It was a real honour to have the opportunity to pull on the GB&NI vest and to represent the country at the IAU World Trail Championship in Annecy, France. Despite all the politics leading up to the race, I had worked hard to achieve this dream and was not going to let it dampen my spirit. I would enjoy the experience of running a truly stunning mountain course.
The race for me started well before the start, with careful planning enabling me to peak come race day. This planning included nutrition, pre race training and entering the championships with the correct mental approach. I drew on my previous experiences of the three Adventure Race World Championships to help place me in a good position come 03:30am on Saturday 30th May.
I was determined not going to let the stress of the start get to me and in some ways I was more than happy to be some way back in the field for the start line. This allowed me not to get too carried away when the fireworks went off in the early hours. The race pace went off like a rocket, as expected, but I kept my focus on myself; going at a hard pace but comfortably hard. Moving onto the trails for the first big climb I was using my heart rate monitor to keep my pace even and trying not to race too early on. This worked really well for me, although on reflection I wish I had gone five beats a minute lower, which could of helped me attack better later on.
Descending down the first hill was fun in the dark with the mud from the overnight rain. I was enjoying overtaking competitors who were taking it a little more gingerly than me. Then hitting the bottom I caught sight of fellow GB team mate Tom Owens, who went on to finish 4th, and this was the last I would see of him. The next big climb was pretty tough, or maybe it was just the company I was in, and I felt like I was suffering! However by the time I had made the next checkpoint at Doussard I was shocked to find I was in 16th place.
A this point the American train of Alex Nichols and Dave Laney caught me and soon left me in their wake. I was in need of this pit stop and some instant sugar to pick me back up. Pleased with how I was going I thought it was time to start digging in and use a positive attitude to get me through. The next climb was started steady but determined and I started to get stronger; attacking with a run/ walk strategy. I overtook a couple of competitors, which always helps the confidence, and was moving well, but I made the mistake forgetting to fuel while going strongly. This started to effect me towards the final few hundred metres of the climb along with my chest starting to tighten. I couldn’t really accelerate away from the top and with painful big toes I could not capitalise on the decent, which had been a strength earlier in the day.
The third checkpoint came at a good time, I was in need of refreshment and a boost. I choose the wrong drink, a For Goodness Shake, I should of just gone for the classic flat coke as for the next half hour I was struggling with nausea. I managed to keep fighting but it was not a strong finish I had hoped for but I wasn’t crumbling either. With the summit of the final climb over, now for the long way down. With my big toe black and blue I was catching it on what seemed like every stone causing me to wince in agony. I couldn’t attack and was simply free wheeling my way down; a sitting duck to any chasers. I lost three places in the last two km’s, including a flying Irishman Dan. I wasn’t disappointed as I had raced well and competed with some of the best in the world. To finish in the top 20 at a world champs is great and a performance I’m delighted with, but like all performances I will look how I can improve for the next one!
I was ecstatic to learn when Lee crossed the line, we had done enough as a team to earn Team Bronze. This was more than my dream. The smile on my face speaks more than words. It was good to use the new Raidlight Responsiv 8L for the race being super comfy and lightweight and Osmo nutrition worked well for me in this race. I loved the x talons for the first half of the race but needed something more cushioned later on. Thank you for all for the incredible support.