Montag, 1. August 2011

Dieser Blog ist tot. Ich blogge weiter auf dem «Agile Trail».

My Swiss Alpine K78 Ultra Marathon 2011

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.
Start was at 7 a.m. on Saturday. Great weather, sunshine and warmth. The first 32 km until Frevgias were a nice warm up for what would follow. I enjoyed the fantastic Swiss countryside. We ran through tunnels, along mountains and next to wild creeks. Relaxing.

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)
Have a look at the altitude profile: There you can see what seems to be a little bump in the graph after Frevgias, from Frevgias (km 31.1) to Funtanislas (km 39.0). The peek of that bump is Crestas da Buel with 1476 m ASL, and Funtanislas is at 1282 m ASL, so I climbed 457 m in 5.8 km.

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)
After the Kesch-Hütte, the way leads to Platta Naira (2397 m ASL), so that was another 235 m straight down. The scenery was kinda ugly, I usually see this in movies like Cliffhanger: Rocks all over, creeks and the path sharing the same way, fog, clouds, rain, cold. And the height.

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
Hardest part over? Not yet. Next hurdle was the Sertigpass. From the Platta Naira (2397 m ASL) to the Sertigpass (2739 m ASL) I had to climb another 342 m in less than 4 km - and what a steep climbing that was! And it was really frustrating to see what was coming: 800 m before the Sertigpass there is a lake called the Ravaischsee. When you arrive at that lake, you see the path over the top. That pass leads around the lake right to the Sertigpass - almost 200 m height in less than 800 m distance - and we're talking about a point in time when all the runners had already pulled of 58 km!

On top of Sertigpass
Hard? Nope, get's harder. On top of the Sertigpass we had a visibility of 5 to 10 m. Fog or cloud, I didn't know, I didn't care, cause it was about 2° C and I really was looking forward to get to some lower ground. What I didn't know was that we climbed over the Sertigpass from the south, so the way down was on the north side. Yep, that's the ugly side. It was very windy, very steep, lots of rocks. Without the little flags in the ground the path wasn't always clear to me. If there was a path, it was often so muddy that there was no chance to slow down accordingly. More sliding than running. It was very hard to concentrate on not tumbling and landing on the rocks.

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 all, the run was great. The Swiss countryside are lovely, and even the ugly conditions in the mountains rendered the scenery very impressive. The people in the moutain villages were very supportive, and especially the cow bells swinging locals were absolutely awesome :-)

After the finish - happy and exhausted :)
I reached the finish after 9 hours, 35 minutes and 1 second. From 1218 finishers out of 50 countries I achieved a nice 256th position. The winner Jonas Buud (Sweden) finished in 6:11:02 - for the fivth (!) time - and Lizzy Hawker (Great Britain) in 7:16:17. Congrats! Absolutely amazing. Only 6 people ran this race under 7 hours.

See more photos in the gallery.

blog comments powered by Disqus