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Race report - Richard Avery Scenic Trail K113

Brendon Martin a ambassador Chasingvert Richard Avery

So you've just had the biggest 2 weeks of training in your running 'career', now what do you do? Sign up for probably the toughest race you've ever done of course!

 

Well, at least that's what I did.

I saw the Scenic Trail K113 on the European racing calendar. It looked amazing! Big mountains, one big loop (so no repeated trail), part of the Migual World Series, so there was bound to be some top runners there.

And it was all of those things..... and then some.

I spent most of Friday running around Lugano and Tasserete getting organised for the race. There is a pretty big mandatory gear list, so I had to buy a few thing I didn't bring from home. I think I probably would have run about 20km that day; definitely not the ideal race prep. Still, I was looking forward to the challenge, the scenery and the training benefits.

Roberto and Gabrielle (the hosts of the B&B), had invited me to have dinner with them. I figured, why not?  I would have loved to try and get some sleep, but knew that it would be unlikely.

Also, with the midnight start, I wanted to get out there pretty early as I had read the busses stop running at 9:30pm.

Dinner was great. One of their friends had come over and was interested in my running. Roberto offered to give me a ride out to Tasserete where the race starts, and as none of them had seen or heard of an event like this before, they all wanted to come.

What I found out over dinner was funny though. Roberto googles every guest that comes to stay. He'd read up all about my 24hr race last year and thought I was a pretty big deal. I assured him that Italian runners would beat me in this race as I was doing it for training (I could tell he was a very passionate and loyal Italian by some of the things he had said), and this went down very well. I think thats actually the reason why he offered to give me a ride.

The 3 of them wanted to get a photo with me when we got there.

There weren't too many people around to start with, but by 11pm or so, it was bussing.

Over the 4 different race distances, there were 1,200 competitors. Other than a couple of fun runs, thats the biggest event I've been part of. At the time of writing, I still haven't seen the results, but have heard that 200 starters in the K113, and a DNF rate close to 50%, meaning around 100 crossed the finish line.

The race gets underway and I'm much more comfortable than last week. I'm much better suited to longer races, as I don't have the high speed gears like the top marathon runners do.

The live band paused for a 10 second count down for the start, then were back into it again. People filled both sides of the street for at least a couple of hundred meters.

A few little loops and zig zags around town and we slowly start marking our way up the first climb. It's still a road, but one for those European roads that's barely wide enough for 1 car, but somehow 2 cars, a truck, and old lady pulling a cart and some dogs fit down.

Around 1km into the climb I can hear this weird noise. It's a bit like a 13yr old learning to play the trumpet for the first time, but having lots of issues.

The noise gets louder, and clearer, and I eventually see that it's 3 people playing those big Swiss horns {insert correct name here}. The sound isn't as bad as I first thought it was, but its not exactly 'eye of the tiger' kind of pump me up music.

Around half way up the climb I take a wrong turn. The options were 'run through this persons backyard or this persons backyard', and I couldn't see any flagging. I took the wrong backyard, but realised my mistake after 30 seconds or so when I could hear other runners making there way through the other backyard.

All good. I carry on and am really enjoying the climb. It's no where near as steep as Berga the weekend before. Much more my kind of running.

The top of this first climb is nice and flat, and a chance to open up my stride a bit. As much as I enjoy climbing, I really enjoy moving at a half decent pace.

Then back down the other side. What I forget every time about running here, is that the hills are big. So that means the descents aren't just a 10min downhill section. They are a good slog, and it's quiet easy to do damage to your quads if you're not careful.

Into the next climb, and I do a bit of a stock take on myself. We're not that far away from the first aid station at the 20km mark, so I like to decide what I am going to do at the aid station before getting there. I'm feeling great. And coming up to the 3hr mark, so I might have missed the "2 to 3hr low" that I have been having lately.

The track flattens off for a couple of k, and I know at the end of this is the aid station, then a 1,000m climb. I had passed a couple of guys on the flatter section, and saw no sign of anyone in front of me again. The course goes into a little village on the side of this hill, but I miss the flagging to turn left, down to the aid station. I carry on, but am looking for some flagging. Then suddenly see some flagging as the road hooks around to the right and steeply uphill. "Cool, I'm on track" I think to myself. Then I see a guy coming from my left as I'm about to take this right hand turn onto the road. I try and talk to him to ask about the course, the aid station, where I went wrong etc. but he can't speak a word of English. He waves me up the hill. Then a guy I had recently passed catches me while I was trying to talk to this other bloke. He's from Denmark, but has great English. He doesn't seem to think that there is anything wrong and is sure we should continue.

I know something is wrong here, but carry on anyway. We climb away on this steep road for a bit, then turn onto single track, where it becomes even steeper. I say to the Danish bloke "nah mate, this differently isn't right. Look at the elevation profile (which is on our bibs). We should have gone through an aid station before any sort of climb like this. I've clocked over 150m of gain I reckon since we first spoke".

"Oh yeah" he replies. "I think you might be right".

We slowly turn around, and then see a couple of runners and ask them. Sure enough, we had missed the aid station in the little village. Man I'm pissed off at myself. Partly for missing the turn, but mostly for not turning around earlier.

We run back down the hill, seeing at least 30 or so runners along the way. Most of them say something along the lines of "you are going the wrong way". "No shit" I felt like saying, but manged to stay polite.

Although this is another training run, I had read on the website that there are prizes for the top 10 finishers. This is much more my sort of race compared to the shorter stuff, so figure that I could have a chance at one of those spots if I have a good day.

Looking around at the effort and dollars that had going into everything at the start, I thought there could be every chance they are talking about a few dollar, well, franks at least, in regard to these 'prizes'. This could come in very handy for my trip.

I now no any hope of a top ten finish is gone.

Back out of the aid station and into the familiar climb, I'm still really pissed off at myself. I start to notice my sciatica starting to bite away. This is a chronic issue I've had since October 2015, but I've learnt to manage it. It doesn't like it when I run fast down hill, and that's exactly what I had just done in frustration.

So I watch the 3hr mark roll over, and once again I'm in a really bad place mentally. "should I pull out now? This race is doing more harm than good anyway. Should I even be running worlds with my sciatica like this?" I can't get the negative thoughts out of my head for at least an hour of that climb.

It's actually 2 climbs, totalling 1,400m elv I think. The first 1,000m to a peak, then down 300m, then back up 400m to a second peak.

By the end of that second climb I was starting to get my head under control. And it was just starting to get light.

I had (surprise surprise) began moving a lot quicker as my attitude improved, and had caught a few guys in front. It was single track, so no room to pass. About 5 of us summited that peak together, and I was going to head straight back down the other side and try and make some room for myself to travel at my pace. I stopped for a quick look around at the summit however, and those plans quickly changed.

Perfect timing. There was just enough light to make out the mountains. I thought the Pyrenees were big. They are nothing compared to what the Swiss have to offer. You can't really see it in these pics, but it's a pretty special sight.

Back to more descent, then back up another peak with a ski field on it.

The descent down the other side is a bigin', maybe over 1,000m of vert. I get smashed by to runners flying down, only to overtake them in the first 5mins of the next climb. I just can't believe how fast some of these guys run downhill!

So by now we are somewhere around the 35km mark. The next 30 or so k go by really nicely. I'm in a much better place mentally, and am enjoying what the course has to offer. Many on the hills are runnable, so I'm loving that, and enjoying over taking a few too.

I see a guy with a tattoo of Australia on his calf. "Cool, I haven't meet an Aussie while over here yet", I think to myself. So straight away I say "hey mate, are you from Australia?"

I'm blown away when a really strong Russian ascent replies. He doesn't have the best English, but we chat away for a good 10mins. Turns out he walked from Darwin to Adelaide a couple of years ago, a bit over 3,000km. He tells me "the desert is very strong. 32hrs with no vater. Never again. And never again tatoo. I don't like Australia now (followed by a very Russian laugh)".

The aid station around the 45km mark was funny. It's fairly high up, maybe 1,500m above sea level. But they had set it up just under a bit of roof from a goat milking shed. I reckon I came at the perfect time. The farmer was just getting his goats in and they saw the food and drinks. They went flying through the aid station and caused a he'll of a mess, as goats do.

The farmer is a very stereotypical swiss farmer. White beard with overalls, with a 3 legged wooden stool in one hand. But the goats run ruined that and he's yelling at them. I feel bad for the bloke, but he seems to feel bad for knocking over some of the barrels of drinks and soups.

Just before the 57km aid station there is another swiss horn player (see just behind the car).

By this stage I'm very much on my own. I've found my pace nicely and going really well. I passed a few guys at the aid station as I think they were pulling out of the race.

The next 20km has over 2,500m of climbing in it. It starts off fairly low where there is some silage making on the side of a hill. Looks to me like dad doing the physical work while the 2 son's drive the tractors.

Then the final section of that climb is back in the alpine environment. Exposed to the hot sun. Apparently it's 32deg, and having it's effect on everyone.

I pass a heap of people during this climb to the highest point on the course (2,250m), and ask them if they are ok and have enough water. I've noticed in these two races over here, that no one seems to look out for other runners like we do in Aus races. Everyone is ok, but i think you should always ask, especially when we've got best part of 80km and 6,000m elv in our legs and it's 32degs.

I meet a pommy bloke and we chat away for an hour or so, but part ways at the next aid station.

My watch dies and once again I'm alone. Even though it's a net downhill to the finish, it's still a brutal course. I didn't take any pics down here as I was having to work a fair bit harder. Some sections I needed to turn around and down climb it's so steep. But the uphills are not quite so bad.

I catch up to a guy I had seen occasionally through the trees. I try to talk to him but he can't understand me. He's Italian, well speaking at least, he could well be Swiss. And over the course of the next couple of hours I experience something I've never really experienced before. Neither of us could understand a word each other were saying, so once we figured that out neither of us talked. We just ran. We were both hurting, but we're being energised by the support of each other. I would lead on the flats and uphill, then he'd lead the way on the downs. There was no talk, no plan as to how we were going to get this thing done, we just did it.

I often talk about running in a kind of romantic way. Each runner has their trails that they hold dare. Every time they run those trails they are often reminded about what their thoughts were last time they were at this particular point. What they were feeling, thinking, tasting, smelling maybe; but the result is the runner develops a relationship with the trail that is meaningful to them, and only them in that way.

And I've run with people, particularly late in a race. Where talking and encouraging each other really helps get the two or more of you to the finish line.

But I've never done this without talking. Any talk. Occasionally one of us would wave the other one past, but mostly we seemed to know what each other was doing and how they were feeling. I could tell, particularly on the up hills, that he was working really hard. But I was struggling to keep up with him on the down hills.

I don't know anything about this bloke, nor does he know anything about me, but for those couple of hours we had a pretty strong connection that I'm sure helped both of us to the finish line that day, and will remain pretty special to each of us.

Just before the aid station at the 100km mark on a downhill where I'm struggling to keep up, I start to notice my stomach having some minor cramps. For me that's a big warning flag to say ease up, you're pretty dehydrated.

So when we got to the aid station I stopped for the longest I've ever stopped at an aid station in a race. I waved goodbye to my mate as I sat and drank heaps of soup and coffee, and probably ate an entire watermelon too.

30 or maybe 40mins later I head off, up the final climb. I'm amazed that no one passed me in that time. It just goes to show how well we covered that last 20km compared to the rest of the field.

The last climb was a bastard, particularly with a couple of litres of soup and coffee in my belly. Then once at the top it's not all over. There is still 1,200m of descent over the final 10km, and of that a couple of k is flat, so the down hills aren't exactly easy running.

I'm really happy with my mental state. My legs don't really want to get moving after such a big day and then sitting around for so long, but I'm happy. What ever happens happens.

Crossing the finish line around the 21hr mark (haven't seen anything official at the time of writing), and before it gets dark, I'm happy. I get talking to a few people who I hadn't met before, and they tell me the winner was around 16hrs, so that makes me feel even better. I have dinner, but am stuffed, and really want to get home and have a shower. By this time it's around 10pm, and I haven't had a wink of sleep since around 7am the day before.

I walk to the bus station, only to find the buses have stopped for the night. I spend a few minutes trying to phone a taxi, but don't have any luck. So, walk back to the B&B.

My body feels great, but mentally I've had to work pretty hard over the last day. The shower is great, and I collapse into bed craving sleep. But the dehydration still lingered, and a foot cramp keeps me wake for a couple of hours. It's been a bloody big day!

On Sunday, I walk down to Lugano, do some stretching in the park, and even doze off for a bit I think.



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