After enjoying the beauty of England and Wales, it was time to focus on the reason we were out there - the IAU World Trail Championships in the Gwydyr Forest in Conwy, Wales. Brian and I previewed the course a bit on Wednesday (July 3rd). We didn't follow the exact course, but got a feel for the terrain...which, unfortunately, was relatively non-technical. Bummer!
(Amy enjoying the Gwydyr Forest Trails)
We then headed to the host city, Llundudno, and got to meet the rest of the USA team. Llundudno is a beautiful community on the shore - a perfect place to relax. The USA team was full of athletes that amaze and intimidate me, but I was proud that Brian and I got to participate. It was nice to be around a bunch of like-minded folks who are as passionate about running and the trails as we are. Brian felt right at home with his food allergies/issues - about half the team had restricted diets with vegan, milk allergies, and wheat allergies.
We celebrated the 4th of July by previewing the course, learning that while there was plenty of climbing, the course would certainly be non-technical. The race would go to speedsters - Brian and I were nervous because that's not our strength! But, we knew we would run as hard as we could and do the USA proud.
(Tracy and I previewing the course)
On Friday was the opening ceremony - our first chance to brush elbows with athletes from across the world. It was amazing to see so many incredibly fit and enthusiastic athletes - but I was certainly nervous and anxious, just hoping to not finish last in the race. On our way to the opening ceremony, we passed the White Rabbit and Mad Hatter - apparently Alice in Wonderland was written by a local author, so they celebrate the book in this region.
(Tracy and I, with the White Rabbit and Mad Hatter)
On my way into the opening ceremony, a reported pulled me aside and asked if I was Amy. I was floored - who over here know (or cared) who I was? He was a french reporter and he asked a few pointed questions about USATF funding for the team. His article was published on the French Trail Running website www.vo2.fr, and the rough translation of my quote is here:
"Concerning TEAM the USA, its presence constitutes already a victory, since selected had to launch a subscription on the Net, in order to finance their travel indicates Amy Rusiecki: “This world championship of trail is recent and the US federation did not want to help us, whereas it finances the 24 hours and the 100 km. For this reason, we have in heart to carry out a result here. We want to show with our official that they were wrong."
(Team USA, along with our local mascot)
It wasn't exactly what I said, as I'm sure some of it was lost in translation. But, I guess it got the point across. After I finished the quick interview, I quickly told my team manager, Jason Bryant, what had happened - hoping I didn't say anything wrong or get us in trouble. He smiled, and handed me the flag to carry into the opening ceremony. I was so proud.
(the Rusieckis - proud to represent the USA)
The opening ceremony itself was plenty of fan fare - each country was announced and walked in separately. We were all given a local 'mascot' from the schools to escort us in. Being the flag bearer, I got to stand in front of the ceremony as representatives welcomed us and officially called the World Championships open. An interesting part of the ceremony was allowing local school children to ask questions of some selected athletes. They asked great questions, I was impressed that this is a community that clearly understands running.
(Ben Nephew, Brian and myself - the New England contingient)
I left the opening ceremony a bit intimidated about the competition, but pumped to represent the USA and do what I am passionate about. Next post - the race report!