La dolce vita can be tough!
CACE's 2016 annual international trip to Valle Maira (Italy)
Have fun with your favourite sports club, eat (and drink) incredibly well and run in the spectacular setting of the Piedmont Alps in early autumn - that was in a nutshell the package that was chosen on a grey and cold evening in January for CACE's 13th annual trip.
So 28 of us turned up at Charleroi airport on 9 September, trail-running shoes in their bags. For some this would be the first CACE trip abroad, but others had already participated in a dozen or so, and Bert has actually not missed a single one since the Connemarathon in 2004! Flying into Turin we got a first glimpse at Alpine lakes and summits. Although it had looked so close from the plane, the bus ride from Turin to our hotel in Marmora took almost three hours on increasingly narrow roads. So we were glad for the opportunity to stretch our legs while walking down to the "trail village" the race organisers were busy setting up.
We were signed up for the Valle Maira Skymarathon! True to the organiser's motto 'un trail per tutti', three distances were on offer: a 9k with a climb (or D+) of 280 meters, a 29k (D+ 2100) and a full-blown 46k (D+ 2500). But first, we settled for a wonderful 3-course dinner at the hotel and went to bed reasonably early. Remember: It's the sleep in the second night before race day that counts most!
Day two was devoted to acclimatisation and discovering Piedmont with all senses. After an easy morning jog, the bus took us to Cuneo where we strolled through the old town on the wedge-like plateau that gave the city its name. Angelo guided us to the city's architectural monuments and cultural attractions. But in particular he led us to discover the national (pizza, pasta, café and ice cream) and regional (Cuneesi, meringhe) culinary highlights! Then back to Marmora, 'carbo-loading' with delicious risotto and pasta and early to bed.
On race day we were greeted by a cloudless sky and a spectacular view on the mountains we were about to climb. The 46k runners set off at 7h, while the runners for the shorter distances were flocking to breakfast. Though with a total of 300 registered participants the race was small, it was very well organised by a hundred or so volunteers enlisted by the local running club. A long, indeed very long, ascent brought us 29k runners from the valley (1200m) to Colle Margherina at 2400m. At the food and drink station we met some of the 46k runners who by then had already completed two thirds of their race. A few hundred meters more with a gorgeous view over rocks, prairies and valleys brought us to the peak at 2540m.
The ensuing descent, common to both the 46k and 29k distances, started off with a very steep mountain path. Here it was more difficult to enjoy the surroundings as we had our eyes fixed on the ground before us. Nonetheless, most of us "flat-country" runners struggled to keep up with mountain-dwellers who did not seem to be bothered much by the technical difficulty of the downhill run, nor indeed the ensuing strain on thighs and knees. Further down, we moved onto the track of the 9k distance. A final, short but nasty ascent was the last difficulty before a smoother downhill bit towards the finish line.
CACE was not only the largest participating club in the race (by far), but with Roisin also had a member on the podium for the 46k women with an excellent 6h15! The fastest CACE woman on the 29k was Martina in 4h18. Luis was the fastest CACE man in the 46k in 5h13 and Angelo in the 29k in 3h35 (including some 'orienteering' after having lost his way).
Tired but happy we enjoyed the afternoon which slowly blended into the after-race celebration - of course featuring another copious dinner!
All photos from Tom :