Monday, 4 September 2017

DREAMERS DISEASE

I'm nineteen years of age. Whilst I know deep down this is young and I've (hopefully) got many years ahead of me; looking back on my life and everything I've already experienced sometimes makes me feel old. When I'm leading my children's running group for example; eight years old feels like such a long time ago. My eighth year of life seems to just return to me in flashes and I wonder if the children will remember the hour a week spent running with me when they're nineteen and looking back on their own lives' so far.

But then there are moments like now and I think; "Wow, I'm only nineteen... I've got my whole life ahead of me." The days not yet lived stretch before me. Open spaces, blank pages not yet written in the story of life. Looking forward feels me with excitement, enthusiasm and anticipation for the adventures ahead.



People say you should live life in the moment. Mindfulness seems to be a thing these days with people wanting to disconnect from the fast pace of everyday life in the 21st Century and to live simply; now, in the moment. Maybe this helps feed the feeling of inner peace and helps efficiency with everyday tasks.

But as we all know, living life "in the moment" can be hard; especially when you've got a bout of the "dreamers disease". I'm not afraid to admit my recent time away in the Italian mountains hasn't helped my case of this. In fact, it's probably led to my most severe outbreak ever. Fortunately though, unlike most diseases; this is a "nice illness", not being a so-called disease at all. I'd call it a passion. Everyone needs a passion, something that calls to them. Something that makes them feel lit up and alive; making them feel like there's something worth fighting for. I believe I've found my calling and my passion. Exploring this amazing planet on which we live, with my own two feet, with other like-minded people; with members of the mountain running family. Yes we are a family of like-minded (sometimes crazy) people with an overwhelming love for the sport of mountain running and everything it symbolises to us. I've got the dreamers disease for the mountains and adventure.

I sit at my desk, pen in hand scribbling down the random thoughts which are buzzing around my head for this blog post. The world map sits below my notebook and I can't help but think about all the foreign lands I haven't yet explored. All the mountains yet to be climbed and experienced. It's true; I am only nineteen. I have my whole life ahead of me. I can live life in any direction I choose. This freedom is something incredible to smile about and I feel humbled and slightly overwhelmed with gratefulness for everything I've already been so lucky to have experienced in my short life so far. To think of all the places I've already visited, all the paths already traveled, all the friendships already made. The connections and the journey.

My passion for the outdoors and exploring the planet has always been present, but discovering the sport of mountain running has truly allowed this passion to flourish and grow into something greater. When I first embarked on my mountain running journey in 2014; I saw evidence of the flame which my fiery passion has now ignited for the sport. For the mountains and for the people.

I've always been a lover of exploring the outdoors.

I first came into this sport as a wide eyed sixteen year old. Not knowing what to expect at my first World Championships held in Italy; the real home of mountain running. I still remember that feeling of being completely blown away by the Italians enthusiasm for the sport. It's a feeling I've come to know well and still experience now. Over the past four years I've seen the sport quite literally grow in front of my eyes with more and more people gaining this infectious Italian fire-like enthusiasm and love for the sport. As the legendary Italian mountain runner Francesco Puppi said in a recent Instagram post: "We are athletes; we can run fast and race hard pursuing our dreams with passion and courage. Mountain running is more alive than ever, and this is the road we need to follow to the Olympic Dream." I couldn't have put it better myself and repeat Puppi's sentiments exactly. I've always been a big believer in "trusting the process" and it is enthralling to watch and be a part of this process... the rise and growth of mountain running. Needless to say, I'm excited for what the future holds for this sport. 


Up and down classic mountain running races are the most enjoyable and spectacular event for both athletes and the public. It's where the authentic nature of a mountain runner becomes evident and where speed and agility need to be supported by strength and endurance during the entire race. #premana2017 classic mountain running champs were a striking example of this all-round versatility and huge talent of the athletes, and also a dramatic show for the hottest and most numerous public ever seen on a #wmrc course. In a smaller, but not less fun version, the mountain running italian champs last week at #piandellebetulle #valsassina brought me back to the same feeling and thought that was born with my teammates approximately one year ago on the road to Bulgaria. We are athletes: we can run fast and race hard pursuing our dreams with passion and courage. Mountain running is more alive than ever, and this is the road we need to follow to the Olympic Dream. #MountainRunningOlympicDream #classic #journey #oneyearlater #wmra #athletes #dream #noplacetoofar
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If you follow me on social media; please accept my apologies for the abundance of pictures from my recent Italian adventures. From the moment I stepped onto the plane crowded with British tourists to fly back to the UK; I found myself already missing the mountains and the memories left behind. This only heightened when the outline of the high peaks below became visible from the plane window, seemingly within touching distance. My heart longs for these places unexplored, so I'd have been very happy if the pilot had suddenly decided he needed to make an emergency (but safe!) landing on one of these mountains below. Of course this didn't happen and so I returned home with a heart full of love for the memories I made over those two weeks spent with brilliant friends; both old and new.


Dreaming of the mountains and the memories left behind​. It's almost time to say "Ciao Italia" but I'm so thankful for the unforgettable adventures over the past two weeks... The places visited, the stunning scenery which has taken my breath away and the mountains fallen in love with all over again. The people met, the new friendships built and the incredible memories we've all made together. I leave Italy with a head full of memories and a heart full of love for the country, the mountains and the people... Grazie mille Italia 🔙🔜❤️🇮🇹 #italia #mountainrunning #mountainrunningfamily #flettatrail #malonno #collina #travel #mountains #thebullet #thegiant #breadthief #thefairyofwales #thecondor #cucciolo #puppinho #pizzastreak #mammamia #roadtomadonnadellares #flighttomanchester #homeofmountainrunning #summer #adventure #galles #jonnybrownlee #ladsladslads #runtoaustria #trainhopping #inov8 #getagrip
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Don't worry, I won't bore you too much with my adventures but I'll provide you with a sort of visual diary with a few highlights to maybe inspire you for your own mountain adventures.
 
"The Athlete's Home" - The welcoming sign on the door of our base for the week before the FlettaTRAIL races based in Malonno, Northern Italy.


Looking down on the town of Malonno.

Malonno nestled in the valley between the high mountain peaks.


I took the train with GB team mate, Jack Wood to Sulzano by Lake Iseo. We then took the boat across to the island of Monte Isola where we made our way to the church on the summit. There was a huge storm brewing in the mountains in the distance. (Pic: Jack Wood)
With Jack Wood on the boat back across to the mainland.


Spectating at the PizTri Vertical KM at Malonno with Jack Wood and Elliot Hall. (It was a bit chilly!) (Pic: Fabrizio Lela)
Kirsty Hall making her way to the finish of the vertical km

It really was as steep as it looks! Ben Mounsey grinding it out to the finish of the brutal vertical km.

With Kirsty Hall, Ville Mietunen (from Finland), Jack Wood and Ondra Fejfar (From Czech Republic) at the top of the VK course. (Pic: Ben Mounsey)
I think Ben earnt his beer during that VK race!
Race day! Everything all set up for FlettaTRAIL Malonno. 21km with 1100m of climb and descent.


 
Smiles all around. The British competitors and the race organisers of the FlettaTRAIL. Probably the hardest but most enjoyable race I've ever done. Already can't wait to come back next year!

 
Race Presentation - humbled to be stood with some top Italian mountain runners.

 
With some of the Italian legends of the sport and race organiser Alex Scolari; the man that made it all happen... A day and night to remember. (Pic: Francesco Puppi)


 
I left the mountains of Malonno behind and took the train to Lake Garda.



Escaping from the large number of tourists on a hired city bike. A great way to explore.


My next race.


 

 



I just couldn't stop saying "wow" when checking out the race route for 3Rifugi. These mountain views left me speechless.



 

 
 
Pre-race photo for the GB women's teams





 
I left the mountains and the mountain running family behind and spent my last night in the city of Brescia before heading to the airport the next day.



Ciao Italia

I've carried out a few question and answer sessions at local primary schools and one question which I'm often asked is; “What would you do if you didn't run?” This always makes me stop and think. What would I be doing? Every time I always struggle to answer. I honestly don't know what I would be doing. I feel like  maybe I was destined to find the sport of mountain running and to spend my time exploring new places by foot. Being outdoors and experiencing high places and moments that take my breath away are where I feel the most at home and the most alive. I'm fine with being defined like that; my name is Heidi after all. I'm glad to be living up to my namesake. 😉

Being chased down by Ben "The Bullet" Mounsey... my bread thief partner in crime.

If you've read and made it this far along this rambling blog post with me; then I salute you! Thanks for sharing this journey and thank you to the amazing members of the mountain running family for making everything so memorable over those two weeks in Italy. I feel so grateful for the experiences this sport gives me. Here's to more adventures soon...

Keep dreaming,
Heidi x

https://www.inov-8.com/

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

THE END OF AN ERA

It is two days after. I'm at home; in Mid Wales, heading out for an afternoon jog in the rain. My legs are like two blocks of wood that do not want to walk, let alone jog; but the DOMS will soon fade and disappear. On my finger nails; the badly painted union jack's are slowly beginning to chip off; one finger at a time. On my upper arms; the two British flag tattoos are steadily wearing away and soon only two rectangular patches of lighter coloured skin will remain; to remind me of what was once there.

Time will pass and these things will vanish; but the memories made over the past four years will surely live on. 
  
You may wonder what I am talking about. This past weekend saw the end of an era for me; the last time competing for the junior Great Britain team at the World Mountain Running Championships. 


I can still vividly remember the very first time I nervously pulled on my British vest as a 16 year old at the World Mountain Running Championships to race in the marble quarry of Casette di Massa back in 2014. Then to now fast forward to the present moment and the six other times I have proudly raced in the red, white and blue of Britain... it has been a totally incredible journey which I am so fortunate and grateful to have had the opportunity to experience. I still can't quite get my head around the fact that my junior career is all over. I still feel like I might wake up tomorrow morning and it's all been a dream.



Throughout the past four years, my feet have taken me up and down mountains in Italy, Madeira, Wales, Italy again, Bulgaria, Slovenia and to round it all off Italy for the final time this past weekend.



World Mountain Running Championships 2014: Casette di Massa, Italy - 14th

 

European Mountain Running Championships 2015: Madeira - 9th

 
World Mountain Running Championships 2015: Betws y Coed, Wales (A home championships!) - 5th / Team Silver









European Mountain Running Championships 2016: Arco, Italy - 3rd / Team Gold







World Mountain Running Championships 2015: Bulgaria - 20th





European Mountain Running Championships 2017: Kamnik, Slovenia - 9th / Team Gold













World Mountain Running Championships 2017: Premana, Italy - 8th







I cannot even begin to describe the feelings and emotions these past four years have given me at these championships. Just to look back at all of these pictures puts a massive smile on my face.

When I first represented Great Britain; I was thrown into the deep end, wide-eyed, not knowing what to expect. Little did I know how much I would fall in love with the sport of mountain running over the next few years and I had no idea of the incredible journey it would take me on. The passion, pain, determination, joy, motivation, love and ultimate happiness being a part of the mountain running community would give me.


The magnificent ups. Pulling on my Great Britain vest at a home World Championships in Wales and being part of the most successful GB mountain running team ever, with everyone going home with a medal... feeling the goosebumps as we cheered and shouted the GB seniors to their own individual and team medals... feeling the elation of winning my own first international individual medal racing through the streets of Arco... standing on the top step of the podium twice with my GB team mates as the tune of God Save The Queen rang out. 

There are ups and there are also downs as every journey in life should have. It is all part of the process of sport and life. I am immensely grateful for every single moment.

The smiles, the laughter, the crazy times, the races, the team meetings, the team talks, the shouting and cheering, the cowbells, the flags, dai dai dai, allez allez allez, the delicious food, the sometimes questionable edible food, the parties, the friendships built across the world, the stories, the opening ceremonies, the closing ceremonies, the pain, the passion, the hopes and dreams....




Mountain running is more than just a sport to me. It has become like a second family and I am not ready to say goodbye... As the door on my junior career now closes, the door of the senior challenge now opens and I'm here to accept that challenge!

To the people I have pulled on my GB vest beside over the years and to all of the GB team management; I cannot thank you enough for the experiences and for the amazing memories we have all made beside each other. I'm so grateful and thankful to have met every single one of you and to have shared these trips and experiences together and to have grown beside you all. This is extended to the whole of the mountain running community and to the many amazing friendships built and many memories made throughout the years. It is these people who make mountain running such a beautiful sport and this is why it is so hard to say goodbye to my junior days.




A big, massive, huge THANK YOU to everyone who has supported me over the past four years. To British Athletics for giving me these brilliant opportunities to represent my country at the sport I love. To the people at Welsh Athletics and Sport Wales for the support at home in Wales. To Chris Jones for the knowledge and expertise he has brought to my training. To The Metropole Hotel for the sponsorship through use of the Rock Spa Gym for which I will be eternally grateful. To SportsAid for the financial support. To RWG Mobile for keeping me connected in all these remote places abroad. To inov-8 for providing me with the best kit and shoes out there. If my many pairs of inov-8 shoes could talk; they'd tell you many stories of pain, passion, drive and happiness along the miles I've run over the past few years!

The shoes which helped me to top 10 finishes at the Euro and World Champs 2017

Thank you to my family, for always sticking by me through thick and thin and for always being there for me. Your unwavering support means the absolute world to me and I probably don't say that enough. This has been your journey just as much as it has been mine. 

And finally last but not least. Thank you. Yes you. Whoever you are reading this. Thank you for becoming a part of and following me along this journey. I hope just maybe you've enjoyed the ride as much as I have.

So yes, that is it. The end of an era. My junior career, over and out. Thanks for all the memories, it's been an absolute blast. I'm so full of love for the mountain community all over the world.

Keep on trusting in the process ;-)
Heidi x

PS: My next mountain challenge...