"You're doing the Maratona ... AGAIN?!"

Yvette Yeates

Oct / 7 / 2018

Yes. I am doing the Maratona dles Dolomites again. And 2019 will be the fifth time. And there are a myriad of reasons and excuses. Let me tell you how I got hooked ...

2015 was my first attempt. Sunday 5 July. It is like the first kiss and never forgotten … a true adventure! The weather was magnificent, the Dolomites were majestic, the crowds of cheering supporters were doing battle with the weather just as I and thousands of other cyclists from all over the world were fighting the heat. It was so fricking hot!! Italy was baking, and we heard it was 40 something degrees in Rome and I swear it felt like 40 something degrees cycling up the Passo Falzarego (2,117m) and then the furnace of Passo Valparola (2,200m). But obviously it wasn’t 40 something degrees. That would be silly.

I very nearly did not do the 106km course. The descent from Passo Gardena (2,121m) to Corvara (1,530m) tricked me. I was loving the multiple hairpins descent and as I cycled through the finish or continue on area of Corvara, I was pumped enough to think I could do 106km.

Half way up Passo Campolongo, in the baking sun and with no shade, I changed my mind. I called my husband and told him I was going back to finish the 50km course. Yes, I am a quitter and I have no shame in saying that! After much debate and persuasion from my husband and friend ... "You are almost here" ... "It’s all downhill from here", they promised.

I got back on my bike and reached the pass before the sweep van – seriously … just before the sweep van! I guzzled water, poured water over my head and then we 3 took off.

So, we tucked and enjoyed our reward (I love descents). We were cheered on by crowds determined to stay for the duration in this heatwave. And I was thankful that I had listened to my husband and good friend. How nice of them to encourage me, to look after me.

And then we got to Andraz. No wind, just midday sun and a heatwave. Then we passed the turn-off for the dreaded Passo Giau (138km course) and started the uphill that was not promised! On any other day this is a long winding route through cool forest. Today it was not. The sun was directly overhead and there was no relief from the baking sun and the suffocating heat. I would like to point out that I was not the only one cursing and suffering, or wallowing in a water fountain half way up Falzarego. Talking was minimal, actually there was no talking … it was too hot. The road was opened to traffic and we continued on and believe it all not it got hotter the higher we went. By the time we got to the ‘easy’ bit between Falzarego and Valparola, my Garmin was reading high 30s as the super-heated road and rocks radiated the heat back like an open oven door. When we finally reached Valparola my cycling companions said it is all downhill from here, I nearly clobbered them. Luckily, I have a sense of humour … I think it was the relief of the end in sight. So, I’d like to say we were refreshed by our 700 odd metre descent in fresh cool air, but we weren’t – have I already told you it was hot?

The end … so I thought, and I probably was not unique to think this when turning into La Villa. Three little words - Mur dl Giat. What can I say. This short and very intense climb, that maxes out at 19% is lined with screaming, chanting, dancing and dressed up crowds, and music blasts from somewhere near the giant cat arching over the road. There’s a photographer lying on the road trying to get the best angle of you as you gasp and sweat and try to smile. Everyone is forcing you to your best, to stay on the bike and make it to the top.

I failed. I blamed the heat, I blamed the lack of oxygen in my lungs, I blamed my lack of fitness, I blamed my husband for making me do the 106km, I blamed my bike because it was so heavy. (it’s not). So I leaned into the bike and pushed it under the giant cat and to the top. How stupendously crazy is this course? How stupendously crazy was I to even think I could do this?

I wobbled to the finish just a couple of kilometres away, a relatively flat section. It was well over 8 hours since I had started at 6:30 in the morning. But the best thing? I finished! I rode back to the hotel, I crawled into bed, I told the kids to look after themselves and I fell asleep.

But I was hooked.

I came back in 2016 and my good friend Kath trained me up for the event. We met two crazy Dutch men (Jeroen and Robin) who insisted on holding their bikes above their heads at passes and cheered on my 14 year old son on a training day. They have now become good family friends. And it was also memorable because it would the last ride with DJ our friend who helped me in 2015. And I improved my time.

2017 was memorable because I was so cold. The descents were painful and I love descents. There are only so many wind and waterproof jackets that one can wear on a bike. And my 15 year son did it and blitzed it, leaving his parents in his dust! I am so proud of him.

2018 because I love this event. I meet amazing people, we can chat, we pass each other. People help each other. There is laughter. And now I do not need to feel I need to chase a clock. I can stop and take photos. I can stop and untangle someone cramping up. I can stop and talk with someone until we both have our breath back and heart rates at a reasonable rate. And still finish to cheering and a sense of achievement.

I love the Maratona dles Dolomites and 2019 is already in my calendar.