Elsey Davis stormed to third place in the National Golden Trail Series in the Azores. Her amazing podium success guaranteed her a place at next year's World Golden Trail Series event. She kindly took the time to share her experiences from the three races.
"The Azores Triangle Adventure race was a golden ticket I got for winning the Salomon national golden trial series in the UK. It was the grand final for the top 2-3 athletes to compete from countries all around the world.
It was a 3 stage race on 3 different islands on the Azores and it was as epic as it sounds! I was quite apprehensive heading into it as I have never raced on consecutive days before and my mountain racing experience only just began this year. The objective was to primarily to enjoy it whilst also aiming for top 3 overall which would mean an invitation and expenses to the world series next year. This would be decided based on cumulative time. I also wanted to come away reasonably unscathed!
Stage 1 Pico Island, 28km, 2,600m + ,170m -
From the coast, through vineyards then up to the top of Pico mountain. The first mile took 6 minutes, last mile took 38 which gives you an idea of the course profile ….flat to vertical. I was 3rd in this stage behind Janelle (USA) and Anna-Stiina (Finland). 4th position was Jael (Mexico) 6 minutes behind. I was glad the first day had little descending as it meant less muscle damage from descending before the next two days. I finished feeling strong and a bit more relaxed now everything was underway. I ran at my own pace as I didn’t want to risk burning out after the first day running at anyone else’s tempo.
Stage 2, São Jorge Island, 29km, 1700m +, 2100m -.
This was a point to point starting at the top of a hill, then 2 mains ascents and descents running from coast to coast. We got a bit of rain this day which was total bliss and I felt strong, I took the lead from half way but Janelle opened a small gap on the last climb and managed to pull away. I finished 2nd with Janelle 1st again and Anna- Stiina 30 seconds behind in 3rd. We had another 6 minute gap to 4th place creating a bigger cushion for the final stage.
Stage 3 was on Horta Island, the longest stage at 35km and another 1700m +, 1700m -. It passed through 10 (inactive) volcanoes. I felt pretty knackered and energy depleted by this stage and went into survival and damage control mode, so I kept it controlled and tried to enjoy it. Due to mental as much as physical racing fatigue I took a few wrong turns which led to me losing contact with the leaders and came 4th. Jael (Mexico) had a storming race coming third and Anna-Stiina took the win, Janelle a close second.
I was delighted to come third and even better to be in one piece (toe nails aside). It was an unforgettable experience, looking back at the photos I can’t find a single one where I’m not smiling. I think having 3 days of racing takes the pressure off a little bit and gives some breathing space to take in the experience a bit more. I learnt a lot about maximising recovery between races under challenging circumstances and how tough fuelling enough can be. Strangely I never felt hungry between races so it meant forcing as much food down without any enjoyment what so ever. Between the ferry and bus journeys there was barely time to relax and eat substantially which took its toll on the final day I think. The ferry ride after the 2nd day was so choppy it was an effort not to bring up the gels I had consumed in the race let alone eat anything. It was the same for everyone so we were embroiled in the same crazy challenge together at least.
My hope now was to be starting my build up to the World Mountain Championships in Thailand but it was sadly postponed again. But on the bright side, at least I bagged my invite to the World Series. I now have this set in my sights and can start the winter grind to gain some more mountain shape. Not all the races have been announced yet for the series but Sierre-Zinal and Marathon du Mont Blanc are a few I’d love to experience and I think I’ve scraped enough points together to enter the OCC (UTMB) 2022. There is also a possibility to make the GB team for the European mountain championships 2022 in July in Las Palmas- I guess dependant on the volcanic eruption that is currently on going there…"
Keep up the good work, Elsey. You rock!