Saturday, 30 June 2012

A week of education in Davos

It was an interesting week in the Alps leading up to the Swiss Alpine K78.

I was gutted to have missed out on the podium by 4 seconds last year, but the 4th place prize was 3 nights accommodation in a 5star hotel in Davos so it was actually very enjoyable using it this year. Checking out the hotel’s facilities, I have to say that I’m not quite sure about the continental love of naked saunas…….it doesn’t leave much room for runners to display their sponsor’s logos!

The Davoser See - a lovely lake to run around
 On a day when my clubmates back home were running a 5mile race as part of our Grand Prix, I decided to join in and so ran a local time trial….almost the same distance, just at a mile higher in altitude. This consisted of a choice of 1 or 2 laps around a beautiful lake (the Davoser See), and even though a friend from Glasgow suggested the best thing to do was to stop when you were ahead, I continued on for a second lap even though I was the leading lady on the first lap. Amazing how tough it can be to put in the effort when you’ve just arrived at altitude, but it was a great confidence boost to hang on for the win, finishing 3rd overall.

On another day we wandered into town to hunt down a coffee shop, but I was easily persuaded up a mountain by the promise of a slice of rhubarb cake to go with said coffee. Unfortunately the trip down the mountain proved rather more exciting than anticipated as lightning stopped the cable car while we were in it…….but I guess a night spent at that increased altitude would have helped with the acclimatization!!
On the roads early in the race

A day trip to St Moritz for some posh birthday cake rounded off the week of carb-loading, but somehow none of it made the race seem easier, though that might have been affected by the late night pre- race, watching the Olympic Opening ceremony and trying to understand what was going on (not being able to understand the German commentary didn’t help this!).

The race itself was slightly different to the course of the previous year. In 2011 there had been a lovely stretch of trail along a river and through woods, winding up over a pass to drop down into Bergun (which is where the K42 runners started). This year that section had to be altered due to landslides, and so unfortunately we ended up having to toil up a winding tarred mountain road for what seemed like an interminable time….and very nearly broke me!

On the podium!
As we headed up into the high mountains, the weather really closed in, and it was quite scary having thunder and lightning bouncing all round you. In a way though, the weather helped me, as I could only see a few yards ahead and so I could only focus on myself and pushing on to keep warm in the rain and hail. It turned out (as I saw when the cloud lifted) that I had significantly closed the gap on the lady ahead of me, which encouraged me to push on ahead of her after the first summit, and I never looked back. The sun came out in the latter stages of the race, which made for a great atmosphere at the finishline, as we could all sit around and chat (and drink the free beer – even though it was alcohol-free) as we waited for friends to come in. I was delighted to have finished on the podium this year behind 2 amazing ladies that both live and train at altitude in the Alps – Jasmine Nunige and Lizzy Hawker – especially considering that I am a sea-level dweller myself.

I have to confess that while actually running the K78, it seemed much harder than I remembered from last year, but a few days afterwards, the tough times have been forgotten and all that remains are the memories of beautiful scenery and mountains, and awesome weather. How often do you run an ultramarathon that includes track, road, forest trail, steps, crosscountry, tunnels, viaducts, suspension bridges, alpine trail and high mountain passes while experiencing a muggy haze, rain, hail, thunder and lightning and then sunshine all in the one day?

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