Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Gore-Tex TransAlpine Run: Stage III

Kitzbühel to Neukirchen am Großvenediger
46.9km (29.2 miles)
Vertical Distance: 2252 meters ascent, 2130 meters descent
Total Time: 9hrs 51min

"The distance of more than 46 kilometer from Kitzbühel to Neukirchen am Großvenediger turn the 3. stage into one of the two king’s stages of the Transalpine-Run 2010. The start of this famously infamous “Streif” to Hahnenkamm alone would be a challenging mountain run. It goes on across Mount Pengelstein continuously uphill/downhill through the Kitzbüheler Alps, when after Mount Stangenjoch there comes the last climb up Mount Wildkogel. The only recompense for the subsequent, extremely steep, downhill run toward Neukirchen is the great view at the 3000-meter high Venetia glaciers of nature reserve Hohe Tauern."- TransAlps website

Extremely hard day.

My right ankle/shin was puffy and tender from the moment I woke up. Not a good sign at all and disappointment struck cold in my heart. I sucked it up, got dressed, hauled my huge duffel bag downstairs and plopped it at the front door for the race bus to come pick it up. Ate some breakfast, which I was less than enthused with mainly because of my sour mood. Then we headed down the street to the start line.

 "Look" Stephanie said, "over there! That's where we climbed to yesterday!"

We began climbing almost a few feet out of the gate. Up, up, and up a ski slope.It was hard going and I just kept plodding along trying to ignore the stabbing, throbbing nuisance my ankle was being. I would get into a nice pace and able to drown out the pain until I stepped wrong or overextended it. Grrrr! I was so mad!
The views of the mountains towering in the distance help ease my mind and allowed me to enjoy my surroundings a bit.
 This was the Ho Check Hutte- I was checking my ho. 

We were back of the pack runners today starting after the second aid station. Quite humbling and new for me. I have only witnessed sweepers once during a race and that was the very last day of the Coastal Challenge. A race I was very ill-prepared and under-trained to race. This time it was humbling because I felt like I had trained extra-ordinarily well while always brushing away that nagging pessimism of what ifs that included injuries.

Stephanie and I were side by side with a few fabulous people: partners Victor and Deb along with Jerry (his partner Linda had to drop out due to fluid in her lungs. She came back a few days and did fantastic, but meanwhile Jerry ran solo) trying to make each aid station cut-off. Each time we would pass a cut-off we found out more and more people had dropped out today. It was a tough day for everyone.

Climbing, oh my if you could see the views.

Can anyone say Postcard Pic?

If you mess with the cow you get the....spiked nose ring?

This is trail running? (the "path" was marked with spray paint dots to follow). This part was very fun!

Jerry finally pushed ahead after ridge running alongside and entertaining us with his conversation. He was a real talker, indeed, but he was great company and a really fun guy. The ridge became extremely muddy. Sometimes to navigate through the snow you would step slightly off trail to avoid sludge from the previous runners' melted footprints, only to have your foot plunge through the snow and become submerged in an underground mucky pit. Pulling it out with a sucking noise, you could do nothing more than to keep forging ahead and hope there wasn't much more left of this mess.

And then it got worse. We tried in vain to pick our way through the trail delicately to avoid sloshy shoes, but to no avail. Victor just plowed right through the thick mud stating, "I've got a case of the 'I don't cares'". Eventually it became an epidemic as we found it had spread to all of us. Our shoes sang in unison with the squishes and splats of soggy socks and mud splattered up our calves. I mentally scanned my feet to make sure I wasn't starting to develop prune feet prone to blisters. All good so far, ankle screaming at me (quick peek at it: it was puffy and mottled looking, ugh) the ignore button, and move on. 

Once we crossed the finish line, I immediately limped my way over to the medic tent to seek some sound advice as to what to do next. The medics were working on a dude's toenail that was beyond gross. They had drilled a hole into his big toe **dry heaves** and was proceeding to squeeze out all the goo collected underneath. Uh...nausea....gross. Stop looking!!


The medics passed me around to someone who finally spoke some English and I, through words and gestures, was able to explain that my ankle/shin was fubar-ed and I was at a loss on what to do about it. They handed me a blister pack of two pills ("for the pain"), a small medicine cup of clear blue gel (to "rub on your leg"), activated a cold pack, and set me up in a chair to rest my leg.

Stephanie was an awesome partner and fetched me a oober delicious latte and a HUGE meat sandwich on crusty bread that I literally needed three hands to eat. Yes, I inhaled pretty much the entire thing in one sitting (*blush*).

Dear Ankle/Shin: right now I don't like you very much at all.

We decided to splurge on a much needed massage tonight, if not just for the mental relaxation. We first found ourselves a cheap hotel to drop our gear and take a hot shower. Limping over to the massage hall, we realized we had a little time to kill so we dropped into a tiny restaurant and sipped on some minestrone soup. To our surprise one of our fellow runner-friends, a lawyer from Georgia, paid for our meal! Wow. Super nice.

My massage was excellent but made me discover, to my pleasant yet frustrated surprise, that I was not really all that sore. My left knee hurt a touch from compensating for the ankle but the rest of me was feeling pretty good. My therapist was great and helped me stretch out. He eyeballed me when I said I might try to run the next day and said, "you're crazy." Yeah, well....

That night I got to call Cowboy and get some tears out about the possibility of dropping out. He gave me a pep talk, cheered me on, and said I was still his hero and a bad ass runner even if I did have to drop out. "You have already done something most people wouldn't even dream of being able to do," he said to me. 

Headed to bed with both sad and happy thoughts trying to figure out whether to be stubborn and run tomorrow or push aside my pride and sit out.

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