Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sharing the Surf Coast Century

Every time an ultra runner races, they are alone. Alone with their thoughts, what their body gives them, and how the race will unfold on the day. The journey is shared with other runners, and sometimes even with a superb crew of family, friends, and spectators. But at the end of the day, the runner is a solo artist; a virtuoso executing his plan: enjoying, battling, despairing, loving, hating, laughing, hallucinating, powering, finishing.

After my race in Switzerland (the Salomon MountainMan Ultra), I am heading home to Australia. I am really looking forward to all those special, every day things that makes home home: A morning swim in a salty, rolling sea, excellent coffee, an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, the smell of the Australian flora. There is also so much happening - Matt Cooper's Ultra Made trail camp, a road trip south to Melbourne, and running again on home turf in the inaugural Surf Coast Century.

What excited me even more is that I will be running in a TEAM! This is a first for me, and one I am really looking forward to experiencing. I decided that after 3 months of some big distances on my body, and with only 2-3 weeks in between to physically and mentally recover, running a shorter course and sharing the experience with a friend would be perfect. With the Olympics just gone, I was also inspired by all the team camaraderie. Sometimes, sharing an amazing, indescribable event with a friend can take you deeper, and push you harder.

Picture: Michael Dodge, Source: Quest Newspaper

My team mate for this event is Samantha Gash, an ambassador for the event, and a pretty incredible woman. Sam has just finished a solo desert crossing of the Simpson Desert, not for personal gratification, but to raise money for a charity close to her heart. Read more about it here. Teaming up with Sam also means that she will cover the section of the trail that resonates with her strengths (the first 50km of more beach/sand running), while I will get to stretch my legs on the more bush/forested trails in the second half of the race. 

Sam during her Crossing the Simpson run

Some of my Salomon team mates will also be competing as a team, meaning that those not running will be out on the course, supporting, cheering, and giving energy to the other runners. Thinking about this experience, and sharing it with both the Salomon gang, and also with Sam, led me to find this quote:

"One piece of log creates a small fire, adequate to warm you up,
add just a few more pieces to blast an immense bonfire,
large enough to warm up your entire circle of friends;
Needless to say that individuality counts but team work dynamites."
(Master Jin Kwon - South Korean Martial Arts Master)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Running and recovery on the Romantic Rhinesteig

After my trip to Norway I returned to Germany. After the colder weather, the warm sun in Germany was healing. I was ready to take some time for recovery and for sightseeing, and started investigating what was around the area of Frankfurt. Although I have traveled in the area several times, I had never been to the section of the Rhine river know as the "Romantic Rhine." A UNESCO protected area, it is famous for its abundance of castles, vineyards, and quaint medieval towns. Even better, on either side of the Rhine runs a network of well-marked trails know as the Rhinesteig. These trails are incredible: they run through deep forest, small towns, fields, valleys, vineyards, and open rocky trail high above the river. 

I packed my Salomon SLAB pack (enough space to fit a change of clothes, rainjacket, travel towel, thongs, toiletries, camera, some snacks, ID, bank card, and kindle). I booked accommodation in a youth hostel in the town of Bacharach (a midway point from my start and finish point). I was totally smittened with this hostel because it is located within a 14th century castle - I just had to sleep there! 

The plan was simple: Run and enjoy the trails, enjoy a little culture, stop when I want, walk when I want, and if I was tired I could always take the train. I just love travelling light, exploring on foot, and seeing and feeling more of the beautiful nature alongside the river than I would if I journeyed by car. Below are some photos from my 3 day trip.

My first glimpse of the Rhine from the town of Bingen where I started my trip:

Arriving at Burg Rheinstein:

The view from a terrace inside Burg Rheinstein:

Along the trail, on my way to the town of Bacharach:

A view of the Rhine river:

Refreshments and map reading at Burg Sooneck:

Arriving in Bacharach, directions up to my castle accomodation:

The quaint roof-scape of Bacharach:

My accommodation, Burg Stahleck, sitting high above the town:

On the run, day 2:

Burg Gutenfels:

It started pouring. I kept runnning. I got really soaked:

The town of Kaub, viewed from a ferry I took to cross the river:

Twilight from my castle acccomodation:

A misty morning on day 3, the town of Bacharach still sleeping:

Burg Stahleck: