This is part 6 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.
Imst to Mardarfen-Pitztal
47.9 km | 3037 m ascent | 2144 m descent | 12 hour cut off
Our longest day. And if that wasn’t crazy enough we started with a hectic shuttle ride to the start line. We had been instructed to wait outside with our orange bags for the shuttle but it was late. One finally came but drove by as it was full. There was another shortly after that stopped for us. The unhappy driver got out started throwing bags on top of the already big pile just inside middle doors. Some of us runners were lucky enough to board through the front but many were left behind. Another shuttle picked them up.
The shuttle dropped us off near the start and furiously unloaded our bags. It would be chaos trying to find your bag so someone yelled out “everyone just take a bag!” So that’s what I did. After I dropped it off I walked back along the line of people to make sure someone had grabbed mine. Phew, there is was.
I lost my race partner, Chris, sometime during the shuttle chaos but found him near the bag check. We made our way into the starting corrals.
My memories are foggy for the beginning of this stage but I remember climbing … a lot! We sprinted from the start to get a good position in the inevitable bottleneck when the road out of town would meet with single track trail up a mountain. Our plan worked and we were in a group that was climbing quickly. Maybe too quickly. My heart was pounding on one section but damnit, I was going to keep up with the train.
As we continued to climb, the pack began to spread out. Every so often we’d pop out from single track onto a gravel road and have just enough time to think “this is a nice break” before the flagging would lead us right back onto steep single track again.
When we got to the first (or maybe second?) aid station, I was actually a little chilly. I put on my long sleeve and the new mittens (mandatory gear) I bought for the trip. This was the only time I would use them.
As we reached the alpine, we could see the valley with a river and parallel road running through it. There was a string of towns and it felt like we were looking directly down on the rooftops. I’m not super afraid of heights but this tripped me out a bit. Even then, it was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen.
We ran along narrow single track on grassy slopes, the edges muddy from yesterday’s rain and a herd of runners through before us. There were several sections of boulder fields which I hopped across channeling my inner mountain goat.
Then there was a “dangerous section” sign. The first one we had seen so far. We came up to some rope sections and I don’t know if it was because it was near the end of a big day or if I looked down too much or if I was in too much of a hurry to make the next cut off but this was the biggest challenge of the whole race for me.
I put my head down, focused on the task, and just did it. I swear we didn’t see the “end of dangerous section” sign for a few kilometres. F*ck, finally!
But the stress wasn’t over because we had to haul ass to make the next cutoff. Katie and Kelsy, fellow Vancouverites, passed us and we chased them literally straight down the mountain. We could see the town still so far away yet right below us as we ran down steep switchbacks.
I didn’t think we were going to make it in time but I was damn well going to try. That’s probably the fastest I ran during the whole week! Or at least it felt like it. I think I surprised Chris because I’m typically painfully slow on the downhills.
Luckily, one of the first aid guys we had seen at various locations throughout the race was hiking in and let us know the cutoff had been extended. I immediately slowed down. We made it to the last aid station and only had 5 km of flat gravel path left. I knew we had enough time (just barely) to make the finish line even if we walked the rest.
We shuffled a bit and walked a lot, at my request. It was a long, hard day and the last few kilometres were a cool down for me. We shuffled across the finish line in just under 12 hours. Ward and Kyle were waiting for us and snapped some photos. Shortly after, the Swashbuckling Doctors team finished. The guy proposed to his partner and we all congratulated the happy couple. What an emotional day that must have been for them.
Kyle, Ward, Chris, and I went to check into our hotel, the Hotel Rifflsee, which not far away while we waited for Courtney and Dayna. I was destroyed by the long day and as much as I wanted to see them finish, I just couldn’t. I needed a cold bath and food and to prepare for the next day. The guys went to see them but ended up not getting there in time.
The boys picked us up dinner and we had a pizza party in our room. I think the guys might have even got a few slices in between us girls demolishing all the food. We were all craving pop so Dayna scored us some from the hotel restaurant. Then we all hit the hay.
The next day was supposedly an “easy” day.
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