Note: At the end of this report I have bullet points on the good, the bad, Aid Station Food, Aid Station Cutoffs, Runner Tracking, and Gear I wore/carried, if you’d like to skip down.
I ran the 2017 Lavaredo Ultra Trail in Cortina, Italy and finished in 29:07:05, 53 minutes before the 30 hour cut-off. Going into the race I had never run more than 50 miles, had never run at elevation, and had never run a European trail race, so it was hard to predict a time when I would finish, but I was hoping for the 24 hour mark. In preparation for the race I had read several race reports, but none from anyone who finished towards the back of the pack, so I’m writing this to hopefully help someone in the future!
The race started at 11pm (23:00); I had taken a 3 hour nap earlier that day to try to prepare for the sleep deprivation. It was cool and clear when the race started, 1,500+ runners took off through the town and immediately started a crowded uphill climb on a single track trail.
Initial uphill climb:
I got my trekking poles out halfway through this climb and used them throughout the remainder of the race, I should have started the race with the poles in my hands. Trekking poles will save you during this race, bring a good pair. I reached Ospitale aid station (17.9k, 11.1 miles) after 3:04 hours, at 2:04am. This aid station was extremely crowded, and it was hard to get to the table to get food and water. I ate some food quickly, refilled my water, and kept moving. After this there was a long hike uphill, then downhill through the woods to Federaveccia, the second aid station. I arrived at Federaveccia (33.9k, 21 miles) after 5:52 hours of racing, at 4:52am This is where you could have crew meet you, and my boyfriend Ian game me some cold pizza that he brought which I quickly ate. Taking in calories is extremely important in this race, I tried to always be eating something while hiking, whether it be a Gu, Honey Stinger, or Larabar.
Views around Federaveccia:
The hike after Federaveccia was a long, long uphill to our first real mountain peak of the race, to Rifugio Auronzo. Before you get to the Rifugio you’ll come up to Lake Misurina, which is a pretty flat area and very beautiful.
At this point, the sun had come out which gave me a renewed energy, but it was also getting very hot outside (around 80-87F, or 27-31C during the daylight hours). I made it to Rifugio Auronzo (49.2k, 30.5 miles) after 10:17 hours, at 9:17am. This was where I first started to feel dizzy and ill, maybe from the altitude, it was 7611 feet (2,340 meters) at the Rifugio. I sat down for a moment and then ate broth, bread, and Coca Cola and the sick feeling passed. After this you’ll go up and around the mountain to Tre Cime (elevation 9,839)! After this there is a long downhill to Cimbanche aid station, where you can get your drop bag and see your crew. I was walking every uphill and steep downhill at this point, I walked almost the entire race.
Views from Rifugio Auronzo:
After you stop at the Rifugio, you’ll go up and around the mountain and on the other side is Tre Cime!! It was really exciting to get to this point and take a lot of photos.
I arrived at Cimbanche (66.9k, 41.5 miles) after 14:02 hours, at 1:03pm (13:03). I ate food, but didn’t bother changing clothes because my feet weren’t wet (there are no water crossings before this point) and I was just going to get more sweaty in the hot sun anyway. Speaking of hot sun, there are MANY rivers, streams, etc. from snow run-off off the mountain, I highly suggest dipping your hat, Buff, legs, arms, etc. into this cool and refreshing water. It really kept me going.
The next aid station comes up pretty quickly compared to the others, which have all been about 10 miles apart until this point. I reached the Malga Ra Stua aid station (76.4k, 47.4 miles) after 16:21 hours of racing, at 3:22pm (15:22). It is SO IMPORTANT to eat and fill your water bottles completely at this aid station, the next hike uphill is grueling, and the next aid station is the furthest away.
I left Malga Ra Stua and started the long hike uphill, which seemed to last FOREVER. It was at this point where I started to hallucinate a bit, the trees would be zooming backwards if I looked at them, I would see quick movements out of the corner of my eye that were nothing. There are also a few water crossings at this point. If you toss some huge boulders in the water you may be able to make a jumping point for yourself and only get one foot wet. This is also when the thunder, lightening, and drizzle rain started. There are some dark times during ultras, and this is where they were for me. Just keep telling yourself that you’re ok, you’re going to keep walking forward, and that everyone is rooting for you to do this because you can do this. I also put my phone in a waterproof wet bag at this time so I don’t have any of my own photos after this point.
Col Gallina aid station (21:00):
I reached the next aid station, Col Gallina (96.5k, 59.9 miles) after 22:12 hours of racing, at 9:13pm (21:13). For this aid station and the last one, I was coming in just under the aid station cutoff times. The cutoff for this aid station was 9:30pm, and they were breaking down tables and getting ready to close it down at 9:30pm. They are extremely strict about the aid station cutoff times, no exceptions. You could have crew at this aid station so I got to see Ian again. I changed my shirt to a long sleeve (for the colder night), and changed my socks to dry socks, but kept my same shoes on. My Garmin was about to die so I took it off and plugged it into a charger to run with (but I forgot to turn on the charger so it died anyway, brilliant). Once I noticed this I turned on the charger and started a new run once the watch was charged enough, so I only missed a couple miles of the race.
I had a new fire under me because I was so close to the cutoff and didn’t want to get cut, so I took off like a mad person out of that aid station and began the next climb. There was a solo guy with a make-shift aid station at Rifugio Averau (elevation: 8691 ft / 2649 m), he has hot tea and water which is nice. I kept going and made it to Passo Giau (103.9k, 64.5 miles) after 24:38 hours at 11:39pm (23:39). This was the last time I could see Ian before the finish. I honestly don’t remember anything about this aid station, I can’t picture it. I think I was pretty out of it at this point. This was also the last aid station with a cutoff time (midnight).
I kept going through a few more difficult hikes up, at this point it was raining and VERY foggy, making it pretty difficult to see the trail and course markings. If you’re here in the dark try to find a few folks to run with, two headlamps are better than one. Luckily I found a guy named Fred to run with and we stayed together until the end of the race. That helped me keep a good pace, and the chit-chat kept me from getting in my own head about the night, rain, climbs, etc. We hit the last aid station Rif. Cord da Lago (111.6k, 69.3 miles) after 26:54 hours of racing, at 1:55am on Sunday. IT’S ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE! LITERALLY! After this aid station you go downhill for ~10k towards Cortina. There are some steep sections but also some really nice rolling single track in this section, I was so amped about finishing that I was actually able to run a bit. I came out of the woods onto the street in Cortina, then it was a couple more kilometers to the finish line!!! The bar crowds had long gone home by the time I finished at 4:07am on Sunday, but I’m very lucky and had some great friends wake up to cheer me in. I finished in 29 hours and 7 minutes, 53 minutes before the 30 hour cutoff. It was an incredible thing to be able to participate in and finish.
The good: Race scenery is like no other, it’s beautiful and you’ll want to be videoing and taking photos the whole time. Volunteers and staff I encountered are friendly and want to help you. The race is well organized. Overall this is an excellent race! A lot of people do the race (1,500+), some folks may see this as a ‘bad’ but I appreciated being around other people almost the entire time.
The bad: It is a tough, tough race!!! (is that good or bad? :)) There is A LOT of walking uphill and walking downhill. Weather in the mountains can go from good to bad quickly (like a clear night to golf-ball sized hail in 5 minutes – it happened the night before the race), be prepared. Some aid stations are pretty far apart, be ready to carry a lot of water, I had run out of water a couple times and that is no fun (I had a 2L bladder in my backpack and two 500ml bottles, which is 6lbs of water!).
Aid Station Food: The aid station food (VARIES per station, also they did run out of certain items by the time I got there near the cutoff times): White bread baguette, olive oil, chocolate pieces, crackers with Nutella, crackers with Jelly, pie, apple slices, bananas, cookies, water, Coca Cola, the Italian version of Gatorade/sports drink, hot broth and noodles, sugar cubes, cubes of cheese, meats (salami), hot tea.
Aid Station cutoff times: The aid station cutoff times and elevation are printed on the bibs. The race is very strict about cutoff times and won’t bend them. They have timing mats at each aid station (or people that will scan your bib) to register your time; some of the timing mats are at the beginning of the station and some are when you leave, so make sure to get out of there quickly to register your time if you’re near the cutoff.
Runner tracking/info: They offered runner tracking through an app and it also posted to Facebook. The tracking also gave the expected time when you would reach the next checkpoint so this was very helpful for my crew member. Also when you finish there’s a website where you can see your place, pace, stats, etc., for each aid station and the whole race. It’s very thorough.
Gear I had on me: Brooks Cascadias shoes, Injinji Socks, 2XU calf sleeves, 2XU shorts, Patagonia tshirt/Champion dry long sleeve, Zensah sports bra, Patagonia Houdini jacket, Arc’Teryx Goretex jacket, Buff, hat, Nathan Vaporairess, 2 Camelbak quickstowe flasks, TREKKING POLES!
Gear I carried in my bag: 3L of water, Gu, Honey Stingers, Larabars, other food, Emergency blanket, whistle, Patagonia houdini pants, gloves, extra injinji socks, chafing cream, bandaids, a poncho, phone charger, watch charger, a Jackery charger bar, ibuprofen, salt pills, waterproof wet-bag, 2 iPod shuffles, headphones. I didn’t end up using a lot of this and felt like I had an extremely heavy pack on. If I did it again I’d try to leave some of the non-required items behind.
I hope this was helpful for you if you’re thinking of doing the race! It is an incredible experience and I would highly recommend it. If you have any questions please feel free to message me, Twitter & Instagram @brimil. Cheers!