2011: stage four

STAGE FOUR Galtur Austria to Scuol Switzerland

39km

This stage would be an important stage for Sarah and me.  It was the ‘hump day’ of the TransAlps and more importantly would mark more than ½ of our total distance and elevation.  After today, we would have covered a 27k day followed by what is close to running 3 Ultra’s in a row.  Something neither of us have done before.

The day started out hot and humid again.  So hydration, electrolytes and salt would be a key factor.  We planned to eat every 30-45min and take our salt and anti-fatigue caps every 1hr.  (Sarah used salt only)  At this point, we weren’t eating much from the aid stations and mostly eating gels, luna bars, honey stinger gummies, shot blocs and wafers.  It wasn’t until the last 3 stages that we started to hone in on chocolate cake from the aid.  We also brought out own electrolytes that we added to the water at the aids.

 
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 The stage had a long gradual, runable climb right from the start.  It went through town and soon hit double track trails.  I was feeling a little heavy in the legs from the previous day, so needed a bit more time to warm up.  So Sarah and I ran/walked and used our land-marking tactic again until the base of the first big climb.  The day went steady and we were in and out of aid stations.  Timed our bathroom breaks and assisted each-other with holding poles or gear while we fueled.

The climb leading into the 2nd last aid station was beautiful.  Switzerland – here we come!  The mountains were breathtaking and we were already up quite high.  However, from the second aid, we had the biggest and steepest climb of the day and a climb that would take us to the highest point of the race so far and over 9000 feet.

Coming out of the aid station we had a lot of runners around us.  We tucked in behind some hikers and started our slow, hard, death march.  The ascent gained elevation quickly as there were some very steep sections and I could feel my head start to hurt and my stomach turned.  This section took us about 1hr and despite how awful I felt, I just put my head down and got it done… literally one footstep at a time.  I found new strength that hour.  And for as slow and sick as I felt, I still managed to pass people and never got passed once.  Sarah tucked in behind me and I just stayed focused on the task ahead of me.  Reminding myself that it won’t last forever and as soon as I get to the top, a descent would follow and I would feel better 15min down the other side again.

At the last 100m of this climb you had to allow space between the person ahead of you or else you would find your head up their arse!  And the very top was a rocky section that required a scramble.  At the top you were greeted with cheers and rescue team.  They had trail mix and were taking photos.  It felt so good to get up that last section and to start our descent.

The descent was just as steep as the climb for the first 200m.  Then it lead into the funnest switchback descent of the day.  Tight corners and Sarah and I felt like you were skiing, as we planted our poles at each corner and turned into the next section.  After a long, long, long way down the switchbacks opened up to a straight descent which lead into the alpine.  I took the trail closest to the fence, which was a mistake because it was live and sure enough, my leg brushed by it and I got an electric shock!  I turned back to yelp and warn Sarah,  and in the same moment this dude, dressed in all white Salomon compression running clothing, too got electrocuted.  Only he bounced off the fence and the slipped in cow shit and fell down, slipping down in it.  Sarah and I were so embarrassed for him and speechless.  We slowed down enough and Sarah asked if he was okay… he jumped up and ran away from us saying something in Italian we couldn’t understand.

The rest of the stage brought smiles.  We both thought there was another major climb, and were relieved to pull out the profile to see only descending.  As we came into the last Aid of the day, we were running on a flat/down section with HUGE swiss alps on our right.  I got a little teary as it was so beautiful!  Then an elderly couple sitting on a bench threw their hands up and say ‘welcome to Switzerland!’  It was surreal.  Did we actually just run through 3 countries??  Did we really make it this far already?

We were pumped and were ready to get the last descent done.  It was, again, the steepest descent we have had so far.  It went from double track trail, to side camber bumpy grass, to steep trail to steeper road.  I had to look down every so often to see if my muscles were still attached to the bone because it hurt so much!  And it was long!  We passed a few mountain bikers who pulled over to cheer everyone on.  ‘Hoop!  Hoop!  Hoop! ‘ and ‘Zuppah! Zuppah!’ they would cheer.  Sarah and I couldn’t help but notice that they took off their shorts and shirts and were tanning in their Speedo underwear.  We laughed and commented how we’re getting closer to Italy :)