To start this story, we’ve to go back to 2013: Several events took place which connected to this year edition of Trail Maniak Wörthersee:
First, I took part in my first ultra trail run in June 2013, the Mozart 100 50k race in Salzburg where I met Mohamed Ansal, a legend in ultra running. He was invited to Carinthia this year and lined up on the same course as I did.
Second, I really enjoyed last years edition of running on those beautiful trails around Wörthersee and decided to come back soon.
And third, Trail Maniak community runs started last in 2013 in Vienna – Christoph Pistek from Team “The North Face” is one of the organizers and accepted this years challenge to circle Wörthersee twice, too, and we happened to run in each other several times.
Some days before the event my running buddy Florian (http://laufendentdecken.blogspot.co.at) had bad news for me: due to injury it would be too risky to run this tough course. What a pity. During the last two years, we challenged each ultra run together. This would be the first one where I had to travel and stay in the apartment without companionship. All the best @ Florian and recover soon!
My alarm clock went off on Friday at 7am. Knowing that I won’t get sleep anytime soon wasn’t a very pleasuring feeling – it’s been a hard work week and I couldn’t fit in as much recovery time as I wanted to. At least packing and cooking was more or less done the day before and I could hit the road heading towards south early.
Arriving in Pörtschach, Carinthia at around noon cheered my mind: sun, late summer temperatures and a very comfortable apartment with friendly owners (http://members.aon.at/haus_luca/).
I immediately went down to the lake and searched for the “trail city”: a very neat and cozy place with an exhibition area and start / finish area. Couldn’t resist to the tempting offer for a new pair of Salomon Sens Pro shoes – the old ones would do their last job on the next day. Strolled around, went back to the apartment, chilled a bit and was on time back again for the race briefing at 6pm.
Besides everyone being excited and some organizational notes, not too spectacular – but that’s fine.
I went back to my room and with about 3 hours to go I calmed down, packed all my race equipment and chilled.
Fast forwarding to 10:45pm: Lining up in the middle of the night with about 40-50 other heroes who took the challenge to run more than 115k in the upcoming hours. Some last motivational words, a countdown and off we went into the dark, enlightening the trail with just our headlamps. After some narrow sections and stairs, the field was stretched and I found myself pretty soon in a group of two other runners chasing Mohamed who ran in the lead.
Chatting was kept low, everyone was in his own zone following the light cone in front. Only a couple of times we stopped to search for the route – at the end we had additionally run ~2k because of getting lost.
Velden was the first village after 2 hours. Very strange feeling to run through a urban area which is normally totally crowded – but in the middle of the night there’s more wildlife in the forest than people on the streets
I used the aid station for filling up my bottles – the first round is intended to be self-supported. There are just a couple of self-serving stations with water and iso. Everything else need to be carried by yourself.
Out of Velden we slowly started to ascent to the high point in the race: Pyramidenkogel. We met the race director at the checkpoint – chatted a bit, fueled up and turned back for the downhill. The course was slightly changed having ascent and descent on the same trail. Means you’ll probably meet other runners when they move up the hill, which is quite nice for cheering each other up.
I lost my both colleagues and ran the following k’s on my own. That’s when the first low stroke me. I’ve done just half of the first round so far, a quarter of the whole distance. Feet started to feel heavy, my body felt tired… no wonder, being awake for that long. Hit another section where I lost the trail which didn’t cheer me up.
Somehow I made it to Klagenfurt – a good intermediate goal.
That has been my strategy anyway: Setting achievable, short-term goals. My mind isn’t there yet to handle distances like “just 70k to go”. Thinking about the next aid station, the next village, made it much easier for me.
The trails between Klagenfurt and Pörtschach were tougher than I had them in mind from the previous year. Well, last year this was the first section (Start was in Klagenfurt) – this year the last. Learned that this makes a huge difference.
There was a self-service checkpoint at the top of Pirkerkogel (couldn’t handle the hole puncher) and from then on – with some up and downs – the finish came nearer.
After 7 hours, at 6am I passed the finish line. There was just one staff member waiting and taking notes – no fans, no other runners.
Immediately went into the race office, ate some fruits from the buffet and lied down for 1h, using the black roll to massage myself and trying to regenerate as good as possible.
Running for another round didn’t seemed tempting. Fortunately I had quite nice talks with other runners and seeing all the fresh runners lining up for the 54k race motivated me to “just try it”.
Therefore, same procedure as in the night: Changing clothes, repacking my bag with additional nutrition, filling up the bottles and waiting for the start.
Together with 100+ runners I went off again for another loop around Wörthersee. I took it slow – there was nothing to prove from a pacing point of view. Settled myself at the back of the field, overtook some runners and just enjoyed the trails.
Not too long into the race a familiar runner walked in front of me: Mohamed unfortunately had knee issues. He told me that he will drop at the next aid station. What a bummer. However, I thanked him for taking part at the race and told him how honored and appreciated it is, to have a legendary runner like him visiting Austria. He is just a humble person and I could clearly see how disappointed he was not being able to finish the race.
I passed Velden, had my first stomach issues (means I had to go off-trail for some minutes) and went again up to Pyramidenkogel. This time, lots of runners where already on their way down, but that didn’t matter. Everyone was cheering me up, especially when they saw my yellow bib, indicating the superior distance. Lots of fans on top, a nice view over the lake and food and down we went again. Course was slightly different than in the night, incorporating a technically difficult trail section with lots of roots. Passed it anyway and suddenly the moment arrived, when my watch would switch to a three digit distance.
Wow, what a feeling: 1-0-0 … it has already been the longest run for me, but hitting the magic mark of 100k was truly impressive. Things happened so fast over the course of the past months, I couldn’t imagine reaching this long-term goal so fast. From now on, nothing would be the same.
With this motivation boost, I entered Klagenfurt, together with Christoph who unfortunately had stomach issues, too and couldn’t handle food anymore. We stopped at the aid station and I enjoyed the warm sun. This could become one of those perfect days.
After walking for some minutes things turned to the better: Instead of getting weaker, my legs felt fresher than in round 1. Weird. This led to the fact, that I actually ran more sections than in the night. Kilometer after Kilometer I came nearer to Pörtschach. There were no new surprises ahead, I just had to take one step after the other.
Checked my watch 5k before the finish line: 3:30pm. If things go well, this could mean a sub 8h round, comfortably finishing before the ceremony starts at 5pm.
Things went well: I ran, I ran fast and with lots of other runners cheering and appreciating my performance I crossed the finish line for the second time.
Gave an interview, ate and drank and didn’t even sat down.
Used the lake for a quick “shower”, redressed, headed to the award ceremony – gave and received congratulations.
Then, finally: all superior finisher (at this point in time) were invited to the stage and received the most valuable trophy possible: a buckle! How cool is that…
Race results Trail Maniak Superior:
- Quinoa, Broccoli, Ruccola
- Big Salat
- Vegetable Pizza
What I wore:
- Salomon Sense Pro
- Salomon S-Lab Short
- Compression socks