Friday, 20 September 2013
I wrote this a few days after returning from Transalpine 2013. I meant to write a more details account of the race but didn't get round to it and now I can't remember much detail! So here's the "short" version!
This time last week Andy and I were in the bowels of hell, struggling round out penultimate day of the Transalpine Run. But as with everything, even though you think it will never end, it does and here I am a week on sitting at work writing about it.
For those that don’t know, the Goretex Transalpine Run is an 8 day event that sees you running from Germany to Italy through, no, sorry…..over the Alps. Each stage is a different length with a total distance of 260km and a whopping 15,468m of elevation over the 8 days. This is broken down as follows;
Day 1: 36.4km. 2083m up - 1469m down
Day 2: 24.7km. 1883m up - 2040m down
Day 3: 38.4km. 2975m up - 2431m down
Day 5: 6.3km. 971m up – cable car down!
Day 6: 37.8km. 1627 up – 1369m down
Day 8: 39.8km. 1897m up – 3106m down
Day 1 started well enough with our plan being to go über conservative from the off. Its all too easy to get carried away with the energy and excitement but we stuck to our plan and finished in 5.57 and 38th /105 mixed teams.
Day 2 was the “easy” day with only 15 miles to run but the fact that it took 5.14 to finish shows just how “easy” it wasn’t. We were not that speedy on the climbs but my descending training had paid off and we were picking off teams on the descents which we were both hugely enjoying. There really is nothing better than a good long descent to the finish passing people and Entschuldigung-ing as we go. Finished 33rd / 103 today
Day 5. The day I’d been looking forward to the most. The rest day! Well, almost. All we had to do was hike/run 6.3km up a mountain as fast as we could. The set you off in a handicapped order so the slowest first with the fastest bringing up the rear. You can run as a team or go solo but they combine your times for the overall team time so I wanted to not be that far from Andy. I had half wanted to take it easy and use it as recovery but as soon as I saw the bottoms of a mixed team coming into view, the competitor in me kick in and I chased them down. We finished with a combined time of 2.03 (1.01 for Andy and 1.02 for me – I nearly caught him but male pride spurred him up the final km when he turned and saw me!) we finished 22nd today so a good day for team Tri London and we were stomping back up the overall scoreboard!
A couple of pictures attached, but it wasn’t all like that!
Sunday, 25 August 2013
It’s been a funny old period since Salomon 4 Trails – I kind of have an “end of season” feeling. I think its to do with the end of the heatwave and that a big event has been done and recovered from that I find myself looking to winter races and events for 2014. Only when I really remind myself do I realise that actually I still have my biggest event ahead of me. And in a matter of days no less.
After we’d recovered sufficiently (or what we thought was sufficiently, anyhow) we headed off to Switzerland to couple up a visit to Andy’s brother, his wife and their baby with some mountain running. The former was lovely, especially hanging out with Family Bruce at Zug lake in the 35 degree heat. The latter was not so much fun, especially for poor Andy who was not as recovered as we’d have hoped. We planned a 20 mile run up the Zugerbeg and Wildspitz but we hadn’t planned on it being 35 degrees. I really enjoyed the run but Andy started to really feel it on the climb up and even after a lengthy break, coke and carrot cake up the top, the descent wasn’t much better. But, glad we found that out so that recovery could take precedence over anything else. He forewent the planned hill reps the following day and left me to get on with them by myself. I loved them (hike up, run down) but got some funny looks from a few hikers that I must have passed 3 times on my rep. they looked like they were having trouble just getting up once! And my motivation was the massive buffet brunch planned for afterwards where I literally ate my own body weight.
Our next trip was 2 weeks later, and 2 weeks before TAR, and that was to visit our friend and 2012 Transalpine finisher Chris “Jenks” Jenkins at his family home in Shrewsbury. The plan was to hit Snowdon on day 1 for a 20 mile loop over the mountain, then a shorter day on his local hills of Long Mynd the following day for some hill reps. But Mother Nature plotted against us and with rain and winds of up to 60mph at the summit of Snowdon, we decided to forego the 90 min drive each way to spend 6 hours being wet and buffeted about on a ridge and stick to the nearer, lower contours of Long Mynd. I’ll admit that I felt a bit cheated to be missing out on Snowdon and I didn’t think that the hills of Shrewsbury would cut the mustard in terms of what I wanted to get out of the weekend, which was to smash my legs in a bid to stave of the inevitable quad pain that would develop in TAR. Turns out I was very wrong about that. The hills there, although not as long as Snowdon, were certainly plentiful and Jenks even added in what we named Banter Hill, because he knew I wanted hilly. After cresting this beast and bombing down the other side, I was shattered. I had to eat a bit of humble pie and admit to the others that I had had enough hills for now and luckily they both felt the same so we agreed to cut out the last loop of the run which would have taken us down off the Mynd and back up again in a 4 mile loop. I was relieved, though momentarily concerned at my fitness, or lack of, until it dawned on me that we all felt a bit lethargic due to the 7 bottles of red wine we sank between 6 people the night before. So with Andy’s headache worsening with each footstep we were certainly glad to be running through town to the car at the end of 16 miles.
The following day Jenks and his girlfriend hiked around Long Mynd whilst Andy and I hiked up and ran down as many hills as we could in 90 minutes. It was a lovely day a good weekend training and the DOMS in my quads for the next couple of days suggested that the hill reps had done their job.
So now its mostly about recovery, rest and maintenance – a few easy runs, a couple of gym sessions an maybe some hill reps this weekend, maybe not. I know there is nothing more I can do to positively affect my race, but plenty I can do to negatively affect it so I will, as always (and secretly wish I could do all the time!) err on the side of caution and follow the less is more rule of thinking.
Thursday, 25 July 2013
We booked this race as an alternative to Transalpine, as we’d done it last year (Andy’s third year) and this seemed like a more sensible amount of running, but still getting in the mountain trails that we loved about TA. So after convincing (he may say nagging) Andy to enter, he finally agreed and I signed us up quicker than Usain Bolt. However, after a week or so Andy admitted that this would be great training for Transalpine and it would almost be a shame not to enter…….and so without being told twice I promptly signed us up for TA as well. Now we had our years races planned out, we could set about the task of training for them. Some of you will know that we entered TA last year but only completed 6 of the 8 days due to insufficient training (on my part) so this year its all about training hard (and efficiently) without getting injured. And Salomon 4 Trails was essentially a training camp for Transalpine. In the lead up to this event I felt my training had gone well, no injuries, hitting all my sessions and my last few long runs had felt pretty good. I was ready.
So after a surprise visit to Frankfurt to watch my sister in the Ironman (surprise to her, not us obviously, we knew where we were going) we headed daaahn saaaaf to the mountains. The excitement started to build as we approached mountain territory and I couldn’t wait to get started. After a very efficient registration process and a day relaxing by a lake we were good to go. Race day dawned and breakfast was a quiet affair with only Andy and I in the breakfast room. We headed down to the start where the square was now thick with runners, stretching, drinking coffee, applying Vaseline or all of the above at once. The race is run by the same company as Transalpine so its exactly the same format, fill your gel bottle, get your kit checked then into the pens for the daily blast of “Highway to Hell” before the off. This event doesn’t make you run as a pair so we had agreed to run days 1 & 4 together with the middle two days being run solo. This is mainly because my descending is not that great and Andy always has to wait for me so it’s a nice opportunity for him to be able to run at his own pace. And if I hadn’t agreed to this then he basically wouldn’t have let me sign us up for Transalpine……..
Day 1 Garmisch-Partenkirchen – Ehrwald
Distance – 36.4km
Ascent – 2,410
Descent – 2,113
Time – 6:38
Energy – 7/10
Leg soreness – 0/10
Nausea level – 0/10
Enjoyment – 7/10
Number of retches when taking gel – 0
Finish relief – 5/10
Day 1 was a bit of a b*tch with 6 climbs and descents over the 36km route. Most of the days will feature 1,2 or possibly 3 climbs but this stage had us going up and down like yo-yo’s. Some of the ups were ridiculous, tip of toes type climbing that went on and on around the corner, just when you thought it was over. The weather was lovely, if a little hot but I’d take that over rain any day. The first aid station was not where it was supposed to be, for reasons I still don’t know, so after 2 of the climbs and approaching middle of the day heat (we set off at 10am this morning) with only 1 bottle of water and no more gel left, things started to get a little laboured. Thankfully the mountain villages or sometimes even just a property have these water troughs with what I hope is fresh water running into them, so we all flung ourselves on this like we’d been in the Sahara for a week and drank our fill.
I was doing well on the downhill’s and staying with Andy and actually passing people, which was unheard of last year. In fact, I had traffic jams of walkers behind me most of the time. The views were lovely as we had the Zugspitze as our focal point for the whole day. Andy’s challenge to me was to pass 10 people on the descent into town which I did with km’s to spare ;-)
We ran in together in a time of 6.38 and stuck our legs straight into the towns fountain for some recovery.
A fairly uneventful day and to be honest I have trouble remembering details of the first stage other than it was hot, scenic and harder than I thought it would be!
Day 2 Ehrwald – Imst
Distance – 45.3km
Ascent – 2,723
Descent – 2,940
Time – 9.15
Energy – 6/10
Leg soreness – 5/10
Nausea level – 1/10
Enjoyment – 6/10
Number of retches when taking gel – 0
Finish relief – 8/10
Day 2 has 2 big climbs and descents. Andy and I agreed to do the first climb together, then he was going to go off on his own. The first climb was going ok, passed the aid station with no incident and carried on up. Then we turned a corner and were face with……The Ice Wall. Literally, an almost sheer mountain face covered in snow. With nothing but fresh air below you if you slipped. Ok, maybe it wasn’t quite that dramatic but it looked like it at the time. Most people had poles so were tripping up it with a bit of purchase, but us Brits don’t bother with such aids so we just dig our toes into the snow and hoped that if you slipped, you wouldn’t go too far. This was probably the most frightening part of any race I’ve done and I did not enjoy it one bit. I was very glad when I reached the top and saw there was no snow on the other side, which was our descent. I was even more pleased when I heard at dinner that night that towards the back of the field it got so slippery and treacherous that they had to pull people up by rope………
So a quick snap at the top and I wave Andy goodbye and see how long it will take him to disappear out of sight. Turns out, not that long. The first part of the descent is very rocky so I take my time but it soon turns into soft sandy shale so its easy to dig your heels in and do a kind of slide/run down. My shoes were full of stones but it was an Ok descent. I even passed people on this too, truly amazing! The second climb was a killer and the thing with this race is that when you think you’re at the top, you’re not. I walked up stuck behind a girl who was taking her sweet time and now and then I’d manage to pass her but when I stopped to have a drink or a gel she would get in front again. And behind me was a guy who was struggling more than I was who seemed to take a break when I did. Which was fine, until he took a gel and spent the next 3 minutes retching all over the place. This happened 3 times on this climb and I was very glad when we got to what I thought was the top so I could leave him. But, as I said, this was not the top at all. I knew what elevation we were going up to and I knew from my Garmin what elevation I was at and was very pleased to see we were within 12m of our max elevation. But then we went down hill. And then, around the corner looms another peak. This was a theme for the rest of the race so in the end I just resigned myself to never thinking I was nearly there and always assuming there was more to do. You certainly get value for money in this race!
So the new top was reached and to my horror the first part of the descent jutted out on a tiny path that was hanging over the edge of the mountain with nothing but blue sky below. And, to make it worse, the surface was hard, slippery shale. Again, those with poles seemed to fair better than me and the big orange “dangerous section” sign the race organisers had thoughtfully put up did not make me feel that comfortable. In fact, I must have looked very uncomfortable as they had a mountain guide in this section who asked me “alles gut??” “NEIN!” all was not good. So he came and peeled me off the rock I was clinging to and kindly walked me round the death path to safety. I didn’t dare look but I’m sure the views were spectacular……….I was quickly picked up by mountain guide number two who had obviously witnessed my paralysis and though he too kindly helped my on my way, I’m sure he had a good old laugh with mountain guide one after I’d gone. I didn’t care though, I was so relived to be off that section and it genuinely took me 10 mins to feel calm again.
But, I survived and set about the task of getting 1,500m down in 11km. Luckily for me, a lot of this was on forest roads so I stuck my iPod in and gritted my teeth to the increasing pain.
I finished only 30 mins after Andy, it turned out he was a lot quicker on the descents but any time he had on me was negated by his frequent and lengthy rest breaks on the second climb.
Tonight we got a massage which seemed to help, and an early night ready for day 3!
|Going it alone|
|Beautiful views but we had to earn them!|
Day 3 Imst - Landeck
Distance – 33.6km
Energy – 4/10
Leg soreness – 9/10
Nausea level – 5/10
Enjoyment – 4.5/10
Number of retches when taking gel – 0
Finish relief – 9/10
Pigs – 2
So this was the “easy” day. 20 miles, one big up, one big down. No fuss. It was also the hardest day to start in terms of only being half way through the event when you set off. Again, Andy and I decided we climb the same speed so we set off together with him leaving me when we got to the top. Another day of false summits but the climb up was actually pretty enjoyable. It wasn’t too steep in most places so you could enjoy the scenery, which was very green and lush. As we neared to top(s) it became more rugged and rocky and steeper but really amazing views all around. I felt pretty lucky to be up there looking at them. As planned, Andy disappeared off into the sunset, leaving me to pick my way gingerly down the hill. This was another big descent, 1,800m in 11km. I really struggled here and had to walk more than I was running. My quads when I descend for a long time become extremely painful, it must be the way I’m breaking but if you don’t break you’ll land on your face, or off the side of the hill. But its agony. I’m counting down the meters I’m dropping and its pretty disheartening to see the town you’re running to way down below, looking like a model village. I break the time up by doing some filming, but by the end of the week I realise that I don’t have any footage of me actually running! All 15 or so videos, I’m walking!
I am being passed at a rate of knots and see girls I’ve not seen before coming by me so this must be bad! Eventually at 6km to go I get passed by the girl I got stuck behind on the climb the day before. We were each others “always see” person, we obviously ran a similar pace so saw each other every day. She said “come on, we’re so close!” so I started running behind her. We started chatting and her English was excellent (thanks to 16 years living in Hong Kong!) and it was a great distraction and I barely noticed the descent after that. We reached the town and finished together, which was nice. Andy was waiting for me, again coming in 30 mins before me. It was a 6.15 day so relatively early which meant we got a nice bit of recovery time before the pasta party.