GARDA TRENTINO TRAIL 2016
Ten hours later and with almost 60 kilometers and over 3500 meters of vertical gain in my legs, I crossed the finish line at around 18:00 in Arco, Northern Italy. I had completed my first-ever Ultra-Trail. I was exhausted. My legs were aching, my energy tanks were empty, but a feeling of accomplishment and joy overshadowed the pain.
At 8:00 the race had started at the lakeside in Riva Del Garda. My bag with the compulsory gear was tightly strapped to my back and I had my race plan in mind. I was filled with sheer excitement to get out on the trail. The initial eight kilometers flew by smoothly. My legs warmed up and I had found my rhythm, before I faced the first of the two steep ascents of the day. The scenery throughout the trail was truly stunning, as the path lead us through the valley. The trails were partly soft and muddy, partly rough and rocky. Just after I reached the highest point of the race at 1782 meters, I arrived at the second aid stations. I refilled my water bottles and had a small bite to eat, before I dove into the descent. The route went downhill for around 12 kilometers until I got to the second uphill stage at the halfway mark.
I slowly started to feel a bit weak and I realized that I kicked off the race too fast and completely forgot to pay attention to my heart rate. So, the battle began. I started to feel a bit dizzy and was unable to eat anything, thus not refueling my energy tanks. It was the start of the inner psychological conflict that I was expecting to face, but could not really prepare for. It is a conflict between your body that says you are mad and should definitely stop, whilst on the other hand, your mind tries or has to tell legs and Co. that all is going to be fine. It was an interesting experience. So, I carried on. The upcoming 18 kilometers to the top became pretty hefty, especially the last five until I reached the second peak. Also, it did not help that suddenly, I had a number of athletes storming past me, making me feel a bit like a douche and wondering whether I just turned into absolute turtle pace. Luckily, my head was still in the right place, and it did not take me too long to realize that those peeps were part of the other two shorter distance races. Eventually, I ascended the second peak. It was breathtaking and motivating at the same time, as I was greeted by a full on 360-degree panoramic view.
A quick look to my left and to my right, and off I went facing the final ten kilometers of the Garda Trentino Trail. At that point of the day my legs were very stiff. Every step was tantalizing. I looked at my watch and I saw the time moving closer and closer to my target time. My goal was to run those 60 kilometers under 10 hours. After nine hours and thirty minutes of running up and down, I pulled myself together and run as fast as I could and the trail permitted. I saw the kilometer signs counting down: 5, 4, 3, I was almost there. I could envision the finishing line, until suddenly I was faced with another set of small ascents. I had no idea where they came from. I must have overlooked them in my pre-race planning. Mentally, it felt like a punch in my face. I was done. I could not run, but walk those final few hills. I looked at my watch once again, only to see a nine turning into a ten. It was pretty frustrating. Exactly 4:08 minutes later, I found myself crossing the finish line of my first-ever Ultra-Trail. The pretty Italian race commentator asked me something in Italian, which I did not really understand, but my reply must have been something along the lines of tutto bene.