For the last five years we have been saving to take a trip to Italy, and being trail runners we needed to also enjoy a mountain race. To meet our need, we had a choice of either the 119K Lavaredo Ultratrail or the 47K Cortina Trail both in the Dolomites of Italy. Since I had the Hardrock 100 in just two weeks, we collectively went with the Cortina Trail.
The town of Cortina is close to Venice and you can get their by either car or a shuttle. We went with the car and explored Cinque Terra, Tuscany, and Lake Como before arriving in Cortina. The town has many places to stay and we choose a hotel up on the mountain about 5 miles from town - not recommended.
The Lavaredo started at 11:00 pm on Friday and our race started at 8:00 am on Saturday - both races had approximately 800 racers. The Lavaredo has 19,192 feet of climbing and Cortina has 8,694 feet of climbing. Both on well established trails through valleys and over mountain passes surrounded by the incredible Dolomites.
Garmin Report: http://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/537818922
Our race began with loud speakers blasting symphony music followed by an Italian countdown. The first mile was fast moving through the streets of Cortina with cheers from all the locals and the friends and family of the racers.
In just one mile we began climbing on a combination of trails and jeep roads through some dense forests lasting 5K for 1,600ft. I really appreciated the wider section at the bottom to allow for passing.
After reaching the top of the first climb we had a fast moving jeep road with steep descent that connected with a canyon that would be my favorite section of the race. It was the Val Travenanzez. The Val is a 6 mile 2,500ft climb to the Col die Bos. The next 18 pictures are of this section.
Below is the first of numerous snow sections in the race.
I wish that I took more pictures here. I would say 8 of 10 runners would take their shoes off to cross the river. Some even used bags to cover their feet. In the next mile we would cross the river three times with the runners wasting time trying to keep their feet dry.
Below is the first aid-station at mile 10
The river we crossed was in the valley behind me.
After reaching the top, the race again got on a fast moving jeep road. This was where I began seeing some racers cutting the switchbacks. Across the valley would be the next climb next to an WWI Italian fortification called the Cinque Torri. During the war, the Italians and Austrians would bombard each other across the mountain pass. The day before the race we visited a WWI museum and a mountain fortification further up the valley. If you get a chance to do this race I would highly recommend learning about the history.
The Cinque Torri Below
The next two pictures are of an Italian fortification.
At the bottom of the descent and across the road was our second aid-station. They had water, meats, cheese, and chocolate. I just dumped out my empty Gu packets and put some of my own drink mix into a bottle. Although the food looked good, I did not want to risk upsetting my stomach.
The steep climb up to the Cinque Torri. I also love how they built the trail with the logs.
The Cinque Torri Below
Along the way I had several hikers volunteer to take my picture. In the clouds above would be the highpoint of the race. At the top it was windy and cloudy with a light drizzle. For the first time, I pulled out my jacket to stay warm. I did have the option to enjoy a beer and lunch at the ski lodge on top but I decided the race was more important.
The next three miles to the third aid-station was mainly a rolling section with an occasion snow field. There was one sharp turn if missed would taken me in the wrong directions just below the ski lodge. For most of this section, I was able to run while taking the occasional picture.
Mile 18 aid-station
The next two miles would be the most challenging with a long snowfield crossing and a very steep climb to the Forc. Giau (I have no idea what that means) as seen in the next six pictures. As moved through this section, I really enjoyed the challenge knowing it was similar to the experience I would have in two weeks at Hardrock.
The next three pictures are of the steep section
The next nine pictures shows a three mile section that was very runnable with some incredible views. There was one final climb that was short and easy and then I was able to see Cortina below.
Next to this lake was the final aid-station which was as day lodge filled with people eating and drinking while watching the runners hurry through. I would love to find that place someday.
Following the aid-station, there was a very steep descent where I was careful to slow down to avoid rolling my ankle on some of the loose rocks. Then after a mile it turned into a smooth dirt road where I was able to pick up my pace.
The last half mile was again through town with great crowd support. I finished in 225 place out of 749 finishers with a time of 9:40. Kelly seen below came in at 9:40. I was really excited to see her as I was enjoying my beer from a local German pub.
Later Jason and Shauna made it in as a couple. As a traveling group we had 100% finish rate!
In conclusion, this race was a blast. The scenery was unmatched with perfect trails and great race support. If you are looking for a race to do in Europe and want to avoid the human traffic jams of the UTMB races - this is it! We built a full Italian vacation around our event with Venice as our next stop yet there other fun destinations nearby in Austria and Switzerland.