I first attended the Gore-Tex Transalpine Run in 2011 for what I thought would be an opportunity of a lifetime, not at all thinking this would become part of my yearly routine. Despite my annual visits, however, I still find the Alps to be just as new and exciting as I did 6 years ago.
This race has brought a whole slew of emotions, outcomes and experiences into my life yet, for better or worse, I wouldn't change a single thing. Every year I suffer. Every year I show up wondering if I will be able to finish and every year something unpredictable occurs. Out of the six times I have participated, I have "officially" finished five of them (I got sick in 2015 and missed 1.5 stages). I have finished as a team just half of time (3/6) and in 2012 and 2013, I finished in the solo category, which still earns you an official finish but you are no longer technically in the rankings. Every year I finish either exhausted, limping or both and every year my husband reminds me how I say, I will never do this race again, only to find me eating my own words over our morning cup of coffee... usually by early November. So what is it about this race that has me so hooked?
The Gore-Tex Transalpine Run selects some of the best trails in the Alps (Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy) and then links them together for an unforgettable week of mountain running, dynamic views, challenging terrain and lots and lots of cows. They choose small stage towns, which usually double as ski communities in the winter, such as Solden and Kitzbuhl, Austria, both staples on the world cup ski circuit. This basically translates to beautiful, quaint villages and steep, epic terrain that we get to run through. The sheer concept of running from one village to the next, through 3-4 countries, often with limited or no road access, can't properly be described. It simply needs to be experienced.
I applaud the race organization, for their steadfast rule on partner racing and it definitely seals the deal for me. This has to be one of the most challenging, yet most rewarding aspects of the race. It comes down to the fact that it isn't about the strongest, faster or fittest individual to finish the race, but rather your ability to work together as a team, share each other’s sweat and even sometimes tears (I previously wrote more on partner dynamics and strategy here.) A race this difficult requires more than just a physical commitment and finding a suitable partner is often the trickiest part. I have been fortunate to share my Transalpine Run journey with three different, yet amazing, partners over the past 6 years.
I have met some of the nicest people I know at the Transalpine Run and made some lifelong friends. The diversity in international participation is absolutely incredible and in 2016 there were 35 nations represented. I love how the Transalpine Run unites people from all over the world to share a passion for mountain running. It's pretty darn special. In order to create something as magical as this, it takes great leadership and the team at Plan B do an incredible job.
I am also very fortunate to have turned my passion for running, into my career. There is no doubt that the Transalpine Run has helped enhance this. I feel extremely grateful for the opportunity to help people prepare for this stage race. Over the years I have written the on-line training plans for the Transalpine Run website, worked closely with individuals who want personalized training plans and help runners in my own community prepare as they train with PACE Sports Fitness, my home-based business. In 2013, I took on the role as Canadian Media Liaison, and in 2014 I started a small tour company which books affordable and convenient accommodations near the start/finish areas, as I have come to know the routes and work closely with the organizers. Further, I have really enjoyed contributing to numerous magazines and online articles about training for, racing or simply the thrill of what this race offers.
Since I have been home I have received so many wonderful messages congratulating me and asking me about this year's crossing. It was a thrill for us to be on podium 6 out of 7 stages and for Sarah and I to finish 3rd female team overall. I can't thank my friends, family and community enough for all your encouragement, support and celebrations.
This year was a new course, which left a lot of unknowns, yet with that also came a lot of excitement. Plan B did a great job at selecting a challenging course with lots of variety and I would definitely run this route again. This was the first year they switched to a 7 day event (from 8 days) by eliminating what we referred to as the "rest day", or the 6km / 1000m hill sprint. Aside from that, I would say the biggest difference in this route (compared to the traditional "Western" route which starts in Oberstdorf), is that there was more runnable terrain. Either flat sections, road or simply non-technical descents and ascents. I got a kick out of watching the flatlanders and road runners have a hay-day on these sections and certainly passed by Sarah and I like we were standing still. It's nice to have a mixture and variety between the alternating routes to help appeal to the different strengths of runners out there. Personally, I love the route from Oberstdorf and soak up as much technical trails as they jam in... so does that mean I will toe up in 2017 for my 7th attempt? It's hard to say. We will have to see over coffee in early November. In the meantime, I may be hooked on the Alps, but I still wouldn't run this race in leather lederhosen (#badchafing)