When one picks up and moves to Austria, the term "local trail scene" quickly takes on epic proportions. Big mountains, epic events, and cheering crowds that line courses that venture beyond the clouds...this is how they roll. The 2019 adidas Infinite Trails World Championship (aIT) was my first event as a local, and HOLY COW did it deliver on all fronts. Super fun, but I clearly have some work to do to step up my local game!
|(Team NBG - Nik, Dave, Allan, and me)|
|(The Prologue was steep!)|
|(Tim Olson gets a quick photo with the NYC adidas Runners as the sun comes up)|
|(Allan is stoked!!!)|
I came to the 4am start to see Allan off, then hung around to chat with runners in the start queue. Jessica Zapotechne (whom I had met at the Boston Marathon) had an all-women crew from NYC, while my new friend Sum Singh Mattu from London was one of many tackling his first trail run ever. Wow! Kana Nagayama was running anchor for her mixed team from Japan, while Boulder, CO-runners Anthony Lee and Bailee Mulholland would be joining me on the 60k loop for their respective teams. We all spoke about the weather factor - it was already 80 degrees, and likely hitting the mid-90's by the time we were to finish.
|(Allan tags me for Loop 2)|
|(And I'm off!)|
Allan blazed through the 25k, coming in 17th (!) to give me the hand off just as the sun was coming up. I got my cheer and a few hundred high fives from the crowds, and climbed up to a "weg" (path) above the valley floor to cruise ~10k to the first big climb, Graukrogel. One of the runners I paced with, fresh off the Mozart 100m a few weeks before, was super excited for this climb because it "gets so technical". Hmmm, not sure if I caught that in the briefing! There was a section on that map that said "no poles allowed", so perhaps that is what he is referring to?
|(Here comes that sun!)|
|(Graukogel, here we come!)|
|(Ah, that feels nice!)|
15km in, the course markings headed up some scree to the spine of the mountain, and I began to understand why there was a "no poles section". It was straight up, all hands required! I slowed to keep myself together, easily losing 40 places along the way as the locals danced up the granite slabs.
|(To the top!)|
|(Here is the "no poles" section...I see why! Photo by Ian Corless)|
I made the turn at the top, and got some high fives from runners while plunging down the steep meadows to cruise up the next valley towards the second climb (23k). This was taking much longer than expected, but then again, I didn't know what to expect! Welcome to the Alps, yo. Course markings were immaculate, and there were plenty of volunteers, so no worries.
|(Whip out those poles!)|
|(Hop, hop, hop! Volunteers having fun)|
Allan was a welcome site at Bockstein (30k), urging me to take more electrolytes as I chugged a liter of 50/50 water and Coke, desperately catching up on calories and hydration. I apologized for losing so many places, but he just laughed and told me to have a good time. Our Team Captain, Nik, was apparently putting in more km's than all of us helping his friends at various points on the course. This was all about fun!
|(Watch your step!)|
As we approached the spine of Stubnerkogel (42km), there was a long mountain meadow that took some group hollering to keep everyone on track. I quickly figured out if I saw marmots and squirrels, I was probably too far off the main route. The volunteers rang huge cow bells to get our attention, filling our hands with snowballs as we passed.
|(On top of the world! Thanks for the photo, Nik)|
|(The finish is right there...how far could it be? Ha, ha)|
At 10:30pm, my alarm went off (good thing I set it!), and it was time to head back to the finish line for our final 1k loop. Dave came in looking great! We had plenty of time before the cut offs, which had already knocked out more than half of the teams, so we soaked in the last 1k as a team. Today, we would finish! 58th place, not too bad.
|(Getting it done...there's no better feeling)|
|(Now time to chill!)|
The adventure continues...