TransAlpine Run 2016 – Stage 4

This is part 7 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.

Mandarfen-Pitztal to Solden

25.7 km | 1887 m ascent | 2214 m descent | 7 hour cut off

It’ll be cold, they said. It’ll be 10 degrees down here and 4 degrees at the top, they said. I would soon regret dressing in long black pants and a black t-shirt.

Stiff and sore from our nearly 50K day, we went through our usual routine of getting dressed, packing our bags, and helping ourselves to the hotel breakfast. From there we walked over to the start line.

The first corral was released at the shot of a cannon which scared the sh*t out of all of us. It was really loud and not very far away. Shortly after, it was our corrals turn to go.

Chris and I ran hard off the start to get a good position in the bottleneck. The sun beat down on us and I warmed up instantly. I already regretted my clothing choices and for most of the day, I could only just barely stop myself from stripping down and running pantsless. I desperately hoped that the temperature would drastically cool as we climbed upwards.

After a steep few kilometres we came to a small lake that we ran around. It was accessible by gondola so there were a few tourists walking around. It would have been a great place to spend the day, but unfortunately we had places to be.

We were treated to a short downhill and had to traipse between more cows at the bottom. There was a bit of singletrack before we came to a dirt road and the first aid station. From there we were going straight up to the glacier.

I was relieved to find that the “dangerous sections” of this day seemed way less sketchy to me than the previous day. There were some rope sections that you could have got through without the ropes but having them made you feel a little more secure.

The trail was very narrow and there wasn’t much opportunity to pass anyone. As we got closer to the top I worried about time. It never seemed to end. When we finally reached the top but there wasn’t much time to celebrate as we had to get down to the next aid station. I didn’t think we’d make the cut off but since they had changed one the day before I figured we just had to be close. There were still a number of people around us … and they wouldn’t cut us all off would they??

The original race route took us onto the Solden glacier but we were told it wasn’t safe due to crevasses so they had to re-route us. We headed down a snowy stretch which they had covered with white mats. A string of us runners shuffled all down holding onto a rope. I was super slow and I held up some people (sorry!).

We made it through the aid station, albeit a little after the cutoff. It was all down hill from here! … supposedly. There was another stretch of uphill before we’d cruise all the way to the finish line.

I took the downhills slow (as if I have any other speed) and Chris patiently waited for me. Runners passed me but I didn’t care. We had lots of time now.

Chris and I arrived at the finish line with a time of 6:39.43,3. Hailey, Eduardo, Kyle, and Ward were already there and Dayna and Courtney finished shortly after us.

That night we all stayed at a really nice, modern hotel called the Backelar Wirt.

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Race Report: Broken Goat 50k 2016

Kyle and I drove up to Rossland together for the Broken Goat 50k on July 16, which also has 25 km and 12 km race distance options. We hadn’t booked accommodations but luckily there was a large dirt parking area where runners were allowed to camp.

After a long drive there we pulled into the camping area just before dinner time. We were pleasantly surprised to find Dikesh (Brown Dude in a Forest) car camping next to us. We picked up our race packages, which included an awesome Broken Goat branded t-shirt and growler, and then the three of us headed over to a nearby pub to grab a quick bite before the evening’s race briefing.

The weather was crappy and the forecast called for thunderstorms so we opted to sleep in the car rather than set up a tent. With the back seats folded down, there was just enough room in the Tesla for the two of us to stretch out. My sleep was restless and I had been suffering from a bad chest cold. I made sure to let everyone know how terrible I was feeling.

As we boarded the shuttle bus to the start location, the skies were grey and looked ready to dump rain on us in a moments notice. The man seated next to me tried to make pleasant small talk but I wasn’t very receptive (sorry). A short drive later, we unloaded at the start line and went through the mandatory gear check.

Every part of my being did not want to run as we huddled around waiting to start. I felt like sh*t. To make things worse, the first aid station wasn’t until 25 km into the race so there would be no way to drop out before that. I knew I would hate myself if I quit before I even started so I begrudgingly began the race.

Kyle hung out with me for a while but I was slow and miserable so I told him he should go ahead. My lungs felt like they were on fire but I was moving decently and the Tylenol cold medication I had taken suppressed any coughing. I was pleasantly surprised to find amazing course marshals during the first 25 km that had woken up super early and hiked out there to cheer us runners on. This made me feel 1000x better about being out there.

Katie cheered runners on and resisted hugging each and every one of them.
Photo by Brian McCurdy (

We had beautiful views from the first summit and I could see a looming huge mountain. We couldn’t possibly be going up that one, could we?? I thought about asking another runner but feared that I wouldn’t like their answer. Sure enough we curved around and approached it from the other side. It wasn’t as bad as I thought and it felt amazing to reach the top. I stood there for a moment to take it all in and then carried on back down the same route.

When I got back to the junction of this out-and-back, the 25 km racers were coming through. I saw a couple friends as they ran by, moving way quicker than I was.

Eventually I reached the 25 km aid station – the aid station I told myself all I had to do was get there and then I could re-evaluate. To my surprise, Kyle was there! I was so happy to see him. From this point the aid stations weren’t more than 10 km apart so I decided to take it one aid station at the time. Besides it looked like another lady was trying to drop and I’m not sure if you even could here. Kyle and I ran the rest of the race together.

Thunderstorms rolled in after we summited the next peak. I was worried they would call the race off after all I had been through, but they didn’t. We reached the bottom almost to the finish line and we got directed right back up a mountain. Of course. At least we had been warned about this so we could be mentally prepared.

The skies cleared as we climbed the last summit, Red Mountain – a short, steep section similar to the Grouse Grind. Once at the top, it was about 10 km of smooth sailing back down to the finish line. As we descended back down, we thought we could make it before 9 hours. However, we had a rude awakening when we got to the aid station with our watches reading 48 km and found out we still had 4 km to go. Damnit ultras, you get me with this every time!

Kyle cursed Rene, the race director, with every step we took. He was furious when he could see the lot his car was parked in but we proceeded to enter trails and head the other direction. Eventually we made it to the finish line and I was so relieved to be done! Our friend Kate snapped a shot of us running in together and Rene gave us a hug. I sat down and someone brought me a Coke.

Upon returning to Kyle’s car (AKA our home for the weekend) we found a note from Dikesh, a note from a local Tesla owner that Kyle had talked to about chargers, and a business card from the Mayor of Rossland (Tesla guy’s wife). We felt like big shots.

Our friends who had a cabin invited us to use their shower (thank god) and even sleep there that night. After getting cleaned up, Kyle and I and another lady went for dinner in town to a Thai joint the Tesla guy recommended. He was kind enough to let Kyle charge his car at his house and drop us off at the restaurant.

We walked most of the way back to the house but my lungs were killing me and I was feeling a little light headed so I stopped to sit on the ground for a moment. Tesla guy and the Mayor drove by and gave us a lift the rest of the way to their house so we could get Kyle’s car.

I slept soundly on the couch that night in the cabin with the others while Kyle slept in his car. We drove back home in the morning and stopped everywhere for food along the way.

Even though I was miserable at the time, I look back on this race fondly. It was a great experience to run in the alpine, challenge myself, and visit a new town. Registration opens on November 15 for the 2017 edition of the race. I strongly suggest checking it out!

TransAlpine Run 2016 – Stage 3

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: