"The goal is to become the unique, awesome, never to be repeated human being that we were called to be." -Patricia Deegan

Monday, August 18, 2014

In it to (Not) Win it

I am a Mountain Man. Though this year, being such a wet one in Europe, I became a Mountain Mud Man. Probably more accurately, a Mountain-Mud Cow-Pie Man. Definitely hard core ;)

View of Mountainman finish line on Pilatus & switchback climb up.
For the first time in Europe, this season I focused not on races, but on running the amazing assortment of mountains at easy pace as I liked. And with a camera! I ran in Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary (okay, mountains are tough to find there, but it's not their fault), and Croatia.

I picked one race. The Swiss "Mountainman." 80k +/- 5000m. I harboured no delusions of winning this "short" race that also doubled as the Swiss national trail running championships (Admittedly, I thought it would be a fun twist to win, but I knew the competition should be young and deep.) But the race suited my time line, was on trails I haven't run, and organised by a company I have never raced with. As an RD of trail events, that last item made it more interesting, as I'm always looking to see how others organise events and for more tips for improving my own events.

Though I've raced a fair number of trails, this one gave me some new experiences, too. I was electrocuted twice. Not bad, considering I must have crossed over 20 fences. I was chased by a calf-biting, barking, snarling farm dog for 500 metres (that's a long time on muddy trail!) I had to take a cable car up Mt Titlis to get to the start of the event. They open it early for runners, before sun-up. It was pretty special being alone in the car, riding up and looking down at the sleeping Swiss village of Engelberg. The race ends on the top of a mountain (Pilatus), so I had to take a 45 minute ride down the world's steepest cog train (45°) after the finish. It was my first race that started with fireworks (Okay, that just startled me... I don't like loud, unexpected noises.)

Jochpass, a few km from the start. Still shiny clean!
I ran through Switzerland's largest moorlands. And being that it has barely stopped raining here this year, I got some VERY authentic moorland running in the Glaubenberg moorlands! The definition of a moor, in case you were wondering how it differed from a marsh? A moor is a "tract of open, peaty, wasteland, often overgrown with heath, common ... where (soil) drainage is poor. " Essentially, there were km's of bogs with some boardwalk sections made mostly of half metre logs plonked on the ground side by side. Sometimes completely submerged. Always wet and with various amounts of mud on them. Cows don't seem to mind moorlands. I ran through so much cow poo my shoes must be bio hazards. I was up to my knees a few times in the unique Swiss poo-mud. Naturally, the one time I dropped a pole, the handle landed in a cow pie. Another time, taking an oozing step that sucked the shoe off my heel for the 34th time, a blob of poo-mud hit my face. I could only laugh. (A stifled, closed mouth laugh, in the interests of health and safety, of course.)

My "race" was over within the first 5k. Still, I know I couldn't have caught the lead women. The pecking order was sorted very quickly, with three Swiss girls out front. I sat in fourth for the next 75k. In the last 5k + 900m climb to Pilatus, I was passed by the former Coast to Kosci record holder, 42 year old Swiss ultra runner Julia Fatton. I didn't have enough left in the legs or carb stores to take her on, but I kept the gap to three minutes over the 100 minutes it took us to climb Pilatus :) She was the only person who passed me in the last 20k. Go Julia!

When I say my "race was over" early, what happened was I quickly had confirmed to me that my watering eye problem is no better since my surgery in March. The tear ducts that were enlarged are still too tiny. My eyes watered non stop in the cold, worsened by wind (as when running downhill). So I had constant blurry vision until after lunch time except for the few seconds each time I dabbed them with my "tubie" (aka buff). I lost so much time on the descents, particularly. I only fell once, though, which isn't bad given the muckfest :)

I'll be heading back for a second surgery. I need functional eyes. My eyes "cry" even at home in Perth on cold mornings. Though surgery won't happen in time for the Lost Soul Ultra in Canada next month. Anyone ever run with swimming goggles?

Things I did wrong: Too much salty food the day before, which I know causes me to guzzle and retain water. A mistake I haven't made for four years. This was the result of complacence due to racing away from home with no ability to buy my usual foods or to cook. It made me feel bloated and messed up my carb intake. Mistake 2: forgetting my little Perpetuem mix bottle to make multi-hour bottles, so I only had 2 Perpetuem Solid containers and 7 Hammer gels in my overseas fuel stash. I was vastly under-fueled for quality stuff and had to resort to aid station food. Boo. High sugary sweet gluten yuck that had me up and down in energy levels (Bananas were okay, though it started to feel like I was eating my weight in them.) Still making mistakes after all these years. Tsk tsk.
Closing in on the finish with "Nearer and Further," my trusty poles.

Things I did well: Fixomul on the toes with Sport Shield roll-on over the feet and anti-blister powder in the socks. My second race with not the tiniest toe/foot issue. A winning combo. Another winner was my little gaiters (I wasn't dumping my shoes out like others.) And Inov-8 x-talons are in their element in mud bogs and wet grass! I also "wowwed" at the scenery... Though the race was in the category of Brutal-Fun, I made sure to look up and look around lots, watching for peaks to appear between the clouds and watching farmers move their docile Swiss-bell-laden cattle. Surely off to poo some more on the trails.

Having my mum there was icing on the Swiss mud cake.

Time to go to Canada, where the poo is bears' and the bells are on the hikers.

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