It’s 5 in the morning. 24 hours for the start of the Dolomiti Extreme Trail (DXT) 55 kilometers race. I’m wide awake. My mind is full of questions. The biggest one? What is going to be my race plan for the DXT? Am I going to be bold or modest?
When I look out of the window of our apartment above Tana de l’Ors I see empty streets. Forno di Zoldo is still asleep. From this evening onward it’s going to be different. the streets will be full of runners; day and night. This evening at 10 pm is the start of the 103 kilometers race, followed by the 72 kilometers at midnight. 5 hours later it’s my turn.
I’ve done 2 ultras of 50 kilometers. I’ve never climbed 3.800 meters. Climbing is not my strong suit. I know that by now. Descending is. I dare to let go. At the same time, I’m not the worst climber. I can do long gradual climbs, and I can do short technical climbs. I can’t do steep climbs. Tomorrow we will have a lot of them.
The first 9 kilometers are just going to be uphill. After a little descent we will have to climb another 6 kilometers. That climb has grades of over 40 and some parts even over 60 percent. That’s going to be more than a serious challenge.
I haven’t done a lot of running in the last couple of weeks. I was sick, my right knee was protesting and I was busy with our yoga tour in Italy. It means I’m not in the best shape of my life. That and the simple fact that this is the biggest race I have ever done makes me think I should start slow, as I normally do.
At the same time I know I can be fast. Relatively fast. Among the fastest 30 percent of the field. Well, at least on a 25 kilometers race. If I can be fast on an ultra, is something I still have to prove. Yet, it would require a bolder approach. Not starting as the number last, but starting more at the front of the field.
There is another reason to do that. I’ve seen images of last year’s race. Lots of single tracks, lots of steep descents, lots of traffic jams. When I have a faster runner behind me, I’m happy to step to the side. Not everybody does and not on every track you can step to the side, unless you want to fall down a cliff. Starting more up front, means less traffic.
The last reason to be bold is the weather. I am better when it’s cool. We start at 5 am. That will give me at least 3 hours of morning coolness, before the sun comes out. I like to get as far as I can in those early hours, which means starting more at the front of the pack.
Racing for 12 hours or more
There are 2 cut-off times. The first one is at Forcella Staulanza, at 37,6 kilometers. I have 9,5 hours to get there. The second is the finish. I have to be back in 13,5 hours. That sounds a lot for 55 kilometers, but last year almost 5 percent of the field needed more than 14 hours to complete the race. 60 percent needed more than 12 hours and more than 20 percent didn’t finish at all.
It does mean that the top of the field is going to be very small and most people will be somewhere in the back;time-wise. Maybe that will be me, but for now I think I’m going for the bold approach. So my race plan for the DXT is starting among the first 30 percent of the field. Let’s see how far I will fall back after that.