|Click to enhance this panorama stitched together by Google Photo from my iPhone pics shot while running 201km and climbing 11,440m.|
"No one knows the extent of his own powers til he has tested them." -Goethe
|It's hard to slow down when everything goes perfectly.|
My main goal for 2015 was Swiss Irontrail (SIT) T201: both my longest (201km/125 miles) ultratrail race, the one with most climbing (D+ 11,440m/37,533ft and the same amount D-). Their slogan Beyond the limit is right on. I participated in Transgrancanaria (43km DNF), Ecotrail Oslo 80km, Lavaredo Ultra Trail (95km DNF) and Zugspitz Vertical Challenge 16km as training races. Things rarely happen exactly as planned, but if you just keep going the end result can still be achieved.
My priorities were 1) to stay healthy and uninjured, 2) to do more vert up/down training in June-July than ever before, and 3) to taper really well the last weeks before the race on August 13-15. Running flat miles wasn't important. Also finishing those training races wasn't necessary. The only thing that mattered was focusing on finishing SIT.
|Cruising through Sertig Dörfli.|
|The best weather ever on Thursday! Photo by Roger Molleman.|
|The sunny trail to Sertigpass.|
|Roger the Swiss trail machine.|
|Me at Sertigpass in my first Swiss Alpine Marathon in 1995 (67km).|
|Me at Sertigpass in Swiss Irontrail 2015 8201 km). Photo: Roger Molleman.|
|The glaciers and lakes seem to be getting smaller due to hotter summers.|
|Getting near to Kesch Hütte|
|I felt comfortable above 2500 meters, despite arriving only the afternoon before.|
|I love this trail to Bergün, especially when going downhill :)|
|View to Piz Kesch in south beyond where we would be heading later.|
|Lake Palpuogna after about a marathon 42km.|
"Difficulties increase the nearer we get to the goal." -Goethe
|Me navigating up Fuorcla Crap Alv with Becky Nixon following.|
|Roger climbing up to Fuorcla Crap Alv.|
|Fuorcla Crap Alv.|
After eating there it was mostly downhill to Sils (1809m, 89km) and then relatively flat route by the Lake Silsersee to Maloja (1803m, 96km) CP. It took us forever to get there, or 22h54min to be precise. It was dawn of a cloudy Friday, 6:54am. It was nice to meet Race Director Andrea Tuffli and his son (who was in the T201 race with us) Jon Andrea Tuffli there as well. We had an awesome rejuvenating breakfast with coffee and cake together and headed out.
|Descending Fuorcla Crap Alv.|
|The amazing downhill to Palüd Marscha and Spinas.|
A few minutes later there was thunder and it started to rain gradually. I hid under a big hollow rock and put my rain gear on. There were some lightnings but it was ok to continue the rollercoaster route down to Alp Natons (1963m, 114km), up Kanonensattel (2241m, 116km), down Alp Flix (1969, 119km), and up Furschela da Colm (2399m, 125km). We ran fast considering how wet and muddy it was everywhere. RD Tuffli obviously waiting for his son greeted us in the pouring rain and wind: "How are you feeling now?" - "We love the rain!" I shouted and gave him a thumbs up sign.
|Preparing for the downhill to Palüd Marscha.|
It was a miracle that I didn't fall once, as there certainly were opportunities for that. On the final long downhill to Savognin (1173m, 135km) CP the weather cleared for a brief sunny spell. We arrived there tired and muddy in 34h58min, 18:58 on Friday evening. My ranking was 63 in men overall. By then the winners had already happily finished in Davos: Ramon Casanovas in 34:20:34 and Andrea Huser for the women with 34:53:36.
We agreed to have only a 80-90 min break in Savognin, although the cutoff there wasn't until 2:15am on Saturday night. I went downstairs to the shower rooms to change all clothes again. When I washed my feet I didn't know if I should laugh or cry. I reapplied NOK anti-blister creme, put on clean dry socks and Hoka Stinson ATR shoes, and hoped for the best. I ate as much as possible, put on my Gore-Tex jacket and changed the batteries of my Silva Trail Runner headlight.
If you wanted to stop in Savognin you would get the same 4 UTMB points credit as finishers of full 201km in Davos, but not the T201 Finisher t-shirt. Many accepted this generous deal and half of the field chose to DNF. We certainly not going to stop now - not even for a nap! We started the long dark wet march with Peter from Sweden, who had kindly decided to join our team. RD Tuffli was there again to wish us good luck.
|Roger and me running by night to Pontresina.|
"Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen." -Goethe
|The way to Lunghin Pass.|
"This trail seems much different from the previous trails", Peter observed. I agreed, as in darkness all the shapes and forms on the ground shifted into various hallucinations. I knew they weren't real, but it slowed me down. Actually the little black lizards were real - or at least the others saw them too. The downhill was quite steep in some places and the trail was slippery in the rain - at least with my Hoka Stinsons. Challengers would have been much more suitable shoes for this, but my only pair was left full of mud and dirt in my drop bag in Savognin. It occurred to me that falling down would not be a good idea now, and held back considerably. Right then I slipped and slided on my bum, but managed to fall on the safe mountain side. I felt an adrenaline rush and continued even more carefully if possible.
|View towards Hörnlihütte.|
We reached the lowest point of the course in Tiefencastel (851m, 146km) and enjoyed some coffee and cake there. When we walked up the most boring asphalt road to Sporz (1585m, 157km) I felt very sleepy all the time and found it challenging to go straight and stay on the road. At the top we found it hard to figure out where the route goes, although we did see some markings here and there in the dark cold drizzle. I guess we weren't the sharpest tools in the shed at the moment. Certainly I was a few fries short of a Happy Meal. Although constantly gulping down caffeine gels with sports drink, I barely was able to put one foot in front of the other. After a few hits and misses we finally ended up inside the bright warmth of Lenzerheide (1473m, 160km) CP in 42h51min. It was 2:51am on Saturday, I had less than a marathon to go, and I was on 59th position in men overall.
|When you climb high enough, there might be blue sky above the rain!|
I proceeded to eat and drink pretty much everything available. They also had a first aid service, so I asked about the pain in my left forefoot. The guy asked me to remove my shoe and shock to examine it. He said I had a big blister there, but the best he could do was to cut a round flat shape from a soft material and tape it around the blister. That provided the extra cushioning required to get the job done. I have never popped painkillers and wasn't going to start now, as I plan to rely on my old pair of kidneys in many future races.
|Climbing Weisshorn above the clouds.|
I hit the road again with Roger and Peter. It was steep climbing for a change, but we refused to give up. By Saturday dawn we somehow found ourselves in Urdenfürggli (2546m, 168km). I felt freezing cold and was glad to see the sun climb up in the clear blue sky. After a short jog we arrived at Hörnlihütte AS (2511m, 170km). While we enjoyed our breakfast there the whole valley was covered in thick fog and clouds.
I started towards Weisshorn with Roger and Peter. The path was well marked as usual and I found it easy to follow even with the poor visibility. Suddenly the guys ran in the wrong direction uphill, apparently thinking they were lost. I went after them trying to find out what's the matter. Roger was already way too far to hear me, but Peter looked back at me and asked if I had seen any course markings. I told him yes, I had seen the markings so this was the wrong way. Obviously failing to pay any attention, Peter disappeared into the fog after Roger. I rolled my eyes and thought whatever, let those exhausted minds wander around - they'll find their way. I had a race to finish and no more time to waste. I returned to the right track which was soon confirmed by a fellow runner and a few more markings. I felt really strong and decided to fire on all cylinders.
|Weisshorn view above the clouds.|
I climbed the steep long ridge up when I heard someone shouting and waving at the top of the mountain. When I got closer I realized they were Roger's sister and wife. I'm sure Roger had called them to tell he was coming slightly behind me, because they cheered at me and weren't worried about the whereabouts of the guys. I shot some pics above the clouds on top of Weisshorn (2653m, 173km). I helped another competitor take a photo of himself. He told me his legs were in bad shape, but he had done the race also last year and knew that it was fast runnable trail all the way down to Arosa. I took his advice and said I was going for it. "Enjoy!", he shouted after me.
|Weisshorn photo art.|
|Approaching Davos in rain and wind|
|Crossing the finish line in Davos.|
|Peter at the finish in Davos.|
I picked up speed but when I stepped on a rock the painful blister that had been bothering me exploded. They must have heard my scream in Davos. It hurt a lot, but I decided to pick up speed in the pain cave instead of stopping and feeling sorry for myself. Higher cadence actually seemed to ease the pain, so I kept on accelerating. I realized that I was now passing runners of shorter distances, some of whom had passed me earlier. I passed hikers, I passed families, I passed people with dogs and I kept going faster. I ran through Schatzalp (1861m, 198km) and kept on passing people while shouting warnings to avoid collisions.
|Roger and his sister at the finish in Davos.|
I flew down the familiar cobblestone paths to the Promenade, run around the corner and jumped across the finish line in 55:19:30, 52nd in men overall. It was 15:19 on Saturday afternoon. I was ranked 8th in my age group M50. I later learned to my ashtonishment that I had ran the last 20K Arosa-Davos in 4h36min, which was 12th overall including all men and women. Needless to say I was very happy with this result. Before the race I had wondered if I could finish before the 64 hour overall cutoff, but in the end I had a nice 8h40min margin.
|My new favorite t-shirt.|
The reception in rainy Davos was warm, cheerful, efficient and professional, just like at every other Aid Station and Control point. I'm really impressed with SIT race management, organisation, staff and volunteers. The food was easily the best that I've been served in any race. Everything worked so perfectly I wouldn't hesitate to give this event 10/10 points.
|Tired but happy in the finishers tent! (Photo: Agata & Marcus)|
Roger's T201 race report.