With only days left until the first stage of the 2013 Transalpine Run, our training is in full swing. Run. Eat. Sleep. Repeat (squeeze in ‘work’ somewhere). What better way to spice up our training routine than with a healthy choice of Europe’s finest (and steepest) mountain races?
Markus got a taste of Basque trail running extravaganza at the legendary Zegama Marathon in May. This race, held annually at the small mountain village of Zegama, Spain, is as famous for its extremely technical course as it is for its frenetic spectators. Imagine fans turning the road into a tunnel of cheers like at the Tour de France- except where you’d expect to see road, there is only super steep and rocky terrain. Markus had a tough day, but still bursts with excitement when talking about his experience at Zegama.
After a solid top-20 finish at the prestigious Schneekopflauf mountain race in the East Part of Germany, Markus went on another excursion to the Skyrunning circus. The European Championships were held in the town of Canazei in Italy’s striking dolomites area. Extremely steep climbs over ski slopes, single trails, loose rocks, ice and finally freezing granite on the top of Piz Boè (more than 10,000 ft. of altitude) were on the plate at the Dolomites Skyrace. Going into the race with stomach problems, he suffered on the way up but had a great downhill run. Italian Skyraces do not hold back with extremes when it comes to technical running.
My own race schedule in preparation for the Transalpine Run included a week of training in the Bavarian Alps in mid-June. To be perfectly honest it was the first time I have ever been in the Alps. Call it love at first sight! I logged plenty of quality miles, enjoyed local artisan food and ice-bathed my sore legs in the crystal blue mountain lakes. To round off my little impromptu training camp, I finished 25th overall at Zugspitz Basetrail. The race included 36 kilometers of rocky trails (including 1,900 m of elevation gain) around Germany’s tallest peak. It made for a truly memorable mountain racing debut!
Next up for me was Zermatt Marathon in the Swiss Alps in early July. This race features 2,000m of climbing and a finish line at 2,600 m (8,500 ft) above sea level. While I just missed my goal of a sub 4 hour finish, it was one of the best running experiences I have ever had. It’s hard to properly describe the breathtaking views of the famed Matterhorn and the surrounding peaks from the finish line. Let’s just say they made me forget my burning lungs during the unforgiving final climb.
In early August, Markus and I both raced Sierre-Zinal, Europe’s oldest mountain race. With 31K and more than 7,000 ft. of vertical, it is the perfect test run for what awaits us at Transalpine this weekend. Each day, eight days in a row. I can’t wait!
Be sure to read about the first stage of our training here and check back for race results from the Transalpine Run!
Hendrik Auf’mkolk is a 29-year-old running enthusiast currently based in Frankfurt, Germany. He works as a trainee lawyer and roams the trails in the nearby Taunus mountain range. Follow his blog at 42195blog (in German) or check out his Facebook page for updates on training and racing. You can read Markus’ blog here.