It was clear that I needed a target for my motivation to work towards something. As the events were unfolding with my University I knew I had to do something. My girlfriend mentioned the Swissalpine Marathon in Davos some time ago and this got wired into the brain. As I got back home to Switzerland and did some good training in the Alps I thought all of a sudden that I could be able to do this race a week before the race. After some discussions I knew I should give it a try. When I got a starting place I knew it was real now - and that was 4 days before the event. A few days of tapering and working on my running ABC the body just had to be ready.
We travelled on Saturday morning to Davos where I took the train to Bergün where the start of the K42 is. It is the bottom part of the main race which is 78 kilometres long but covering most of the inclines. I knew the course very well from maps and pictures and had already a good idea what was waiting for me. In Bergün I got my bib and went with Lukas Gehring for a warm-up. Lukas is an athlete I know from my early days in Duathlon. As we were just warming up with only a few minutes left before the start Sandra surprised me to be support me already at the start in Bergün. We planned that I would not see here until the other side of the Sertigpass. But here she was and she passed me the much needed water bottle which I used to cool down my body. Here is one of my personal secrets: When did Noah build the Ark? Before the rain! So start to cool down your body before he is overheated which is already before the start.
Standing behind the starting line and waiting for the starting signal Andrea Tuffli appeared the give us the best wishes for the race. He is the great organiser for the past 30 years of this fantastic event who went forward with it and re-invented this race many times to make it more attractive.
With Martin Lustenberger the oldest of the brothers also started in this race and was apart from Lukas the only person I knew who could get dangerous. The course does a 6 km introduction loop around Bergün (1383 masl) before it joins with the full distance. Very soon it was only Lukas, Martin and me. In the first uphill I thought it would be quite quick so I stayed behind and would see what is going to happen. In the downhill I thought it was a bit slow and just let my legs go and so I was on my own coming back to Bergün. "This is dangerous, don't overdo it" went through my mind. Sandra passed me another water bottle as I came through the town which I emptied completely over my body. As I went on it was clear that I had to stay calm and just run as I would in a training because its going to be a long day.
I enjoyed leading the race and never looked back really as I did not want to push myself to much. I got further up to the Keschhütte (18km, 2632 masl), the first pass before you cross to the Sertigpass. I could feel the lack of oxygene and looked on my watch. I was aware that I was on a similar pace as last years winner Bundi. A quick look back and all I could see was runners from the full distance so I kept going. Here I grabbed a wrong cup and poured an isotonic drink over my head. After a first shock I didn't care to much and tried to forget about it.
After the traverse towards the Sertigpass the runners from the S42 joined our course. Now it got a bit tricky. There were now not only the K78 runners but also a lot of runners which are doing the same distance on relatively similar course but started 2 hours earlier which means they are roughly half as fast as I was because by that time I was already 2 hours on my way.
I climbed the Sertigpass (24km, 2739 masl) next to the trail because it was blocked by other runners which was annoying. Once I reached the top of the pass the steep and technical downhill started in this rocky section. Instead of the best line I was doing a slalom around runners in flat trainers which were just not made for this sort of course (especially when they would slip on the snow). So because they were anxious they were not only slow but also unpredictable.
However I made it down to the Sertigdörfli (1861). I felt still ok even though I was pushing the downhill hard but the shocks from downhill running were noticeable as well as the distance. Sandra was waiting for me here to supply me with a gel and drinks. I was quite relaxed as I did not expect anybody to catch me now. A quick look on my watch showed with a 4 min/km average I would make it to Davos just under 3:30 so I had a goal. I soon realized that would not be easy as the course is not exactly straight and slightly undulating. I started to suffer but what else did I expect? After all its the Swissalpine Marathon! So I made sure I would make it save to the finish in Davos. Exhausted and happy I reached the track in the center of Davos after 3:33:52 hours.
I absolutely loved this race and I think I will be back for more. I know what to expect if I would have the silly idea to do the full distance one day. I am looking forward to it though ;)
And finally a big thank you to my love who was looking after me throughout the course which is hard work - and this on her own birthday!
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