Wow. We did it. What an epic race. When Kris first entered me way back in December, I didn’t know much about the race. He wanted to do it, he needed a partner, I fit the bill. I only really looked at the course route and profile the week before and even then I hadn’t comprehended all that was involved. The details of the route and elevation are in my previous posts. So much happened, there’s too much to type. Here are my day by day highlights and some photos taken by Kris (yes he ran every day bar one with his camera – if you take any to use please credit his website http://kristhehungryrunner.wordpress.com).
Day 1 – Ruhpolding to St Johann – 50k
Lining up at 8.30am, I felt quietly nervous. As with all of the European Races I have done, the runners around me looked extremely fit and well prepared. What were we letting ourselves in for? Kris, ever the chatter, ended up befriending a group who had run the Transrockies the previous year; Scott, Tom and Kristy. At 9am, after what became the daily ritual of playing ‘Keep on Running’ followed by ‘Highway to Hell’ to amp us up, approximately 350 teams of 2 set off. Teams were divided into five categories: open mens, mixed, womens, master men and senior master men.
The first day started on a flat track, before we moved onto undulating single track. We passed under a waterfall in the woods which was pretty cool and had one longish climb before a very muddy descent. People were falling over everywhere (including me – on my knees and my bum). We ran a fair bit of the day with Team Goot, Brett and Hannah from South Africa and the UK. Kris had a bit of a cold so we kept to a reasonably easy pace and ended up finishing in 7hr04min, 33rd out of the 76 mixed teams.
We headed to camp pretty quickly which was in a school sports hall. Most days ended up being the same; finish and make your way straight to camp so that you could stake out a decent spot in the hall. Plan B, who run the event, made sure that our bags were placed in the camp each night and picked up each morning which was really handy. The pasta party was at 5.30pm, followed by the prize giving ceremony, race briefing for the following day and a review of the photos and a short video from the stage we had just run.
Day 2 – St. Johann – Kitzbühl – 34.8km
After a quick section of flat through the town, the entire pack hit a steep single track section in the woods. Quite a queue built up but luckily Kris and I found ourselves in about the middle of the pack and didn’t have to stand around for too long. The climb was hard work but the views from the top, when the mist cleared, were really great. Kris felt better on this day so we picked our pace up a bit. We still walked all of the climbs but pushed on during the downhills. The best part of this day was when we found ourselves on a technical descent with no other runners around. Suddenly the heli film crew appeared and followed us down the descent for several minutes. I felt like a stunt double! I also tripped on an electric fence and got a bit of a shock. Pun intended. We finished day 2 in 5hr48min, 22nd in our category. This was the only evening where no camp was set up so Kris and I stayed in a really lovely hotel just out of town. At the evening we bumped into the Transrockies crowd and their mates Ryan and Ben, who’d had a storming day.
Day 3 – Kitzbühel to Neukirchen – 46.5km
A 7am misty start today. I was really nervous about the route; the elevation profile showed two steep climbs and I knew we were getting further into Alpine territory. The first section of the race was on hard packed jeep tracks and happily we got to the first checkpoint at 11km in fairly good time. Every checkpoint on the race was excellent – well stocked with water and iso drinks, gels, fresh watermelon, oranges, bananas, dried fruit and nuts, bread, tomato, cucumber and sometimes pasta and soup. The first climb and descent were fine but the second climb was hard work. We started in a valley and then made up way up to a ridge and across a few rock falls. Unfortunately it was super misty so we couldn’t see much around us. As we left the ridge there was a pile up of runners making their way over a muddy marsh so we were pleased when this bit was over and we hit the last descent. This was on a steepish mountain bike tracks – Kris and I are fairly confident on the downhills so we had fun here. The last 4km were on road and, having eyed up two mixed teams in the distance, we managed to crack on and over take them before coming in at 6hr55, 19th in our category.
Day 4 – Neukirchen to Prettau – 43.3km
The day started at 8am with a flat stretch before we hit the first climb, on a touristy track alongside a lovely waterfall. At the top we joined a valley and ran on a flat road for what seemed like miles and miles. It was picturesque but I found the flat really hard. The main climb of the day took us up to 2667m, the highest point of the race. It was a tough slog but after this it was down hill all the way to the finish. We finished fairly strongly and came in 6hr42 min, 26th in our category.
Day 5 – Prettau to Sand in Taufers – 32.8km
The worst day for me. I had a rubbish night sleep in the camp; I just couldn’t fall asleep and the lights in the hallway automatically came on every time someone went to the bathroom. On top of this, a group of Argentineans had taken to blowing a fog horn at 5.30am every morning to helpfully wake the entire camp up. The day started with an immediate ascent. Unfortunately we quickly passed Team Eat Sleep Run, aka Emma and Sam representing Wales, who had been having an awesome time in the women’s category. Sam had gotten really poorly and was struggling to breathe. She was eventually pulled out by the medic’s although Im confident she will be back next year to finish!
The following descent wasn’t too bad but the second climb was awful. It was hot, I was tired and really hungry. People kept overtaking me which made it even worse and mentally I was just destroyed, leading to more than a few tears. Still we finished the day in 5hr31min, 18th in the mixed.
Day 6 – Sand in Taufers to St. Vigil – 38.5km
I felt ok today. Although I wouldn’t admit it yet, I felt that if we finished today we had sort of broken the back of the race. We started with some flat road running before our first climb on single track through the woods. After this there were more undulating roads before we hit the longest ascent of the race – the total altitude difference today was 2289m. It was hard work but we both felt ok and just pushed on at a decent hiking pace. The views from the top of the Dolomites were stunning. The descent was long and my left foot was starting to ache a little but we made it down in reasonable time and finished in 5hr52min, 16th in the mixed!
Day 7 – St.Vigil to Niederdorf – 41.8km
My favourite day 🙂 The Dolomites are stunning and I felt excited about the day ahead, billed the most scenic of the race. The day started with 12km of flatish trail. I’m not a big flat runner but we both pushed on as much as possible to keep up with the front half of the pack. The first climb brought us up to a beautiful high valley. We then had a pretty technical descent down to a alpine lake area which was full of tourists. The second climb was a real slog but moments before the start of this we passed the leading women’s team. This spurred me on massively and I decided I was going to try my hardest to stay in front of them for the rest of the stage. We slogged on up the second climb and then pushed on as hard as we could to the finish. By this point my left foot was starting to really ache and I was really pleased to arrive in Niederdorf in 5h56min, 8th in the mixed (and yes we beat the leading women’s team).
Day 8 – Niederdorf im Pustertal to Sexten – 33.4km
The last day! For the first time we were allowed to start in pen A as we were in the top 15 overall for our category. My left foot had swollen and was extremely sore in the morning. The medic thankfully gave me some unidentified painkillers (which, after a google search when I got home, turned out to be veterinary pain killers which are only approved for human consumption in Germany!) Not that it mattered; on the last day I would have crawled to the finish line if I had to. We started with a horrible 15km flat run. It was fairly scenic but I was super tired and my body did not want to run at any type of pace. Thankfully, the day only had one climb. Although it was hard work, we both knew it was the last mountain we would be climbing for a few weeks so we just pushed on through it. The final 10km was downhill. By this point my foot was super sore, the pain killers had worn off and every step felt like a sledgehammer was being brought down on my foot. As we came into Sexton, I just felt overwhelmed. We came in 4hr34 and 14th position. I took a moment to breathe, then cried and then…well it was over. I picked up some more painkillers and ice from the medic and we went back to camp to get ready for the after party.
So we finished. We ran for a total of 48 hours and 24 minutes and came in 14th in our category out of 76 starters and 73rd overall out of 350 starting teams. The race had a 50% drop out. Kris was an amazing partner, pushing me when I struggled and listening to my moping on the bad days. It was hard. It was beautiful. We met some amazing people – Sam and Emma, Ryan and Ben, Tom, Scott, Kristy, Brett and Hannah, Adam, Andy, the Spanish Buff Team, Team Mathers…the list goes on. I went straight to A&E when we got back to Poole, and after an X-Ray I was told I have a hairline fracture of my 3rd metatarsal. Maybe I shouldn’t of run on it but we finished and we had a great time, so to me it was worth it. A great race which I highly recommend to anyone.