43.9km (27.3 miles)
Vertical Distance: 1967 meters ascent, 1377 meters descent
Total Time: --ended at aid station #2 at 3hrs 40 minutes approx 15 miles in
"The 4. stage from Neukirchen am Großvenediger to Kasern in Ahrn Valley, at full marathon distance and an altitude difference totaling 1931 meters over the Tauern ridge of the Alps, leads over the highest point of the Gore-Tex® Transalpine-Runs 2010, the 2667-meter high Birnlücke. A unique landscape along the path and wonderful views keep the runners company on their way from Austria into South Tyrol’s beautiful Ahrn Valley. A bit of a relief on this stage should be the altitude profile, which only shows one single, but extremely long, climb."- TransAlp website
Ankle horribly sore and puffy. Tossed and turned all night in pain. I woke up with the definitive answer that I would not run today. Stephanie agreed with me, then last minute decided she wanted to run. I was so torn that I knew even the smallest encouragement to run would make me topple. I caved and said I would run too, but not making any promises how long I would last. I didn't want to let her down with the chance of finishing the day.I decided to take it one aid station at a time.
Back of the pack again, we hobbled our pitiful running butts from aid station to aid station. We got into the first, looked at each other in question, a nod from each of us and we headed for the second. We passed several teams who dropped out of the race right in front of us. One male runner with his head pressed against his male teammate's shoulder in defeat was attended to by one of the sweepers. Another mixed couple, the woman in tears holding her knee, her male teammate's arm wrapped around her shoulders in support...it was a sight to see and our hearts broke knowingly with every downed team we saw. We knew any moment it could, and most likely would, be us. We pushed ahead, no longer enjoying the running part of the event yet grabbing ahold of any happy straw we could get our hand onto- that being mostly the sights around us and the support of the other.
Rolling hills with a strong climb winding up alongside a drop-dead gorgeous waterfall in a National Park.
A pause for some necessary humor
odd cairnes built alongside the creek
Once we hit the main road of the valley, one of the sweepers noticed my growing limp and painful grimaces trying to hurl my body down the path. He handed me another blister pack of "pain pills" which I took unquestioningly.
***note: after this bout of pain pills, I suddenly had the brains to thoroughly question: what exactly are they giving me??! After the first pack I did questioned the medics, as the writing on the pills was in German but he just insisted, "for the pain." I took them trustingly yet begged Stephanie to be alert if I started acting funny or becoming drowsy. I had no ill effects. Now, after popping this second set my mind suddenly flashed to the scene of a week ago where I eagerly accepted a new job starting as soon as I got back. Oh heavenly geesuz what did I just put into my system that may or may not raise eyebrows (or worse) on my next drug screen. After great discussion with Stephanie (also a nurse) we decided that no way would they be handing out narcotics to random runners. I didn't think that would be legal no matter what country. I couldn't be sure but I sure was hoping.
Coming into aid station #2, omg I hate this road running!
Aid station #2
Aid station #2...also titled The Final Stop. I was hurting bad but my irrational stubborness encouraged me to push on. I took one look at Stephanie and she hung her head. "I'm done" was all she said, "I just can't go on."
Grateful that she made the decision and halted my hard-headed thoughts, I nodded in agreement. If she wasn't going to go on, I wasn't going to go on either. I could have continued if she was with me, but without a support system...without her...there was no way I would be able to keep myself out of the doom and gloom of self-pity. I was frustrated, as was she. My body (albeit my ankle) felt good and strong. My ankle, however was absolutely miserable and hurt like I've never hurt before.
We hobbled over to the lodge where we were greeted by this fella. We curled up into a booth to await our shuttle back to camp. I couldn't stop shivering from the pain (when pain hits deep, I tend to shiver uncontrollably...don't know why, just do). We ordered lattes and the waitress, seeing me shiver and mistaking it for being cold, wrapped me up in an old wool blanket. I was grateful for the blanket regardless for the reason.
We were joined by our two runner-friends of the Gore-Tex Team (XXL Redux) Dave and Carl. Eventually our group became five as Berte, a German woman from a mixed team, tucked into the booth with us to chat. Her teammate was still running, but she couldn't go on. She was super nice and helped us order food while we waited.
We laughed and chatted, making a good time out of a depressing one. Soon I realized I had even forgotten that I was supposed to be wallowing in my own self-pity as I was having a good time getting to know these guys. We ordered Wienerschnitzel and hot cocoa. I committed a mortal sin, according to Berte, when I asked to trade my potatoes for cabbage on my Wienerschnitzel plate. I love cabbage and not much of a potato eater. The waiter shook his head in mocked disgust as Berte explained that I was "breaking the harmony of the dish" by removing the potatoes. It was almost an insult to them. The waiter agreed to still do it but instead he subbed the cabbage for the salad saying the potatoes had to stay. Ok, I agreed, embarrassed but happy. Oh man! That meal was so fabulously delicious. I had a really hard time taking a moment to savor it and was terribly disappointed when my plate was clear.
This was Stephanie's reply when we found out we had to wait yet another hour (after 2 hours already passed) for our shuttle to arrive.
The rescue team finally arrived after making sure everyone that could got to the next aid station. We realized truly what a good decision it was to bow out at that point instead of pushing on. The next aid station was 17km away, with a massive hill climb into snow, wind, rain, and extreme cold. We had seen the wintery storm approaching as we hit the second aid station and stared at the looming clouds in the distance. They were not the soft fluffy type at all and were later told it was near white out conditions at the top. Wow.
Little did we know what type of agony was in store for us, however, as we piled into a three-benched van to head back to camp. Thank goodness we had eaten as we soon learned it was going to be a SIX HOUR VAN RIDE back.
Supposedly we had climbed over a big mountain and ended up smack dab in the Middle-Of-Nowhere-Valley. In order to get to the next camp we had to go back out several miles that we had already run and wind all the way around the next mountain to get into town. Thank god for good company, as the ride proved to be not as horrible as initially anticipated. I got to call Cowboy along the way, which of course warmed the heart and soul.
Once we arrived into camp, we scarfed up some grub (pretty darn good tonight) and headed directly to camp for a hot shower and sleep. It had been a very rough day: mentally and physically. Well.....
at camp we found that due to our extremely late arrival, there was literally not a spot to sleep. None.
Uta, one of the head honchos of the race, immediately wrapped her warm arms around us and took us under her wing. She phoned several places and finally found a shuttle and hotel for us to stay not one, but two days at. We therefore wouldn't have to pick up and move camp for the next day as we had decided, without a doubt, that there was to be no running the following day. We climbed back onto a shuttle for a half hour ride into the next town.
The exhaustion hit us pretty hard. The shuttle ride enforced our current feelings of severe isolation and overly sensitive feelings. Runners (also going to the next town for a hotel) chatted and cheered gregariously to each other while Stephanie and I could barely hold our heads up, let alone understand what the heck these people were saying around us. Through the curious questions of an English speaking German runner, we found out that a few runners were openly picking on us for towing our huge heavy bags with us. They didn't realize our situation nor were we in the mood to explain. Fuck em, we thought irritably.
Exhausted, we navigated (with help) to the hotel and climbed into the shower. I cried when took off my sock and saw/felt my huge ugly cankle. It hurt so much and I was terrified I had broken it. I took a sleeping pill along with some Alieve but still tossed all night. I ended up having to rest my leg up on my bag to try to elevate the throbbing out.
"Miserable" just didn't seem to justify how I was feeling at that moment.