I love this kind of “races” even if I prefer to define them journey inside myself
I walk towards the lake while only the searchlights light up the darkest black. Next to me there is Cristina, who is struggling to smile thinking of the swimming in these conditions. I stay near to her for about ten minutes, then it seems like the darkness has swallowed us.
The music and the noise from the spectators disappear together with the perception of the meters of swimming that I am doing! I love swimming in these conditions, I have already done it in the past several times in a different contest!
After a little while I understand that the cold and the high altitude are making me change my way of breathing, if I carry on in my normal way I am out of breath. I breath every 3, breathing out a prolonged puff and it works. Then my serene mind starts to listening to my own breathing that under the water seems likes echoing a constant music that gives me a rhythm.
I come out of the water when the sun is out; the brave spectators who fought the cold, clap so hard that the adrenalin goes quickly up.
The great Binda (Stefano Bindelli my support) helps me in taking my swimming suit out and as if he is my shade, follows me in the car for the next 195 km. He has been riding his bikes for years, he is a triathlete too who deserves respect but above all he is a great man and a brother for me. I start biking light because with only 500 km on the bike on my legs I don’t have to make big mistakes. I face the Forcola and I am cold! It feels like my muscles are rigid. On the top Stefano shows his big heart, the same that he will put during the whole day. He asks me what I want, he looks after me as a mother does with her own child. ……Descent and then climbs. Bernina! I arrive in Switzerland and I ride all the slight slope that takes me to the climb…I have never faced this climb, for God’s sake! I start asking myself if my legs are strong enough to take me to Livigno, but a descent follows after every climb! I love descents!
Ever 30 minutes, Binda fills me with sandwiches, dried fruits and sport bars. “Eat Luca, otherwise you are left on foot” And I follow every advice from him. The road below me flows and I only see my wheel on the asphalt. And then suddenly here it is, the STELVIO! I start the climb very light, the higher I ride the more I realise how hard it is. The willingness to get up there is strongest than anything else. I deserve that peak only because I accepted to start this “journey”. In every hairpin bends Binda incites as if I was on the Giro D’Italia. Also the other members of the support team incites me as much as him. I get really emotional because of all this!
The deepest moment arrives when Stefano, on an hairpin bend, shouts: “ Come on Luca, don’t give up…your head Luca…your head!” I am shattered and I get emotional because I know that only my head will make the difference. It is only your heard that will be able to make you reach any finish line. At Trepalle I leave my bike and I soon realise that I can’t run. I must walk. I walk for several kilometres, I run slowly and walk, then at one turning point, I start running keeping a slow but steady rhythm. I smile thinking of the goy I will feel at carosello 3000, if I get there in time. Binda comes toward me riding a very bad MTB and then I realise I have to do it for him who is looking after me nonstop from this morning at 5.00 am. I can read it in his eyes. He would do anything to be there in my position. He would have deserved the arrival at Carosello 3000.
As the kilometres go by, the sky becomes black and the stars take place in a azure sky that is pure magic, pure poetry. I can’t forget the never-ending and exhausting climb of the last 9 km. Every now and then I ask my guide Andrea to stop for 20 seconds. I bend on the sticks, close my eyes and the start again. During those seconds my heart wants to scream to the sky all my struggle and effort. In my mind I have never thought of stopping. The joy to hug “Ste” at the finish line is too big! During my life I have faced many ultra “journeys” and I know what it means to be in high altitude in the dark, often alone. All this is familiar to me and I like it! But I never got to this point with so little preparation and I am very tired.
And then up there, where eagles fly, in a blue sky plenty of starts I see a light. The more I get near the more a see a passageway of lanterns of fire. Joy and emotions make me understand that I am almost there and all the struggle is about to end. The last meters, when everyone incites you, are magical. I climb the last “wall”, towards the Olympus of the crazy ones and of those who try before staying I can’t do it! Someone on the microphone tell me “You are an ICON”. I smile tired and hug my brothers of this journey.
I think that those are the moment when you look into you, where the real you come out. Accepting the challenge is nothing compared to the awareness of understanding who you are! Nothing compared to the possibility to be part of nature, even when it is awe-inspiring and arduous. I do it because for me life without challenges and competition is not a life. As a Sergeant told me once: “Luca deserve your life, deserve it”
And to all of you who organize this marvellous and many more marvellous events such as this one, in those locations and in those amazing mountains, please do not stop! Even if I know that economically it doesn’t make a lot of sense, remember that the opportunity you give to those who take part is priceless. Thank you from the deep of my heart.
Luca, ICON Finisher 2016