Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gore-Tex TransAlpine Trail Run: Stage VIII

Niederdorf im Pustertal to Sexten
33.4 km (20.7 miles)
Vertical Distance: 1269 meters ascent, 1123 meters descent
Total Time: 5hrs 45 min

"The final stage of the Gore-Tex® Transalpine-Run 2010 leads from Niederdorf in Puster Valley to the beautiful location of Sexten in the Dolomites. Before crossing the finish line in Sexten, there are again nearly 34 kilometers to run which are going to be quite intense due to a total altitude difference of more than 1200 meters. But the backdrop of this stage couldn’t be more beautiful and breathtaking, because with the Three Peaks, the symbol of the Dolomites, the field of participants will finish in truly inspiring surroundings!"- TransAlps website

Let's just say Stephanie and I rocked our last day. I am glad now that we took those two days off so that we could finish strong and happy. 
We woke up early and headed to the medic tent to get our gimpy parts pre-taped. The lady took one look at us and expertly cut, wrapped, and pressed our limbs into place with brightly colored Kinesio tape. We jumped off the table, high fived each other and headed for some breakfast. 
Groan....I am soooo tired of deli meats and cheeses. I dream of oatmeal, buttermilk pancakes, french toast dusted with cinnamon, cool milky cereal with blueberries, toast with peanut butter, eggs.....someone feed me some REAL breakfast foods!!! 
During breakfast Steph and I had our patience tested with DF (aka Douchebag "F"- name withheld)- a guy we met a few days before that was now permanently out of the race due to a bum knee. He was blonde with a soccer player's body and oh so cute...
until he opened his mouth. 

The dazzling British accent created a diversion while his stupidity and self-centeredness flanked you, hitting you upside the head. Just pure ignorant cockiness. We were annoyed to say the least. DF went on and on about how, "it would be one thing if I had to drop out of the race because I was tired, but my knee is busted, man...you know 99% of runners get injured at one point in their life...blah blah blah".


Steph, known for her ability to say exactly what was on her mind, practiced great restraint and said quite honestly and politely, "well, I don't know about you, but I'm fucking exhausted! Injured or not, I'm totally wiped out." I nodded in agreement and we excused ourselves from his company, brushed off our shoulders and stood a little taller. With that we headed to the start line.

We gathered alongside our great friends Carl and Dave, Jerry and Linda, Emily and her husband. We cheered, whooped, hugged, and snapped pictures. It was a great morning. We patiently waited for the Highway To Hell songs and such to get over with and we headed out the gate.

The first 5-7km were on the road. We passed a yard full of odd naked statues. Of course we had to stop and take evidence!

Once I got onto the crushed gravel path (not quite dirt but hey, I'll take it over asphalt) I kicked it up a notch and chic'd a bunch of runners. I was feeling fantastic and the music was making my heart soar. Each aid station I noticed Steph was right on my heels (atta girl!!) and we took off climbing up the mountain with the Dolomites looming in the distance. 

At the top of the mountain, still feeling great, I unwrapped my last Granny B's pink frosted sugar cookie and savored it while I ran. I got so excited about my cookie that I noticed I was eating some of the plastic wrap with the cookie. oops.

On a delightful sugar rush, I FLEW down the mountain. The music in my ears, along with the great views just put me over the edge in happiness and I opened it up, giving it all I had. A team of guys from Spain were on my tail, so I put on the brakes and stepped to the side to let them pass."no, no, you go ahead, we follow" they said in broken English, "you going super fast! You go girl! we follow you".

I decided right there and then...yep, I had achieved PACE BOOTY status. I grinned to myself and opened back up.

The trail was incredibly rocky and technical all the way down. I scanned, leaped, jumped, and glided over the big rocks, navigating several feet ahead of myself. It was as if my body was part robot and calculating all the highly technical mathematical equations of body position + terrain - obstacle = where to place body next. My torso, legs and arms automatically adjusted their fine movements to create a gazelle leaping effortlessly down the mountain.

ok, so I probably looked like a total gimpy goon and out of control on a sugar high, but a gazelle is how I felt at the moment, so let me live in my lovely fantasy. 

Just as I was nearing the bottom, I miscalculated a move and rolled my foot off a muddy patch on a boulder. My leg flew out from under me and in a fleeting self-sacrificial attempt to prevent myself from falling I braked hard, real hard, with my right leg. 
Pain like I've never felt radiated up my ankle, into my shin, and pierced every single friggin nerve in my body. I crumpled to the ground and balled up instantly, holding my entire body in the crouched position with my head between my knees for extra measure and just breathed hard through the pain. Stephanie appeared out of nowhere and made sure I was ok.

"I'll be fine, keep going, I'll meet you at the bottom. I just need the ground to stop spinning and the stars to go away for a sec." I breathed. "you rock".

I got up eventually and gingerly made myself down. It took about 3km to finally feel stable on my leg. Steph cheered me into the aid station, we filled up our water and took off with only 6km left in the run. I blasted my music and melted my body into the rhythm of the ipod. My steps matched the beat and it helped me keep going forward at a great stride. We flew past a handful of teams and paced each other into the finish line. 

I was E-X-H-A-U-S-T-E-D...and proud. Proud of Stephanie, proud of myself, and proud of every single runner that came in. 

There was supposed to be free pizza and cokes at the finish line, however the boxes were empty when we arrived. A few runners ahead of us explained that a bunch of teams took entire boxes of pizza over to a chair and ate them. How RUDE! Irritation flashed across my face for a second before I sucked it in and declared myself unable to be annoyed at a time like this. I refused. Fuck 'em, rude people....

Stephanie and I posed for a pic with our medals and headed to the concession stands to buy some grub. I picked over a few things until I craved a shower and bed. After talking it over, we decided to try to find us a room. Camp was going to be miserable after all the drinking and partying that was going to happen in celebration. We really did not wish to be part of that. 

We hiked several miles to try to find a room. Every single place was full (we later found out there was a separate race happening the following day that had filled the town up). Accepting the fact that camp was the only option, we limped back into the "barn" and took a communal shower. After a short nap, we headed to the pasta dinner and met up with Dave and Carl. Hugs all around and a quick phone call to the parents and cowboy...life was at a very high point for me. Steph and I opted out of the after party and awards again and decided to have a little post celebration of our own. A "girls night out" if you may. 

We ducked into a small restaurant called Willy's and settled into a booth. I ordered a hot apple pancake dessert with vanilla gelato and a macchiato while Steph ordered a hot chocolate gelato. YUM. We both ordered a red wine (which ended up being on the house!) and toasted the night away.

The table next to us, consisting of an older couple from Munich, struck up a conversation and we chatted for several hours. The husband was running the race the following day and was eager to pick our brains about the TransAlps. He was openly excited for the both of us. They were an incredibly sweet couple and by the end of the night, they offered us a place to stay in Munich if we couldn't find a hotel the night before we leave Europe. I was floored at their generosity and almost feeling that they viewed us like daughters. As we were leaving I paid for their beverages. It was the least I could do. You don't find hearts like that in the world anymore...it's so very rare. 

In fabulous spirits, Stephanie and I headed back to camp while we discussed what the night held for us. We each took two Percocets for our injuries hoping to make our night a little more tolerable. We decided against taking our nightly Ambien due to the wine consumption and the pain killers. Neither of us had a great amount of weight on our bodies to hold everything together, the last thing we needed was to be physically revived. On our walk we discussed our plans to hop on a bus to Venice tomorrow and see ITALY!

What a PERFECT ending to our day and our amazing adventure through the back-country of Europe. We felt loved and had no regrets about our decisions. We both worked our asses off and gave 110%. 

Head to toe assessment: ankle/calf is sore and swelling, back is abraded from my pack but tolerable, left 2nd toenail slightly black (no pain), no blisters (yay!), hips tight and tender but the rest of the body feels top notch. I done good....

Good night.

I am now sitting upright in my sleeping bag. Watch says 2356 and I am

AWAKE. What the hell....

My belly throws out a grumble of dispair and I realize I am starving. Peel open a Bonk Bar and nosh, looking around the gym. I put my backpack at the foot of my sleeping bag and elevate my throbbing legs. There is incessant coughing, snoring, and general rustling around. Ugh. A handful of runners come in drunk and stumbling to their sleeping bags after snapping a few photos of themselves. For the most part everyone is quiet and respectful though. I lay back down and pull my Buff over my eyes to help me sleep.

Annnnddd someone's watch alarm just went off along with a loud fart.  Nice.

I sit back up and pull the Buff off my face and sigh. This is going to be a long night. I make a rash decision and move quickly so I can't change my mind. I slip out a little pink pill and swallow the tab of Ambien. Please don't let me stop breathing, please don't let me stop breathing.

I know in reality I will be fine. I am wide awake, feeling pain in my leg and not drowsy one bit. Ambien is not going to be the thing that puts me over the edge.

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