Sometimes, it’s just hard to deal.
Not that ultramarathons were ever easy, but you learn to deal with that.
This, my fifth participation in the mountain marathon around the Traunsee lake, was another one of those hot and muggy times in the Salzkammergut, and things went differently from the times before, yet again.
With some stomach discomfort at first and suffering from the effects of the temperatures, it was hard.
It was also beautiful, though, and this time I brought a spherical camera (an LG 360 Cam) to play around with and immerse you in the scenes from the trail.
It doesn’t work out as well as one would wish, but it’s a start (at an affordable price and an okay quality for that price), even if I have to recommend watching on a small screen rather than going full-screen (when the limits of resolution show very much):
Here’s how this trail looks as a Suunto Movie:
This time around, I also went for a different shoe strategy.
For the first half from Gmunden to Ebensee, over the Grünberg, Traunstein, Daxnersteig – basically, over the toughest of the mountain trails on this course – I used the Icebug Acceleritas5 RB9X.
Their very low sole meant that I felt the ground only too well at times, but also felt fast and nimble. And with the RB9X rubber and the “tractor tread” on the sole, on dry rocks and muddy trails, they proved Icebug’s claim to “Super Hero Traction.”
For the second part, from Ebensee to Gmunden, with somewhat easier mountain trails and quite a bit more road running – and still enough muddy rocks and roots on singletrack, especially down from the Feuerkogel – I danced along in Icebug’s Mist RB9X. (The same shoes I’d already used for the Hochkönigman trail race.)
I would eventually finish in 12:05 hours, a little faster than I ever finished before.
This is one of the main reasons I keep returning, besides this run simply being beautiful and something of a local family affair (even having grown to some 400 participants): growing older, not feeling particularly consistent in training, it’s especially nice to compare and see that, slow as I am compared to “real runners”, I’m still trending faster.
It was still hard to deal.
Police arrived, looking for the race organizer, shortly after I was finished, showered, refreshed, safe from the downpour that had started in the meanwhile.
Coming down from the Gmundnerberghaus, where my dad and I had gone for a post-race meal on the last mountain along the course, there had been as many firemen as we’d never seen before, amassed for something. And even helicopter support.
It was only the next day we found out, and I was able to slowly connect, the reasons for these things:
There was a participant in this race who never made it back home.
He was “only” doing the half course from Ebensee to Gmunden.
Pretty much as one should, he’d called his family to say that he didn’t feel well and he’d drop out.
Hours later, when he still hadn’t arrived back, his girlfriend alerted the authorities and the search began.
They only found his body the next day.
In the time in between, he’d been reported as having sat by the wayside exhausted, but feeling good enough to tell others who passed by and offered help that he was alright.
At just about the same time, still two mountains further away, I was sitting on the trail telling people that I was a bit too hot but going to be alright.
While he must have started struggling and come off the path, I went past that same area happy to have managed to deal (after what amounted to a jump into the cold creek near where I’d been sitting, and having used water to cool down any chance I had got since then).
Right on that mountain where he went to his death, one of the places on this course that is truly easy to walk, I’d turned away from the stopwatch display on my watch so as to avoid being driven by anything but my feeling of how slow or fast I should still move.
That was the extent of my issues then and there (and the heart rate display not feeling like a very reliable indicator of exertion anymore), as I moved past somewhere that his life was lost.
As I reel at the thought of a young life lost, though, I think we also need to remember the many people who dropped out and had no more ill effect than maybe some sense of hurt pride.
The refugees who tried to get away from truly terrible circumstances and failed, never to be heard of again.
The people who’ll say that such events are just too dangerous while they sit around eating junk food or drive in cars, effectively engaging in one or the other of two of the most dangerous activities of this day and age.
Of course, being pushed into the proximity of death relativizes everything else.
All the drive to faster times and prettier photos doesn’t count for anything much in comparison – and yet, the stories of life well lived only become more relevant when we are forced to remember that we’ll never know when, how abruptly, without any concern for our need for closure, they’ll just be at their end.
So, please, get yourself checked out by a doctor, learn how to deal the best you can with the conditions you may encounter – and see you out there.
I’ll be doing a running coach certification this fall, and my first advice as coach will be to get yourself checked out.
Second: Do not overdo it with the training.
Third: Enjoy. You never know how long you will.