After my Paris Marathon, I was not into training. I started again mid-may, running some hills to entertain the illusion that I was strong. I heard from Chris (Die Flitzpiepen) about the Salomon Zugspitz Ultratrail event. One week before the ZUT, I met three trail-machines, Sonja, Maty and Ivy who told me I could definitively run the Basetrail Zugspitze, now called XL. The same night I registered myself for the run, with no idea where I would sleep or how I would get there. But… we always managed in a way right? That was the first step to my first trail race…
Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful. – Joshua J. Marine
For the organization of the trip, Olli and Miele (Die Flietzpiepen) were lovely to give me a ride to Grainau together with Jacob. After nice chats and laugh, we finally arrived. Excitement! We collected the BIB, checked the area, and finally decided to meet later for Pasta Party.
I shared the place to live with a machine, Lisa that I only knew from text messaging and phone calls (thanks Maty & Ivy). That was also an organization! I think both of us are really good at last minutes plans B, C or D when A does not work out. It was a lot of fun to find a place to sleep three days before the race.
For this race, I think I did almost every mistake a beginner can do. And I am lucky that everything went well. I tried new shoes, new rucksack, new food during the race, new breakfast before the race, new gears…
And you’re sure, I can run the Basetrail Zugspitze (XL)?
The rain was pouring down, and I was already soaked. We were all so excited, waiting for the gun to go off. My rain-jacket was already out of service, but at this point it didn’t matter. Together with Chris and Alex we were talking a bit, running and smiling. Let’s the Basetrail Zugspitze XL adventure begin. I was mixed between forcing the pace to avoid the traffic jam that was ahead of us or keeping my energy for later – as soon as we left the road, a little single track kept us from moving forward. I was so annoyed, but then I thought: you’re here to enjoy, not to run a time. But in a way I just didn’t understand why people were already walking: it was the beginning of the race! After felt hours, we finally came through. Chris was taking pictures, Alex was far away, but we could still see him. I finally did catch on Alex and helped him be take his sticks out, and I left the guys behind me, finding my own pace. I passed V7 Food and drink station without stopping. After 5K, I still had everything I needed to continue without risks. 30K to go I thought…
I heard trail running is also about encounters
I’ve been flashed by the beauty of nature during this race. The lake before V7 was beautiful. I hope I don’t say anything wrong, I kind of have a blackout about the race, only remembering a few things.
Running on my own, I reached a few people and started running at a similar pace and finally find my rhythm next to this guy in green. We were running next to each other without saying a word but after a few times of running, walking and again running uphill at the same pace, I felt so uncomfortable with this silence that I introduced myself. His name is Gerrit and funny thing, he comes from the region I grew up. Anyway, we agreed to run together but to run our race at the same time. Fair. You can imagine, it’s difficult to have a conversation while running uphill. At a certain point, it was kind of flat and we started pushing. I don’t know if it’s because of the experience on the road, but it was really enjoyable to run faster, and talk at the same time. We were flying over the kilometers.
Around KM14, there is this amazing first downhill. I enjoyed every second of it. It’s a mix of natural wood stairs, rock, mud, and roots. I remember telling Gerrit that it was my favorite part of the course so far. And it still is. The scenery was amazing. You could see at certain points mountain ranges across the woods, water streamed crossing our path… Sometimes I looked up and down to admire Mother Nature’s masterpiece. But not too long. Focus is required, at least a little bit if you didn’t want this scenery to be the last you admire. I really had a blast, stopped for some pictures and went on with running.
Well, this is it. You’re there, you enjoy the downhill, laugh and smile like a child, not thinking that if it goes down like this, you will have to run up again at a certain point. And this uphill was hell. I had the feeling the food/drink station V8 would never appear. But there it was, around KM16. I needed to pee but decided to wait until later. We had some food, refilled the water, took some pictures and started again. The biggest climb was still ahead of us. I kept asking myself how the ultra-machines could do that. I felt a deep respect for them, with a discreet thought, that I would also get there…one day.
The Big C… Climb to the top
Now it was about getting serious and focused. The climbing. I was waiting for it to arrive, expecting this climb as the worst thing to happen. Somehow, I only realized at a certain point that we were actually running/climbing to the top. First I was behind Gerrit, but while catching his breast, he let me pass him and I continued on my own. When you start the climbing you wish gravity is not going to play against you. I did catch myself thinking for seconds of time “what if you slip and fall in the emptiness… Any chances you grab something to save yourself?”, a thought that was soon replaced by my concentration – here, thank you brain. God at this moment I had the feeling that was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. My own little victories during this climb was to pass people who ran with trail sticks. That helped me to keep going when I just wanted to sit down. I kept telling to myself “and you want to run an ultra? Look at yourself after 3h of running”. But I kept going: I really wanted to enjoy the view up-there.
At a certain point, you could hear the people waiting at the top. I felt so relief but then I also remembered Maty saying “you’ll hear them way before you reach the top, so don’t stop pushing” or something like that. And she was right.
At the top. Happy, happy, happy. Overwhelmed with a strong feeling of happiness, not only because I reached the top, but somehow, because being here, at this moment of time, at this moment in my life, after all the hills of the past months – and I don’t talk about Teufelsberg – everything felt right, I felt happy, and wouldn’t have change anything. I grabbed some cuncumber, and saw Gerrit right behind me.
Downhill, down-hell Baby!
After V9 it was all downhill to the finish line. Gerrit and I decided to run & rock that downhill and finish strong together. We first looked at each other like „do you want to walk?“ And smiling „No, you?“ Ha! Music on, brain off and there it was. The best and worst downhill of my entire existence (it’s easy when it’s your first I guess).
It was hard for the knees, for the legs. I mean we already had more than 3.30 hours of running flat, up & down behind us. What I can say for my part is, that I had no safe footstep while running downhill and I really had to focus. Gerrit seemed to have fun and I was mixed between let him run down alone so I could finally walk or follow, despite what could happen… I was so fucked. But on the other hand, after running 80% of the race together, it was a bit annoying not crossing that finish line at the same time. Well, at a certain point Mother Nature and my dearest lovely body did stop me when I crashed on my whole left side, in the mud. At least, it’s good for the skin! It did hurt like hell. And for a few second that appeared to me as minutes, I really had to convince myself to stand up and go on. Eyes closed I kept repeating to myself “stand up, stand up girl, don’t stay here”. Gerrit did stop and stayed with me. I felt happy and lucky he did. I really felt like shit even if I tried to be strong. Ha! In the end we started running down again, me wishing to get over with it. Then I cracked my left ankle too. A woman running down really fast seemed to be shocked when she saw my ankle going in two directions, but here again I am lucky to have the body I have. It was not my time for any injuries and we continued to run the down-hell.
To conclude about this part of the race: you climb and climb up and only wish this downhill to relieve your legs. But then it turns up that this downhill becomes your nightmare because…yeah, downhill ask so much out of your legs, out of yourself. Little note to myself for next year.
After the downhill, 2KM straight through Grainau. We finished together. 30K, +1450m, 04:30:38h, a lot of emotions and memories to take home.
While running, I just wanted to embrace nature, wrap myself around the trees and actually did catch myself skimming the leaves and smiling like a child. Is this the beauty and the effect of trail-running I asked myself. I will not forget the kinds words, the nice gestures such a helping hand to cross a water stream filled with slippery rocks, the smiles, the pain, the care of other runners, the people cheering at the top in the cold, the amazing organization to keep all runners safe. A big thank you to my new friends who told me I could run this and my body to care me to the finish. This weekend was more than a run. Next year I’ll be there, maybe, surely for a longer distance…I fall in love with trail running, and for the next race, I’ll give it my vows.