A message on my phone. I'm selected for Team NL and whether I want to participate in the World Championships Ultra Trail Running in Penyagolosa (Spain) this year. I'm honoured and thrilled. Of course I don't need to think about the answer..
Penyagolosa ultra trail
6 months later I find myself in Spain. Together with most of the best trail runners in the world. All runners stayed in the same hotel, plus some retired people who thought they had booked themselves a quiet holiday.. fail! The atmosphere was really great, the spirits of Team NL were high (we had SO MUCH FUN), the food was good, the weather great.. All set for a great adventure!
The opening ceremony was on Thursday, and was, in one word, amazing! There were hundreds and hundreds of people cheering and clapping in Castellon (race base). The show they set up, the fireworks, all the athletes together on one square. It was an unforgettable experience.
The race started on Saturday 12 May at 6am, and set off on the athletic track of Castellon. Here, the 500 best athletes in the world were running together. That the level in this race was higher than in a normal race was already noticeable by the tight deadlines the race organisation had set. Most people running here will normally never have to worry about deadlines, but now, they were tight, even for us.
The first part of the 86km race course with 5000D+ was relatively flat. Soon after the start I found Maartje and we naturally ran the first couple of kilometers together, enjoyed the views, the sunset, and the fact that we were running here, which was simply amazing.
What was also amazing was that my parents, Arjan and brother had decided to come and cheer me on. At the second aid station I saw my brother who had arrived that morning so I hadn't seen him before. I gave him a big high five. That was a big mistake. I dislocated my shoulder with that, and it took a couple of minutes to get it back in place. Maartje kindly waited for me, and luckily (probably due to the adrenaline) I didn't experience too much pain. My shoulder dislocates more often, but the last time was 2 years ago, so this kind of sucked. But oh well. Luckily, soon the terrain became more mountaineous and I got more and more in my element.
Unfortunately at one point, Maartje had to hold back because her body doesn't deal well with heat. It was hot indeed. In fact, I dreamt most of the 86k and 5000D+ of swimming pools. And when I finally saw one I nearly jumped in. Especially the dry canyons with no wind or shadow were hot. But I was telling myself everyone was suffering, and I just pushed on and made sure I drank enough.
Trying to cool myself where possible. I think this was the only place.
Did I mention we had THE BEST race crew ever??? At aid stations they worked like a machine, and after refreshments, a little massage of the legs and ice cubes I felt completely renewed every time I left the aid station. Thank you guys!!
Our amazing (and slightly crazy) race crew
Unfortunately at one point I started suffering from extreme diarrhea. I literally had to stop about every 20 meters. I'm still sorry for the people who were running around me. Luckily, in this sport, we all have our discomforts, and dealing with them is what makes this sports beautiful. Just before the last aid station my body was ok again, and I was able to push more. My legs were still so strong, the last couple of descents and the last climb I decided to really give it all. I didn't want to cross the finishline with still gas in the tank. Eventually I finished in 12.55h as second Dutch lady after the new World Champion Ragna (!!!!). She finished 3 hours ahead of me, so I know there's some work for me to do here :).
Ragna is the new World Champion!!
Happy to finish!
Prize giving ceremony
The next day was the prize giving ceremony and with a fresh World Champion we had to make some noise.. I was so happy for her, and literally had goosebumps when they were playing the national anthem for her!!
Prize giving ceremony for Ragna!
This experience easily goes to my top best memories all time. Special thanks go to my parents for driving their campervan all the way from the Netherlands to Spain to cheer me on, my brother for flying in from Austria, my boyfriend for being there always and always, my family and friends for sending me positive vibes and cheering me on from behind your computer screens, all other Dutch athletes and support crew for making this the time of our lives, and Shaun for helping me get to where I'm now. Thank you all, I had a blast!