a massage, and willing to try everything in order to give me some hope, I agreed: boy, he did wonder, if you'll ever read this, you are a legend. Maria Carla was incredible in pushing me and after socks change, a generous zinc paste treatment and gel swap, I grabbed my vest and visor and headed out for the last 40 kms. I knew I still had a long way to go, but for the first time I started to think that the finish line was a real possibilty. And what's more, I was now in third place, after the collapse of the guy who had been in first place for most of the race!

I was probably a little bit to excited, because I immediately took a wrong turn and lost 20 minutes in the thorns. Worried about my third place (shouldn't have, fourth and fifth place came out of the AS more than one hour later) I managed to keep a decent pace on the first climb and run most of the following road. When I couldn't manage running anymore I switched to a "three minutes run, one of walk" tactic. It turned to "two to one" and later "one to one". After that, it came a climb, luckily.
The guys at the aid station were great and told me I had more climbing to Col de Ouillat, which at the time it sounded good to me: everything but running.
Descent from Col de Ouillat

At Col de Ouillat more support and then more climbing, followed by a deadly descent on tired legs and the start of a painful 8 kms stretch of running. I got passed by the first guy of the 100k race, and shortly after by the second, Nemeth Csaba, but at the small aid station right after a nice guy told me to relax, that I had a good margin on fourth place and that I was doing great. But the road to Pic the 4 Termes was all running, and it took a real effort to not indulge in more walking. Finally, a small water stop at Col des Tres Hetres marked the beginning of the descent to La Vall. The guy told me a real Check Point with food was just 4 kms down the road, therefore I moved on. The guy also added to be careful on the downhill, but to be honest it was nothing compared to what we had during the night. Until I reached a plateau and the trail ended at the edge of a steep ravine: confused I looked around to see no sign of marking or paintings. I carefully watched over the edge and there you go, a trail mark on a tree 100 meters down. Do I have to go there? Yes, you do.

Result: 4 kms of downhill in almost 45 mins, of which the first and last done at full speed. The rest was downclimbing, rock hopping, rope assisted descent and generally speaking a painful affair. I couldn't believe someone had conceived this death trap at the end of a hard hundo. I arrived at the CP in the lovely village completely fucked up, so much that when the lovely ladies offered me some soup, I didn't have the will to refuse and sat down for a bowl of veggie soup. Boy, it was phenomenal, so much that I wondered why I hadn't had any before. And the old grannies were so nice that I felt compelled to make some show and please them with compliments and my newfound appreciation and uttermost respect for the Pyrenees, to which they erupted in a loud laugh and more cheering.
Last climb!

I had just one single climb, one downhill and some running in front of me, and even if the climb was pretty harsh, once I came on top and saw the sea and Argeles at the bottom of the hill, with the light of a dying sun, it finally downed on me that I made it. I bombed the downhill (yes, this time I really bombed it) and when I saw MC coming to me I just let out a howl and put a huge smile on.
She even tried to push me to catch second place, which was just 5 mins ahead and looked rough, but I didn't have it in me, as simply as that. I just relaxed and soaked in the atmosphere of the last few kms that included a painfully long seafront. It was great to share that last stretch with MC and the finish line with a band playing, people cheering and all the usual galore was heaven after 28 hours 41 minutes and 49 seconds.
Celebrating right before the finish line

First place Seb Buffard came in right before the 27th mark, which shows how wrong the organizers were on forecasted times. And he's no slouch, having finished UTMB and Diagonale des Fous in the top ten.
Seb Buffard relaxing after the race

I ranted something in poor french, shook hands with Jean Francois March, second place finisher, and then happily crumbled to pieces on the grass. What an elation.
Maria Carla drove to the hotel, and after a shower we went both straight to bed. Legs hurting and still pumped from all the caffeine I ingurgitated I woke up early and had a beautiful hot bath before heading to the sumptous breakfast determined to polish off everything. Which we both accomplished.

Back to the starting line, it was time for last arrivals and some hearfelt cheering (plus a couple of beers) before the prizes presentation and more French babbling from my side. I actually said something passable because few guys stopped me afterwards for congratulations and a lot of smiling. Good I paid some attention to my French in high school.

The drive back home was quiet and uneventful, and once in Genoa we were pleased to see that nothing happened to our flat, but the flooding hit hard in some other areas. Once again.

The race? I'll just repeat my first few words after the race: dur, tres dur. Don't understimate it, it's a badass motherfucker of a race. The Pyrenees might look innocent, but they're not. They're vicious and bad and steep. The organization was just perfect: good course marking, loads of aid stations and incredibly kind volunteers. Now that I think of it, what I remember most of this race is not the views or the course (which were both phenomenal, nonetheless), but it's the people. Few encounters that really made my day, even if this time I ended up running on my own most of the times. To all of them, thank you, it wouldn't have been possible without you all. And most of all to my one girl crew who drove all night and day through desolate and desperate valleys in order to hear my whining: you are awesome.


No doubt about the shoes, my La Sportiva Helios were outstanding. Comfy, roomy, quick drying and with enough cushion to take me to end in pretty much decent shape. Some minor blistering, but hey, it's 100 miles, not a walk in the park.

I had my Zero Running short sleeves top at the start, switched to a wool long sleeves top for the night and then to an old Patagonia capilene 3 early in the morning. Zero Running vest for the next day, when the sun really hit hard.

I used Drymax socks in the first part, switched to Injinji and then back to Drymax in the last part. Both great. Once again, a healthy dose of Mustela paste it helps.

I used again the North Face vest I had at Lakeland, and it was ok, even if it gave me some chafing at the bottom of the back. I used the soft flask for carrying a liter of water with me, and it worked well all day long

I had the incredible Montane Minimus Smock and Trousers as waterproof: I used the smock most of the night, and it worked really well in downpour or cold without making me sweat like a pig. Good good stuff.

Food: usual diet of Powerbar gels, with some Powershots and a Powerwafer mixed in midway, which was a pleasurable detour from the gels. I had a Powerbar Recovery drink at eack crewed CP (good stuff). From CP I drank gallons of Coke, and oranges/lemons to take away the horrible taste of gels and refresh my mouth. To that extent, I discovered sparkling water in the bottles makes all the difference. Impossible not to mention the tasty soup I've had at the last CP, which made me think I should have had more earlier too.

Wednesday, October 1

Fueling the fire

Parecchi amici mi chiedono come mi alimento durante un ultra, e alla fine mi sono deciso a scrivere quello che faccio se può essere d'ispirazione a qualcuno (credo di no).

Il concetto principale di una gara da 100 km e più, specie su sentiero, è che bisogna mangiare. Il più possibile.

Il principio che seguo io, è di cercare di mettere in corpo dalle 200 alle 300 Kcal all'ora, praticamente tutte di carboidrati semplici, cercando di evitare proteine e grassi se non quel minimo per tenere lo stomaco contento ed evitare il primo nemico di ogni ultrarunner: la nausea.

Ok, concetti semplici e conosciuti a tutti. Ma nella pratica, cosa mangio?

Ai minimi termini potrei riassumere la mia strategia alimentare come "gel e cola", ma la realtà è un pelo più complessa.

Innanzitutto cerco di fare colazione (o pranzo se si parte nel pomeriggio in stile UTMB) tre ore buone prima di partire. Tè con un goccio di latte (non riesco a farne a meno), abbondanti fette biscottate (preferibilmente integrale per non creare picchi glicemici clamorosi) con miele, magari una banana o una mela e sono a posto. Se è pranzo, una pasta con del formaggio e banana/mela funzionano bene.
Un oretta prima di partire mangio una barretta (mai provato le Powerbar allo strudel di mele? Frutta e noci... yummy) e mentre aspetto di partire una borraccia con un bibitone energetico Powerbar Isomax. Mi piace pensare di partire con tutte le scorte al massimo ma senza lo stomaco intruppato.

In gara, sono maniacale. Un gel ogni mezz'ora, qualsiasi cosa succeda, anche se lo stomaco mi dice male e solo l'idea mi mette in ansia. Sforzarsi, me lo metto in bocca e lo mando giù con una sorsata abbondante d'acqua perchè so che se non lo faccio la crisi è dietro l'angolo. Sono arrivato a mangiarne 41 in 20 ore, quindi so cosa vuol dire non poterne più, ma la nostra gara dipende da quello, quindi pochi capricci. Gusti preferiti Strawberry e Banana o Mango Passion Fruit, che è anche fatto con succhi di frutta concentrati e quindi meno chimica. Ultimamente ho trovato un'alternativa valida, e sono le caramelline Powergel Shot, una ogni dieci minuti circa e vanno giù meglio dei gel se lo stomaco è malmesso. MC, che ha problemi di stomaco abbastanza difficili da gestire, si salva con le caramelline... il mio amico e pacer Andrew mangia addirittura gli orsetti di gomma dicendo che è il segreto del grande Joss Naylor. Comunque sia, è una valida alternativa ai gel. C'è poi l'arma segreta definitiva... i wafer: provare per credere, quando non va proprio giù niente, l'ancora di salvezza. Meglio mangiare da fermi perchè non sono semplicissimi da mandare giù a bocca secca.

Ecco qui 100 miglia di roba... Pura follia

Come già detto, mando giù tutto con semplice acqua: correndo, non riesco più di tanto a bere bibite isotoniche, a meno che non siano ghiacciate. Di solito una borraccia all'inizio la tollero, poi diventa stucchevole. Come faccio ad aggiungere calorie ai gel? Beh, con la bibita magica, la Coca Cola. Due bei bicchieroni ad ogni ristori e via; full gas, non la merda sgasata che ogni tanto mi ritrovo ai tavoli. Sistema lo stomaco, porta calorie e lascia la bocca decente. Valido anche il Ginger Ale, forse fin meglio della Coca Cola. A proposito di zenzero, se patite la nausea, portatevi sempre dietro qualche pezzetto di zenzero candito, aiuta.

Qualcuno dirà, ma dai tavoli non prendi niente, con tutto quello che c'è? No, non prendo niente, perché cerco di evitare il solido come la peste: mi si piazza nello stomaco e chiama sangue alla digestione quando mi serve nelle gambe. Specie se sono a ritmi sostenuti, sento proprio che i cibi solidi non mi vanno giù.
Faccio eccezione solo per una cosa: la frutta. Se c'è quella, qualcosa prendo, albicocche, pesche, in Inghilterra ho trovato anche fragole e mango, ma la migliore frutta durante un ultra è sicuramente l'anguria, acquosa, zuccherina, digeribile, una meraviglia. Invece non mangio mai le banane perché ci metto tanto a digerirle.

Ma proteine proprio niente? In realtà si. Un po' per credere nel miracoloso effetto ricostruzione dei tessuti, un po'per sistemare lo stomaco. Quindi dopo i 50 km, se ho assistenza o drop bag cerco di mandare giù un recovery ogni tre ore: quello di Powerbar è anche graziato da un gusto più che gradevole e si può sciogliere e d assimilare in solo 220 ml d'acqua, senza dover buttare giù a forza mezzo litro. In alternativa faccio dei piccoli panini di pane bianco da tramezzino e hummus fatto in casa, anche per mandare giù del salato. Ottimi.

Post gara, se hai ancora il cervello che funziona, dovresti mandare giù subito un recovery senza pensarci troppo. E dopo un oretta un altro o una barretta proteica . Lo so che sembra una forzatura e novantanove volte su cento avrete lo stomaco a puttane, ma rimette in piedi.
Dopo 3/4 ore tranquillo inizia a venirmi fame tossica: cerco di privilegiare cibi proteici, ma in realtà mando giù qualsiasi cosa commestibile, junk food incluso. Come regola, per due giorni non guardo in faccia niente e nessuno e mangio tutto quello che mi passa davanti, poi continuo con quantità importanti (bisogna ricostruire) ma ritorno ad un minimo di moderazione nell'evitare junk food.
Alcool? Certo, che diamine, se non devo guidare sempre. Magari aspetto una o due ore e guardo di aver fatto pipì per essere sicuro che i reni funzionano, prima di concedermi la meritata ale che sognavo dal km 25 circa. Il giorno dopo, più di una, nell'ordine delle 5/6 direi. Ho letto che contiene un sacco di sali...

C'è una birra che vorrei nuovamente bere dopo una gara... questa. Buona, ma forse era l'ambiente a renderla indimenticabile.

Tuesday, August 19

Lakeland 100 (in italiano) 25/7/2014

Ahhhh, eccoci pronti ad un nuovo mattone per raccontare la mia Lakeland 100.

Questa volta l'avvicinamento è stato perfetto: niente cancellazioni di voli (ok, piccolo ritardo), viaggio verso il Lake District perfetto, una giornata tranquilla di acclimatamento ed il venerdì ci trasferiamo alla John Ruskin School e montiamo la nostra tenda nel campo assieme a tutti gli altri runners. Atmosfera fantastica, si fa due parole con gli altri (gli inglesi sono gentilissimi e scambiano tutti due parole quando passano), c'è un servizio mensa favoloso, bagni e tutte le comodità. Validissimo.

Stretching, mangio qualcosa, studio ancora un po'la cartina ed il roadbook ed è ora del briefing. La gara ha la fama di essere molto, molto selettiva, con una dropout rate altissima (circa 50%), tanto che ad un certo punto Marc l'organizzatore ci dice di girarci verso il nostro vicino e presentarci.
Dopo aggiunge "Uno di voi due non arriverà, sperate sia l'altro" scatenando le risate generali.

Relax pre partenza. Notare la spaziosissima tenda AKA "il loculo".

Pronto. Più o meno.
Sulla linea di partenza sono tranquillo ed incontro anche Matt con cui ci eravamo sentiti pre gara. Mi sneto bene, certo, fa caldo, stiamo beccando la heatwave di cui parlano giornali e TV, ma alla fine sono di Genova, ci sono abituato cavolo!

Sono sullo sfondo che parlo con Matt Wilson, in primo piano Simon Bourne
Photo by sportsunday.co.uk  
Partiamo ed un gruppo scatta avanti deciso. Alè. Non mi ammazzo, ma allo stesso tempo cerco di tenere un ritmo decoroso per  levarmi dal casino e cercare di muovermi.

Con Marco Consani alla mia sinistra. Ultima volta che l'ho visto. Che gara Marco!
Sto bene, in cima alla prima salita c'è ancheDrew che mi incita ed apprezza le mie Helios gialle (è lo stile italiano amico). Ian Corless sta fotografando (guardatevi le sue foto qui, ce n'è anche qualcuna mia!) e siccome sto seguendo un'altra coppia di runners non devo navigare niente (il grande dilemma di questa gara: non segnata, quindi roadbook e mappa e camminare, very British).
In discesa accellerano decisi, ma nei piani recupero. Dopo il primo CP però, rimango solo, è ora di navigare. Niente panico e tiro fuori il roadbook. Mi ci vuole un attimo per entrare nell'ottica ma ce la faccio.

1 mile race: il prossimo TK. Stile a palla
1 mile race. La più giovane partecipante: la figlia di Marc

Mi sembra di fare un po'troppa fatica per essere all'inizio di una gara così lunga, come se non fossi entrato al 100% nell'idea di dover stare in giro 24h e più. Però cerco di restare attaccato a due runners che mi hanno raggiunto in una parte paludosa e fangosa. Uno dei due in discesa parte deciso, l'altro, Chris, mi salva dal mio primo errore clamoroso di percorso. Corro con loro fino al secondo CP, poi devo mollarli perchè sulla salita corribile vanno semplicementre troppo forte per me che sto faticando a correre anche in discesa. Non bene. Qualcun'altro mi passa, Simon, poi ancora un altro, ma cerco di tenere ed alla fine usciamo da Wasdale insieme. Il sole finalmente sta tramontando ed io mi sento meglio. C'è salita e mi sta bene perchè posso rimettermi in sesto ed abbassare i ritmi. Ma più di tutto inizio a parlare con Simon e finalmente la smetto di pensare troppo alla mia corsa. La salita aBlack Sail Pass è dura, ma saliamo bene: è ora di mettere le frontali e via verso lo YHA e a risalire. Fa davvero un caldo assurdo, devo fermarmi ad un ruscello a bere e rinfrescarmi, ma il ritmo di Simon è perfetto e sa benissimo come navigare il percorso. E intanto che parliamo e ce la raccontiamo le miglia passano.

Poco dopo la partenza, questo è il Lake District. Photo by sportsunday.co.uk  
Lungo il lago finalmente anche la mia corsa migliora: fermata rapida al CP e poi via verso la parte che dovrebbe essere la più infida da navigare, ma Simon è sul pezzo e ce la caviamo senza troppi problemi. Salita lunga e continua in una splendida notte stellata, insolitamente calda, ma in cima a Sail Pass sto finalmente bene ed in discesa mi lascio andare per seguire due frontali davanti a me. Simon dovrebbe essermi subito dietro, ma ad un bivio le due luci davanti stanno a destra quando sono sicuro dovremmo andare a sinistra. Dubbio amletico, dovrebbero conoscere bene il percorso, cosa faccio? Dietro a me non vedo Simon. Non bene.
Alla fine torno indietro un pezzo e vedo una luce in fondo alla valle: ancora più confuso. Però la luce sta risalendo verso di me, potrebbe essere lui, aspettiamo e vediamo. Ed eccolo che dopo poco compare, si era sbagliato anche lui al bivio precedente, ma alla fine abbiamo perso 10 minuti e mi conferma che la strada giusta è quella a sx: direzione Braithwaite e via così.

Photo by sportsunday.co.uk  
Momento di euforia, al CP c'è un sacco di frutta (yummy, il miglior cibo possibile durante un ultra, prendete nota organizzatori), ma più di ogni altra cosa, appena uscito dal CP vedo il Cinghialone in terra britanicca. Lui e Brabara sono appena arrivati dall'Italia e c'è anche MC che finalmente rivedo dopo la partenza. Esaltazione mistica, l'accoppiata con Simon funziona (scopro che ha il settimo tempo DI SEMPRE nel Bob Graham Round, nobiltà pura e certificata), lo stomaco lavora ed entriamo in un tratto che mi è almeno familiare. Ci diamo dentro dopo Keswick, in salita e poi ancora meglio sul lungo tratto fino a Blencathra, dove vediamo che dietro di noi ci sono altri runner. E' comunque prestissimo per pensare realmente a gareggiare. Discesa, tratto sul sentiero che ripercorre la vecchia ferrovia e poi in territorio Bob Graham Round verso Clough Head. In cima vediamo due frontali, dovrebbe essere James Elson di Centurion Running che sta facendo un tentativo al Round! In qualche modo la cosa mi da la carica e sui cinque chilometri che portano verso Dockray corro deciso: la fatica inizia a farsi sentire, ma le prime luci dell'alba riempiono l'orizzonte.
Dopo il CP Chris Perry, che si è fatto una piccola deviazione involontaria, ci raggiunge ed io cerco di stargli alle costole almeno per un pezzo. Faccio un piccolo errore a Dacre ma il lungo pezzo su strade e sterrati alla fine passa. Non vedo l'ora di arrivare a Dalemain dove ho la mia sacca ad attendermi: ho bisogno di sedermi, ricompormi, cambiare calze, provare a mandare giù un recovery e rivedere la mia crew (anche se non può farmi assistenza). Sono veramente stanco e siamo solo a metà.


C'è Maria Carla, ed insieme a lei Massi e Barbara. Capisce che sono in un momento di low e così cerca di tirarmi su. Mi prendo un po'di tempo, bevo il recovery, qualche litro d'acqua, provo a mandare giù della zuppa e mi sistemo i piedi sfatti dal bagnato. Ahhh, va meglio. Arriva Simon e subito dietro un ragazzo che sembra in palla. Chiedo a Simon se è pronto ad uscire, ma mi dice di andare che ha bisogno di tempo e così esco lentamente dalla tenda e riparto camminando prima di riniziare a corricchiare lungo il fiume. La salita dopo Pooley Bridge sarebbe anche corribile ma ho bisogno di camminare e subito dopo la cima il ragazzo giovane mi passa al doppio della mia velocità. Sarà una lunga giornata.

Lacing up with Michael and Simon
In qualche modo ricomincio a correre meglio, aumento un pochino ed al CP di Howton arrivo mentre Chris e l'altro giovane sono ancora lì. Uscendo dal CP (e leggendo le mitiche frasi motivazionali che hanno affisso) inizio a pensare che devo raggiungere Mardale in uno stato semi-decente, e da lì dovrò solo tornare a casa (mai pensata fu più sbagliata). Raggiungo Chris e scambiamo due parole ma lui è distrutto dal sonno e ha bisogno di un break. C'è Ian Corless che sta scattando ma non riesco manco a fare finta di correre. Però cammino deciso fino in cima cercando di non rallentare troppo.
Il paesaggio è fantastico e dalla cima riesco a vedere la lunga traccia nell'erba che scende e qualcuno che sembra camminare mezzo miglio in lontananza. Rinfrancato riprendo ritmo e appena prima del lago passo un ragazzo che cammina. Ottimo per il morale, ma il lungo tratto a bordo lago tra felci di due metri e pietroni e caldissimo e non permette di prendere il fiato o trovare un ritmo continuo. Una volta raggiunto il CP gestito dai mitici Spartans mi siedo, bevo, mi rimetto in sesto e parto per la dura salita verso Gatesgarth.

Leaving Dalemain, quads gone
Pooley Bridge, trying to loosen the legs

Vedo qualcuno davanti, ma la lunga discesa pesa sui miei quadricipiti ed il fondo di sassi taglienti sta uccidendo i miei piedi. Arrivo in fondo, bevo di straforo una bottiglietta d'acqua che mi passa una simpatica coppia e riparto sul sentiero verso Kentmere. Ora sono davvero stanco e fa un caldo insensato: cerco di bagnarmi testa e polsi ad ogni ruscello e pozza di fango, ma è dura. Finalmente raggiungo Kentmere dove, sorpresa sorpresa, vedo il giovane fermo a mangiarsi una pasta. Sembra decisamente accaldato e nella salita seguente lo raggiungo, guadagnando terreno nella discesa seguente dove sembra abbia qualche problema alle gambe. Dovrei essere in quarta posizione, non male, ma sono così stanco che non riesco manco a gioirne. Inizio a pensare ad Ambleside, dove finalmente rivedrò MC, Massi e Barbara, penso che la parte seguente bene o male la conosco, che avvicinandomi alla fine prenderò coraggio... ma il sole picchia duro e dietro a me Michael, il ragazzo, non sta mollando per niente. Anzi. E così provo ad accellerare in discesa fino a vedere finalmente MC in mezzo ad Ambleside popolata di turisti.

Uscendo da  Ambleside, con MC
Acqua, litri di acqua, pure addosso, e via. Sto di cacca, ma tengo duro fino a Skelwith Bridge, corro bene il lungo tratto fino a Chapel Stile senza fermarmi un secondo. At Elterwater MC mi dice di correre deciso che Michael sta guadagnando ma sono alla fine delle forze. Comunque continuo a correre.

CP a Chapelstile, la cola è calda e l'acqua anche, ma ho bisogno di sedermi per 10 secondi ed ecco che arriva Michael che pare abbia corso deciso. Oh no, non voglio duellare così in fondo ad una cento, con le gambe andate ed il cervello fritto. Il tratto fino a Side Pije Pass è il peggiore:: sono fottuto ed il sentiero è pessimo, non riesco a trovare un ritmo e ad un certo punto penso che se mi prende pazienza, non ho niente di più da dare e  devo solo pensare a finire questa bestia di gara. Ma una volta arrivato al check prima di Fell Foot Farm, lo vedo appena dietro e qualcosa scatta, riesco a trovare ancora un briciolo di energia e corro deciso la discesa e seguente salita. Finalmente sto per arrivare all'ultimo CP, Tilberwhite: è quasi fatta ma non posso godermi in pace la frutta del CP perchè Michael sta arrivando
Ok, vediamo di finire. Salita brutale e poi il sentiero si apre su un altopiano: cerco di darci dentro e ad un certo punto vedo anche il terzo che sta per scollinare verso l'arrivo.Mai più che ti prendo.
Vorrei rilassarmi e godermi la fine, ma Michael appare dietro e corre. Forte.

Nice photo by Thomas Loehndorf
E' ora di tirare fuori l'ultimo briciolo di energia, quello che manco io ricordavo di avere. Inizio la discesa verso Coniston e mi abbandono, dimenticando le gambe in fiamme ed una volta raggiunto l'asfalto sono così gasato che non smetto di accellerare. Passa il pub, passa il ponte, passa la stazione di servizio e finalmente ecco ricomparire la John Ruskin School. Maria Carla corre con me e finalmente la linea d'arrivo: 23:38:00. Cento miglia in un giorno.

Una delle mie foto preferite di sempre: gioia e distruzione, la fine di una cento. By MC
Sono finito, letteralmente finito, come non ero mai stato prima. Ma questo è un arrivo di cui sono davvero fiero, ho corso sul filo del rasoio per quasi 20 ore, e questa volta più di ogni altra, sapevo che se girava storto qualcosa, sarebbe stato DNF e tutti a casa.
Mi sdraio finalmente sull'erba e non riesco a smettere di ridere. E' la sensazione migliore che ci sia e mi godo ogni singolo secondo. Arriva Michael (25 anni e alla prima 100 portata a casa con l'esperienza di un veterano. Da tenere d'occhio.). Poi arriva Chris, che è riuscito a raddrizzare la gara. Mi faccio la doccia, mangio ed anche Simon finisce. Poi dritti in tenda che sto crollando.

Domenica mattina striscio fuori dalla tenda e finalmente lo stomaco è a posto: è tempo di breakfast, panino gigante, tea e tifo per chi arriva. Alla fine anche il mio vicino di tenda Andrew la porta a casa con 10 minuti rimasti sull'orologio e le peggiori vesciche mai viste.
E' tempo delle premiazioni con Drew, Claire ed il resto dei Centurion. Marc, l'organizzatore, è un cabarettista, fa morire dal ridere con le sue storie... e si, mi girano che sono arrivato ad un posto dal vincere una Petzl NAO, ma la vita è così e Marco, Charlie e Lee erano su un altro pianeta oggi.

E'tempo di andarsene, ma non prima di bermi una pinta di real ale allo Ship Inn, non distante dalla scuola (a dire la verita incredibilmente distante per il passo malfermo che sfoggio). Era una Coniston Bluebitter? O una Jennings? Non ricordo, ma comunque ottima: sono a godermi il sole con la mia crew/compagna di allenamento/infermiera/compagna Maria Carla, una nuova 100 in tasca e una marea di ricordi da portare a casa. L'estate e magica e la prossima pinta è lì dietro al bancone...

Recovering in the Highlands
Ho incontrato così tanta gente simpatica nei quattro giorni passati a Coniston che mi dispiace per tutti quelli che dimenticherò di mettere qui, comunque: prima di tuttoil più grande grazie va ai volontari. Sono stati incredibili, nel permettere a tutti di correre questa gara e nel supportarci moralmente. Sono loro che fanno questa gara speciale.
A Riccardo, e Montane per il supporto. Ai miei sponsor: Ale e Luca de La Sportiva, Andrea di Biovita/Powerbar e a Luigi e Zero Running Company. A ian Corless (e Niandi) per la chiaccherata e le foto (ebbene si, ci sono ascoltatori italiani di TalkUltra). Ai ragazzi del Centurion Team (James, Drew, Paul, Claire), è stato grande rivedervi, e per James: the third is a charm. Ai vicini di campeggio per le chiacchere e le risate. I ragazzi turchi di Iznik: ben fatto ragazzi. A Michael jones e Chris Perry, giovani runners con un grande futuro davanti. Più di tutto a Simon Bourne, è stato un grandissimo piacere condividere molte miglia ed altrettante storie, uno dei runners più umili che ho avuto il piacere di incontrare... Ma che runner! Tornerò un giorno per il BG.
A Massi e Barbara, non potete neanche immaginare cosa significa vedere facce amiche nei momenti difficili: sono contento che vi siate innamorati anche voi del Lake District.
Infine, alla ragazza che non solo riesce a convivere con la mia dipendenza da corsa, ma mi incoraggia continuamentea correre più forte e dare il 110% ogni volta. Sei unica, e ho detto tutto.

Cona la mia crew, finalmente all'arrivo pulito e docciato. Photo by Thomas Loehndorf


Dopo mille ripensamenti, ho corso con le La Sportiva Helios, e si sono comportate alla grande. Ci sono stati alcuni momenti in cui avrei forse voluto un po'più di protezione la sotto, forse un rockplate, ma il comfort è eccezionale, ed in una gara così lunga vuol davvero dire tanto. Le Bushido sarebbero state perfette per suola ed ammortizzazione, ma forse anche un po'troppo precise nel tallone.

Avevo la mia t-shirt Zero Running Company fino a Dalemain, dove l'ho cambiata per lo smanicato: entrambe fantastiche in una giornata calda ed umida, sicuramente un grande test per la nuova collezione che uscirà in primavera. Nessuna irritazione, manco con lo zaino, si asciugano in fretta e sono stilose: devo aggiungere altro?

Le mie La Sportiav: grazie per aver mantenuto i miei piedi quasi intatti
Ho usato le calze Injinji nella prima metà, e sono state ottime. Ma quando ho infilato le Drymax, mammamia che meraviglia: mi hanno salvato fino alla fine. Credo che una bella spalmata di pasta di zinco Mustela aiuti comunque, specie se sai che terrai i piedi umidi per ore.

Avevo uno zaino a vest della The North Face che mi è stato dato in test e che avevo provato solo una volta per 30 chilometri (èh si, molto intelligente lo so): alla fine si è dimostrato quasi perfetto, della giusta misura e abbastanza confortevole da non diventare fastidioso. Ho usato delle soft flask per portarmi dietro un litro d'acqua, che in se stesso non era abbastanza, ma ho bevuto da tutti i torrenti e ruscelli marci sul percorso senza contrarre (per adesso) nessuna malattia.

Avevo l'incredibile smock Minimus della Montane e pantaloni impermeabili coordinati: entrambi fantastici, ho poi avuto modo di apprezzarli la settimana dopo in Scozia.

Cibo: solita dieta di gel Powerbar, a parte le due ore prima di Dalemain dove sono passato alle caramelline Powerblast. Avevo un recovery al cioccolato di Powerbar a Dalemain che mi ha aiutato a rimettere un po'di pepe nelle gambe. Ho bevuto qualche milione di litri d'acqua ed un po'di coca (che però era sgasata, orrore!) e la solita frutta dovunque la trovavo: fragole, albicocche, mandarini, anguria. Fantastico, il cibo assoluto durante le ultra.
Dopo la gara, avrei dovuto bere i miei recovery... ma la mensa alla John Ruskin School era troppo buona e mi sono riempito di jacket potatoes e sheperd's pie. Siete i migliori, le Fairy Lillies spaccano.
Il pinnacolo della mia strategia di recovery è stata la cena di domenica con MC, Massi e Barbara al Britannia Inn di Elterwater: steak and ale pie e svariate pinte di bitter. Ce la siamo anche cavata nella quiz night, se non fosse stato per qualche starlette della TV britannica saremmo forse saliti sul podio.
E'uno dei migliori pub della zona, non perdetevelo se siete nel Lake District.

Come? Non ci siete mai stati? Probabilmente vivete in un altro emisfero o continente! Se ti piaciono le montagne, la corsa e la cultura ad esse legata, non c'è niente da dire, bisogna andarci. A presto Lakes...

Tuesday, August 12

Lakeland 100 report (in English) 25/07/2014

This time few words in English are due, I apologise in advance to the poor souls who will have to go through my itanglish pidgin.

I'll start from the end: yes, I finished it, and in a quite remarkable way, placing fourth in 23:38. But it was a long day out in the Lakes.

I expected the race to be hard, I had quite an idea of what Lakes trails had in, but no, I didn't imagine the course and terrain could serve me such a beating. But 100 miles (plus) is a long way to go.

Relaxing pre start. Note the roomy tent AKA "the recess".

Ready to go
At the start line I was relaxed, ready and meeting Matt and having time for a quick chat even improved my already happy mood. Yeah, it was sunny and hot, but hey, I'm from Genoa goddam, I'm accustomed to it!

I'm in the background talking with Matt Wilson, Simon in the center
Photo by sportsunday.co.uk  
Off we go, and a pack immediately takes off really fast. Phew. I'm not bolting out, but at the same time I try to find a decent pace in order to get things going.

With Marco Consani on left. Last time I've seen the lad. Well done Marco!

And I feel good, there's even Drew cheering me and my yellow Helios (it's the Italian flair mate :-)), Ian Corless is shooting (check out his wonderful photos here)  and since I'm following two guys, I don't have to navigate anything (which was my biggest fear pre race). On the downhill they charge, on the flats I comeback, but out of CP1, I'm on my own. Right, no panic,  roadbook out. It takes me few turn to get accustomed to it, but I get it done.

1 mile race: the next TK. Cool as fuck.
1 mile race. Younger competitor: Marc's daughter

Feels like I'm struggling a little bit too much for being that early, it's almost like I'm not 100% in the race, but I try to hang on to two guys on the boggy part. One of the two bolts ahead in the downhill, the other, Chris saves me from my first big mistake. We go further, and we form a group of three until the second CP when I let them go because on the runnable uphill I simply cannot keep their pace. Not good. Downhill, one guy, Simon, pass me and another one too close to the lake, but in the end we all come out of Wasdale together.
The sun is coming down and I finally start to feel better, there's some climb and I can regroup, but most of all I start chatting with Simon and I stop commiserating myself. The climb to Black Sail Pass is hard, but at this point it suits me fine: headlamps on and off we go towards the YHA and on the climb again. It's really hot and we have to stop at a beck to drink water and referesh, but Simon pace is perfect and he knows how to navigate. Most of all, his company is great and we get along.

Early on, beautiful shot. Photo by sportsunday.co.uk  
Along the lake I finally start to get my running back: quick stop at the CP and back on track. This section should be the worst to navigate, but Simon is on it and we get it right without much trouble. The climb is long in the hot night but at Sail Pass I feel good and let myself loose on the descent trying to follow two lights ahead of me. Simon should be right behind me, but at a fork the two guys ahead veer towards right when I'm pretty sure we shall be going left. Mmmmh, what shall I do. I look behind and I don't see Simon. Not good. I finally catch a light at the bottom of the valley, climbing up... Shall be him, better wait. And there he comes, he also missed a previous fork, but in the end we both just lost 10 mins and are finally on our way to Braithwaite.
Photo by sportsunday.co.uk  
I feel good, at the CP there's loads of fruit (yummy, best ultrafood you can find in races, take note organizers) but most of all, when we come out I see my friend Massi who just arrived from Italy with Barbara and my girlfriend MC. I'm totally amped now, the duo with Simon is working, stomach is ok and we enter a part that I'm at least familiar with. We climb well and run even better to Blencathra, where we can see we have few followers, but it's still very early in the race to really start racing. Down to the Old Railway and then back up on BG terrain. Climbing towards Clough Head we see two headlamps on top: it has to be James Elson and crew going for the Round! Somehow I get a kick out of it and when we get to the track, it's 6k of pure running in the first lights to Dockray. Fatigue is setting in, but my running is still ok.
Right after Dockray Chris Perry, who had a detour earlier on catches up and I try to hang on a bit. I make a small mistake before Dacre but the long stretch of flat goes by. I can't wait for CP: I need to regroup, change socks, get some recovery drink and see my friends for some much needed support because I'm really tired and we're just halfway.


Maria Carla is there, she sense I'm in a low patch and tries to cheer me up. I take some time to organise the pack, take few gels, drink some water, and in the meantime Simon comes in and immediately after a young guy who looks good. I ask Simon if he's ready but he tells me to go and I slowly walk out of the CP before starting to shuffle on the good trail along the river. The climb after Pooley Bridge is runnable, but I need to walk a little bit and on the track right after the top the young guy pass me at a smoking pace. Shit, it's gonna be a long day.

Lacing up with Michael and Simon
But somehow I start running better, and I increase the pace. At the CP in Howtown I arrive while Chris and the young guy are still there. Coming out of the CP (and reading all the quotes) I start to think that I need to reach Mardale in a decent state, after that it's just coming back home (oh, how wrong). I team with Chris on the climb, but he's sleepy and needs a break. Ian Corless is shooting and I hike to the top trying to not slow too much. The scene is beautiful and I can see the long track going down with someone walking half a mile ahead. I slowly get some rythm and right before the Lake I pass a guy who is walking. Good for morale, but the incredibly long, rocky, hot trail to Mardale is getting the best of me. Once I finally reach the CP with the super cool Spartans, I sit down, drink, regroup and head out for the hard climb to Gatesgarth.

Leaving Dalemain, quads gone
Pooley Bridge, trying to loosen the legs

I see someone ahead, but the long descent it's heavy to my quads and the loose rocky bottom is killing my feet. I reach the bottom and start the footpath to Kentmere. Now I'm really tired, and it's hot: I try to stay wet at every beck or mudpool, but it's hard. I finally reach Kentmere where, to my surprise, I see the young guy still in eating some pasta. He looks very hot and I reach him in the following climb, gaining some ground on the descent where it seems he has some quad problems. Mmmh I should be in 4th place, not bad at all, but I'm so tired I'm not really dwelling on it. I start thinking that when I will get to Ambleside MC and the other friends will be there, that the following part I know quite well, that I will get a boost from getting close to the finish... But the sun is scorching and right behind me I still have Michael, the young guy, catching up. On the tarmac descent I pound as much as I can before finally seeing MC.

Leaving Amblside, with MC
Water, loads of water and off again. I feel like shit, but press on to Skelwith Bridge and in the long stretch to Chapel Stile I run as fast as I can without pausing for a second. MC at Elterwater tells me to run harder because Michael is also running but I'm spent. Nonetheless I keep going.

CP at Chapelstile, the coke is hot, the water too, but I need to sit for 10 secs and here comes Michael who has been running hard too. Oh no, I don't want to race that late in a hundo with dead legs and fried brain. The patch from Chapelstile to Side Pike Pass is the worst: I'm done and the trail is terrible, I can't find a rythm and a certain point I just think “Fuck off, if he's catching me up I don't have anything left anymore and that's it, let's just finish this beast”. But once I get to the check before Fell Foot Farm, and I see him right behind, something comes up and I try to run hard the descent and the following climb. I'm finally approaching Tilberthwaite, last CP, it's almost done, but I cannot enjoy the fruits from the table because Michael is coming. Ok, let's get it done. Hard climb and then the trail opens up: I run my best and I see ahead third place runner ready to start the final descent. I'd love to realx and get to the finish slowly, but the guy appears again behind me, and he's still running. Fast.

Nice photo by Thomas Loehndorf
It's time to gather the last drop of energy available: I start the final descent with reckless abandon, forgetting about screaming quads, and once I get to tarmac I'm so amped that I don't stop running hard. The pub, the bridge, BP gas station and finally I'm back, John Ruskin School is now in sight! Maria Carla joins me and finally the finish line: 23:38:00 one hundred miles in one day.
One of my favourite photo ever: exhaustion and happiness at the end of a hundo. By MC
I'm done. Really done, like I've never been before. But this is a finish I'm really proud of, I've been running on the edge for almost 20 hours and this time I was really aware that DNF could have been right behind the corner. I sit down and then finally lay on the grass: I cannot stop smiling and laughing. It's the best feeling in the world and I'm savouring each second. Michael arrives (the guy's 25 and it was his first 100... look for him in the next few years). Then comes Chris, who came back from the low patch. I shower, eat and wait for Simon to finish, then straight to bed because I need some sleep.

Yeah, sleepy.
Sunday morning I crawl out of the tent and finally my stomach opens up: it's time for a breakfast butty, some tea and a lot of cheering for the finishers coming in. I'm really happy to see my tent neighbour (Andrew?) cross the line with ten minutes to spare and the worst blisters I've ever seen, and off to the presentation with Drew, Claire and the Centurion crew. Great stuff and several funny stories... And yes, I'm pissed off I came one position short of getting a brand new Petzl Nao, but such is life and congrats to Marco, Charlie and Lee, they were in a different class.

It's time to leave, but not before savouring the first legit pint of real ale at the Ship Inn, not far from the school (actually really far in the wobbling state I was). Was it Coniston Bluebird Bitter? Or a Jennings? Anyhow, great stuff: out in the sun, with my crew/training partner/nurse/lover Maria Carla, a new 100 mile finish under the belt, and plenty of memories to carry over. Summer is magic and next pint is behind the corner...

Recovering in the Highlands
I've met so many nice guys/gals in the four days spent in Coniston that I feel sorry for all the people I will forget to put here, but nonetheless: first of all, the biggest thank you goes out to all the marshalls and volunteers. They have been terrific, in making this possible and in supporting us poor souls. You make this event special. To Riccardo, and Montane, for the support. To my sponsors: Ale e Luca from La Sportiva, Andrea from Powerbar and most of all to Luigi and Zero Running Company! To Ian Corless (and Niandi) for the chat and photos (yes, there are Italian listeners to Talkultra). To the Centurion guys (James, Paul, Drew and Claire), it was great to catch up with you, and for James: the third is a charm. To all the neighbours in the campsite for chat and laughs. The turkish guys from Iznik: well done friends! To Michael Jones and Chris Perry: young lads with a bright future ahead. Most of all to Simon Bourne, it was an absolute pleasure to share many miles and few stories: one of the most humble lads I've had the pleasure to run with, but what a runner... I'll be back for BG one day!
To Massi and Barbara, you can't imagine what does it means to see friendly faces accross the course: I'm happy you fell in love with Lake District too.
Last, but not least the girl who not only puts up with me and my running addiction, but encourages me to run harder and makes me give 110% each time. You rock, and that's it.

With my crew at the finish line. Photo by Thomas Loehndorf


After many doubts I decided to go for my La Sportiva Helios, and they were great. There's been few times in the second part when I would have loved some more protection under the sole, maybe a rockplate, but the comfort of the top is just perfect. And in a long race, it means a lot. The Bushido would have been perfect for the sole, but probably a little bit tight in the heel.

I had my Zero Running short sleeves top 'til Dalemain, where I changed it for the vest: they were both great in the hot and humid weather, definitely a great test for the new collection that will come out next spring. No chafing, quick drying and stylish: need more?

My battered La Sportiva, thanks for keeping my feet (almost) healthy
I used Injinji socks in the first half, and they were good, but when I slipped the Drymax on, jeez they were the dope and saved my battered feet until the finish line. I still think a healthy dose of Mustela paste it helps, specially when you expect to have wet feet for hours.

I used a The North Face vest I was given to test which I've only worn once in a 20 miles run (yes, really clever): it ended up being almost perfect, right size and comfortable enough. I used the soft flask for carrying a liter of water with me that wasn't enough in itself, but thanks to many becks I never really struggled with hydration.

I had the incredible Montane Minimus Smock and Trousers as waterproof: both outstanding items. I had time to appreciate them in Scotland the week after the race, good good stuff.

Food: usual diet of Powerbar gels, apart from two hours before Daleman when I switched to Powerblast shots. I had a Powerbar Recovery drink at Dalemain which helped to give some peep back to my legs. From CP I drank few gallons of water, some Coke (but deflated... no way, I like my coke with plenty of gas!) and fruit whenever was available: strawberries, apricots, mandarines, watermelon. It's the good stuff for me.
After the race I should have been drinking my recovery... but the canteen at the John Ruskin School was too good and I stuffed myself of jacket potatoes and sheperd pie. You are the best guys, power to the Fairy Lillies.
The pinnacle of my recovery strategy was sunday dinner with MC, Massi and Barbara at the Britannia Pub in Elterwater, steak and ale with several pints of bitter: we even scored well in the quiz night, if it wasn't for all the TV starlettes we Italians never heard of we might have ended on podium.
It's one of the best pubs in the Lake District, don't miss it if you're in the area.

What? You've never been to the Lakes? You're probably living in the other hemisphere or in a different continent then: if you're into mountains, running and the culture related to both, it's a no brainer, you have to experience the place. See you soon...