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Earlier in the year Anders and I where writing back and forth looking for the right trailrace to participate in together.
He came up with 100 Miles of Istria which was held for the first time this year.
Since I knew Istria only from going on vacation with my parents as a child, it sounded really appealing to get to know the mountain areas spreading through the country.
So I picked up Anders and Gerald who signed up for the 100 miles distance and off we went. After spending a day at our apartment we drove down to Koromacno to pick up the bib numbers. Gerald was starting the 100 miles at 9 p.m. that day so he stayed at the finish area to catch the transfer bus to the start in Umag later. We enjoyed the nice warm weather down at the sea and later we looked for the trail which runs down from the mountains close to the finish. Later, Anders and I where driving back to the apartment, preparing for the race the next morning by looking at maps and profiles.
As always the night before the race felt like catching no sleep at all. My alarm clock woke us up at 3:20 a.m. since we had to catch the transfer bus leaving close to 5. Bus ride was kind of horrible with lots of construction work on the way to Buzet. I felt tired and somehow not too excited. We met Gerald who decided to quit here after 60km.
In Buzet around 120 runners gathered at the starting line. At 7 the race was on. Anders and I worked together from the first minute and found our pace really quick. Walking uphill, covering ground on the flats and descends. We reminded each other on not going too fast in the beginning because it is going to be a long day anyway. The terrain in the first half was already technical but ok to run in most parts. We got wonderful views along the way and where really excited to run together. Since Anders and I have not met since the end of the PCT two years ago, we had enough to talk so the time went by fast.
After 10 hours I was still wondering why there has not been a low point yet. Later in, we where thinking about a 16 hour finish time, since most of the long climbs are behind. Before we descended down to the Checkpoint at km 68, a runner from Slovenia told us we are around 10th position. This was very motivating because I had no idea where in the field we are.
What we did not expect was, that the terrain closer to the coast was getting much worse than in the beginning. Very hard to run on, especially with tired legs. A fall here would mean a serious injury. I crashed my toe into a rock once which felt like I twisted the nail of the toe. But I did not stop to look for it. Between Rabac and Labin the trail got very steep, they installed cables to make the way down possible. We had to climb over a waterfall to reach a checkpoint. A beautiful place but at this stage I was too tired to get out the camera for pictures. I really had to focus on every step I took. At the climb to Labin I felt really really tired. I knew that this point will come and I knew also how to go through and feel better again.
At the checkpoint in Labin I changed my socks again and fueled up for the last 20 km. We turned on our headlamps and off we where into the night. Twice we had to retrace our steps because we could not find the waymarkers anymore. We where ready to finish and kept pushing downhill, wondering when we will get to the dirt road which we knew from inspecting the trail the day before. After that dirtroad, we came down to the paved road, which lead us the last km into the finish in Koromacno. After close to 18 hours on our feet we where more than happy to be done and finishing 10th place overall. All in all, it was a great day and I am really happy about staying save and healthy along the way without having too many problems with fatigue or lack of motivation. The experience running through the mountains of Istria is something I dont want to miss. We endured.
Great organization and enthusiastic volunteers too!
All Information you need for a 2600 mile long PCT thruhike on five websites:
http://www.pcta.org/ – Official website of the “pacific crest trail association”, get your permits here
http://www.planyourhike.com/ The title says it all, resupply points, strategys,…
http://www.pcthandbook.com/ The one and only “Yogi´s PCT guidebook”, it will become your bible out there
http://www.pctmap.net/ Halfmile´s maps, very useful and all you need beside Yogi´s guidebook
http://www.postholer.com/ Meet fellow hikers, good maps and planning resources
http://topomapsapp.com/ GPS application for your iPhone/Pod, works with Halfmile´s waypoints.
Every once in a while I get a phone call from Alex. Last time he planned a 12 hours non-stop hiking trip around some woods in Vienna. This time it was about time to go for a skiing trip with the intention to sleep in a snow cave on the Rax-Plateau near Scheibwaldhöhe. Since I wanted to try that anyway he had not to wait long till I confirmed to go with him and Norbert.
We chose to follow the route through Kesselgraben which had not enough snow to use the Skies for the first kilometer or so. Later with some altitude gain we had enough to use our skies for the way up through the woods. Already excited about the snow cave I collected some dead-wood for a small campfire later. After the first 1000 meter in ascent we came above treeline where the snowfall got heavier, the fog thicker, combined with strong wind chills. Norbert who had a cold the days before was a little bit slower on the climb up so Alex and I had to keep our speed down which was hard because I already felt my hands and feet freezing and I knew I have to keep moving. But we had to stop every once in a while because in the dense fog Norbert would be lost. I clenched my fists in the gloves to keep the warmth, which was not the best way to walk with the poles. At one point I finally dropped my pack to go for my heavier skiing gloves.From Scheibwaldhöhe we had to walk against the wind which felt like my brain is going to freeze. At this point I already had my down jacket (ok, a very thin one) with the hood on my head. I just hoped that we will find the snowdrift which Alex planned to build the snow cave at fast. But this did not happen. Alex searched the area for a bit and finally found another spot. He used the snowprobe to make sure the snow is deep and soft enough to bury the shelter. After about an hour of working we had to give up because some buried ice made it impossible to dig further. We Used the snowprobe again, this time more carefully. Norbert said it never gets finished before dark, which means we need about 6 hours to build the cave.We worked in shifts, one digging in the entrance tunnel and the other two moving away the snow from the inside. After the first shift Alex came out completely wet from the dampness inside and we could watch his pants freeze solid in the wind. As Norbert promised it got dark already, we continued the work with headlamps. From this point I knew there will be no campfire going on tonight. The snowfall outside got really heavy and everyone was happy to be inside the cave where there was no wind and decent temperatures. I did not bring a stove so I used hot water from the Thermos bottle to rehydrated my meal. Alex brought a modified gas stove which was not working very well at the beginning. Somehow he managed to melt enough snow for Norberts and his meal. The night was ok, I actually had to remove some layers because the duo-quilt-system worked more than well.
In the next morning our entrance was completely snowed in so I had to use a shovel to move outside. Over night it snowed about 50 cm, still strong winds, still no view because of the fog. Alex found the route quickly and for my part I was happy to lose elevation and go back to the treeline where the wind stopped. On the way down my hands became alive again which was a weird feeling. Snowcaves are nice but for myself I would not built one again in such an exposed place.
Another trip with Sven and Reinhard ascending the Fadensteig. We started early to see the sunrise above treeline, but had no luck with it. It just got light around six but no sun. We got some heavy winds instead, most of the snow on the way up was gone and bare ice was left behind.On the way down we where happy to find some snowdrifts which made the skiing really enjoyable.
As you can see there has not been much going on here lately, most of my writing energy floats into my bookproject with the workingtitle “From Desert Floors To Mountain Tops” which hopefully will be ready in autumn of 2013. The hours I dont spend writing in front of the screen are mostly filled with running and skiing. I brought some pictures from the last ski mountaineering trip up the Nandlgrad on Schneeberg together with Sven. Hope you like them!
In-between all the rain and summer thunderstorms here in the Austrian mountains I was happy to catch this small window of dry weather. So I wanted to cover as much distance I could, at for me a still enjoyable level, by converting 5 stages on the “Schladminger Höhenweg” into 2 stages.
Those mountains are different from most other mountains in Austria, first there is a lot of water. Streams and high alpine lakes embedded in a natural green cover until the peak of Hochgolling which reaches over 2800 meters. While hiking south, towards Giglachsee you can see the Kalkspitze for hours getting closer and closer. There is this gigantic view of the Dachstein glacier on the other side of the valley. On a sunny day there are many hikers on those mountain trails, which is obvious in the summer season with all the huts opened and easy accessible trailheads. I am going back in october when the huts are closed and thunderstorms should not be an issue.
1. Day: Talstation Hochwurzen-Giglach Höhenweg-Giglachsee-Krukeckscharte-Trockenbrotscharte-Landwirseehütte
2. Day: Landawirseehütte-Gollingscharte-Hochgolling (2862m)-Gollingwinkel-Greifenberg(2618m)-Klafferkessel-Parkplatz Riesachfälle
It was supposed to be the hottest day in June, temperatures where reaching +38°C at 9 am the temps at 2000m elevation where allready +20°C
I knew It is going to be hard.I knew the fact that I can handle the cold much better than the heat. So here I was in a pack of 120 other runners at this small village Veitsch. I made two mistakes in the first half of the race, I started way too far in front and the second was I did ran the first 18km also on the uphill.
After 21km the trail started to climb the steepest 600m of the whole course to the top of hohe Veitsch. I was really tired on the climb and felt that my right calf is going to cramp at any second. At this time I could not wear my running shirt anymore because I felt like it is keeping the heat to much at my body. My head was aching so I made my own ac wrapping the shirt around my head and soak it in water at every possibility. Worked great for my head but not for my back as the sunscreen was washed away from sweat and water long ago. At one of the checkpoints they had magnesium tablets which helped against my cramping leg. After 30km I was close to quit the race. I just was not there. My body felt not too bad but my head was saying no. I met my parents at this aid station, I sat down and spoke to them. Everybody around me suffered. Even the people who where not running. 24km left. I took my fresh filled bottle and made my way downhill knowing the hardest part is behind. The heat of midday was unbearable. I literally just moved one leg in front of the other thinking about the next step following the trail over hilly terrain. The last 5km where all downhill through a forest with the last kilometer into the village and the finish line on paved road. I was never so tired my entire life but still happy about the finish.
I started running in February 2010 and never run a typical marathon distance except a half marathon (21km) after 2 months of training. Then I found out, that running in the woods and mountains is so much more enjoyable and fun than on paved roads. In 2010 I hiked 8 days from Port d´Andratx to Pollenca. On April 28th 2012 I ran the distance of 107km with a positive 4500m gain in elevation in 18h:46min. Both where great but different experiences.
It is 23:58. I am one out of 500 runners who are waiting lined up at the start area for the clock to jump on 00:00.
They start to play “Carmina Burana”. I know something great is going to happen. I focus on my breath, click on my headlamp, the two minutes are over and the field rolls out of the village of Port d´Andratx. I try to make my strides as small and low as possible, to keep the impact on my body low. The paved road comes to an end, I follow the pack into a small dirt road. The lights around me are so bright that I switch mine completely off. I found a group of 3 who are about my pace. I know that I should not get out of breath in the first hours during the race. The road is going steeper and steeper. One of the group is slowing down. I dont understand what he was saying because it was spanish but I think he told his friends to slow down aswell because this is going to be a long race. So did I. We started to climb while turning into walking. I notice hundrets of lights around me, red blinking back lights and the beams of strong white headlamps winding up the mountain. A strong feeling surroundet me, I knew it was right to face this challange. I arrived at the top of the hill, eager to make some good effort on the downhill. The first two hours went by and I was not far away from the first aid station. There was some paved road into the village of Estellences. The guys at the checkpoint wrote down our bib numbers and showed the way into the garage which was the aid station. It was hot and humid in there. I took of my pack, refilled my bladder, had two cups of coke, half an orange and took a banana out for the upcomming section. Other runners where sitting around and taping their feet or stretching out. I was just feeling to continue as fast as possible. The field stretched out more and more and there was no one around anymore. The trail climbed and went down again, with flat stretches inbetween. The hours went by I was very confident with running through the dark from one checkpoint to the other. It was allready more than 5 hours in when I reached the town of Valdemossa. The day began to brake in, this was the first time I could recognize the scenery I allready hiked through a few years ago. I knew, up the next mountain there will be a beautiful ridge waiting and I will arrive on top just right at sunrise. I talked to some french runners on the uphill. The only people I talked to during the race. They where joking around and saying something like “this race starts at Kilometer 70” which I believed in but I did not care because all I wanted is to cross that finish line. So I arrived at that ridge hiking fast the switchbacks up before. I spoted the long shadows of other runners stretching over the pale gray bolder fields above tree level. To the left there was just the see below a 300 meter vertical cliff drop. I knew I am not far away from the 55k mark and the halfwaypoint of the trail. There was a big downhill waiting into the village of Deja. The trail got really steep and technical winding down the mountain into beautiful olive groves and through overgrown areas covered with long blades of grass. At the checkpoint in Deja I sat down for the first time. I brought some spare socks and now over halfway the time has come to change them. The once I whore where completely soaked. I refueled by eating some big blocks of cheese and white bread. Took some oranges and bananas and off I went again. The heat of the day arrived, I was happy about some cooling winds on the exposed areas. On the way to Soller a really fast runner overtook me at the downhill. I thought going downhill at these speeds after 60km requires some serious skills. Later I found out that it was the leader of the shorter competition which started at 8am in Valdemossa.He has serious skills. I arrived in Soller during midday. It was really hot. At the aid station I just took some fruits and refilled my bladder. I could not eat the meals the had there because my appetite for cooked food was just not there. There was this big climb waiting up the canyon towards Cuber Basin. I went really slow but steady up the trail which was combinded with large stairs. More runners from the shorter distance overtook me. I ate the food I carried from the beginning on my way up. Such as Energygels, Bars and PB ride shots. I brought way too much food but I did not want to leave it behind. Up the canyon my feet where really heavy. I had to force myself into running again. Mentally I felt still very good. I knew I could do it. I was just tired and slightly dizzy from the heat. At the last Aid station in Lluc I opened that Gatorade Strip I brought last year from the States. Mixed it with cold wather and enjoyed the taste. From Lluc there where just 17km left to the finish. I knew I could do those in about 2 hours reaching the finish under my personal goal of 20 hours. The last downhill really took forever. My legs where tired and I had to be really focused not to stumble over these rocks and roots. The last 7km where flat paved road combined with some trail just a little below the road. Cars where blowing their horns from time to time cheering us. High fives where given from other runners. I just wanted to get it done. My legs felt good on the easy trail and I just ran as fast as I could these last kilometers and across that finish line. After 18h:46min I finished in 119th position out of about 300 finishers. On the next day my legs felt good and I could not wait to enter the breakfast buffet at the hotel.
My strategy to finish:
-Something I learned from long distance hiking. Split the course into small chunks. In that case running from one aid station to the other.
-Taking just small rests
Since September 2011 I never run further than 25km. I was never going further than 80km a week. More like 40-60km.
On all my trainig runns I gained 600 or more meters of elevation up and downhill.
Nathan HPL 020 Backpack + 2xMLD Hipbelt Pockets
Petzl MYO RXP Headlamp
Red backlight (road bike)
Oakley Jawbone Glases
Haglöfs Tempo SS T-Shirt
Black Diamond Gloves
Falke RU4 Socks (carried 2 pairs, changed after 55k)
Dirty Girl Gaiters
Brooks Cascadia 6
Black Diamond Z-Pole Ultra Distance
Anti Friction Stick
This year was quite special to me, I changed many things in my life. I quit the job I worked in for 6 years, to go on this hike from border to border, after that I moved from the city of Vienna back to the countryside not too far away from my parents place to the bottom of lower Austria´s highest mountain. Those changes did not happen because I was unhappy or not satisfied with the way I used to live. It just seemed right to follow some dreams and try something new. Currently I am about to go back to work and get the “normal life” going again. In between thinking about the PCT still keeps my busy, there is not a single day since I am back where I am not thinking about it.Somehow it feels like the end of a relationship, something is missing. Planning new hikes and spending more time with non outdoor related activities should help.
Enough about the past, 2012 is coming and I am allready excited about it. In April I will attend my first Ultra Trail race on Mallorca and there are more races on my mind. I will go on a hike, a shorter one, somewhere in Lapland. I have never been there before and I think I will like it far up north.
Thinking of some changes on this blog, there might be a new name (or a name at all) and a change of the design. Also I want to get rid of those ads, so I might move it to wordpress.org.
I am amused and sometimes even embarrassed about most/lately discussions in UL backpacking, there are people who think they have to make a science out of it. I was never one of them and I never will be one of them. UL means simplicity for me and I keep it simple also in 2012.
Happy new year and best wishes for 2012!