Saturday, July 23, 2016

Grossglockner 30k Austria Trail Race

When Kiet and I planned this trip to Austria I decided we should run a trail race. The Grossglockner Ultra Trail race offered a nice short 30k (along with their 110k that starts at midnight, yikes!). I immediately signed us up and Kiet said he would run a little before Austria. The website told us we would climb over the highest peak in Austria (awesome!) and see some amazing views. Perfect.

Our morning began at 5:30am with a bus ride up a narrow winding road to the gondola that then took us to our starting point. The race starts out by a beautiful blue-green lake.

Heading down to the start of the race.
We had wondered if we might run on snow and within the first 100m we did. I figured that might be it for our token "snowy run." I couldn't have been more wrong.

Standing at the start Kiet and I noticed that most of the athletes had hiking poles. We felt out of our element only slightly as everyone around us chatted in German.

First mile before it gets spread out.
Within the first mile we were scrambling downhill over boulders, trying not to trip and fall down the mountain. I felt like much of the race passed us in this first mile, but I didn't really care because I made it down the hill without breaking any bones.

The views were out of this world. See the snowy peak wayyyyyyyy off in the distance? Yes, that is where we are headed - to climb directly over the top of it. I am horrible at descending technical, rocky terrain. It seemed like what remained of the rest of the field passed me on the downhills. But when we reached that uphill in this photo I was in my element. I like to climb and I finally felt like I wasn't going backwards anymore.

There were a lot of river crossings. Many of them had log bridges. The ones that didn't I seemed to manage to step directly into the river more times than not.

After climbing over the massive peak (we topped out at about 8,500 ft) and descending a crazy rock-filled mountainside, we arrived at the glacier that we needed to descend to get down to the valley below.

This was by far my favorite part of the race. Trying to run / stay upright / ski-slide down made me laugh nonstop.

After this photo (which makes it look as if we are skilled at glacier running), I managed to slip and slide down half the glacier. 

There were a number of places where we needed to hold onto cables to climb up to a waterfall or around a narrow trail on the edge of a cliff. I loved this and thought it was awesome.

The 30k race had 3,500 feet of climbing and 8,400 feet of descending. On paper that sounds incredibly appealing. In reality it is SO. MUCH. DESCENDING! Oh my, our quads.

The finish was super fun and Kiet and I both agreed we felt we had both just raced an Ironman by the time we were done. I finished in 4:29 and was the 11th female, which I thought was ok for a girl who can't descend on trails.

Thanks to Kiet for laughing nonstop with me and being the best travel friend ever. And especially for signing up for this crazy adventure and for the ability to see the beauty mid-race even when your legs are cramping and you want to kill me for choosing this painful racing venue. Also - all the awesome photos are courtesy of Kiet's mad photography skills while staying upright. Had I tried to be photographer at this race I most likely would have fallen off a cliff, while descending of course.