This is part 1 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.
When I signed up for the TransAlpine Run in December 2015, it was a big leap of faith. At 1500 € per team of two for the registration alone, it was a huge financial commitment and I had to hope like hell that I’d be ready to run 250 km over 7 days in only 9 months. It may sound like a long time but if you’ve ever trained for a huge goal race, you know how fast it goes by!
At this point I had a few road marathons, a 50k trail ultra, and our Rim2Rim2Rim adventure under my belt and was registered for my first 100k the following April.
The whole TransAlpine Run was Dayna’s idea. It was bucket list item after having completed both the TransRockies and Coastal Challenge stage races and she managed to convince seven of us to join her. It is run in teams of two – no, that does not mean it’s a relay. You run as partners the entire distance and must stay within two minutes of each other. Our group’s teams were Dayna and Courtney, Hailey and Eduardo, and Kyle and Ward.
My partner was Chris who has been part of my running journey since almost the beginning. We met during a Running Room clinic when I was training for my first marathon and he had just ran his first one. After I successfully complete the BMO Vancouver Marathon in 2014, Chris convinced me to try this thing called trail running. I kind of liked it. But even more, I liked the people.
We’ve since run many races together and countless training runs. He’s definitely the stronger and faster runner but luckily he’s also very patient and just out to have fun. He also has great first aid training (which I find very comforting) and always carries M&Ms with him. It was nice knowing I had a strong partner lean on – figuratively and literally – because some runners actually pushed and pulled their partners up mountains. However my biggest anxiety leading up to the race (and during it) was that I would hold him back and we’d miss a cut off.
During the race, I had a lot of time to think and one of the many things I reflected on was my training. I had never done a stage race before and I had no idea how to train for it. My plan was to just run a lot and I suppose I succeeded in that. Looking back, there were a few key goals over the last nine months that really helped me prepare.
Right after registering for the TransAlpine Run, I began training for my first 100k. This kept me busy running back-to-back long runs on the weekends plus weekday lunch runs. I built up to a few 100k mileage weeks and successfully completed the race held beginning of April. Unfortunately, it did bring to my attention the need to resolve my knee and hip issues. I saw several practitioners including osteopath, physiotherapist, and an RMT over the next 4 months.
How it helped me: Lack of confidence and experience are my biggest weaknesses. I really felt like I was in the big leagues now and completing this huge distance was definitely gave me a boost of trail confidence!
#2 – Sunshine Coast Trail
A few of us attempted to run the 180 km Sunshine Coast Trail over a 4-day weekend. Due to travel and timing, we completed 100 km over basically 2 days – one 35 km day and one 65 km day. It was a much harder trail than anticipated with some bushwhacking which made for slow-going.
We were a little late starting the second day and underestimated the trail. We ended up going all night to get to the camp site Jesse (our crew) had set up. I stayed positive (unusually and probably annoyingly so) despite very tired legs and sleep deprivation and powered through.
It was a beautiful trail, an epic weekend, and a great test of persistence through a very long night of hiking up and back down a mountain in the fog. We definitely need to go back and check that one off the list!
How it helped me: Things got tough. My back was giving me grief the first day and I didn’t even want to start the second day but I’m glad I did because things felt better. Jesse may have slipped Tylenol in my coffee – I may never know if he was joking or serious.
The TransAlpine Run elevation profiles are essentially straight f*cking up and then straight f*cking down. Since my knees weren’t feeling great and I’ve never been terribly quick on the down, I knew climbing would be key for me. I decided that the Grouse Grind would form part of my training.
My husband got me a season pass for the gondola and a timer card. I went after work on Mondays with a group of people and did one or two Grinds. Sometimes Dayna and I would try to beat our times and we ended up getting down to about 45 minutes. This not only helped with speed but with recovery time as well.
I also decided to try the Multi-Grind Challenge held on June 21 to see how many Grinds I could do in one day (18 hours). Turns out I can do 10 for a total of about 29 km and 8500 m elevation gain.
How it helped me: I rocked the TransAlpine climbs!!! And the whole time I was thinking “Thank god I did all those Grinds!!!”
#4 – Three 50ks on consecutive weekends
During July I ran three 50ks including one training run, the Broken Goat race in Rossland, and the CMTS Buckin’ Hell race in North Vancouver. It was a test of recovery more than endurance since I already knew I could run 50k.
The first 50k training run killed me. My knees were a mess after a long downhill stretch. But I made it … slowly.
By the next weekend, I had a full blown chest cold and was being a miserable baby about it. Kyle and I drove up to Rossland for Broken Goat and camped in his car overnight. The weather was miserable in the morning and it terrified me that the first aid station (AKA potential exit point) wasn’t for 25 km. But by that point I felt pretty good, even my knees (probably thanks to the Tylenol cold meds) and I finished strong.
I was feeling mostly better for the third 50k, Buckin’ Hell, and my legs had recovered quickly. This race was challenging in that it was basically straight up to almost the top of Mt. Seymour then straight down and quite technical in areas. I powered up the climbs and took the downhill slow. My knee was bugging me coming up to some steep down so I popped an Ibuprofen which probably prevented me from having to walk out the remaining distance.
How it helped me: Recovery, recovery, recovery! Last year it took me almost a month to recover from my first 50k. Now I was recovering within a week. They were also a good exercise in pacing and my race strategy – go hard on the up and take it easy on the downs – with the goal of just making the cutoffs and finishing.
#5 – Howe Sound Crest Trail
The August long weekend was my last big weekend of training before starting to taper. I started it off with 18 km from Lynn Headwaters through Hanes Valley to the top of Grouse Mountain on the Saturday. Since it’s mainly up, most of it was power hiking. We made good time and felt great at the top!
On Sunday, Courtney took Chris and I to hike Elfin Lakes. It’s mainly gravel road so not technical at all but there is some elevation and beautiful views. The camping area by the lakes looks amazing and I’d love to go back and camp there. It’s about 20 km round trip.
To top it all off, we did the epic 29 km Howe Sound Crest Trail from Cypress to Porteau Cove on Monday. Again, this route was mainly hiking due to its technical terrain and elevation gain – also there were lots of photo breaks!
How it helped me: This weekend was a great way to cap off my training. My knee and hip cooperated despite the big mileage and long time on feet. It was exactly the confidence boost I needed leading into my taper.
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