By: Matt Setlack

I had an incredible experience competing in the 33rd World Mountain Running Championships in Premana, Italy on 30 Jul 2017 as a member of the Canadian Team. This post will describe my journey and hopefully it will inspire and motivate potential runners to get into the sport of mountain running.

Qualifying for Worlds

To qualify for the World Mountain Running Championships ("Worlds"), there were two things I needed to do. First, I needed to qualify for the Canadian Mountain Running National Championships in Canmore, AB on 10 Jun 2017. To qualify, I needed to run under 36:00 for 10km, which I did by running 31:40 at the Vancouver Sun Run on 23 Apr 2017. Second, I needed to either place in the top 3 at Nationals or be selected for an "at-large" spot on the team (as shown in this website: http://mountainrunning.ca/news.php?id=101). I placed 4th at Nationals but based on my race results from 2017, I was selected for the Canadian Mountain Running Team. This was my second time competing with the Canadian Mountain Running Team. Last year (2016), I competed in the World Mountain Running Championships in Sapareva Banya, Bulgaria.

Getting to Italy

I left Cold Lake, AB on Tues 25 Jul 2017 and stayed at my sister, Steph and brother-in-law, Hugh's beautiful home near Edmonton. Everything on the way was super smooth and enjoyable. It was one of those days where everything aligns. No holdups or traffic, you breeze through all the green lights. This was the first time I noticed that petrol was less expensive in CL ($0.869 per litre) than Edmonton ($0.909 per litre). Smile at the world and the world will smile back at you :) 

This is all I brought: Trail shoes and 30L carry-on backpack

This is all I brought: Trail shoes and 30L carry-on backpack

Driving to Edmonton

Driving to Edmonton

I ran into Mat Strong, Bri Strong and Vanessa Fulford at the Edmonton Airport. That was awesome! They were on their way to Tomorrowland in Belgium. I really enjoy running into cool friends like that. They are full of super positive energy and are awesome people. At the Toronto Airport, I hung out with Paul Kirsch (Junior Team Coach or Manager for USA Team). It's always great to see familiar faces.

Matt, Mat, Bri and Vanessa at Edmonton Airport

Matt, Mat, Bri and Vanessa at Edmonton Airport

Packed my own lunch for the airplane

Packed my own lunch for the airplane

Whenever I'm travelling, I make sure to drink lots of water, wash my hands with soap and water frequently and do not touch my face. I like to pack my own lunch as well to ensure I'm not paying inflated airport prices and it's nice to be able to eat whenever I like. We were greeted by Mario and Nicola at the Milan Malpensa (MXP) Airport and taken on a Police bus to Premana, about a 2.5 hour drive NE of MXP.

Mario, Gareth, Allan, MattT, MattS and Nicola at the Milan Malpensa Airport

Mario, Gareth, Allan, MattT, MattS and Nicola at the Milan Malpensa Airport

Pre-Race

The days leading up to the race were relatively relaxed. There was very little running and a lot of resting. I ran fewer km that week that I have run all year (only around 40km compared to 130 to 170 km per week). We arrived in a small hotel (CFPA Casargo) just outside Premana in the afternoon of Thurs 27 Jul. That afternoon, the senior men and Heath went for a short 6km run on a narrow road. David and 3 junior Canadian women were about to head to the race course that afternoon so I managed to jump into their vehicle at the last minute and we walked over about 2/3rds of the race course. During this partial walk through, I wore my Salomon S-LAB trail shoes.

Walking/jogging over the race course. It was pretty steep.

Walking/jogging over the race course. It was pretty steep.

About 500m from the start line, the course narrowed to about 6 feet through a cobblestone alley.

About 500m from the start line, the course narrowed to about 6 feet through a cobblestone alley.

On Fri 28 Jul, David drove us back to the race course in his rental car and the senior men ran over the entire race course together. I wore my Brooks T7 racing flats. They are very thin/worn and you can feel the rocks through the shoes. They do not have a lot of grip/traction.

Matt Setlack on uphill section of race course

Matt Setlack on uphill section of race course

MattT, MattS, Allan and Gareth

MattT, MattS, Allan and Gareth

On Sat 29 Jul, we did a short 20 minute easy run with the senior men's team on the narrow road again. In the afternoon, we went to the Opening Ceremony in Premana. It was very impressive and the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) did a fantastic job organizing it and carrying it out. 35 different countries were represented in this year's championships. I noticed that almost all the locals (including photographers and school kids) were wearing Salomon trail running shoes (the Speedcross is very popular).

35 different countries were in attendance at Worlds.

35 different countries were in attendance at Worlds.

They played a song at the opening ceremony and throughout the championships called Come il Vento (video below). I'm pretty sure they created this song/anthem especially for Premana 2017.

Team Canada

Team Canada for World Mountain Running Championships on 30 Jul 2017 was comprised of 15 athletes and 3 team managers as follows:

Senior Women: Meggan Franks, Adrienne Gomes, Chantelle Groenewoud, Adele Blaise-Sohnius

Senior Men: Matthew Travaglini, Gareth Hadfield, Allan Brett, Matt Setlack

Junior Women: Annika Austin, Katia Lumb, Lea McCroy

Junior Men: Aidan Doherty, Austin Sutherland, Ross Henderson, Kieran Lumb

Team Managers: Adrian Lambert (Head of Delegation), Sue Lambert (Senior Team Manager), Pascal Gray (Junior Team Manager)

Back Row (L to R): Austin Sutherland, Adele Blaise-Sohnius, Adrienne Gomes, Chantelle Groenewoud, Matt Setlack, Gareth Hadfield, Allan Brett, Matthew Travaglini.   Front Row (L to R): Aiden Doherty, Kieran Lumb, Ross Henderson, Lea McCroy, Annika Austin, Katia Lumb.

Back Row (L to R): Austin Sutherland, Adele Blaise-Sohnius, Adrienne Gomes, Chantelle Groenewoud, Matt Setlack, Gareth Hadfield, Allan Brett, Matthew Travaglini.   Front Row (L to R): Aiden Doherty, Kieran Lumb, Ross Henderson, Lea McCroy, Annika Austin, Katia Lumb.

Race Day (Sun 30 Jul 2017)

The senior men's race started at 12:30 pm so we were lucky to be able to sleep in before the race. This race start time was ideal for me as I usually do my long runs at 12:00 noon. We arrived at the race start and did a 20 minute warm-up through narrow alleyways on cobblestones with the senior men's team. There was a really good dynamic among the Canadian Senior Men's Team; we did everything together.

Taking the bus to the race start: Senior Men's Team - MattT, Allan, Gareth, MattS

Taking the bus to the race start: Senior Men's Team - MattT, Allan, Gareth, MattS

There was a lot of tension in the air before the start. I was 5 people back from the front line. MattT started in the very front row or 2nd row from the front. The pace went out very fast as expected. I was quite aggressive at the start and moved up several places in the first 200-300m (before the narrow 6 foot wide alleyway bottleneck). The pace was really strange; at first it was super fast, then it slowed down, then it sped up again, surging faster then slower.

The race was 13km long (2 laps of 6.5km per lap) with about 850m of elevation gain and 850m of elevation loss. The race started and finished at almost the same spot. 

On the first uphill, I was thinking that maybe I should have done more trail runs, gone to the mountains more or done more incline training on the treadmill. The temperature was about +25C with little if any wind. There were sections of the race course where you would hit a wall of heat (like running into an oven) just before going entering the forest. I found it warm but not unbearable and much better than the temperature that I had been training in while in Cold Lake, AB (+30C with heat warnings in effect). The heat did not affect me as much as it affected other runners, I believe because I have done many long runs (2 to 2.5 hours) in temperatures of +31C and +27C. It was hot, don't get me wrong, but I think my brain/body sort of knew what to expect. Maybe I just got lucky.

The crowd support was amazing! It was like we were in the Tour de France. There were gigantic cow bells ringing, music pumping, the hoards of people on the sidelines were yelling at you and reaching out and touching your shoulder as you ran/aggressively hiked by. It was so loud and I actually found it a little hard to concentrate and I was thinking to myself, "I should have brought ear plugs". haha

To give you an idea of how fast the senior men's start was, watch this video at at 7:58. Keep in mind that the race was much more challenging and steeper than it looks.

During the two descents (especially the second time going down), I was thinking about Allan Brett's saying, "#Jesustakethewheel" because my legs were pretty much shot by then. On the second downhill, it felt like I was unintentionally braking with each step even though I didn't want to be doing that.

There was a lot more shuffling than I thought. I passed about 5 guys on the first uphill, then one or two on the first downhill. I came across Lap 1 in 31:00 and 53rd place. Second lap was A LOT slower and I ran it in 34:10. I ended up finishing the race in 1:05:10 placing 56th overall (1st Canadian in senior men's race) and was quite happy how it went.

Matt Setlack at the finish of the World Mountain Running Championships in Premana, Italy

Matt Setlack at the finish of the World Mountain Running Championships in Premana, Italy

There were Italian kids near the start line and they put out their hands so you could give them high-fives. It was awesome. It gave me a boost of energy. When I heard people cheering for CANADA, it gave me a boost of energy as well. However, when they kept saying, "die Canada die", I was thinking, I know I'm dying, you don't need to remind me. I later learned that this meant "Go Canada Go".

World class athletes

One of my favourite things about competing in World Championship events are the amazing world class athletes you meet. I was very fortunate to run into a number of friends while in Premana, Italy.

Matt Setlack and Zak Hanna

Matt Setlack and Zak Hanna

Matt Setlack and Joe Gray

Matt Setlack and Joe Gray

Sarah Tunstall, Matt Setlack and Joe Steward

Sarah Tunstall, Matt Setlack and Joe Steward

Adele Blaise-Sohnius, Matt Setlack and Francois Leboeuf

Adele Blaise-Sohnius, Matt Setlack and Francois Leboeuf

Thank You

I am extremely impressed with the level of support I have received from so many people and am forever grateful.

Canadian Armed Forces - I would like to thank my chain of command at the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE) and 4 Wing Cold Lake for supporting my request to compete in the World Mountain Running Championships. Specifically, I would like to thank Major Renaud, Major Bergeron and Colonel Grandmont for their support. I would also like to thank the 4 Wing Commander, Colonel Doyle for supporting my request.

4 Wing Personnel Support Programs (PSP) Staff and PSP National Sports Office - One of the things I love about 4 Wing Cold Lake is the incredible support we receive from the PSP staff. Specifically, I am extremely appreciative of work that has been done by Ms. Josey Yearley, Fitness and Sports Manager and Ms. Diana Warbeck, Senior PSP Manager at the very last minute under very tight timelines to submit my request to the PSP National Sports Office. I would also like to thank Mr. Denis Gaboury from the PSP National Sports Office for supporting my out service sports competition request.

City of Cold Lake - I would like to thank City Council for supporting my request for funding to compete in the World Mountain Running Championships. I am very grateful.

Local Organizing Committee (LOC) - The LOC, based out of Italy was responsible for organizing the entire event. They did an absolutely phenomenal job of organizing Worlds and I cannot thank all the organizers and volunteers for putting on a world class event.

Local Newspapers - Thank you Mamta Lulla from the Cold Lake Sun newspaper for writing an article in the newspaper. The article can be found here. Thank you to Meghan Pecjak from the Bonnyville Nouvelle newspaper for writing an article about the competition in the newspaper. The article can be found here.

The Terminal Mile - Thank you Michael Rochus for interviewing me after the World Mountain Running Championships. You can listen to the interview below.

Adrian Lambert and Tony Lambert  - Thank you to the Head of Delegation/Team Manager, Adrian Lambert for organizing all the administrative details, going to the technical meetings, taking care of the lost baggage issue, managing all of the social media posts, taking care of race registrations and accommodation bookings. Thank you Tony Lambert for paying for our Team Canada uniforms. We looked really sharp in them.

My Family - I would like to thank my wife, Emily for her unwavering support, my parents, Wayne and Patti Setlack for their continuous support throughout my entire running career and my life. Thank you as well to my sister, Steph and brother in Law, Hugh who are always so kind and generous hosting me in their beautiful home anytime I ask. You guys are a lifesaver! Thank you to David and Sue Tallen who have also been extremely supportive of my running. Family will always be there for you and I am extremely lucky to have so many amazing people in my life.

Running Room, Ronhill and Zizu Optics - Thank you for your continuous support. You allow me to do what I love everyday. I am very lucky to have such amazing supporters and believe in you 100%. 

To the community in general - THANK YOU to everyone who has congratulated me and provided me with continual positive energy. There are too many people to list here but I just want you all to know that I appreciate your amazing feedback. I am super lucky to do something that I love.

Long live mountain running!