I did the Swiss Alpine K78 Ultra Marathon 2011. That was a tough one.
That was my first Swiss Alpine K78: 79.1 km distance and +/- 2370 m altitude. It's the highest ultra marathon you can run in Europe. Top point was Sertigpass at 2739 meter above sea level. See more facts here.
|K78 start at Davos Platz at 7 a.m.|
In this run I learned to read the altimeter. In all other runs I did so far, the question was: How long until…? Here the question was: How high until…? We started in Davos Platz at 1538 m ASL (above sea level). Until Frevgias (km 32) we lost 519 meter; Frevgias is the lowest point in the race with 1019 m ASL. That was the easy part of the race.
|K78 altitude profile (original)|
I was irritated because every runner around me was hiking instead of running on the way to Crestas da Buel. Didn't expect that so early in the race. It was my first K78, so I adapted quickly and hiked up to the top instead of running. The others would certainly know why.
Bergün (km 40.3, shortly after Funtanislas), is considered to be the beginning of the hardest part of the race. It's the start of a climb to the Kesch-Hütte, from 1282 m ASL (Funtanislas) up to 2632 m ASL (Kesch-Hütte). That's 1350 m straight up! And it was unbelievable. I never experienced something like this. I counted every 100 m on my altimeter, expected my legs to quit any second because the path was so steep. Nobody runs here, not even the winners of this race.
I hiked without a break. 2 km before the top you can see the Kesch-Hütte. The 1350 m height are spread on a distance of 13.9 km, and it took me 2:25 hours for that part alone.
The weather was fine - until the Kesch-Hütte. I passed the doctor ("Heya, how are you feeling?" - "*gasp* *gasp* Guess! *gasp* *gasp*" - "Okay, he's responsive. Have a good run then!"), and right after that the weather changed. It was about 4° C, and it started to rain. The hard part was over, right? Wrong…
The descent was horrifying. I'm a noob when it comes to high alpine mountain running, so I struggeled with everything: the stones, the mud, the rain, the height, the cold, the depth. Runners were overtaking in a crazy speed; I saw a lot of them at the sanitarian after the race, with wounds from sharp rocks. I was really frightened about the terrain, and I decided to play it safe, and run slowly.
|View from Platta Naira backwards (about km 54.8)|
I thought the hight would have an effect like difficulties to breath, a higher heart beat, head aches or similar. But instead the only effect it had on me was that I really had to focus on what I was doing. I had to concentrate all the time, had to watch every step. But that was all. Lucky me :)
|above: Sertigpass and runners, not marked|
below: Sertigpass and runners, marked
|On top of Sertigpass|
Just to give an idea of the speed I had on the way down. From Sertigpass (2739 m ASL) to Chleinalp (1871 m ASL) I ran down 868 m on a distance of only 8 km, and that took me only 42 minutes on that mean ground.
From Chleinalp (km 64.3) it was a normal run again. The scenery was back to green meadows again, the path to normal cart roads and streets, the weather warm (about 15 °C), no fog and almost no rain. I enjoyed the rest of the race, running through very nice forrests until the end in Davos Platz after 79.1 km.
I expected my muscles to shut down sooner or later during the race due to the climbing and the - more strenuously - downhill running. But they didn't shut down. Must have been the training. I was pleasantly surprised :)
|My last meters before the finish|
|After the finish - happy and exhausted :)|
See more photos in the gallery.