After having such a great running year in 2011, last year was the worst year in my running career so far with a big disappointment and lots of injuries. My main race for 2012 was the Irontrail 201K in Switzerland http://www.irontrail.ch/index.php?t201-english. My training went well all winter but got to an abrupt end on Good Friday during a trail run at Sulphur, when I suddenly felt a sharp pain in the back of my right knee. The MRI result showed a tear in the ligament and I couldn't run at all for more than three weeks.
May 12: Seaton Trail 50 Mile Nevertheless I decided to run the Seaton Trail 50 Mile and just run it as a training run for Irontrail. Well, it was my worst race so far time-wise (12:45) and I finished DFL (last!). I usually make up all my time on the downhills but with my injured knee I was not able to run very fast. In addition, I got lost on my way back from the second turnaround because the volunteers had already removed the course markers. Luckily I made it back before it got dark. Looking back now, it was still a lot of fun and I especially enjoyed the "Running Free" aid station at the turnaround. Great job guys!
Testing my hydration pack and poles for Irontrail
What I'm not done yet?
May 26: Sulphur Springs 100 Mile
Going into Sulphur my knee felt a lot better but I was nursing another injury (strain in my left quad) and my training wasn't where I wanted it to be for this race. I knew a sub 20 was not possible and I decided just to go out and run an easy steady pace and hopefully not slowing down too much at the end.
It definitely was a lot harder than my race there the previous year were I felt strong from the very beginning till the end. After a few hours the pain in my quad started to get worse and I took one Aleve. Usually I'm not taking any pain killers but my thought was if I don't finish this 100 miler there is now way I will be able to run the Irontrail 201K in Switzerland at the beginning of July. That race was my main goal and I know I had to do all the training I can in order to have a chance of finishing such a long race in the high altitudes of the Swiss Alpes.
During the whole race I tried to keep an even pace and not to slow down too much, and at the same time not to do anything stupid to make my injury worse. That plan worked out quite well even though I felt a bittired throughout the whole race and needed to take a few more Aleeve to keep the pain under control.
In the last two loops I was very happy to have a pacer. Adam came from Toronto to pace and was a bit late to catch up with me at the start/finish line, so Ken offered to pace me and I accepted thankfully. As soon as we got into the Gatehouse aid station we saw Adam in his car. Adam took over the pacing duties and Ken drove the car back to the start/finish area.
It's great to have company during the night and the last two loops went by a lot faster with Adam's help. He really pushed me hard especially on the last loop. He wanted me to finish in sub 22 hours which I did (21:49). Thanks so much Adam and Ken. I could not have done it without you.
June 23: Niagara Ultra 50 K
This was the last race before our departure to Switzerland. It was a beautiful day, sunny and very hot. The course is an out and back and the turnaround is right at the famous Niagara Falls. I love the view to the falls but running and avoiding to bump into hundreds and hundreds of tourists made it tough to race and I could not wait to run back.
I knew my training was not up for another PB like in the previous year (4:24) and my goal was to finish in under 5 hours. I finished in 4:45 and celebrated with some free beer at the finish line.
July 6: Irontrail 201K
This should have been my main race for 2012! I always wanted to do an ultra race in the Swiss Alps and combine it with a visit to my family. When I found out about this new race, called Irontrail 201, I was very excited. They offered 3 different distances: 81 K, 141K, and 201 K. The cut off time for the 201 K was 56 hours and I knew it was doable. In my training runs I was wearing a fully packed backpack with the mandatory gear and I was also running with poles to get used to them.
Living in Switzerland for most of my life I know about the importance of acclimatisation to the altitude for a race that took place at an average height of 2100 m above sea level. On the race website they recommend to arrive at least 4 - 7 days before the race. Ideally would be 8 - 14 days before.
We arrived in Pontresina 5 days before the race. We spend the days with hiking and shorter runs on the trails to get familiar with the first sections of the race course. The weather hasn't been great in Switzerland in weeks and they had lots of rain. Also the temperatures were lower then usually for this time of the year.
On Thursday we went to the race kit pick up and we found out that the race course had to be changed due to lots of rain which made the glacier crossing section too dangerous to run. So instead of 201 K the race was now only shortened to 154 K. Bummer!
The next morning we were all very excited for the race to start at 8:00am when we found out from the RD that due to bad weather the race start will get delayed and that we will get updates by text messages. Luckily we had a late check out booked at our hotel which was right at the starting line and so we went back to our room, waited and tried to relax.
Finally we got the message that the race will start at 4:00pm. So off we went to the starting line again. Everybody was very excited when the gun finally went off. The sun even came out and it looked like a great day. After a few hours into the race on the first major uphill climb the clouds came back. It was very windy and it was raining at the top of the mountain where the first aid station was. On the downhill trail to St. Moritz (aid station 2) the rain stopped. I took a longer break there, ate and changed clothes for the next long uphill climb to Piz Nair. The weather was still bad, actually it got worse with snow and fog. Nevertheless I felt great! I was wearing a waterproof jacket, felt warm and was listening to "Move like Jagger" while climbing up the slippery trails. When I got to Corviglia, which is about half way up to the top, a race official came to me and informed me that the race got interrupted due to bad weather and no runner was allowed to continue until further notice. Bummer! I was guided inside a building where a lot of runners were already waiting. After about 40 minutes a race official told us the race course got changed again and instead of climbing up to Piz Nair we supposed to take another trail over a different route. Nobody really knew where to go. We just followed each other. I was happy to hook up with some runners from Germany. After a few more hours we saw some lights which turned out to be another race official who told us the race was officially canceled due to very bad weather conditions. Huge bummer! After that information nobody felt like running anymore. We walked for hours till we got to Bever from where a bus took us back to St. Moritz.
This was the first time I could not finish a race and I was very disappointed like many other runners who came from all over the world for this race. It took me a while to get over it. In the meantime I understand that the safety of all the runners and volunteers was more important than to finish the race. And I also know that I will go back and run the Irontrail another year.
Beautiful Engadin, one of my favourite places in Switzerland