It has been 3 weeks since I ran the Mountainman Ultra in Switzerland, and with all the travelling, returning home to Australia, and getting back to my daily rhythms, it has taken me a while to sit down and reflect on all I saw and experienced during my time spent amongst alpine cows, flowers and peaks. Simply put, the race is epic. It is 80km of amazing trail running in the mountains ringing Lake Lucerne, and with most of the trails above 1500m, you cannot escape the absolute majesty of being amongst geological giants.
I found myself in Alpnachstadt, on the shores of Lake Lucerne, awake at 3.30am with a dozen other runners with whom I had shared a dormitory. Shortly we would travel by bus, train, and gondola up to Trubsee, a mountain lake at the foot of Mt Titlus, at 1796m. This would be our race start for the 2012 Mountainman, a race that holds the motto: A true mountainwoman travels the entire way alone on foot.
Elevation profile - 5000m of height gain.
The race course, one of the most scenic, with continual views down into valleys, and across lakes to peaks beyond:
Everything about the race would end up being a huge experience for me, from the difficulty of the climbs, the effects of running at a higher elevation, the heat of the sun (~35 degrees), my neverending thirst, and the immense satisfaction that I felt when finished.
I started the race feeling very competitive, planning to 'give it' and really maximise on pushing hard up the hills. 'It's only 80km,' I thought, believing that a shorter than normal distance would somehow make it easier. Hah! My previous race had only been 3 weeks prior, and although I thought I would be rested and recovered, I don't think I was. This comes down to experience though, and I am so happy that each year I have new opportunities to learn about my body and mind, to test my strengths and weaknesses, and to work on those for the next race.
At the 35km mark, just before the first 'big' climb of the day, a 1000m hike up from Brunig to Schonbuel, I decided slow the pace. I had been working hard to maintain 5th place, and with the heat increasing in intensity, decided that I would enjoy this one and focus on finishing. This change in focus meant that I could worry less about taking a little more time at the aid stations to rehydrate, to be a little more social with other runners and volunteers, and to stop and take in the incredible views every now and then. I found a mixture of coke, oranges, and liquid nutrition (infinit nutrition) to be the best, as I didn't have any appetite to eat anything solid.
Engstlensee and the Tannalp:
Tannalp at 9km:
Amazing section of trail, running along a sharp ridge with deep valleys either side:
Melchsee at 1900m:
On the way to Plannplatte, passing some beautiful alpine flowers:
View towards Balmeregghorn (2255m):
The last 5km was an ascent of 800m up to the finish at a gondola station. Although the ascent was tough right at the end of the race, I cannot imagine finishing such a beautiful trail anywhere else except for up between 2 mountain peaks. The feeling of walking up, seeing your goal becoming larger ahead of you was extremely motivating! With just over 13hrs of running/hiking, I finished in 15th place, completely exhausted and filled with that feeling all ultra runners seek: satisfaction.
I would like to thank Florian from Mountainman, and Prisca from Salomon Switzerland for all their help in the leadup to the race!
The final 300m ascent to the finish at Pilatus:
The finish at Pilatus:
All photos courtesy of here