Thursday 9 October 2014

Magredi Mountain Trail 100 mile race (MMT 100)

 Magredi Mountain Trail is a 100 mile race in Northern Italy starting about 1 hour from Venice. I first heard of it when I was trawling through the internet early in the year looking for 100 mile races to do, this one struck me as it has a lot of ascent (7700m) and involves some good looking mountains. 2014 was the 4th year, I believe the course this year was slightly longer as they had added some sections of single track to avoid anything resembling a road as much as possible, I'd never been to Italy before either so flights booked and race entered.

 A quick look at the profile shows a high point of around 1400m and 3 main climbs gaining nearly 1000m at a time (like a trip up Snowdon for example), along with plenty of smaller climbs which although on the profile don't look like much, were actually pretty stiff themselves! The highlight of the route came just after 60 miles.... 1100m of ascent in 2.8km! More on that later!

All the information on the race website was pretty clear and the organisation and correspondence pre race was fantastic. I'll do a short section on the logistics for travelling there at the end! I travelled out on the Tuesday after doing a 30 mile ultra on the weekend on the Isle of Man. This meant I could travel up to the area and have a few days to explore and chill out. I hiked up the 2nd biggest climb of the route and made it into a 10 mile loop on the Wednesday which gave me an idea of what the course was like, pretty rocky and the mountain was a little steeper than I thought but felt ok. On the Thursday I had a little look around another section and walked out the first and last mile or two in the small town the race was based Vivaro. After that it was pretty much time to eat pizza and spaghetti oh and a mixed grill.

On race day I had a relaxed start and enjoyed lunch at the hotel Gelindo de Magredi where the registration was and where I stayed pre and post race, then registered just after lunch ready for the 6pm start. Kit check was straight forwards and race pack + drop bag bags were given out. You could have 3 drop bags, 1 at each 'life base' like a major checkpoint where you could go inside and get hot food, as opposed to the normal checkpoints where you got water and a good spread of food too! Checkpoints were almost too good! Some log cabins up in the hills with log fires and sausages cooking for example, I didn't really stop at the majority of cps other than to fill my bottles up, would be difficult to leave once you got comfortable!

The route was incredibly well marked all the way around, I would be surprised if anyone ran off course who was paying attention. I had the gps for backup but didn't pay much attention to it as the markings were very good!

A short briefing in Italian and English before we walked over to the start line, the small town was bustling with activity and there was a really friendly atmosphere all around!

From the start there was a couple of guys doing the 'one time race leader' thing, the first 17km follows a dried up river on trail which is rocky in places but feels flat so I became part of the lead group of 4 runners together we ran the first 10 miles in just under an hour 20 mins. Darkness was upon us now and the route begins to climb, 2 runners went on ahead and I was 3rd, quickly losing any contact with the chap behind and the two guys infront. The climb starts although gaining nearly 2000m in the miles 10 to 20, it didn't feel that bad and I had a steady jog up the majority, I didn't have the gps out or a watch on so didn't really know about my pace and just ran what felt comfortable, every now and again I'd see a light in the distance as we undulated through woods and over the hills on some fairly technical tracks and trails to the first major life base. Up to now it had been more technical than I imagined but I hadn't really noticed the hills, all good I was apparently about 5 mins behind the first runner! 

At each checkpoint I topped up my water and took some coke, I felt that at my last 100 the coke was more than enough to keep me going energy wise when I had it, although the couple of checkpoints I didn't have it were when I felt sleepy and motivation wobbled SO this time I decided to make sure I took some at each CP, around 400ml I guess at 12 checkpoints and about the same of water.

The run through the night went well and I was feeling great and enjoying the route, although I didn't get to admire many views as it was dark... a long night.. around 12 hours of darkness, So around about 50km I passed a guy running, quite swiftly and he fell out of sight quickly, so now in 2nd place and I continued on knowing that I was about to drop down into the town I had stayed Maniago at around 70km and onto familiar ground at least for a few miles! As I dropped into town and into the Cp there was Austrian runner who I thought was first just leaving. I knew this climb and knew I could run the majority even though it was pretty hard I dropped into my steady climbing gear and grinded up passing the guy and creating a large gap fairly quickly again, realising that I'd passed the two people infront I'd now be leading the race!!! Quite an exciting thought! I was moving really well, still in the dark through some decent climbs and long descents until I came across the halfway life base at about 86km. 

I was greeted by the organiser who asked how the route was and the markings, at many times I saw the crew through the night out on course checking the markings and placing extras! Really amazing considering the route and where it went! I was running well and suddenly saw a light ahead... I was a little confused.. I thought the runner must have been lost and looking for the CP so I caught up and told him that the cp was behind us.. he must have missed it, but he was sure he had just been. I never thought to ask at the cp whether I was first or not, I just assumed it after passing 2 runners from 3rd place surely there is nobody else infront.... anyway I was a bit concerned, someone must have taken a short cut somewhere either the guy I passed around 55km or this guy now... I overtook and moved ahead again creating a gap quite quickly, I felt like I was moving a lot faster than those runners I'd passed which made me feel quite good! Ticking off another cp they said it was about 10km to the next one and the start of the 'vertical km' before that though was a tough climb in itself! I hit the cp and was anxious to know where I was still in first, Yes I was! Once up this climb the majority of the climbing is done and dusted. 

 It took me ages to get up the 2.8km section, probably around 90 minutes! Progress was very slow, it was so steep even small hiking steps were tough. I couldn't believe a climb like his featured in a 100 mile race let alone at 60 mile point. I was pulling at grass and rocks and anything to help me up. I arrived at what looked like the top only to find that it was a ridge and there was still a couple of 100m of ascent to go!  Brutal! I stopped to admire the views now the sun was fully up and it was an impressive sight!

I knew after the mountain there was a long descent followed by some tunnels which were 2km long each and obviously dark but also very wet inside with lots of drips to the effect of torrential rain in places! I kept my torch on my head for this reason and in no time at all I hit a small mountain hut, this wasn't the cp but they pointed out the track where to go and the next cp was only a few minutes further. A fantastic mountain hut high in the hills where I topped up the bottles and began the long steep and technical descent. I made some pretty good time down here and the legs although I could tell I'd been running a long time, felt great and really enjoyed it!

 We drop down across a dam and around a lake which was like a mirror before hitting the tunnel, I was beginning to notice the path we were taking lead into a dead end in the valley, If I hadn't known of the tunnel I would have been expecting a monster ascent! Tunnels done and it was nice and cool inside! A little wet inside but it would have been possible to keep dry! I expected we had to go through water and get our feet wet at some point so didn't make an attempt to keep my feet dry, turns out you could have swerved the puddles and made it through. The checkpoint was immediately after the 2nd tunnel and I changed my socks (carried a spare pair in the backpack) I had a banana to eat here also before moving on and running out of the valley towards the 3rd and final life point.

About a mile out from the life point I met some of the crew and said hello as I ran on to the stop. I came back to phone signal and got a text from a couple of people watching the tracker online who said I had 1 hour 8 minute lead on 2nd place at the 100km point!! I was pretty happy with this seeing as I had only come into the lead for certain at 80 something km. A quick toilet stop and top the bottles up I asked what the gap was like now, one of the cp guys said not much at all but I looked better. I was pretty shocked that the gap must have come down after I had run so well so moved on from the cp with a pretty good pace and pushed myself up the next hill which was a lot bigger than the profile made out, or rather it felt bigger than 400m of ascent! I continued to push quite hard still not having heard any news about an update on the tracking, I had been pretty relaxed up until that cp and my thought then was that it would be crazy to lose the lead so close to the end and that making up an hour of time on me over the 20 odd km section when I was already moving what felt like a good pace... I thought if someone was so close they must have short cutted some how, surely gaining 3min per km on me couldn't have happened? I reached a cp which was a bit confusing, I was execting it a little later but was greeted by friendly faces who offered me still or sparkling water and an assortment of food and coke, I took the  coke and still water option and was through the cp quickly and burnt off the next descent towards the finish. My bottle started fizzing up and I took a sip to find fizzy water yuk! I tried to flatten it but it still tasted a bit strange and the heat of the day was starting to hit it's high point, I decided the end must be fairly close and around 10k so I dumped the fizzy water.

Passing through a small village and dropping down through some fields to cross the dry river bed I continued before hitting a nice flat track towards the finish, I checked the GPS and I had in theory got a few km to go as from the last cp it was 13km to the finish! Then I felt the phone go and checked to see a text filled with relief... CP just updated tracker, @ 123km 1 hour 40 min ahead of 2nd place keep going! I read it twice and instantly relaxed, before I knew it I could see people all cheering ahead and then I realised... It was the checkpoint at 90 miles, although the on my Garmin I'd one 98 miles now! Great I thought, bonus miles ( I assume due to the extra single tracks we got to run on compared with previous years) I got to the cp and took a moment to relax and say hello to some friendly faces and the crew.

I got over the fact that I was going to be running longer than expected and proceeded on to a very rocky riverbed section, I walked over this mile or so as it was rocky and I knew I had enough time to keep the lead even if I walked the whole way in! The long straight track onto a long straight dirt road started to drag a little but it wasn't long before I was hitting the road into town and could hear the church bells ringing and knew where I was, last mile or so to go! Running in there were people along the streets cheering and clapping and the atmosphere running into the finish gave me goosebumps.  FIRST PLACE it had to be!

Approaching the line there were a lot of photographs been taken and I was greeted by the crew and medics and interviewed by different people briefly. I sat in the shade and was asked if I needed anything or any help 'Just an ice cream and a cold drink please' was my response! The medical guys were pretty keen to weigh me and I chilled out at the finish area for about 30 mins before making my way back up to the hotel to check in.

Finishers under 24 hours get a buckle (only me under 24 hours this time) and all finishers get the fleecy gillet! Very nice! I had a quick shower then just lay around drinking apple juice for a while before walking back out to the finish area to see if anyone else had finished and to tuck into the buffet for the finishers, I only actually had a bowl of soup in the end as I wasn't really feeling hungry, then it was back to hotel to lay down some more and try to sleep... think I was that hyped up on coke and e numbers that I only slept 4 or 5 hours!

The presentation was in the middle of the towns square the following morning so I went along for my prize and to do some clapping and just lay out in the sun! A fantastic hamper of food and wine for a prize and some more interviews there and then! Such a fantastic experience that I wont be forgetting! I would really really recommend the race to anyone looking for a hard 100 mile event with plenty of climbs, although if you prefer to take your time about things there is a 45 hour time limit meaning you don't have to be moving ultra fast!

In terms of getting there, easiest for me was to fly to Venice Marco Polo airport then take a bus to Pordenone which is easy to do, the tourist information staff can usually speak good English so no worries there if you're not fluent in Italian, That's €13 to the bus and train station  there and then I took a bus to Maniago to stay there before the race for about €3.

If you were going straight to the race then you'd take the bus to Vivaro directly which is only a few € also. The other option would be to hire a car which if a small group was doing it, would be quite economical and you could drive to some sections of the route and have a look around beforehand!

In the actual town of Vivaro staying in Gelindo de Magredi is a good move, the briefing was there and it's 400m from the race finish, has a pool and nice clean rooms and a good restaurant with helpful staff! It's easy to do really, flights were less than £70 return when I booked them from Manchester Airport with just hand luggage (I never bother with hold bags for this sort of thing) 

I have to say it was the toughest but best marked 100 mile race I've done so far! Great organisation and a fantastic atmosphere! A brilliant excuse to go to Italy. Thanks heaps for all the supportive messages I got, it really means a lot! Now I'm back, planning is under way for a Trail Running Coaching week in Spain in February 2015...

It's aimed at runners who'd like to... 
Improve their technique, 
Feel more confident and get faster over varied terrain, 
Discover how to strengthen the body, including the core, 
Learn what to fuel your body with to improve your recovery and run well,
Find out and try out safe ways to include quality speed training within your schedule....
and of course ideal if you'd like to enjoy a fantastic week of trail running with awesome, like-minded people in (probably  ) nice weather with plenty of time to relax and explore also! 

If it's something you might be interested in, drop me a message and we can have a chat to see if it will be suitable for you, how to prepare, what to expect and all the juicy details you need! 

Magredi Mountain Trail 100 mile results and website are here

1 comment:

  1. Hi, thanks for the review! I came across the MMT100 earlier this year after dropping out of UT4M (, but was unable to free up for that weekend. Count on doing in 2015, though undoubtedly much slower! Eric @lhtrails