On my Paris-Turin flight I noticed there was a plenty of snow left on the higher peaks Alps. Never mind, my next race wouldn't go that high. The North Face Trail del Monte Soglio (TMS) is a 63 km loop in reasonable 500-2000 meters of altitude and 3500 meters of ascent and the same amount of descent.
The race website advertised that they had designed a more scenic and difficult course for this year's 4th "Impegnativ edition" of the race. I'd soon find out what that means exactly.
For now I was just so happy to be in Italy. It's not a secret that I love Italian people, climate, lifestyle and their superb local food (ie. fruits and vegetables)!
|The snow-covered Alps somewhere to the south of Mont Blanc (Paris-Turin flight).|
I'd been searching for a trail running race in late May about half that distance and elevation. I also wanted it to be a destination I can easily fly to with minimal travel hassle. TMS fit the bill perfectly, and they also offered two UTMB points as a bonus. I might need those points next year.
TMS had also created Project Soglio For Tibet to collect used shoes. I actually got to meet people from Tibet at the race HQ. I understand many of them live in Turin now. I think it's cool that Italians are willing to help other people, although they are having so many current issues of their own.
|TMS supports Tibet.|
|Race T-shirt by The North Face.|
There was a breakfast at 5:00 and then obligatory gear check up at 5:30. The organizers really checked everyone's backpack in a short time and very efficiently. I thought that was awesome and shows the high quality and integrity of the organization. For comparison in Transgrancanaria the organizers didn't bother to check anything, "because it would take us all day". They were also nowhere near as helpful and efficient as the TMS team.
There were 380 registered runners for the 63K race. There would also be a 26K race starting at 8:30, bringing the total number of participants to 726 - a new record for the event.
|The 6AM start of the 63 km race with 380 runners.|
|The counterclockwise loop of the race course tracked by my Suunto Ambit.|
|The first 10K went smoothly through wonderful forests.|
|Downhill after Alpe Bellono CP1 (16 km, 1400 m, 3 h).|
The course was really well marked with pink ribbons and paintings on the ground, but those were sometimes difficult to spot as everything above 1600 meters was covered in thick foggy cloud - possibly caused by the euro going up in smoke. Luckily there were plenty of volunteers on the mountain to show us the right direction.
A few km before reaching the top I felt a cramp threatening my left leg. Stupidly I seemed to have forgotten my container of SaltStick caps! I stopped and searched the pocket where they should have been, but found none. Trying not to panic, I took my Olmo 20L backpack and emptied everything on the mountain slope: rain jacket & pants, emergency blanket, drinking cup, buff, first aid kit, tissue paper, euros, phone, and finally a small plastic bag with four salt caps. I took one of them and felt the cramp easing off right away. Placebo effect or not, I felt my race was saved. I had drank water from the numerous mountain streams we were crossing, which may have caused the lack of electrolytes.
|Reaching the top of Monte Soglio (37 km) was great but you could only see fog.|
|Alpe dell'Uia was a technical section with big rocks.|
One local guy who followed me for a while suddenly grew impatient in my carefulness, passed me like Kilian and then promptly took off in the wrong direction. I remained silent, reckoning he was possibly going to the bathroom. Soon he grunted in frustration after realizing his mistake and tried to short cut to get back in front of me, but fell on his butt on the slippery rocks. After that he followed me quietly again for some time. I didn't fall once during the race, which was my primary goal of the day.
|I had been advised to take care in this slippery technical section and that's what I did.|
I just kept on putting one foot in front of the other, until I was stopped by a wine tasting table! Some elder gentlemen had various local red wines on offer. I chatted with them for a while, but then hurried to the nearby CP4 in Pian Audi (50 km, 9:44, cutoff 11:30). Only 13K left, I was now pretty sure I could finish within 14 hours.
|I finished in 11:53.|
|I got interviewed in Italian.|
After a while I saw a familiar face in an orange organizer's shirt and asked if it was possible somehow - other than walking - to get to my hotel. He kindly agreed to drive me there at once himself, and soon I was in my room. When I looked out the window, a thunderstorm was already beating the slopes of Monte Soglio. My quads were trashed and would be sore for several days, but other than that I felt fine.
Daniele Fornoni won the race in 6:55:57. That's an incredible 6:36/km average pace! Female winner was Raffaella Miravalle with 7:50:42.
For those interested, here's my Suunto Ambit data:
- distance 56 km (official measurement 63 km, so there was a 7K difference!)
- 2020 m highest point (o. m. 2010 m)
- 525 m lowest point (o. m. 525 m)
- 3383 m ascent (o. m. 3500 m)
- 3364 m descent (o. m. 3500 m)
- ascent time 6:07 (probably accurate)
- flat time 0:21 (probably accurate)
- descent time 5:25 (probably accurate)
- max temperature 24C (probably correct)
- average temp 18C (probably correct)
- min temp 14C (probably correct)
- time 11:54 (accurate, but it took me a while to unlock the buttons before I could turn it off).
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Roberto, Paolo, and the whole friendly TMS organization team, who personally took time to assist me. I appreciate how they had been working hard for nine months in the evenings and weekends to make this race such a great success. Thanks also for all the volunteers! Mille grazie ragazzi, siete fantastici!