My plan for the last race of the year could have swung one of two ways, either defend my title at the Spartan Race Trifecta World Championships and then head to the Spartan Ultra World Championships to try for the impossible million or I could once again don a GB vest and head to Patagonia for the Mountain Running World Championships. One option would present the opportunity to make some money whereas the other was likely to cost some. One would be a repeat of the year before and the other would be a new challenge I hadn’t previously tried.
I chose the Mountain Running World Championships.
My performance in the Trail Running World Championships had earned me a spot on the ‘long distance’ team, which would cover 42km with 2200m of climb. So a similar distance and climb to the Trail Worlds but the course differed in the profile, with two big climbs as opposed to mainly undulating throughout.
Having not done a WMRA mountain race before I was surprised to hear this was one of the more mountainous courses the other athletes had seen. The first ‘mountain’ never reached a peak and didn’t leave the trees with the second being on a ski resort, which dampened the wild feeling usually experienced in the mountains. I tried not to be too pessimistic on my recce runs though. It was still going to be a great experience with some fun mountain biking trails, I just think I am a bit spoilt when it comes to mountain races after the skyrunning season.
I didn’t have much expectation for the race. Being so late in the year it wasn’t really possible for me to train specifically for this challenge. After Limone I needed a weeks rest before a weeks training and then the travel to Patagonia. I still felt like I had solid form though, I didn’t feel like I was an unlit firework ready to go but I wasn’t injured and was enjoying running, so I knew anything could happen.
The race started and as expected the first climb winded me. Climbing is definitely my weakness, especially early in the race, where it is easy for me both get dropped and push too hard ruining power for the rest of the race.
Reaching the top I was back in tenth but it didn’t take more than half the descent to get back into the chasing group behind Jim Walmsley and Puppi Francesco who had gone off hard together. The course was now undulating for 20km before the second and final big climb.
Not feeling especially powerful I simply worked hard to hang onto the group of two Americans and my 2019 arch nemesis Oriol from Spain. He had toilet issues which meant I led the group a few times but I certainly didn’t do my fair share of work.
Hitting the big climb the group split. It was now clear that the leading two hadn’t blown up, so we were playing for third. It was also clear that like every other race this year Oriol was a better climber than me. Reaching the top I was just under a minute back but after some backwards and forwards had dropped the two Americans.
1000m of down from here would take us back down and onto the finish where I held my position for 4th.
A solid run but not the fireworks required to win a race like this, I simply ran well and therefore feel I deserve 4th. The previous two times I have donned a GB vest I felt a great sense of duty and an extra buzz to the race, whereas this one simply felt like I was running around like normal. Maybe it was too long of a season or maybe I just didn’t have the right mindset but whatever the case it’s now time for the winter training period, with little racing and much time to work on everything required to do better in the future.