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:

Race Report: Portland Marathon 2016

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Portland Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!

I signed up for the Portland Marathon knowing that it was only a month out from my biggest adventure to-date, a seven-day stage race through the Alps called the TransAlpine Run. Unsure what the recovery time would be, I told myself I could always drop down to the half if needed although truthfully I’m not entirely sure if that was an option since the half had sold out early in the year.

The race has two distance options: full marathon or half marathon. You can currently register for the 2017 race for $130 USD for the full and $115 USD for the half (plus taxes and fees I presume). After the half sells out there is a charity entry option available that costs more (I think in the $200 range). Both are walker friendly with the caveat that the course closes after 8 hours.


I didn’t train for this race per se, but I did do a lot of training. Over the four months leading up to the race, I ran about 860 km with a total of 55,000 m elevation gain. Since I was training for a race in the Alps, I focused more on elevation than distance and since it was mainly trails, it adds up to a lot of time on feet for what it’s worth. I also did some yoga throughout the summer and forced myself to go to the gym for a little strength training.

Package Pickup & Swag

The package pickup and expo was located in the Hilton Portland which was right downtown near the race start and finish lines. You had to descend a couple floors into the depths of the hotel to what looked like a parkade or basement to where the bib pickup and official race store were located, however, we were then directed up to a banquet room to get our “souvenir bag.”

I’m still not clear on if the bag itself was supposed to be a souvenir as it was just a blue plastic bag with a Portland Marathon sticker on it. Or maybe it was just a bag for holding any souvenirs that you bought. It didn’t come with anything in it (except safety pins) and it seemed odd that you didn’t get it at the same time and location as your bib. At least you could have used it to hold your bib as you wandered around the race store and up to the next room.

Other vendors on the upper floor included Altra Running and Nuun hydration, two of my ambassadorships. I also partook in a couple beer samples and some apple slices.

I realized that I didn’t get a shirt so I asked a volunteer about it. He informed me that the shirts were for finishers and that I would get mine at the finish line. Interesting! The TransAlpine Run was the only other race I’ve done that gave out coveted finishers shirts but I had figured it was a stage race thing.

As we left the expo I was slightly disappointed about leaving with only a plastic bag containing only my race bib and safety pins, but the race would later make up for that with amazing finish line swag! Even though my bag contents were lacking, I did appreciate that the race did a “virtual goodie bag” that contained online discount codes and promotions for their vendors rather than loading up the race package full of promo items that would end up in the recycling bin.

All runners received a medal, a rose, one of those light cloth ponchos, a commemorative coin, a pendant, a long-sleeved shirt, and a little tree sapling after crossing the finish line. The medals were gorgeous. I had seen an image of them before the event and that’s when I first decided I HAD to finish this race. Run, walk, or crawl. The commemorative coin and pendant were designed very similar to the medal –  very cool.

Course & Aid Stations

The route starts and finishes in downtown Portland. The half and full runners complete two out and backs along the river: the first one to the south and the second to the north before splitting. At 11 miles, the marathoners hang a hard right while the half marathoners continue straight back to the finish line. The marathoners then head further north to the St Johns Bridge at 17 miles where they cross over to the other side of the river and run back along it heading south. At 24 miles, marathoners cross back over the Broadway Bridge into the downtown core again. This is the homestretch.

Historically, the Portland Marathon typically has great weather but of course the year I run it, it rains non-stop. I’m from the Vancouver, BC, area so I’m fine with a little rain but the visibility was not great and everything was grey so I missed out on my views of Portland. I could barely even see the river when crossing the bridges.

Like most major cities built around rivers, much of the waterfront is industrial and port facilities. Most of the route skirted the line between that and the residential areas behind it.

The race had many aid stations with water and some with electrolyte drink as well. I saw a couple that had gummy bears and one that had pretzels. I wore my pack with a 500 ml bottle and some snacks because sometimes aid stations just aren’t enough for me. There were so many hydration stations that I don’t think it was necessary to carry water, however, I was really glad I brought food. I went through a couple Honey Stinger gels, a couple packs of Honey Stinger gummies, and a honey Stinger waffle. I also ate some of the aid station gummy bears.

There were so many spectators out on the course despite the rain cheering everyone on. My favourite part of the whole race was having my name on my bib. SO MANY people cheered me by name. I may have benefited from having a short, easy to read name and from being fairly spaced out from other runners. The whole race I was waiting for someone to make a cheese comment, but no such luck.


I made my way through the finishing chute, grabbed all my swag, and then found my husband, Jesse, in the “reunion area.” By this point I was cold and shivering so we went to a nearby Starbucks for a hot chocolate and to put on my warm, dry BibRave hoody. There were still a lot of people around the finish area but we decided to go somewhere for lunch instead of hanging around.

My Experience

My husband and I made a weekend out of the race. We left early Saturday morning and drove down arriving in Portland mid afternoon. It was a long weekend for us Canadians due to our Thanksgiving holiday so we stayed until Monday.

Now I haven’t had great luck with the marathon distance thus far. My first and second marathons were the BMO Vancouver Marathon (May 2014 and 2015). I was the most trained for a road marathon than I’ve ever been and they were still so tough. It was like my legs just freaked out at the thought of a marathon and turned to lead for the whole race. But I made it to the finish line in the 4:20 and 4:22 respectively and soon forgot the pain and suffering.

The next marathon I ran was the Ventura Marathon (September 2015). Over the past year I had made the switch from road running to mainly trail running and had completed my first trail ultra, the Squamish50 (km), just three weeks prior. The Ventura Marathon did not go well for me probably due to a few factors: I was not fully recovered, I had a pre-existing hip injury, I sat in a car all week while driving down to California, I was not properly trained, and I was definitely not prepared for the heat and humidity! Yet I still made it across the finish line with a time of something like 5:45. I basically walked most of the second half. It was miserable but I was so proud of myself for not giving up.

I had the opportunity to run the Boundary Bay Marathon (November 2015) which would have been my fourth marathon had I finished. Unfortunately, I had not resolved my hip issue and in fact it had now screwed up my knee so I bailed halfway through the race. It wasn’t a goal race and wasn’t worth it so I made the tough decision to take my first DNF.

Portland was my redemption marathon. I knew that I wasn’t in a position to PR but my goal was to enjoy myself and get to the finish line. I had the last two marathons hanging over my head and desperately hoped that this one would go better.

The forecast was for rain and sure enough it was right. I wore my BibRave tank top, Oiselle roga shorts, neon yellow Nike compression socks, and a trucker hat and layered my BibRave hoody and Arc’teryx Norman Goretex jacket on top for the start line.

Jesse and I arrived at the start just after 6am, an hour early as recommended by the race. We met up with Tim Murphy, cofounder of BibRave, to say hi and snap a quick photo. He was also nice enough to bring me some arm sleeves to borrow for the race. It was getting close to start time so I gave Jesse my extra layers and ran around to find my corral.

Our corral started about 13 minutes after the gun time. I felt good starting out which is more than I can say of most of the marathons I’ve done. My plan was to go slow and steady and finish in under 5 hours, which shouldn’t be a particularly difficult goal for me.

The 4:25 pacer caught up to me at about 14 km. I must have been going faster than I thought I was. I wanted to see how long I could keep up with the group but I saw a free outhouse and had to make a pit stop. Despite trying to make up some time after, I didn’t seen that pacer again.

I finally got to the first of two bridges at around 27 km. Lots of people slowed down or walked on the hill approaching the bridge but I powered up it. I was getting cold and that helped warm me up. Shortly after the bridge, around 32 km, I hit the wall. It was a struggle for the last 10 km.

We crossed the second bridge going back into downtown Portland just before the 40 km point. I was so excited to almost be finished and I pushed my pace on the homestretch. Unfortunately I was briefly stopped for a train along with a few other runners. I jogged on the spot worried if I stopped completely that my legs might not start again.

As I ran through the finish chute, I high fived the announcer and the crowd cheered me on by name. It was seriously so amazing! I received my medal and rose from an adorable young girl after crossing the finish line.

Runners also received a poncho which almost everyone put on immediately. It was thin but at least it was something. We were all soaked to the bone and the moment I stopped running I could feel my temperature start to drop. I learned from Bradley to keep my poncho because they are great for staying warm at the start line of your next race and it’s something you are not worried about ditching.

I almost missed the coins and pendant but saw someone holding little cloth bags and she pointed at a table I had passed when I asked where she got them.

Runners were given a choice of the classic blue or 45th anniversary purple for their finisher shirt during registration. Although I prefer blue, I picked the purple shirt because it sounded special. I have to admit, I do like the colour. The shirt design was nice and the quality seems okay although I have seen reports of some shirts having holes where the stitching didn’t line up right. I’m sure the race would replace those.

The last thing to grab before exiting the finish chute was a sapling. I didn’t get one unfortunately as I assumed I wouldn’t be able to bring it back across the border. It’s such a cool idea though!

After the race, I got a hold of Tim and we met up with him for lunch at 10 Barrel Brewing. He was sitting with Jen A. Miller, writer for the New York Times and author of Running: A Love Story. She had also just finished the marathon. As an amateur running blogger, it was interesting to hear first-hand experience from someone who has made a career from writing and running – the good and the bad.

Route issue

Fairly early on in the race I noticed that my watch was almost a kilometre off from the distance markers. It’s typically quite accurate but it does occasionally glitch out so I didn’t think too much of it. I finished with a distance of 43.3 km (26.9 miles).

Later on I was scrolling through the hashtag #pdxmarathon on Instagram and came across a post by another runner comparing a section of the course on the route map to her GPS map. Something was definitely not right. Within the first mile, she had missed the first turn and ended up looping around to get back on course. I looked at mine. Yep, I had done the exact same thing.

It sounds like the race had not properly marked the turn and did not have anyone directing runners at that corner. Reportedly, some or all of Corrals C through F went straight through. I have no idea how we got back onto the course but someone at the front must have realized the mistake and corrected it. But not without running an extra ~0.6 miles. It was so early in the race and the crowd was so thick, most people (like me) had no idea that they had even gone off route.

I read at least one post about how it may have caused that person to miss their BQ by 30 seconds. Others were miffed that they did not achieve a PR because of the add-on. Some had safety concerns about having run through streets that were open to traffic. But the biggest issue seemed to be that the race was initially fairly silent on the issue despite a number of posts to their Facebook page wondering how they could let this happen.

The race posted a couple responses saying “One small group of runners/walkers may have been lead by a pacer the wrong way for a block or two,” which only infuriated runners who knew it had affected many more people than that. Eventually the race director did post an apology to their Facebook page three days later and offered to correct runners times but not before being quoted in the media as saying “It’s not a big deal.”

But it is a big deal to some. Runners train rigorously for months to run a marathon or beat their PR by even just a minute. They pay a race registration upwards of $100 and spend money on gear, nutrition, and travel. You don’t expect a mistake to occur on a big marathon like Portland but the fact is that they can and do.

Unfortunately the Portland Marathon had a few other issues as well including awarding the 1st place marathon trophy to the 3rd place runner, having totally missed the winner. I also read complaints about the course being packed up while walkers were still out there, potentially leaving them without directions, aid stations, and traffic control. I’m not sure of the details of this but I believe I read the course is supposed to be open for 8 hours as it is a walker-friend marathon.


In spite of the weather and other challenges, I had a great race. I felt like I had redeemed myself on the marathon distance and got some great swag to boot! I also enjoyed spending time with my husband exploring the community and meeting new running friends.

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Race Report: North County Wine Run 2016

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the North County Wine Run as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!

Fellow BibRave Pro and friend, Bradley, and I drove down to Battle Ground, WA, last weekend for the North County Wine Run. This was my first wine run despite there being a few popular ones a few hours drive from where I live. I had heard such great things about wine runs so it was time to try one for myself!

The race had two options: half marathon, or 3-person half marathon relay. The half marathon costs between $65 (early bird) and $90 (last minute) and the relay costs between $135 (early bird) and $180 (last minute) for the team.

Bradley and I were both running the solo half marathon option. BibRave’s Julia and her boyfriend Dylan came up from Portland for the race as well. It was fun meeting them in person and *spoiler alert!* Julia finished 2nd overall woman!


I knew going in that this race would be only two weeks after finishing the TransAlpine Run, a seven-day stage race in Europe. But it was a fun wine run and I figured worse-case scenario I could just walk part or all of the route. The course was, after all, open for four hours.

As it turns out, I amazingly managed to avoid injuries at the TransAlpine Run and my legs felt surprisingly good. I went for a 10k run on Thursday (two days before the wine half) which was my only run between the two races. It went well but left my legs feeling a little stiff and an 8-hour drive on Friday didn’t do much to help the situation.

Package Pickup & Swag

After a half day at work and an 8-hour drive, we missed the Friday night package pickup arriving with only just enough time to check into our hotel and go to sleep. Luckily for us the race offers same day package pickup so we woke up extra early for that. The pre-race email gave clear instructions on where to park (about 1 km away) and that there would be a shuttle, however, we opted for a warm up jog to the start line.

The package pickup had no line and we breezed right through. They gave us our bibs, timing chip, bonus goodies, and a race t-shirt that said “run now, wine later” on the back. We also got stamps on our hands to signify we are of age and can partake in the wine samples. In addition, we received a wine glass after the race to be used for sampling the wine and then taking home as a souvenir. Runners could choose between a full glass of one wine or four smaller samples. Bradley also discovered a card for a free wine tasting in the packages and we stopped to check out another nearby winery after the race. Overall, I was impressed with the race swag and goodies!

Most importantly, the medal was really cool! It was fully 3D in the shape of a cows head and can be attached to a wine bottle and used as a spout. I had yet to try this feature out but I definitely will next time I break open a bottle of wine!

I give the race huge bonus points having photographers on course and making the photos accessible on social media for FREE!

Course & Aid Stations

The race started at the Rusty Grape Vineyard and went through two other vineyards where the relay exchanges were located.

The route reminded me of a local race in Langley, BC, that I’ve run a couple times – the Fort Langley Historic Half. Oddly enough, it’s the only other half marathon that I’ve managed to squeak by in under 2 hours. Both races are in scenic farm country and are surprisingly hilly.

The aid stations offered water and Gatorade. One may have yelled out that they had gummy bears too, or was I just delirious? That sounds too good to be true. But I was on a PR mission by that point and couldn’t stop, even for candy.

The two wineries had tiny wine samples in addition to the regular aid station stuff. I tried a shot of white wine at the first vineyard because after all, it was a wine run and I didn’t want to miss out on the full experience. However, I needed more hydration so I washed it down with blue Gatorade which was a strange combination.

There were fields along the way that had cows, which were all mooing, and horses. I also heard a few roosters. Later on the way back to the car, Bradley and I stopped to take photos of some goats and little pigs.

I had one issue with the race – traffic control. The roads weren’t very busy but they also didn’t have shoulders. The race had set up cones along the very edge of the road which forced runners ta little closer to traffic. There were signs posted about the race and most vehicles were great moved nearly fully into the other lane to give runners space … but some vehicles didn’t seem to care.

At one point an impatient U-Haul decided to squeeze between runners on the side of the lane and a car in the other direction instead of waiting 30 seconds for a safe opportunity. It’s mirror came uncomfortably close to my head.

On the last 4 km everyone was running against traffic (like you are supposed to) but then the cones were on the other side, so we all switched over. It felt it was way more dangerous with traffic approaching from behind us, especially as we hit a big hill and some stopped to walk and others passed.


The North County Wine Run’s post-race party was definitely top notch. They provided a post-race meal of pasta, which was vegetarian (yay!), and Caesar salad (not sure what was in the dressing, but close enough to vegetarian for me!). It was simple but delicious – way better than the usual post-race food of bananas and bagels, or if you are a lucky, a couple pancakes. And the best part was no lineup! I guess this is because it was not a huge race at just under 200 half marathoners and 50 relay teams and the race has nailed down their serving game.

We picked up our free stemless wine glasses that were branded with the race logo and headed over to the bar. The race offered all runners their choice of one full glass of wine or four samples of different wines. I had a couple tiny samples just for the sake of tasting them but I couldn’t really partake in the wine unfortunately because I was driving back to Canada afterwards.

The vineyard was a great setting and had a few areas with picnic tables set up where runners could enjoy their food and drinks.

My Experience

I’m not sure if I realized how far of a drive Battle Ground, WA, is when I signed up for the race. Washington sounds so close but Battle Ground is near the Oregon border, just outside of Vancouver, WA. With Seattle traffic, it ended up taking 8 hours to drive down on the Friday but only about 6 hours to drive back on the Saturday. Luckily I had Bradley to keep me company!

We met Julia Montag, who works for BibRave, and her boyfriend Dylan before the race. We were all decked out in our BibRave orange ready to rock the race. We split up to get into our respective starting positions. I opted to start just behind the 2:15 pacer.

My plan was just to have fun and take it easy, however, right off the start line I felt good. I passed a few people feeling strong and eventually passed the 2 hour pacer as well. In the back of my mind I kept wondering when I would hit the wall and die a little but I decided to go for it and see what happens.

I ended up behind a guy about 5K in who was keeping a good pace and decided to try to keep up with him. I wondered if my constant footsteps behind him was driving him crazy. If it did, he never said anything.

As we left the second winery we had a brief conversation and then I took off in front. I couldn’t remember exactly what my half marathon PR was but I knew it was just under 2 hours – somewhere in the 1:56-1:58 range. With about 7 km left I was pretty sure I could beat it if I pushed myself.

There was a short but steep hill near the end that I sprinted up and then just a couple kilometres of downhill left. I manage to pull off a clock time of just over 1:55 and a chip time of just under 1:55, beating my previous PR by two minutes!!! Wahoo!!! Julia came in second overall woman and Dylan and Bradley both rocked it too!

Bradley and I went for lunch after and I realized that I placed 2nd in my category but only due to the fact that they pulled the overall women out of the running, of which there were two in my category. So technically I was 4th overall in my category but damnit, this doesn’t happen often so I was going to get my medal!

We drove back to the vineyard and there were just some race and winery staff left. I explained the situation to a man, not sure if he was the race director or another staff member, and he was excited to give me my medal. He insisted I go get my phone from the car and when I came back he was holding a microphone … oh god.

He had me stand on the podium for what I thought was going to be a photo but turned out to be a video while making an announcement to basically no one. The remaining people on site were pretty far off to the sides and I’m sure where wondering WTF was going on. It was hilarious but also awkward!

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