It was a privilege to be part of the Aussie team and I felt proud to be wearing the green and gold as I lined up to the tune of “Merrily to Kamnik” (a local folk tune). After a false start (because the gun didn’t go off), we were off… a field of about 70. It was a slight downhill start before we turned onto an uphill section of gravel road.
After about 1.5 km, the fun began, as we turned off the road onto a steeply inclined track which climbed for the next 3 km or so….according to my Garmin, we climbed 270 m in the second km and 220 m in the third km….that gives you an idea of how steep it was. It was also quite rocky and a bit difficult to pass. We were in the shade of a lush pine forest. I had planned to run the whole way, and felt I was going ok for a while, passing a few people and noticing that many of the girls around me seemed to be really huffing and puffing. At about 3km, to my disappointment I was forced to walk for a bit but quickly got into a walk (10-paces) run (20 paces) routine until the top of the steep stuff (about 4km).
At this point, there was relief in the form of a few hundred metres of gradual descent before the uphill climb continued. This time the slope was a little less and no walking was required. After a bit more uphill shuffling we emerged above the treeline into grassy meadows dotted with wooden shepherds’ huts. With two km to go, the course was undulating and conducive to fast running for those who weren’t already exhausted. I was passed by a couple of fast finishers.
With five hundred meters to go, the excitement of finishing was intense as spectators lining the finishing ascent cheered and clanged bells in an almost deafening cacophony. A Portuguese lady came sprinting past me with 300 m to go, only to grind to a walk on the final steep climb to the finish, so I surged to pass her before collapsing over the finish line.
I was close to fainting after the race and was completely exhausted that night, so I know I didn’t give the race anything less than my best. I couldn’t help being disappointed with my placing (42/69) and time 9 minutes behind the winning time. But a couple of days later I am accepting this as an indication of just how competitive this race is, with the leading athletes being in another class altogether, and producing quite inspirational performances. I know I came into this race in the best form of my life and trained as best and hard as I could without getting injured. In the words of the Go-Betweens: “It doesn’t matter how far you’ve come, you’ve always got further to go!”.