Still digesting the Stubai Ultratrail race which took place in the beautiful Austrian Alps. Covering 63 k and just under 17 000 ft. (5100 m) of vertical gain.
I got to the start area with my good friend about half an hour before the race. We had booked ourselves a room in a hostel in downtown Innsbruck so we could relax and escape the pasta party and race briefing craziness.
I always like to stay out of the crowd before a race and take time to collect myself. Focusing on what´s coming, going through the stages, visualizing how I want to feel.
I felt so pumped, happy and humbled. In the days leading up to the race I had caught a little cold and had to sleep a lot. Apparently my body´s way to tell me to rest.
So when the gun went off and we cruised along the streets of Innsbruck, night clubbers and drunks cheering us on standing on the side of the streets I thought this is pretty crazy.
I´d been up, as most runner would have, since 6:30 am that morning but who needs sleep?
The adrenaline keeps you going. It was an amazing 3,5 hours running in the darkness, the narrow trails only illuminated by each runner´s headlamps. I made sure to watch every step and prayed to be safe. During the first long ascent the sky lit up, there was still some fog and I found myself in a nice and comfy position wriggling up the serpentines until running along the rugged mountain ridge. It was breathtaking.
I felt so grateful to be there, my mind clear and fresh. The route continued on down into a valley and from there the trail led along the main road through a beautiful forest. I heard the birds tweet and soaked up the early 6 am morning atmosphere.
My energy levels were pretty good throughout thanks to Tailwind. I had mixed my water bladder with 6 stickpacks and water and sipped from it every few minutes and drank some extra water out of a separate flask.
It had been announced that there would be medical checks at the last checkpoint going up the glacier and I made sure I could sustain the pace without going too fast.
I changed into fresh and warm clothes and spent some minutes at the last aid station in the valley. During this time, the 4th lady ran past so I lost my spot for 3rd position.
I wasn´t too bothered and knew I needed ALL the energy and strength for the next 2,5 + hours up to the top. What came was an almost insurmountable challenge of the mind.
A battle at times.
I didn´t know at some point how to put one foot in front of the next. I had my poles with me which helped to progress. But I struggled to think how in the worldI´d ever get to the finish line. Doubts, insecurities, slight panic and hoping were all part of my emotional turmoil.
I put on different music, then listened to a podcast, then switched it off again. Thought of my loved ones, my dear partner and kids who all couldn´t be there. And how much their support means to me. Knowing they´re there with me, thinking of me, kept me going and empowered me from the ground up.
One kilometre to go. My longest ever, I believe.
Ages went by. I didn´t bother looking at my watch, just looked a metre ahead of me. Set one foot in front of the other. One step forward, two steps back. The wet snow made it really difficult and there just didn´t seem to be an end to it.
I stopped briefly and wondered: Just how will I ever get there? To that damn finish line?
Eventually, I turned around a corner and there it was: The unspectacular finish area. I didn´t know what to say or think. It was super cold. I felt relieved and so happy when someone hung the wooden medal around my neck.
Sitting in the cable car going back down into the calley I called Peter. I could only mumble something along the lines: I can´t speak. I came fourth. I can´t find words for what this race was all about.
So much more to it than the placement and a really good finish. I heard later on, that all the people that came behind me had to finish way below the glacier top as the weather had become too threatening. This is the spirit of trail running in the mountains.
You never know.
What you know for sure is that you can give and be at your best on the day.
And that is priceless.
The stunning beauty of nature, the fresh air, talking to and with other fellow runners. Yes, there is some suffering involved at one point where you think about stopping. Because it is such a grueling undertaking. Then you remind yourself how you get to create.
The tougher the going gets, the more opportunities evolve for you to unravel your innate strengths.
This is nothing to wipe over. Yeah, done, let´s move on.It´s these deeply touching experiences in endurance running that shape you from the inside out.
Physical discomfort can quickly be forgotten. But your soul...Dig it! Bathe in the experience. What you´ve gifted yourself with. Lessons you´ve learned.
And when I finally turned the keys to our apartment six hours later after a long journey back home overwhelmed with tiredness, my kids came running into my arms saying: Mummy, we thought of you the whole time, you´ve done so well!
That´s the moments to live for. To know the why. To stand strong in this world. To express yourself in the best way possible. And lead by example. And that it´s more than a performance act.
This ultrarunning thing - it´s just my kind of bag.
Ohm and happy running!