There are many international competitors at the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race this year. The event has quickly established a global reputation for itself and as this year’s competitors return home they will surely inspire others to come in the future. I’ve been asking a few about their experiences in Wales over the last 5 days.
One of the early finishers today was Loic Tregan of Switzerland and he is one of those who returned after failing to complete the race in 2015. I asked him how much he’d thought about the race in the two year interval.
“I guess I really started to think about the race in December when I began specific training, then you need the focus and ambition to put in the time when you have family, work, all the usual priorities as well. So maybe for the last 6 months I have been thinking about the race much of the time.
“Last time I was going well and had an injury out of nowhere on day 4. This time I was only confident after I passed the same place, thinking I would get injured again. When I crossed the road where it happened I thought, yes I can finish this. Now I have and will collect my dragon trophy! The race was so, so hard that it is hard to enjoy the feeling, but I am sure I will when I recover a little.”
He can start enjoying the feeling of success tonight at the prize giving dinner when the trophies will be presented to all the finishers. He finished in 8th in a time of 47.57.18.
Nick Hollon from the USA came to the race with a top flight endurance pedigree as a finisher of the Barkley Marathons (there are very, very few of them). So I asked him how the two races compared.
“This is up there with the Barkley for sure I’d say,” was his reply. “If I had to list a top 3 toughest it would be Barkley, Dragons Back and Tor des Geants. For me the Dragon’s Back Race has lived up to its reputation, though I was hoping to get in the top 5. I think I was too concerned about who was where, and as a result made some bad decisions.” He finished 6th in 46.25.44 and was the best placed international runner.
The top 5 places went to UK athletes and Dutch race Wouter Huitzing commented, “What does amaze me is how fast the British runners can descend on the rough ground.” It is one of the factors that make it hard for international visitors to keep up with the home based runners.
Huitzing finisher 15th and was pleased with that. “It is only my second ultra,” he said, “and I was aiming for 50 hours but was just outside. Still it’s a good result and a fantastic route. I have also been really impressed with the organisation.”
As I spoke to him he was having his feet treated by a medic just to check all was OK as he leaves next week for Raid in France, a non-stop 5 day adventure race! (He isn’t the only one either –Kevin Stephens of the UK, is doing the same.)
The only French finisher was Michael Carraz. He completed the first 4 days with his friend Richard Dreijer, who unfortunately was unable to start day 5 due to injured feet. “Hey, I guess I must be the first Frenchman,” he said. “I preferred the first two days in the mountains on the more difficult ground, not so much the last 3 days which was more boggy.” (He is very lucky it’s been an unusually dry winter!) “I would like to finish with those two days,” he said, “and do the course the other way around.”
When I spoke to Carsten Drilling of Germany he said exactly the opposite! “I found the first two days hard, but enjoyed the last 3 much more. I think it would be very hard if the race went from south to North.”
He raced with his partner Barbara Drews who had been very dehydrated at the end of day 4. She was in a bad condition but recovered well and completed the race today. “We stayed together the whole way,” he said, “and for me this meant going a little slower, but it is better to be together and support each other.”
There were other couples in the race too, the Japanese honeymooners and Wendy and Jo Inge Fjellstad. Jo Inge is Norwegian and this pair were also from an adventure racing background. They too ran the whole route together and were always side by side when I saw them.
Mark Lattanzi from the USA was enthusiastic about his week of running. “It’s been just great,” he said, “a really well put on event, in great scenery and in such fantastic weather. I’ve had the best time.”
Then he remembered day 2 when he was suffering with a bad stomach and decided that perhaps not every day had been so great. “That day I was never doing this again, or anything like it. I was cancelling all my races! But then I always think how would I feel at the end, knowing I didn’t finish, and I keep going.”
That selective memory to recall the high points will increase with time from the event, and those who return to their countries will share memories of a sunny Wales, fantastic scenery and a supportive and friendly race organisation.
The satisfaction of crossing the line will also help visiting runners to make good ambassadors for the Dragon’s Back Race, and there have been many international finishers today. Racers are still finishing but at the moment there are finishers from USA, Spain, Ireland, South Africa, Austria, Holland, Switzerland, Japan, Belgium, Sweden, Italy, Norway, Germany, France and Sweden.
Racers from 5 continents attended the 2017 Berghaus Dragon's Back Race™ ©guillemcasanova.com
They will all collect their Dragon trophies tonight and return with their tales of the race which will hopefully inspire other runners from their countries to come to Wales and face the Dragon for themselves.