Sunday, June 29, 2014

Zugspitz Ultratrail 2014

Southern Germany is one of those singularly amazing places in the world that has the potential to host an exceptional mountain ultramarathon.  Anchored in the village of Grainau and coursing around the Zugspitze Massive the Zugspitz Ultratrail (ZUT) is destined to become a classic among international alpine ultras.

Hosted by Plan B and sponsored by Salomon, 2014 saw the forth running of the ZUT.  From registration through post race activities the ZUT and Plan B are simply exceptional.  I highly recommend both participation in the ZUT (I’ll be back again!) and events hosted by Plan B.

713 runners started the ZUT under slightly cloudy skies at 0715 on 21 June.  Temperatures were cool, but bearable considering the alpine environment.  As the day progressed we were treated to ideal running conditions under mild sunny conditions.

The ZUT course traverses 100 kilometers (61 miles) and 5,400 meters (17,841 feet) of climb coursing over some of the most beautiful trails in the Alps.  The route travels over multiple ski slopes and some of the best single track trail I’ve run in Germany.  Yes, 5,400 meters (17,841 feet) of climb!  The crowning achievement is getting back down from Aid Station 10 with only about six kilometers left in the course.  Over the course route runners are treated to sweeping views of the Zugspitze Massive.  Spectacular trail carries you across the northwest face of the Zugspitze Mountain, the Gatterl, Scharnitzjoch, Ferchensee and the Osternfeldern.

As the old adage goes…  Pictures tell a thousand words.  I’ll let some of the impressions frame a bit of this report from here…

501 runners finished the ZUT within the allotted twenty-six hours.  Although, cut off times at each check point and the overall time limit are generous, the demands of this alpine ultra take their toll on the uninitiated.  I don’t recommend this race as a first 100KM or alpine event.  Plan B offers four races under the capstone of the ZUT.  These include the 100KM Ultratrail, 79KM Supertrail XL, 60KM Supertrail and 35.6KM Basetrail.  Each demands a certain level of ultra running and alpine experience.  None are for the uninitiated.

The top finishers put on an amazing show in 2014.  Twenty-eight year old Stephan Hugenschmidt of Radolfzell was the overall winner with a teeth gnashing finish in 10:35:50.  Among the women, forty year old Anne-Marie Flammersfeld dominated the finish in 13:53:21.  I walked away feeling way too good with a 22:15:03 finish.  Unique in corporately hosted and sponsored events the ZUT and Plan B have developed an “every racer is an important part of this event” attitude.  The final finishers were greeted and celebrated with as much hullabaloo as those at the top.  Celebration of all continued well after everyone had left Grainau on the Zugspitze Ultra Facebook and Web sites.     

As each day passes since my 2014 ZUT finish I yearn to get back out on the trail and run this amazing race again.  Plan B – Count me in for 2015!