This is part 3 of a series detailing my experiences travelling to Europe and completing the Gore-tex TransAlpine Run. The TransAlpine Run is a 7-day stage race from southern Germany across Austria and into northern Italy boasting a distance of 250 km and elevation gain of 15000 m. Eight of us traveled there together as Team Ultra Crazy to attempt this huge goal.
Six of us travelled together to Munich where we would meet the other two members of Team Ultra Crazy. We planned to all wear our matching team gear for the flight to Munich. SportChek Robson generously provided the awesome Canada shirts and Courtney had made us all TUC trucker hats. We looked sharp and as a bonus it was easy to spot each other in the busy airports.
Checking our bags was a bit of a process because we had to find an empty scale, weigh them, and then juggle stuff around to meet weight restrictions. At least we wouldn’t have to deal with lugging them around for a good 10 hours.
I was seated between Kyle and Chris. We decided to watch Fargo and synchronized our screens as best as possible. I fell asleep near the end, woke up just in time for the wood chipper part, and then slept until breakfast was served. The flight went well other than the food being basically inedible. I know airplane food doesn’t have a great reputation but seriously, Kyle dry heaved for three minutes at the sight of his bacon.
With the nine-hour flight and time change it was Thursday when we landed in Munich. We picked up our bags and took them down to the train station using the airport carts. Once we reached the central station, we had to lug them a couple hundred metres to our hotel, the Aloft. It must have been quite the sight. I know there are a lot of backpackers travelling around Europe, but at least they have proper backpacks!
The Aloft was a pretty trendy place with a DJ, mirror ball, bar, and pool table in the lobby. We settled into our rooms and met up with Hailey and Eduardo who had travelled there from Iceland. Starving, we all headed over to a nearby Thai joint for dinner and then back to the hotel lounge for a couple drinks.
In the morning we partook in the hotel’s breakfast buffet, which would be the first of many for us. Europe really knows how to serve a continental breakfast – a huge spread of coffee, juice, cereal bar, fruit salad, yoghurt, pastries, meat, cheese, eggs … and if you are lucky, chocolate croissants.
We packed up and headed to the start town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen which required a ride on the train. The station was conveniently located just across the street from our hotel so once again we dragged our bags over there.
After some confusion, we eventually boarded the right train car. It was about an hour ride so I threw on my headphones and listened to a language podcast called Coffee Break German that Hailey had recommended. I picked up a few German greetings and phrases, most of which I wouldn’t use. Luckily Kyle speaks German and has spent a fair amount of time in Germany which was a huge help.
The landscape changed from flat to mountainous as we arrived in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. We did another comedy routine to get our luggage from the station to our hotel, the Garmischer Hof, where we checked into our rooms. Hailey and Eduardo had their own. The rest of us split up into two rooms of three. The girls were in one and guys in the other. By some miracle we managed to get a huge room while the guys got one about half the size.
We spent the rest of the day wandering around the cute little town and checking out the nearby Partnach Gorge. It was pretty cool with some dark cave-like tunnels along the side. Eduardo jumped out and scared the sh*t out of me.
The bus stop to get back to our hotel was by the ski jump stadium from the 1936 Olympics. We walked through there, took a few photos, and had a beer and bite to eat at the restaurant.
That evening we met our new Swedish friend Matthias and later his partner Tobbe. They were both friendly and hilarious but since they are fast runners, we would typically only ever see them during breakfast time at our hotels. We would quiz them about the course details and they would give us information from the pasta party race briefings which we rarely attended.
Package pickup opened at 7am so we were there bright eyed and bushy tailed to get our bibs, bags, and shirts. The orange Salomon bags we received were not quite as big as we had hoped since we had to fit everything we needed for the week of racing inside. But they did the trick and also had wheels which made carting them around WAY easier.
The bags contained some swag including a Gore-tex TransAlpine Run Buff, Gore arm sleeves, and a few miscellaneous items such as sunscreen. We also received our starting race shirt, however, everyone who completes the full distance receives an additional finishers shirt at the end of the race.
I packed basically everything I brought into my new bag with little problem and then Chris and I grabbed a bite to eat at the cafe adjacent to the outdoor race expo. I ordered a salad that came with sort of mini grilled goat cheese paninis. I had already accepted the fact that this trip was not going to be vegan and embraced the delicious cheese. There were, however, vegetarian options at most places we ate or at least a decent salad. Afterwards, we wandered through the race expo and got a couple badass airbrush tattoos courtesy of Gore-tex.
Back at the hotel Chris finished packing his bag while I drifted off to sleep for a brief nap. The other guys returned and as I lay on their bed listening to the wind blowing outside Ward made a comment about how the weather was turning. The prospect of not only completing this race, but doing it in crappy weather must have been the last straw for my nerves. I had a moment where I got really anxious and my stomach was full of butterflies. As quick as it came, the feeling disappeared and I was back to a manageable level of excitement and nervousness.
That evening the pasta party and the race briefing was held at a nearby auditorium. The pasta dinner was literally just that, a buffet of only pasta. The vegetarian option was basically just noodles and tomato sauce and there was unfortunately a distinct lack of vegetables. But there was dessert!
The race briefing started with some quick introductions and a parade of all the flags of the participants’ countries. Then sh*t got real. They threw a slide up with an image of a man traversing a rope section that looked terrifying and gave a waiver-like speech about how everyone is required to have alpine experience, be competent navigators, and be comfortable with exposure. Whoa, wait a second, what did we sign up for!? If their goal was to scare us into taking the race seriously, it sure worked!
Now the only thing left to do was get a good nights sleep and wake up ready to go in the morning.
More in the series:
- Part 1: TransAlpine Run 2016 – Preface
- Part 2: TransAlpine Run 2016 – Packing
- Part 3: TransAlpine Run 2016 – Before the Race
- Part 4: TransAlpine Run 2016 – Stage 1
- Part 5: TransAlpine Run 2016 – Stage 2
- Part 6: TransAlpine Run 2016 – Stage 3
- Part 7: TransAlpine Run 2016 – Stage 4
- Part 8: TransAlpine Run 2016 – Stage 5
- Part 9: TransAlpine Run 2016 – Stage 6
- Part 10: TransAlpine Run 2016 – Stage 7
- Part 11: TransAlpine Run 2016 – After the Race