Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Speed Metal Racing - The Cortina Trail

Running loose and low right now between work, family and races, but thought I’d share a super race experience I just had in Cortina d'Ampezzo Italy.

A year or so ago a friend proposed that we race together again.  Her idea included traveling to Cortina d'Ampezzo to join in on The North Face’s Lavaredo Ultra Trail brother the Cortina Trail.  It seemed like a super idea to get together with she and her family, spend a little time in Italy on vacation (always good) and run a 50KM mountain race as part of my 2013 race program!  So we signed up…

We traveled to Cortina the Thursday prior to the race to get settled in and meet up with two sets of friends.  When we arrived in Cortina and into the Friday preceding the race, the weather left a great deal to be desired.  Thursday night it snowed 30cm over much of the course of both races providing an interesting challenge to the organization team and to the runners.  Reports on the Lavaredo Ultra Trail web site throughout Friday illustrated that the team was working hard towards solutions to start the event.  By Friday evening and the race briefing the organizational team had come up with a plan that reduced the length of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail (85KM versus 118KM) and significantly changed the Cortina Trail (47.5KM) course.  Start times for both events were shifted to Saturday morning with the hope that the weather would stabilize enough to allow for a safe running of both courses.

After a couple of days of snow, rain and overcast skies Saturday dawned with blue skies and cool to moderate temperatures.  

Christine and I met shortly after the start of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail to get lined up and organized for the Cortina Trail.  An additional friend joined us as a bandit to run the first ten kilometers of the course.  The three of us were joined by another 743 runners who jumped off at 0900 to enjoy a challenging course over some of the Dolomites most incredible terrain.

The Cortina Trail course was a blast to run.  The first seven or so kilometers were almost straight up an 1800 meter climb.


The back side of this climb was about a two kilometer decent of more than 500 meters.  I have to chalk this portion of the race up as my favorite leg as it covered incredible single track trail that blasted its way down off the mountain.  Going down was like jamming to speed metal – it was a blast!  The next significant climb took us from about kilometer 21 to kilometer 26 and Forcola Lerosa at 2200 meters.

From Lerosa we blasted down almost 900 meters of elevation change and ten kilometers to Malga Ra Stua.  At this point in the race you’ might have been tempted to think, “Wow!  I’ve made it to the rest stop and cut off point at Malga Ra Stua it’s cake from here…”  Not to be friends!  From Malga Ra Stua and kilometer 32 we headed back up to 1800 meters and kilometer 41 before heading all the way back down into Cortina d'Ampezzo and the finish line.

The race course itself was a spectacular mix of mountain single track, hiking and logging trails.  The scenery and environment are simply phenomenal. 

The 2013 Cortina Trail course consisted of two major support areas or check points with two additional smaller stops that only served beverages.  Each support area was very well staffed; organized and outfitted with food, water, and caffeinated beverages to include Red Bull (I drank four over the course of the race!).

The Cortina Trail started with 745 registered runners.  696 runners finished.  The Women’s Winner, Kasia Zajac of Poland came in at 05:03:03, while the Men’s Winner, Oliver Utting of Canada came in at 04:02:21.  The final runner, Giorigo Giacomelli of Italy came in at 12:35:05 – A tremendous effort!

I’ll be straight with you.  After several disappointments associated with The North Face’s UTMB management I had my doubts about any races associated with them.  The organization team of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail is simply phenomenal.  I highly recommend either of these races.  The organization, planning, conduct and support of both of these events are fantastic.  The Lavaredo Ultra Trail is on my 2014 list of must do races!

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