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 :)

2011: stage three

Shruns Austria to Galtur Austria

43km / 2673m ascent & 1773m descent

Stage 3 brought rain but a happy stage for Two Canadian Girls on the Run!  With the cooler temperatures, we had a steady day which lead us to our first 10th place finish.

Thenight before, Wolfy (the Race Director), switched the stage due to lightening storms, high winds and foul weather.  The original route would have taken us up a ridge.  It would have been awesome!!  Instead we still had 43km and 2673m ascent and 1773 descent ahead of us.  Another marathon for day 3.

Sarah and I were arriving late at the starts and getting really poor positions every morning.  And with 10min to the start I had to use the 'washroom'.  Poor Sarah, I left her standing by the start gate and ran into a local hotel to use the washroom... only to get a major mouthful by the owner for using the toilet w/o asking.  I felt awful and was polite and stood there to hear her out and apologize, however I kept looking at my watch because I didn't want to be late for the start!

Call it a warm up, because I ran back to Sarah and we ducked under the tape in a better position.  We pushed a bit harder today off the start and up a steep, steep, start.  It helped us avoid a lot of the bottle neck going into the single track.  To summarize the day, there was a lot of flats and runable terrain.  We didn't run any of it super fast, but we were steady and we land-marked the whole day.  "run to the tree."  Or "lets run to that bridge".  There was still a lot of climbing, but less descents and a really muddy technical section which people walked.  I got out front, picked good lines and Sarah and I flew past people like they were standing still!  we made a lot of time up in that section.  We also honed in our aid stations and spent less time screwing around and got in and out.  We worked really well together!

Sarah and I ran in an icebreaker top and shorts all day.  The only thing we added were arm warmers and a vest at the summits.  I couldn't believe how well icebreaker worked.  People around us had gore-tex pants, jackets, long sleeves, you name it!  We were in bare minimum and the icebreaker insulated us and kept us perfect!  It was awesome!

Stage 3 was the first stage we actually looked at the results.  We didn't have time or interest the first few days and we were surprised to see our 10th place finish.  It was really motivating!  We once again focused on our recovery and our 'crew' took great care of us.  I think this was the stage that Trent even hand washed cow shit off my shoes.  That is LOVE!!  Just for the record, there was a lot of cow shit on the first 4 stages.  A lot!  It got everywhere... and I thought for sure I was going to get sick from the shit that got on my hose at one of the aid stations.  yuck!

2011: stage two

Hirschegg Austria to Shruns Austria

53km / 2481m ascent / 2913m descent

For those of you who have done Knee Knacker, Stage 2 of this year's Gore-Tex Transalpine run was comparable.  It had 3km more and 2,000 feet more descent.  And it was at altitude and a bit more technical, but these are small differences :)  Other than we had ran a stage the day before and still had two more 40km stages to follow...

We had an early start and Trent got up to make us coffee.  The guesthouse wouldn't make us breakfast early and we tried to drive around the night before to get food, but we were too late after the pasta party.  So our breakfast was power bars and ensure plus.  Not ideal on such a big day, but it was all we had.

The day was once again warm and humid but Sarah and I planned out our electrolytes and salt replacement for the day.  Today was all about keeping it steady, but not putting too much intensity into things this early.  We knew this day was going to be long - but we needed to keep the pace easy and have fun.  So that is exactly what we did!  There were 3 big, hard climbs in the day, so we decided to pace easy on the climbs and hike and then run flats/downs.  The views were amazing and the day actually went by quite fast.  We took our time and hoped by keeping some intensity OUT of the longest stage would pay off in the later stages to follow.  We ended up passing 3 women's teams in the last 10km!

I felt great again on stage 2 and Sarah bounced back strong.  The pace was so manageable that I really enjoyed it.  A highlight was right before the last big climb, Trent and Carter surprised us at the last aid station.  Carter jumped out and ran with us.  Trent and Carter took our poles, got us food and it was so uplifting!!

Sarah lead the pace on the last hard climb and she did a great job on keeping it steady.  We chatted on the way up and it reminded us of the grouse grind.  you could see the 'light' at the top, but it was still a long ways up :)  We took the downhill easy again today.  Sarah didn't want to push anything with her tendon too early in the game.  We also took it easy into the finish where we received our TAR Buffs!! The day was 8.5hrs and we both felt great afterwards.

Trent and Carter were waiting at the finish to give us out flip flops... take our packs... mix our recovery drinks and get us into some cold water.  That often meant a nearby water fountain where athletes would sit and put their legs and lower bodies in, while drinking beer.  They offered non alcoholic and alcoholic beers at the end of every stage!!

2011: stage one

Stage One:  Oberstdorf Germany to Hirschegg Austria

27km / 1806 ascent / 1497 descent

We had a late start in Oberstdorf... 11am the official gun went off to mark the start of the 7th annual Gore-Tex Transalpine Run.  It was a very hot day and I was so surprised to see how humid it was.  It reminded me of the stage race Trent and I did in Thailand in 2005.  I had planned to take Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes and Anti-Fatigue capsules every hour during each stage.  These came in handy with temps and humidity like we experienced already on day one. 

The stage rolled out on pavement through town.  Cow bells were rung and the locals were lined along the street cheering us on.  The first portion of the run was flat to undulating and had a few small climbs before hitting the first aid station and then proceeded with a huge single track climb out of the alpine and into the back country.  Sarah and I had a very simple game plan for the race.  Conserve the first 4 days, reassess on our 'rest day' and then see what we had left to finish with.  So the first day was paced out easy and we just settled into making it fun and no pressure.

It was cute, a runner from Germany asked Sarah if we lived in the part of Canada where you can catch Salmon with your hands.  Of course, Sarah went into the 10 step process and these two talked 'salmon catching' for the next 5 minutes along the trail.  Sarah and I were cruising along and having a steady first day and both feeling great.  Unfortunately, Sarah got taken out by someone on the first descent and she shit the bed from there.  I felt so bad for her!  Her stomach was off, her heart rate was high, so we just walked and jogged when she could.  We still had another climb/traverse, big descent and then about a 1000 foot switchback climb before our final descent for the day.  I think it was about 2hrs 45min into the stage when Sarah had her fall and she endured 2hrs of suffering after that point.  I just tried to support her and stuck by her side until we crossed the finish line, talking her through it and trying to motivate her.  She did a great job on pushing through it and although we finished with a slower time than expected, it marked a strong start to our partnership.  We just had to work on putting the first day behind us and focus on the next day because it would be the longest day of the whole race.  It was about recovering and resting.  Trent and Carter had our recovery drinks ready.  Change of clothes.  The ice baths scooped out and drove us to our beautiful guesthouse after the stage. 

They handed us sausage at the finish line and there was a spread of beer, drinks, pastry, cheese and more!  We soaked our legs, ate some food and then went back to our guesthouse to rest before the pasta party.  Every night they have a pasta party where we get fed so much amazing food, they hand out leaders jerseys and do the race briefing for the following day.  They also show a slideshow of photos and videos from each stage.

2011: update from Oberstdorf

On the drive from Fuessen to Oberstdorf on Wednesday I could barely keep my eyes open!  I was nodding to sleep in the back seat but the drive was less than 1hr so it didn’t really give me a chance to settle in.  By the time we found our guest house and packed our stuff in I was awake again.

We walked around and found a pizzeria for lunch.  After lunch we drove to (one of many) a tram where we hiked at the top.  Our hike as about 1.5hrs and it basically climbed had a bit of flat and climbed again.  Trent went all the way to the ridge and Sarah went part way up but Carter and I turned before the approach to the base of the ridge.  I didn’t want to do too much but at the same time I didn’t want to miss out on anything.  It was so beautiful!  There we were… in the ALPS!  We hiked past cows with big cow bells around their necks and so many people.  Kids of all ages and adults of all ages… they were all so happy!

We enjoyed a beer at one of the café’s and hiked down the steep paved road instead of taking the tram.  The tram cost us $20 euro ($30 cdn) for the three of us to go up and it would have been the same to go down.  We headed back to our guest house and then took Carter for Schnitzel!  He has been waiting since we arrived and it was so good!!!!  I had it too and we finished the day with schocolate gelato J

I slept much better for the first time since arriving, however I still have diarrhea.  And Thursday morning when we woke up at 7:45am (breakfast is at 8am) I felt like shit.  I went to bed with a headache and woke up with a headache. I forced myself to eat a bun, salami and cheese (yes, plates full of meat, cheese, fresh bakery bread and buns is what they serve) and then I went back to bed.

We were all going to take another gondola up and hike/hang out at altitude, but I could barely make it back to my room from breakfast. (plus it was raining) So I knew I needed rest and I was running out of days till the start of the race to get any.  So Trent took off in the rain and hiked up over 5000 feet to the Neddlehorn Peak.  He had a great day and despite getting wet, he was elated when he returned at 3pm.

I stayed in bed and slept on and off until 11:30am.  Carter was so good.  Poor guy… he played his iPod touch, read and snuggled with me.  Then Sarah, Carter and I walked into town for lunch.  I started drinking water with Gatorade that morning thinking it might help to bring my electrolytes up.  We walked around again for almost 3hrs.  The time just goes by so fast when you’re here because there is so much to see and it is so beautiful.  We stopped at a bakery, picked up some apple strudel and cheesecake and headed back to the guesthouse.

By 5pm we were on the road again and went to register for the race.  How exciting!  We didn’t see many teams, but there were posters and volunteers all over the Oberstdorf Haus where this took place.  We got some sweet schwag too!  A Salomon bag, race shirt, visor, sunglass case and food.  They gave us our ID tags and race bibs.  We paid a $50 euro deposit because they have the race chip on the back of our bib numbers.  They also give you a sheet with a list of emergency numbers on it for each country we will go through.  Lastly, a set of maps for each stage that we much carry with us every day. 

We went for dinner and then back home to our guesthouse by 8pm.  I still was not feeling well, with headache and diarrhea.  Trying not to get too worried, but with only 1 day and 2 sleeps away from the start of the race and knew I couldn't have a morning like this where I couldn't even get out of bed.  I went to bed and just hoped for a good sleep and to wake up feeling better.

 

 

2011: castles, adventures and cobblestone run

My first two nights in Fussen I was not feeling well and spent the first night in the toilet and the second night just up with an upset stomach, so I didn’t get much sleep.  We wanted to do a little run on Tuesday but with such little sleep, I didn't want to get worn down more and would settle for the castle tour instead. 

The tour was beautiful!  We ended up hiking and walking around for about 5hrs because from castle to castle we had to hike up steep roads and trails.  Plus we added a few extra detours to get the legs moving.  It was sorta like Disneyland… everything cost too much money and people were everywhere (!!!) but it really was interesting and breathtaking. 

We also went to a ski hill just beside the castle where they have all these zip lines, adventure courses, bungee trampolines and luge runs.  Carter and I paid $3 euro each to ride the course – it was awesome!!!  Families just hang out and do all these activities, drink beer, have coffee and relax.  There was also hang-glider after hang-glider that were soaring off the mountains above.  So cool!

We headed back to the hostel for dinner at 6pm.  By 6:30pm we were all pretty tired again so we did some reading (internet was down) and were all in bed by 9pm.  I felt a bit better but didn’t sleep much better. My stomach still rumbled it kept me awake but I managed to stay out of the toilet.   Sarah and I set our alarm for 6:15am to get our legs moving and I was hoping a bit of exercise would help me sleep at night!  We did a beautiful 50min run in the town of Fussen… it was the best road run I have EVER had!  (and those that know me know I avoid running the road whenever possible)  Cobblestone streets, quiet roads, beautiful views and mountains all around us.  They have these cycle/walk paths that go all through the town and it’s no wonder so little people have to drive – they make it so easy to commute.

We then went back to the hostel, showered and hit the road to Oberstdorf, Germany.  It is a very cute little town on the edge of the Alps.  We are staying in a guest house near the core of the town in an old farmhouse that has been lived in for 3 generations.

2011: Welcome to Germany

When I woke up on Sunday morning, I don’t quite think it sank in that I was actually going to Europe… let alone that I was going on vacation with my family and to do an 8 day trail running race with my friend and running partner, Sarah. 

We departed Kelowna at 12pm and arrived in Toronto after a pleasant 4hr flight.  We meet up with Sarah at the Tim Horton’s line up outside our connecting gate 15min before boarding our flight to Munich, Germany.  It was great to see her!  She had been in PEI the week prior to us leaving, so we chatted on the phone a few times and mostly tried to organize ourselves via text/emails with the time change and hectic schedules.

We were delayed in the airplane for 1.5hrs, as some dude wasn’t on the plane but his luggage was.  Sarah and I basically chatted and got caught up.  It was great!  Carter had the window seat and Trent was happy in the middle seat.  I normally don’t sleep on airplane or public areas very well, for that matter, so I took some gravol this flight as I was so afraid of starting the race still jet-lagged.  I ended up sleeping for 3hrs which wasn’t a lot by any stretch, but it was more than I was counting on. 

When we arrived in Munich is was approx. 2:30am Kelowna time and 11:30am Germany time.  We got our rental car ( volkswagon touran)  and Trent fired up the GPS!  We were on our way to Fussen Germany which was approx. a 2hr drive from Munich.

It was now finally starting to sink in… the views were beautiful and with each mile we drove we saw more and more beauty.  We ended up going through a little town and ate at an Italian pizzeria.  It was unreal!  Sarah, Carter and I ordered pizza and Trent had spaghetti.

We pulled over a few more times to sight see and stretch the legs and let’s be honest here people – to wake up!  If it wasn’t for the scenery we all might still be in the Munich airport, sleeping in our Volkswagen!

When we arrived at the youth hostel, there was a sign that said no check in until 5pm.  The weather was overcast and kinda cool.  We changed into pants and drove into downtown Fussen where we walked around for a few hours.  It is such a cool little town!

We returned to the hostel at 5pm, checked in, made our beds, had a shower and then had dinner.  They were serving potato dumplings (the kind my Auntie Theresa makes – yum!), curry soup and salad bar for $5 euro each.  We were all starting to bonk at the table and the jet leg was at its peak.  So we kept busy and decided we would try to make it until 8-9pm.  Listening to all the families and Dutch speaking people made it easier and fun.

We are all sharing one room.  (Poor Sarah)  And we have 2 bunk beds in tiny room.  It's cute but tight.  Trent and Carter got the top bunks and Sarah and I are taking the bottom.  Tomorrow it’s time to be a tourist and check out a local castle and go for a hike.  It’s time to get our legs moving before the race.  Both Sarah and I had a rough week as far as how we felt and our training in general last week… so we’re both feeling pretty stale and need to get the blood flowing!

2011: let the countdown begin!


With 8 days left to go before the start of the TAR, no matter how excited I get, it is getting hard to keep perspective on our training and trust that we are prepared what lies ahead of us.  This past week my workouts have been less than stellar.  I have been tired, my hip flexors have been tight and I really haven't felt much like running :(  It likely hasn't helped that I have been reading other blogs from people who are also preparing for this race and seeing that they have been running up to 270km a week and using repeated marathons and ultras as preparation.  Sarah and I took a very different approach to our training, so I can only hope that we have taken the right approach for us and it will be what we need to see the 8 days through.  I am sure a quick review on my training log will gap the lost perspective and put my mind back at ease.

I also know that our motivation with triple once we get to Germany.  The views alone are something to be celebrated and with each day I know we will want to push on, not only to finish each stage, but to see what is around each corner... what views will be waiting... what terrain will be calling... what unforgettable memory will be awaiting us.  Not to mention we are the power of 'TWO' and Sarah and I have a great partnership!  We will be stronger together and I have faith in our ability to work as a team.

On my run this morning, I found some peace and solitude.... that and traces of my fellow fuzzy running partner...

I felt much better after taking yesterday off and sleeping in the past two mornings until 6:30am.  That extra hour has gone a long way!  I also started to pump the Cold FX this week, in an effort to build my immune system before all the Germany air travel we have ahead of us.  I reflected on a lot of things this morning during my run.  Mostly people and everyone who has somehow contributed to supporting our dream of TAR.  There has been a lot of community and family support.

There are lots of people to thank and I will cover more on all the people who have helped us in our journey, but to start with the Hintringers played a HUGE role in helping us book all our accommodations along the race week.  Hours were spent on the phone, internet and putting together a well organized package for us to take.  This really doesn't touch on how much work and time they put into this for us, however we are very grateful!!

2011: Taper Time Already?!

I am sure if you would have asked me even a few weeks ago if I was ready to taper I would have told you 'hell ya! But to be honest with you, now that we are less than 2 weeks away, I feel like I could really use another month.

 

Now I am sure some of that is simply because with such a daunting task ahead of me, I may never feel like I have done enough to prepare.  And over-analysing my training really doesn't help because there are always gaps or areas you 'coulda, woulda, shoulda'. 

 

I set a goal of 12hrs for last week, seeing as I totally blew my training the week before Angel's Staircase.  Monday I fit in an easy 1hr 20min run to recover from the race on the weekend.  Tuesday I met my friend Karen for a 1.5hr run with 3min hill repeats in the middle and I followed it with a 4hr run in Crawford with Sarah on Wednesday.  Karen met me again on Friday morning for another beautiful early morning trail run and she pushed me up and along the hills for a total of 1.5hrs.  Saturday was a family day...

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We had an early morning start as Carter was doing the Kids of Steele Triathlon.  We were downtown for body marking by 7:10am and had his bike in transition by 7:25am.  His race started at 8:45 and he did great!  We LOVE watching Carter in his races and we are so proud of him!  He is at the age where he just wants to hang out with his friends after he finishes and after a quick hug from us, he is all about the cookies and coke in the area marked for 'athletes only.'  Trent and I gazed through the fence and saw him talking post-race stories with his fellow triathletes and clanking their coke cans together in celebration.  The days of hanging with your parents after a race may be long gone... :)

It was also my Mom's 60th birthday.  So we all had breakfast together, then I took her to the spa and we met my brother at the Kelowna Golf & CC for 9 rounds of golf before meeting back up with Trent and Carter at Mama Rosa's for dinner and vino.  It was a great day!!  I missed the first run of the fall trail running clinic and I hate to miss when I will be away soon on holidays but today was an important day for Carter and my Mom.  So I was grateful to give my family all of my attention and have a day off running and work.

Sunday I kinda blew it though.  I went out for my last scheduled 3hr run.  Only to return to home after 45 min.  I felt very unmotivated.  I was distracted with my thoughts and I couldn't stay focused on my run.  I kept thinking of all the things I need to do before I go like work and packing.  Plus my energy level was really low.  So I shut it down and I locked myself in my office until I had enough work done to satisfy my mind.  Trent was great.  He knew I was pissed at myself for blowing off my run when I have been so strict with my training and so close to the start.  So he offered to run with me at Knox before our company came for dinner.  Now anyone who knows Trent knows he hates the heat and it was 32 degrees and mega humid at 2:30pm and he was offering to get my butt out there to get some more time in.  What a guy!  Well, we did suffer in the heat (knox can be brutal this time of year) and my left ear still feels like fried bacon.  LOLBut we pushed through it.  We ended up hiking sections we might otherwise run but it just allowed us to chat more and we had a really great time together.  And he knew I would feel better finishing my last build week with the extra hours on paper and his support that day wasn't lost on me.