Friday, December 27, 2013

Jägerstein - The Hunt for the Golden Stag 2013

The Jägerstein-Ultralauf is a season ending winter ultramarathon that runs 70 KM from Fröttstädt to the Schneekopf over approximately 2200 meters of local roads, forest paths and single track located within the Thüringen National Park.  The course objective is to reach the Jägerstein or Hunter’s Stone located at the top of the Schneekopf.  The Jägerstein itself is a memorial that records the legend of Caspar Greiner, his pursuit of the golden deer, and the hunting accident that occurred in 1690.

Over the past couple of years I have generally ended my running season with the Albmarathon in late October.  Beyond that date there are only a couple of quality events that occur prior to the start of the New Year.  In 2012 when Gunter Rothe and Michael Frenz announced that they were developing a jointly organized event I had hoped to join in.  Work and other requirements kept me away from this “deep snow” event in 2012.  So, when they announced that they were going to bring the Jägerstein-Ultralauf back in 2013 I jumped at the opportunity to run. 

On Friday the Thirteenth 2013 I left work around noon to travel to Fröttstädt to join up with forty-odd other runners at  the Rothe’s Icelandic Horse Hostel where we all were dining and overnighting.  I got into Fröttstädt just in time to find a bed and drop off my things, join in for the race briefing and have dinner.  Gunter and Sabine put together a great meal and evening for us.  They are both old hands at events of this nature having organized and run the ThüringenULTRA for years.  Michael is no Green Horn himself and delivered a well planned and detailed race briefing.

Friday evening we broke ourselves into two groups:  the fast group that would start at 0600 and the other fast group that would start at 0700.  I joined the fast group departing at 0600 as there were a number of people in this group that I know and had hoped to spend some time chatting with over the course of the race.  I was not to be disappointed.

Saturday morning came bright and early after spending most of the evening thinking I was working in a saw mill (a lot of snoring going on).  After a great breakfast again served by the team of Gunter and Sabine Rothe we lined up for our 0600 start. 

The initial kilometers of the Jägerstein course took us over familiar territory as we coursed out of Fröttstädt into the dark along the ThüringenULTRA race course.  Typical for an event of this nature we initially either ran individually or in small clusters of one or two people.  This would prove helpful and change a bit over the course of the day as the Jägerstein course is not marked.  You must either be very familiar with the route, run with a GPS or tag along with someone that possesses one of the two previous talents or devices.  After running through the hills around and above Friedrichroda our little groups had settled into a group of approximately ten runners and would remain this way for most of the rest of the day.

The Jägerstein-Ultra is designed primarily as a self-supported event.  There are two rest stops along the course of the route.  If you’re considering giving this winter ultra a go be prepared to support yourself for stretches of up to 25 kilometers.  This self-support should include enough to drink and to sustain your energy level over varying terrain.  The two stations that were in place were superior!  Gunter’s experience with the ThüringenULTRA and his personal preferences as an ultramarathoner support what I call “Broadband” support.  The spectrum goes from plain old water to salty and sweet food, as well as caffeinated sodas, beer and warm soup and tea.  I felt pretty good at the first stop and really only focused on restocking my sodium and staying warm with several coups of soup.  When we got to the second stop at Wegscheide just east of Oberhof (49KM) I was famished.  It was great to chow down on liverwurst sandwiches, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, chicken broth, soda and cookies!

From a running/fast packing perspective the Jägerstein-Ultra is a lot of fun.  The kilometers and elevation change did not really test me physically or more critically mentally, until we got just below the Schneekopf Michael “The Hexer” Frenz was obviously at work again when he picked the route up to the Schneekopf.  This phase initially saw our track blocked by downed trees, which appeared to be no big deal as we could just go cross country, but it was all UP!  After coursing almost straight up we met our trail again to find that it was now going to course through “Hell”.  Hell was a snow covered path that coursed over streams, rocks and other obstacles to our objective on top of the Schneekopf.  It was not for the faint of spirit.  I was relieved that I was not in one of my renowned ultra funks and that it was not dark as we made our way up this trail.  My hat is off to those that did so after darkness fell.  This leg of the course was a gut check.  

After summiting onto the Schneekopf and rallying around the Jägerstein we were met by Dirk Bernkopf of Thüringer Allgemeine newspaper.  Dirk took several nice pictures of our group and provided a great rundown of the 2013 Jägerstein-Ultra.

From the Jägerstein we made our way over to the Waldhotel Schmücke.  Michael and Gunter organized rooms and meals for all of the participants.  I didn’t spend the night at the Waldhotel; instead I hitched a ride back to Fröttstädt as I wanted to get a very early start back home on Sunday.  I did stay for post race beers and a super meal.  Transportation back to Fröttstädt was provided via bus on Sunday morning.

In summary, the Jägerstein-Ultra is a well organized winter ultra event.  Gunter and Sabine’s logistics support for the event are superb.  The race course is challenging at 70KM with 2200 meters (7217 feet) in elevation.  The race field is small and very friendly.  Count me for the 2014 Jägerstein-Ultra!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thoughts on the Run

Just discovered this video from the Charlie Rose Show with Dr. George Sheehan.  Doctor Sheehan offers insights into his philosophy framed around running.  Very worth the thirty minutes or so of this presentation.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Alb Marathon 2013

Blue skies, mild temperatures, sunshine and a group of three hundred plus friends to run with through fifty kilometers of the Alb…  It’s difficult to get much better than that!  26 October 2013 saw the twenty-third running of the Sparkassen Alb Marathon in Schwäbisch Gmünd.  It was spectacular day. (And I just learned that I completed a personal best running 4:59:19!)  I look forward to running the Alb again in 2014!

 Race Headquarters and Check-in Area

A warm up into the Alb

The Alb

Two of the Three Kaiserberge now behind us...

The Ho Chi Minh Trail...  Found in the second half of the Alb Marathon led to my favorite leg of the course.

Great quads workout!

We're definitely not in Kansas anymore Toto...

Rocking with a band of drummers on the way to the finish line.  These guys were passionate about their music.  It was great to have them accompany us across the finish line.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

UTMB 2013

So here it is…  Finally a report on my attempt at the 2013 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB).  My apologies to any of you faithful readers that have perhaps looked forward to this post.  As you may imagine, things have been a bit busy since the last weekend in August 2013.

DID NOT FINISH (DNF)…  Those three words characterize the results of my efforts in the 2013 UTMB this year.  Those three words mean many things to those that pursue the sport of marathoning and ultra-marathoning.  In most cases you put your head down and walk away in shame.  They echo failure, defeat and in some cases down right depression.  I’m not buying into the negative connotations and have set my sights on crashing back into the spectacularly wonderful event that the UTMB is as quickly as possible.  But, I’m jumping way ahead…

The UTMB is a single stage mountain ultramarathon that takes place in the Alps, across France, Italy and Switzerland.  The course distance is 166KM or a little over 100 miles with a total elevation gain of 10,000 meters or 32,808 feet.  It is widely regarded as the most difficult foot race in Europe.  In order to take part runners must qualify on a points scale determined by the UTMB organizing staff and become lucky enough to be drawn in the registration lottery to take part.  The running field is limited to 2300 registered runners.  The North Face, the commercial sponsor, and the organizers typically add an additional 200 to 300 professional and VIP runners to this field taking the total running field to 2500.

The UTMB follows a loop course around Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps and the European Union. The course traverses what I consider a dreamscape of high Alpine mountain trails through the Haute-Savoie Département in the Rhône-Alpes region of southeastern France, northwestern Italy and southwestern Switzerland.  To read into my description that this is simply a hiking trail loop around Mont Blanc you might be misled to believe that you are running through a valley around “The White Lady”.  Easy day!  Right?  WRONG!  UTMB runners climb and descend ten mountain summits that each average 2185 meters or 7168 feet while traveling over improved, unimproved and technical trail.  The highest and seventh summit, Grand Col Ferret is at 2537 meters or 8323 feet.  These are the Alps and they aren’t playing around!

Given the size and logistics of the UTMB, The North Face and its organizers put on a very good show.  That said the UTMB is a commercial, high visibility, super hyped event.  It is about marketing, sales and air time.  This atmosphere and focus is another summit I face when I consider the UTMB.  If you can get over this and embrace the beauty of the Haute-Savoie and the camaraderie of the trail, the UTMB is a spectacular event and opportunity.

This initial report will describe for you the event and the environment.  I will hold off on sharing the lessons learned and my way ahead with the UTMB for another post or two..

Leading into the UTMB we scheduled six days of leave and arrived in Chamonix on 28 August.  We made our hotel accommodations immediately following my confirmation that I had a race slot with the Hôtel Hermitage in Chamonix.  Selection of the Hermitage was perfect as it’s a lovely hotel with easy parking and within minutes of the center of Chamonix.  The weather in Chamonix was uniquely spectacular this year with blue skies, sunshine and mild temperatures.  We spent Wednesday and Thursday relaxing, exploring Chamonix and enjoying the weather.

I checked into race headquarters Thursday morning.  Unlike past years there was a long line going into in-process the race.  We wound up waiting over an hour to finally get in.  The upside of this wait was a very well organized check-in process where in the past check-in and inspection of your kit was helter-skelter.  This was actually a positive trade off as compared to previous years.  We had planned to purchase a bus ticket so that Simone could visit with me at the half-way point in Courmayeur.  At check-in the line was simply too long with the same holding true on Friday morning.  Honestly the price of race transportation was simply outrageous.  It was organized at a flat rate of 26 Euro per person.  This rate would allow a traveler to visit one or all of the accessible check points.  This is super if you have guests or supporters that want to visit each site, but ridiculous if you only want to visit one.  The Organizers had offered the opportunity to pre-order/pre-pay for transportation via their web site prior to the race.  I’m still uncertain of the merit of doing so.  Those that had done so were still required to check-in with the transportation coordinator and pick up their tickets – an hour wait at best.

Thursday evening we had dinner with a running acquaintance, Geert Ceuppens.  It was great to break bread with him; get caught up and blow some nervous steam off about the race.  Geert had a fantastic race finishing in 36:43!

Friday morning dawned again with blue skies.  We took it easy most of the day with a picnic lunch in the hotel garden.  After lunch I slipped away to organize my kit and thoughts.  We headed out to the drop bag drop off and race start area about an hour and half before the gun.  Doing so afforded me a spot mid-field in the starting chute.  I recommend not waiting to get to the starting area as it fills very quickly.

Following almost an hour of French motivational speeches and silly attempts at firing up the runners we started at 1630.  The start of the UTMB was crowded and characterized by throngs of spectators and my urgent requirement to pee.  (I had consumed almost a liter and a half of water sitting under the sun while waiting to go.)  I ran the first couple of kilometers focused on getting out of town and away from so many people.  In doing so I got to see Simone’s smiling face one last time at a café we had visited the day prior.  Finally, the crowds thinned and I was able to pull over in between two front yards and answer nature’s call.  YES!

The first eight kilometers out of Chamonix to Les Houches were crowded.  I was surrounded by excited French, Italian and Spanish runners.  Geert and I ran together and chatted a bit, but then became separated because of the crowd.  Upon arriving at Les Houches I grabbed a cup of water and kept moving in an effort to add time to my cut off buffer.  Our next objective, Le Délevret was our first taste of what awaited us “hill” wise.    I rocked down the backside of Le Délevret.  It felt great to be running, the weather was perfect and the ski slope.

Arriving into Saint-Gervais was fantastic!  It seemed as if the entire town was out on the streets with a lot of music playing and crowds of people screaming “Allez!  Allez!  Allez!”.  Saint-Gervais provided the first opportunity to grab something to eat.  I had some fruit, cheese, salami, a bowl of soup and restocked my water supplies.  Getting ready to head back out I checked the time and found that it had taken me about 2:50 to get into Saint-Gervais – tracking with my goal. 

Our next objective was Les Contamines at kilomenter 30.7.  The trek from Saint-Gervais to Les Contamines was a steady, sometimes tedious climb.  I got into Les Contamines feeling good with a nice hour and twenty minute buffer ahead of the cut off time.  To this point I had been sweating profusely and my shirt was soaked through.  When I arrived at the check point I was hot.  By the time I had, had a bowl of soup and was ready to head out into the night I was freezing.  I broke down and switched from a short sleeve to long sleeve shirt and gloves.  Back out on the trail it took about ten minutes to get warmed up again bringing back cold memories of the 2013 Hexenstieg.

From Les Contamines we maintained our upward climb to Notre Dame de la Gorge and Le Balme.  Headed back into this leg of the race brought back many memories of my 2011 attempt.  Le Balme was a welcome site as I needed to restock fluids and eat a bit.  At Le Balme I had gained an additional ten minutes on my buffer and was moving out with a nice hour and a half lead.  As I prepared my kit to leave Le Balme I thought about the next couple of stages with a bit of anxiety as the going is tough and somewhat technical.

The trek up to Croix du Bonhomme (2329m) was a winding, windy, cold trip.  As I progressed to the summit I was surprised to find that the ambient light had appeared to have intensified.  This illusion was brought on by the old snow patches we crossed working our way across the summit.  I was awestruck by the intensity of the night.  The moon had not yet risen and the night was velvet black.  I have not seen stars like I did on this night since I was a kid growing up in East Texas.  The experience was breathtaking and one that will remain with me for many years.  From Croix du Bonhomme we pressed down and onward to Les Chapiuex.  The passage to les Chapiuex was largely uneventful.  I was in my running “flow” and feeling very strong.  I pulled into les Chapiuex with almost a 2:15 hour buffer which was very motivational. 

The push up to Col de la Seigne was again windy and cold.  My motivation to get up and over was simply to get out of the weather and down the back side.  From Col de la Seigne I approached the check point at Lac Combal with trepidation as this was where Chris and I were pulled from the course in 2011 as we had exceeded the ever changing time buffer.  In 2013 I passed through Lac Combal with a 2:30 hour buffer and took about a twenty minute break to eat, drink and re-cock my kit before pushing on for Courmayeur.  

The trek forward to Courmayeur was a gut check.  I embraced the push up the next summit, the trip back down into Courmayeur simply sucked.  We traveled over a hiking path that is shared with the CCC.  The consistency of the trail was a powder dust that was enshrined by the low lying tree and undergrowth.  I don’t want to complain to “loudly” because I can only imagine what it would have been like had it been raining.  This leg would have been a soupy, pudding that would have sucked even more!  Trust me, I was thrilled to finally arrive at the base of the mountain to get back onto a hard ball country road to make my way to the sports center in Courmayeur.  I didn’t get rid of my dust buggers for at least another thirty-six hours.

I arrived at Courmayeur with almost a three hour buffer which was hard to believe after the suck fest back on the trail.  This check point/rest stop was phenomenally organized with a drop bag delivery system with runners routed into a break area to eat, shower, sleep and reorganize.  I took almost a full hour break and restocked my kit while I ate and guzzled a bottle of Mountain Dew.

The trek from Courmayeur to the Refuge at Bertone was largely uneventful.  I struggled early on with chills brought on by my stop in Courmayeur.  The world is a small place when you consider the people you occasionally run into.  On my way up to Bertone I ran into more than three groups of American retirees that were out hiking.  It was funny to chat with them and even nicer to speak with Texans.  I met a lady from Kilgore Texas of all places making her way up the mountain.  How in the world does that happen!?!  The stop at the Refuge at Bertone was beautiful, but largely uneventful.  I had a couple of cups of coffee and moved on.  

I characterize the leg between Refuge Bertone and the base of the Grand Col Ferret as a grind.  It was not much longer eight kilometers, but it was mental grind which slowly works you down in preparation for the assault onto the Grand Col Ferret, the highest summit of the course at 2537m.  Traveling up the Grand Col Ferret I was at a point where I was simply putting one foot in front of the other.  Head down and go…  It was a long trip up.  By the time I summited I had wished that I’d worn my jacket as a raw wind was honking over this bald mountain peak.  I didn’t stay on the summit for long pushing onwards towards the next objective of La Peule.

Looking back I recognize now that I spent myself on Grand Col Ferret.  While working my way up I relied heavily on my toes as I climbed instead of using my forefoot or entire foot.  This stress fried my shins and brought on the shin splints that would later see me drop at Champex-Lac.  Working towards La Peule and onward to La Fouley was another mental marathon.  This portion of the course is a long slow downhill slug fest.  My quads were exhausted and my shins were getting worse with each step forward. 

Although I had mentally broken the UTMB course down between check points and rest stops this six to eight kilometer leg was horrendous mentally and physically.  I exchanged text messages with Simone and told her that “the wheels were coming off” for me and that I was considering coming off of the course at the next opportunity.  Simone was exceptional, sticking with the party line of staying in the race and not sharing in my pity party.  It took some convincing that I was serious about my shin splints and that she should continue to have an ear to her phone in the event I came in. 

Right or wrong I made the decision to drop at La Fouley.  Right or wrong (I know you don’t decide to drop from a race while racing) I decided to pull out.  Trouble was I couldn’t drop at La Fouley – there was no means of getting back to Chamonix.  Super!  I now needed to push through another eight kilometers (uphill) to Praz de Fort.  Mentally I was prepared to do that and trudged on with many Frenchmen and Spaniards passing me and me passing a number of them as we trudged through the dark undergrowth of this climb.  Approaching Praz de Fort I was relieved to hear voices and see a fire going thinking that a parking lot and way out were right around the next switch back.  Rolling into the check point I was devastated to learn that I could not withdraw at this check point.  In order to do so I’d need to continue on to Champex-Lac, an additional six kilometers on up the mountain.  Sweet!

From Praz de Fort I found that I could climb relatively well, but going down even the smallest elevation required me to switch to a crab like walk; move forward sideways.  This was actually somewhat humorous at the time.  I repeatedly passed and was passed by a female German runner.  We exchanged greetings and condition reports.  She told me that she could not go up hill and I replied that I couldn’t go down.  We continued our passing ritual for the remainder of this leg into Champex-Lac.

At about 22:30 on Saturday night I rolled into Champex-Lac and the craziness that this stop included.  Set in a huge fest tent in the woods, this stop included elements of another race, the PTL.  The tent was nauseatingly hot and super chaotic.  I got something to eat and had a couple of cups of coffee.  I sat drinking coffee across the way from the “Drop” table.  As I sipped my coffee I looked into where I was and thought, “Shit…” 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

No Go Barbarossa

Within my training plan for this summer I had registered, paid and trained for, der Hexer's Barbarossa Stage Race, 14 - 20 July.  Unfortunately, work is getting in the way of my plans and I will not be running.

The weather, route and plans are set.  The race briefing goes this evening and the runners set out on what I'm certain will be an incredible event tomorrow morning.  Best of luck to all of you!  Look forward to seeing you at Micha's next event or on a trail out there somewhere...

ThüringenULTRA 2013

I ran my fifth ThüringenULTRA a week or so ago and after each TU I’ve written and posted a race report.  2013’s TU was yet another hit and a brief report is a must!

Let me open by saying that Lauffeuer Fröttstädt, the village of Fröttstädt, all the volunteers and the Race Director Gunter Rothe put on one heck of a good ultra.  Highlights for me this year included the friendly spirit of the race, the countless volunteers and all of their efforts to ensure that the runners had a great event, seeing old friends and making new ones.  The TU is one of my favorite ultras – count me in for 2014!  See this link for last year's report with details on logistics and conduct of the race.

I went into the 2013 TU having just run the Cortina Trail in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy the week prior.  Doing so is part of a training plan I’m participating in leading up to an event in late August.  The idea in running back-to-back (B2B) races like this was to experience running on “race tired” legs and a tired mind.  The TU certainly tested my mettle in this regard.

 I anticipated Gunter’s 2012 TU course changes going into this year’s event.  The first half of the TU is a bit longer and a bit hillier than the second.  The early climbs forced me to expend a bit more energy than I had initially anticipated.  Just prior to kilometer 46 and the rest stop at Bergwacht Hohlebron my legs had become very heavy.  I decided to blow through this water point and keep pushing through over this relatively flat portion of the course.  When I came into kilometer 54 and the Sportplatz at Floh-Selingenthal I was smoked.  By this point I was running low on water and needed to take a few minutes to restock my running pack’s front pouches.  I spent a bit more time at the Sportplatz than I had originally planned.  Watching the minutes tick by I finally grabbed a bunch of stuff to eat on the trail and moved out at a fast walk.

Gunter caught up to me as I was coursing between the Sportplatz and Jobsstein and we had the opportunity to catch up on things.  As usual I probably held him back, but it was great chatting.  At kilometer 59 and the rest stop at Jobsstein I decided not to stop and found that I had regained some energy I was missing back at the Sportplatz.  I left Gunter (hope that he was not aggravated at me for just taking off) chatting with the support crew at the rest stop.  I was able to maintain a relatively consistent pace through kilometer 68 and the rest stop in Tambach Dietharz, but again found that upon arrival there I was running low on gas and needed to eat.

 I think I’ve mentioned this previously, but I continue to re-learn lessons from previous events when it comes to diet and energy.  Failing to hydrate and maintain a certain level of food intake over the course of an event leads to trouble.  The TU and the kilometers after Tambach Dietharz again demonstrated this issue.  I was drinking and eating a gel or other food at hour intervals.  I need to tweak that a bit and perhaps reduce to forty-five minute intervals to maintain a consistent level of physical and mental energy.  I’m also going to experiment with some solid foods, minus caffeine during my next long training events.

Because of the B2B nature of this event and my lack of consistent fueling things got tough as I drew near Tabarz and the 86 kilometer mark.  I found myself walking all of the uphills and struggling mentally to move over the flats.  I was able to talk myself into running while in the forest to gain some time prior to entering what I knew was going to be a scorcher over the fields between Klauenberg and the water point at Langenhain.  

From Langenhain I narrowed the scope of the TU down to the space between kilometer 92, the world famous rest stop at kilometer 95 and the finish line.  The crew at kilometer 95 were on their game again this year rocking to AC/DC and firing runners up with cheerleaders and all kinds of goodies.  After exiting the stop here I finished the TU on will power alone

My mental and physical states at kilometer 96 were exactly where I wanted to be in this event and as part of my training regime.  I was physically tired, growing mentally weak and my will to finish this thing quickly was waning.  It was interesting to follow my cognitive processes as I drew up to finish.  I was able to recognize the seemingly endless chatter that goes on in my head and focus it into a stream of positive self-talk.  It was stimulating to recognize and slip into the here and now of the pain, weakness, hunger and desire to finish.  I’ve never been one to focus on a mantra.  I tend to come up with one and by race time I’ve forgotten it, or allow negative thoughts to carry it away.  During the final stage of the 2013 TU I focused simply on finishing.  I repeated to myself, “Yes, you are going to finish.  And yes, you are going to finish this bugger running.”  Looking back the last five kilometers of the TU were my most rewarding.  I was in a place my mind and body told me I should not be and I was able to overcome both with my will.  Like running itself, I recognize that I need to practice these mental exercises and hope to incorporate them into future training.

The ThüringenULTRA is a tremendous 100KM ultra event that takes place in the Thüringer Wald the first weekend in July.  Many thanks go out to Lauffeuer Fröttstädt, the town of Fröttstädt, all the volunteers and RD Gunter Rothe.  Can’t wait to sign up for 2014!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Day After - Hiking Cortina

And I've got to tell you the hiking around Cortina d'Ampezzo is simply fantastic...

You either did...  Or you didn't! 

Speed Metal Racing - The Cortina Trail

Running loose and low right now between work, family and races, but thought I’d share a super race experience I just had in Cortina d'Ampezzo Italy.

A year or so ago a friend proposed that we race together again.  Her idea included traveling to Cortina d'Ampezzo to join in on The North Face’s Lavaredo Ultra Trail brother the Cortina Trail.  It seemed like a super idea to get together with she and her family, spend a little time in Italy on vacation (always good) and run a 50KM mountain race as part of my 2013 race program!  So we signed up…

We traveled to Cortina the Thursday prior to the race to get settled in and meet up with two sets of friends.  When we arrived in Cortina and into the Friday preceding the race, the weather left a great deal to be desired.  Thursday night it snowed 30cm over much of the course of both races providing an interesting challenge to the organization team and to the runners.  Reports on the Lavaredo Ultra Trail web site throughout Friday illustrated that the team was working hard towards solutions to start the event.  By Friday evening and the race briefing the organizational team had come up with a plan that reduced the length of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail (85KM versus 118KM) and significantly changed the Cortina Trail (47.5KM) course.  Start times for both events were shifted to Saturday morning with the hope that the weather would stabilize enough to allow for a safe running of both courses.

After a couple of days of snow, rain and overcast skies Saturday dawned with blue skies and cool to moderate temperatures.  

Christine and I met shortly after the start of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail to get lined up and organized for the Cortina Trail.  An additional friend joined us as a bandit to run the first ten kilometers of the course.  The three of us were joined by another 743 runners who jumped off at 0900 to enjoy a challenging course over some of the Dolomites most incredible terrain.

The Cortina Trail course was a blast to run.  The first seven or so kilometers were almost straight up an 1800 meter climb.


The back side of this climb was about a two kilometer decent of more than 500 meters.  I have to chalk this portion of the race up as my favorite leg as it covered incredible single track trail that blasted its way down off the mountain.  Going down was like jamming to speed metal – it was a blast!  The next significant climb took us from about kilometer 21 to kilometer 26 and Forcola Lerosa at 2200 meters.

From Lerosa we blasted down almost 900 meters of elevation change and ten kilometers to Malga Ra Stua.  At this point in the race you’ might have been tempted to think, “Wow!  I’ve made it to the rest stop and cut off point at Malga Ra Stua it’s cake from here…”  Not to be friends!  From Malga Ra Stua and kilometer 32 we headed back up to 1800 meters and kilometer 41 before heading all the way back down into Cortina d'Ampezzo and the finish line.

The race course itself was a spectacular mix of mountain single track, hiking and logging trails.  The scenery and environment are simply phenomenal. 

The 2013 Cortina Trail course consisted of two major support areas or check points with two additional smaller stops that only served beverages.  Each support area was very well staffed; organized and outfitted with food, water, and caffeinated beverages to include Red Bull (I drank four over the course of the race!).

The Cortina Trail started with 745 registered runners.  696 runners finished.  The Women’s Winner, Kasia Zajac of Poland came in at 05:03:03, while the Men’s Winner, Oliver Utting of Canada came in at 04:02:21.  The final runner, Giorigo Giacomelli of Italy came in at 12:35:05 – A tremendous effort!

I’ll be straight with you.  After several disappointments associated with The North Face’s UTMB management I had my doubts about any races associated with them.  The organization team of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail is simply phenomenal.  I highly recommend either of these races.  The organization, planning, conduct and support of both of these events are fantastic.  The Lavaredo Ultra Trail is on my 2014 list of must do races!