Im listing to my iPod for the first time since being home, which has all of the music that flooded my ears on the way to the race and during a few long hard days of racing… I am instantly filled with so many emotions. The songs represent certain moments, feelings and places. Some songs lead me to break out a dance move in the middle of the trail… some songs started at the exact time I was feeling a certain way… I can close my eyes and feel as if I were there again in every beat. Right now at this very moment I want nothing more then to be back on day 4 climbing, climbing, climbing… in the roller coaster, or day 5 flying down hill or day 6 grinding away.
Lets rewind a few days… Day 1. Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany to Lermoos, Austria. 37kms. What I had in the back of my mind coming into day 1 was, lets not have a day 1 like I did at The Coastal Challenge stage race (completed in 2014). Day 1 of Coastal Challenge… I was sick, dehydrated in the first hour of the race, nauseous, couldn’t eat etc. Getting sick on the first day can be tricky because you are now down calories, your whole body will suffer from being dehydrated and its now the catch up game.
Day 1 start time was not until 10:00am. Nice for a sleep in but being anxious enough to get started 10am was a bit of a drag to wait for. Breakfast came… I managed to get in some oatmeal and orange juice. We took our orange racer luggage bags to bag check in and then it was a waiting game, yet the waiting seemed to go fast. The start line was right across the street from our hotel… and the time came for us to head over and get the “start line” photos under way. The start line was set up so that we had to go through a “gear check” area… to make sure we had all of the required gear in our packs. Before I knew it the “Gore-Tex Transalpine Run” theme song was playing… and then “highway to hell” came on… everyone was cheering, dancing and clapping… with the sound of a gun we were officially running down the streets through the town of Garmisch.
We had about 3kms on the road through town before we hit the trail head and well straight up we went. We had automatically started in the backish area of the 600 racers at the start. We were in no way here to “race” or go out hard etc. We had no expectations of ourselves other then to make the time cut offs, push ourselves harder then we ever have, not spend the whole race with the sweeps and get this thing done with all we’ve got. It took 1 min 20 seconds to actually cross the start line. As we approached the end of town road and the beginning of the trail we had kept up a good pace and were in the middle of the pack. There was a huge bottle neck, of course at the trail head, so we had a minute or two of waiting our turn to jump in.
So far 3kms on the road into day 1 I had begun to feel a bit off. There was no freeness to my steps, I didn’t have that “feel good” feeling I usually get after a taper… We jumped into the trail, got our poles out and in the train we followed the feet in front of us and pushed from the feet behind us. The trail eventually opened and well I slowed down and people started to pass. I started to not feel so good. Okay I thought its humid… way more then I expected, drink, salt pill, take a gel… get into it. I started to feel nauseous… here I am about 5-6kms into our day 1 leaning on my poles dry heaving. I felt foggy, my legs felt heavy, I was a slug. My heart rate wouldn’t settle and I couldn’t catch my breath. Dayna had altitude sickness pills with her so I took one of those… and kept pushing on. Dayna was ahead “pulling” me. And just like that it’s day 1 of Coastal Challenge all over again. We had a time cut off approaching so step by step we kept pushing.
Oh great I can see the sweep just a few switch backs down. There are still a few teams behind us at this point but not many. We are climbing straight up one of the ski runs following alongside a chair lift. Good thing I trained on ski runs I was thinking to myself… to bad my body isn’t actually letting me climb like I’m trained to climb. How could I be “altitude sick” were only at 1100m this is like being at the top of Grouse Mountain. Altitude sickness is something I’ve never experienced before being way higher then this. Getting to that first check point/aid station was at 8.5km. We had climbed 757m and had 2h 15min to get there, shouldn’t be a problem, its day 1 we have fresh legs but we roll in with 30min to spare. Right away I changed from having Nuun Electrolyte tabs in my small soft flask bottles to my 1.5L bladder… two Nuun tabs went in. It was to humid for one tab. I still felt nauseous but managed to get in a few pieces of watermelon at the aid station. We refilled our water and off we went. We still had to reach the peak of this climb at 1616m.
We start to see “people,” hikers etc. We are at the top of our climb, the sun is out, blue sky and the orange arrow is now pointing DOWN! I knew I could run down, down is my thing… so down we went. Still not feeling very well my quads felt sore, tight and “not juicy” I call, it but I managed to make up some ground. We started to pass people. People who we would get to know and see everyday over the next 7 days. A couple from Mexico, Johanna and Marcus from Germany, two ladies from Arizona and Bart from Seattle.
I couldn’t help but be frustrated that we just climbed up to the top of a ski mountain and now we are just running right back down… ugh… I was thinking… all that to just turn around and go back down. The trail was narrow and very rocky, but nothing we haven’t seen before. 3kms, 873m decent. Some nice technical downhill. My nausea settled a bit as we moved faster. We reached the bottom of the mountain… oh but then we start climbing again. I managed to talk my body into feeling the need to pee for the first time today around km 17. Im still cycling between salt pills, GU Salted Watermelon Gel’s and drinking Nuun. I knew this entire time what was going on… I need to pee more, I need to eat… I’ve been in this same situation before and I knew what I needed to do to fix it but I couldn’t. Still fixated on the next cut off time we didn’t stop moving. We finally hit some dirt road downhill into the next aid station at 19kms. 45 minutes ahead of cut off this time. All I could think to do was eat. Try to eat. As soon as we got there I took my pack off and sat on the ground… I grabbed my PB&J sandwich, which was repulsive to me… but forced down the outer edges of the bread. I maybe sat there for 2 minutes, refilled my packs, took another salt tab and it was off for our steepest section of climbing.
The nausea started to settle a bit again. I was able to get in some gels. Once we started climbing again though, my heart rate went back up and I had the feeling of not being able to catch my breath… it was like clockwork, every time we hit 1100m of elevation a wave of nausea would overcome me. It felt like the hardest thing to push through at the time. Just trying to get my legs moving… they just wouldn’t go any faster. We eventually reached what we thought might be the top as it started to level off… There was a medical crew and a media crew from Japan there… it was exciting to see “crew” people and they told us that we are literally now crossing the boarder into Austria. Cool! The media crew must have thought my dying face must have a good story so he brought the camera up to me and was asking me how it was going… “awful, I’m really sick I can’t eat, this is not ideal for a first day… but its awesome that we are reaching the top and tomorrow will be better”… something like that… the top was reached shortly after this and we were greeted with a cheering squad dancing with cowbells and pink hula skirts! Downhill to the last aid station! We left the openness of the ski runs and headed into the forest. We ran down into the last aid station, 10kms left to the finish! At this point I started to feel better and ate some oranges at the aid station. We we so happy to be running downhill on nice runnable trails and for the last 10kms. But the nice runnable trails didn’t last long, we hit some steep goat trails on the side of a grass hill.
Today is the day we learned that the sound of cowbells ringing does not always mean crew, fans, aid station or anything of the sort. It means there are cows…
5kms left. We looked on as this beautiful little town appeared in the middle of the massive mountians. Now we are rolling, watching for the 4km sign, the 3km sign, the 2km sign… we hit the pavement… always a good thing… pavement means town, town means aid station or finish line or something nice to run on. We ran side by side crossing the “beep” mat… heard our names announced over the loud speakers and there we were… FINISH LINE! We finished 37kms, 2088m ascent and 1791 descent in 7:57:19.
This is what really happened at the finish…
All of our friends had finished before us… waited for us and gave big hugs and high fives as we crossed. I still couldn’t eat much of anything nor could I imagine anything that I wanted to eat. Within 15 minutes of finishing our run my legs were stiff, I was walking as if it were day 6 and my muscles were tight and stiff… this was a bad sign for what I would have to correct and work through starting day 2. All I wanted was gatorade… which doesn’t exist at this race… Gatorade fixed me after day 1 of Coastal Challenge. With no option for that we headed to our hotel, 50m from the finish line, our orange bags were already there for us and it was compression sock, vega shake and feet up time. We went for dinner at the restaurant in our hotel, I ordered a pizza and fries. Got in a few fries and a few bites of pizza, drank some water and orange juice and that was about it. It was time for packing our packs for day 2 and bed. Sleep this off… hope for better tomorrow.
Note: the only other thing for today was a hotspot starting on my right heel from my shoe rubbing and no chaffing (odd but awesome)
All the credit goes to my sister Ashley for making the playlist on my iPod for me.