Sabrina Grogan, the current two time New Zealand Mountain Running Champ, relished the thought of running away from looming medical degree exams to compete at the World Champs in Andora last month.
Sabrina finished an impressive 28th in the world, helping the women's team to an incredible eighth place overall. She gives us an insight into her race and travels below -
French altitude training camp, Font Romeu
The moment I stepped off the place in Barcelona, the countdown was on. I traveled to Font Romeu, the French altitude training camp that has hosted the likes of Mo Farah, to get acclimatized before Andorra. Nestled in the Pyrenees and at 1800m elevation I could not have found a better place to prepare. Incredible running trails were everywhere in this adventurers paradise. The athlete facility got my head in the game too with recovery rooms, physios and a gym all at my fingertips. The only let down was that I was on the taper so I could not go as hard as I wanted. The food was excellent, full of protein, and of course French cheese. The four days here meant that I was refreshed and ready to move on to Andorra.
New Zealand Team at the flag bearing ceremony
Andorra is a country of small towns within valleys, walled in by steep cliffs and mountains. Canillo, the town we stayed in was stunning and we were hosted with most of the other non-european teams in a ski hotel. The Kiwi team this year was incredible. Having a full womens' and mens' team meant a great atmosphere. In particular, Sophie, Nancy, and Sarah made my time so much more than it would have been alone. The day after arriving we ran the course itself. All uphill with roughly 1000m climbing over just under 12km made for a fun course reccy so did the stinging nettle. With 4.5km of undulating flat in the middle, the uphill on either end was absolutely killer.
Race day arrived. As I lined up for the gun, the moments leading to this flashed in my mind. Months of work, hours of grinding up hills in the cold, in the dark, in the wind. Early mornings and late nights, sweaty rooms at altitude, it all came down to just over an hour.
Sabrina giving it her all mid-race
I found the first half of the race really hard, a mental battle of am I good enough for this? As we dug into that first climb I found my rhythm. I love the grind and the burn of an uphill. Altra Escalantes were perfect for this race, light and comfortable but enough grip to deal with the slightly technical terrain. There is nothing better than the satisfaction of making it to the top of a hard climb and looking back down. I know I gave it everything in that race. My legs had nothing left to give, but my heart and my head were immediately hungry for more. 28th out of 77 of the worlds best isn’t bad, but there is better to come.
New Zealand Women's Team
Last, but never least, a small word of thanks. I am nothing without the people who support me, through all parts of my life. My family, friends, and coach Maria as well as the University of Otago (in particular the School of Medicine), Athletics Canterbury, UC athletics, Altra Running (Grant Guise) and countless others.