The hardest part of everyday… isn’t waking up or climbing or the distance… its the first few steps you take when you get out of bed.
Day 2. Lermoos, Austria to Imst, Austria. 35kms, 2023m ascent, 2237m descent. For some reason I have sat down at the computer a couple of times now over the past few days to write about day 2 and nothing comes out. I keep skipping ahead to day 3 and 4 in my mind. I would say because day 2 hurt… mostly… and also because when I go back to it in my mind and body I feel it… I feel nervous at the thought of sharing the amount of things that occurred. But ill just dive right into it… The hardest part, as I said above, of any day was the first few steps to the bathroom in the morning. I’m a long distance gal, I get better and strong the farther I go. I’d prefer to run 250kms with maybe some small naps but in essence one shot. It’s the stopping, laying down and resting that for me are the silent killers. My muscles get tight and I have to re wake them and the body up everyday.
I remember sleeping in and out of moving my sore stiff legs as I turned into new positions. We woke to pouring rain… and hitting the snooze button a couple of times. We had a start time of 8:00am, we always had to have our orange bags packed and in the front lobby 1.5h before the race start time, so we aimed to be up for 5:30am. I remember waking up still feeling nauseous… more of a nerves kind of nauseous. I tried to eat breakfast… a few bites of oatmeal went in and I did drink lots of orange juice, which I always crave when I’m racing. I switched shoes today from my Hoka Stinson’s to my Altra Olympus… 1. so I could wear my gaitors 2. to try and not have my hot spot become a blister and 3. to give my toes some room! Today before the race started I took an altitude pill and a salt pill in hopes to change how I started yesterday. I put my left over pizza in my pack with the thought that I might crave it later. We had our rain jackets on and headed to the start line a whole 50m from the hotel. Today the race director decided to split the racers up into 2 groupings according to finish time from day 1. So top 300 racers/150 teams and then bottom 300 racers/teams… we would start 15 minutes apart to avoid bottle necks at the trail head out of town. So 8:00am and our start time was 8:15am. We went through bag check again. The Gore-tex Transalpine Run theme song… and then HIGHWAY TO HELL… and a gun shot… and we moved.
It was a slow move for me. It hurt. Everything was stiff. We ran about 2.5kms on road through the town, hit some grass fields. I was already pushing hard right off the start today to try and keep up. At this point the rain had stopped and we just had some cloud cover. There was still a bottle neck at the trail head the same as yesterday however, as the days went on, we learned that these were good things because you could jump into the crowed and go with the flow, you couldn’t go faster then the person ahead of you and you couldn’t go slower then the person behind you so for the first few kms of climbing you almost got carried up.
That being said, wow todays first climb was tough for me. I would say the slowest my body felt this whole trip. As soon as we climbed I again felt my heart racing, I couldn’t catch my breath and my legs were dead. I mean this whole time I am still moving step by step, it’s slow but moving. Our first time cut off was at 10.2kms at 10:45am. We had 2.5h to go 10km up 831m and down 640m. We were climbing with familiar faces from yesterday. Dayna is a climbing machine at this point and I am dragging my sluggish ass. I saw the sweep again between me and a couple other people behind. We tried our best to stick with Johanna and Lucas as they were very on top of their pace, how far we had to go and how much time we had to do it before cut off… so they were one of the first teams that we would pace with. We were feeling the pressure for time nearing the top of this first climb. At this point we had also run into Kyle and Ward surprisingly, but Kyle’s legs was giving him a hard time like mine. Not that they wanted us to catch them but it sure felt good to see their faces during such a struggle. We neared the top.
It levelled out. We ran when it was anything but up hill. We started pushing… and then the downhill greeted us. My quads were not being nice to me today… still not recovered from my bodies lack of hydrating and calories yesterday. The downhill hurt. No “juicy” muscles for me. We had some unreal scenery, rounding ridges as we descended… but as you can see in the main image of me running past the waterfall, there is pain. Despite the pain we passed other runners on the downhill. We again were pushing hard. We caught up now with a large group of racers.
We are up high enough still that I am thinking the aid station has to be down there. We still have along way down and not much time. We duck off the trail into a section that was not really a trail but just a straight down bush whack grassy ground forest. We got stuck behind quit a few groups of people here… it was like people didn’t know how to move on it… Dayna looks at her watch we have 8 minutes until the cut off. Holly shit. We asked to pass and said our excuse me’s as we moved faster. We still hadn’t seen the 500m food sign. Before each aid station there would be a 500m distance warning sign. We then saw Chris and Brie just a few steps ahead. Holly crap. This time cut off is nuts! We see it… The big orange 500m sign. “OMG THERE IT IS!” we pop out of the bush whacking to see the aid station. One of the crew guys is standing there looking at his watch as we run across the time mat, he says “10:44” the cut off time was at 10:45. We all run in seconds to spare. We had passed a lot of people including Johanna and Lucas at the start of the down… We hoped they would make it or they would be nice and let them go.
I was feeling better in terms of eating and the nausea but we have been so pressed for time this morning I have not stopped to pee, eaten anything other then a gel maybe two. This is bad… again I have not been able to help myself… set myself up for a sustainable day with this time pressure. Now at the aid station since we rolled in with seconds to spare we had seconds at the aid station. If your that close to a cut off time they make you get in and out of the aid station like boom now you have to go. It was a quick refill of my water and then the emotions set in. I was pissed off. SOO MAD. I was hungry, I wanted to grab some fruit. This is not okay to do to people who are running for 7 days. But I can’t eat grapes and run at the same time. But since we made this cut off by seconds that meant we needed to hull ass to the next one and then one after that because we didn’t make up anytime. So with anger in my whole body I grabbed a handful of grapes and we started running. Now get this. We had 5k of all runnable wide trail downhill to the next cut off aid station… and 1.5h to do it… how does that make any sense. We ran all the way to the next aid station. We arrived with 45 mintues to spare… so this is when we deiced to take our few minutes to properly take care of ourselves, since we have not been able to yet this morning. I found a rock to sit on, pulled out my PB&J and ate the whole thing! I could eat again which was a relief. We spent a few minutes getting calorie fuelled we didn’t need to refill water since it had only been 5k. The Japanese Media Crew guy was there again… he saw me and came over with his camera as I was putting on my pack getting ready to head out… I told him I felt a lot better today and I was able to eat again and this is what this race is about… pushing through.
We ran a little bit farther through the forest, this is where for the first time today I felt the need to pee… not good to have gone this long… still dehydrated for sure and just to pressed for time. I was blocking out the option to have to go. We then hit a couple hundred meters on paved path that followed behind some backyards of houses in the town of Tegestal, Austria. It was a nice distraction to look at the houses. Oh damn we are climbing again. Here we go heart. We were climbing from 15km to 23km, 1000m ascent. We climbed for a very long time on a steep old dirt road. It was okay for my legs because I could take long steps and use my poles to help with momentum. My lungs and heart were still giving me a very hard time. Every 5-10 minutes or maybe more I am not sure, I would stop for a split second bend over my poles try to lower the heart rate, steady my breath and shake out each leg. Dayna was powering up. A couple people who we had earlier passed on all the downhill were starting to gain on me during the climb.
One team in particular was climbing with us, Flo and Marcus, two guys from Germany (I will share their unique story on a different days blog). Marcus is this big, tall, kind and determined man. Just the sweetest. We became good friends. He was moving at my climbing pace and we did some chatting. His parter Floriane aka. Flo, was moving on the climbs, what seemed like, effortlessly. But was supporting Marcus along the way. They would do like me and Dayna would. Sometimes one parter would go ahead of the other and back and forth. Anyways, the dirt road went on and on which I liked because it was easy to keep a pace and just move on. But of course my worst fear (in that moment) came true and the orange arrow pointed up… up on the up. Into the forest we go. This was more of an old goat trail on a grass edge. Super bumpy and steep. So we climbed that for awhile. Caching my breath was getting harder and harder. I stopped more frequently, the two ladies from Arizona caught up to me but stayed behind me as they liked my pace. One of the girls was also having the same trouble with her breathing as I was. At one point Dayna looked back at us and said “we gotta move,” this became a common thing for us… we always had to move and had to move as hard as we could push. Our race was from aid station to aid station not from one day to the next. We were racing cut offs. It was hard rolling into an aid station say 45 minutes before cut off… gained time, its great but you never knew what was coming, other then meters or kms, but we didn’t know like 5k of what… what was the terrain. So it was a constant we gotta move.
We moved! As soon as the trail levelled off we ran. We just kept running… past the cheer squad in their pink hula skirts and ringing cowbells and shortly after that we were heading down the other side. We were in a forested area. I started to notice lots of interesting crosses and Jesus’s nailed to trees and all over. There were little mini like bird house size churches nailed to trees and some bigger like kid size ones on the side of trails. It was interesting to say the least. A very religious community and people would hike up into these mountains to prey etc. Anyways we ran down still in fear of missing the time cut off… from 22km at over 2000m we descended 700m to the last aid station at 27km. We are running down hill on a dirt road which turned into pavement, which lead us into a town. Such an amazing little town. Cute little houses, farms, schools. We make it to the aid station and see one of the sweepers right behind us. Thinking well either we just made it or just didn’t make it. I asked one of the crew and he said to me “oh no your fine, you are an 1.5h ahead of the cut off time, so now you have 2.5h to run the last 7k downhill into finish.” I mean this was great news… but really… we were seconds from getting cut this morning and 1.5h ahead now… this was when the fact that they hadn’t done a well job at planning these cut offs started to be realized.
So of course with this much time we ate… I had oranges and banana refilled water and we just started walking. The trails were awesome in this section, felt like a part of home. We worked our way downhill, again catching people… however it was one of those Gary race kind of days with some added steep but short up hills with 5km to go and 4km to go. We finally hit pavement into another part of town. I said to Dayna “grab my pizza for my from my pack please… I am finally hungry and craving it. So we shared the two small pieces.” Then we ran into town and crossed the finish line. 35km, 2023m ascent, 2237m descent, 6:54:56. Today felt like more up hill then down. I remember my feeling of today being, UGH, YAY, HA.
Now at this finish line I was HUGNRY. It was so nice to finish earlier in the day… There was a fountain in the front entrance/parking lot of this community centre the finish line was set up in front of and runners were gathered around sitting on the edge with their legs in. I joined and while I sat there I ate two big buns with salami… Yes salami. This was my second time eating out of shear survival mode I’m so hungry I need to eat anything and ignoring the fact that yes its not vegan. Honestly it was just what I needed at that moment. Something salty, carby and as filling as it was going to get. We had a bit of a walk to our hotel this time… which included going up a long set of stairs in town… we all cried and groaned. My legs got stiff quickly again today after finishing. But since there was more time this evening. I decided to have a cold bath to help swelling and recovery. This made a huge difference for my last year after the 80km day of Squamish 50/50. I woke up the next day for 50k able to run. Very shortly after getting into our hotel room I ran a straight cold water bath. Unlike the cold water at home… from my experience in these European towns the cold water is glacier fead… I am assuming because that is how cold the cold water is. PAINFUL TO GET IN. No need to add ice. Dayna and Brie timed me 10 minutes and then another 10 minutes. And then we ate… tonight I ate camping food. Me and Brie didn’t head to the pasta party but instead got hot water, went downstairs in the hotel bar thing and ordered glasses of orange juice and ate our camping food while we laid in bed. I was just happy to be eating again and to have an appetite. I tried to eat a lot I even dug into my protein bars and vega shake to try and help make up calories. We got the news of a staggered start time again for, tomorrow, day 3. We were doing 51km tomorrow with more elevation gain then any 50km race we had ever done, 3100m. But again we packed our packs, laid with our feet up, compression socks on and went to sleep. Early 7am start tomorrow.
All to note about today was my right heel was getting a blister… sort of, more just a hot spot still and the only chaffing was happening on my back from my shorts and pack and my front shoulders also from my pack rubbing. I only peed once while on the trail today in 7 hours, not ideal.