Sunday, September 18, 2016

Upper Middle Rheinsteig hike

The Rhein

After spending a week in Chamonix, France hiking, running and enjoying all the UTMB festivities, Dad, Stephanee, John and I headed to Germany to hike the upper middle section of the Rheinsteig. I was a little nervous about the hike because only a day earlier I had run the CCC, but we DNF'd 55km in, so my legs weren't totally destroyed.

Chamonix to Kamp-Bornhofen


We drove from Chamonix to the Frankfurt airport to drop of the car and our extra luggage, since we were flying out of Frankfurt. After 6 hours in the car I was very happy to get out and walk around, my poor feet were so swollen. We took a 2-hour train ride from the airport to Kamp-Bornhofen, where we were going to start the hike the next day. The train ride was beautiful; the majority of it was along the Rhein river and we passed through all the towns we were going to hike through the next 4 days.



Walking to the hotel from the train station
When we got off the train in Kamp-Bornhofen, we had a 2 km walk to our hotel. My dad wasn't too excited about it, but once we got going, it was a pleasant hike through the town. Upon checking into the Gartenhotel we were informed we only had a few minutes before they stopped serving dinner. We dropped our stuff off in our rooms and headed out to the beer garden. We were so excited to get German beers. Well, Stephanee was excited to get a good Riesling. They did not disappoint. We chatted about the hike, had dinner and headed to bed.


German beer!

Kamp-Bornhofen to St. Goarshausen ~22 km / 3100 ft of gain (my Strava stats)

We had great breakfast at the hotel in Kamp-Bornhofen, and started our climb out of town, which was ~900 feet uphill. Which normally is pretty easy for me, but it felt awful. My legs felt heavy and my backpack felt even heavier. I hadn't carried a full pack since we hiked the Dolomites last year but almost immediately I knew I had arranged my pack incorrectly. Once we reached the top of the hill I rearranged my pack and was grateful that we only ran 55 km of CCC. I'm not sure what I was thinking about planning a 4-day hike less than 2 days after CCC.



Sterrenberg Castle
At the top of the hill we were greeted with our first castle, the Sterrenberg Castle with an impressive white tower. We were able to walk through the gates but it appeared that part of the castle had been turned into a restaurant. Only 150m from Sterrenberg was the Liebenstein Castle, I didn't realize they were 2 different castles until I read about them later. Enemy castles of days past.

The trail weaved through the forest and meadows, with amazing views of the Rhein river, which reminded me a lot of the Columbia Gorge.



The Rhein


As we got closer to Sankt Goarshausen, we started to get views of the Maus (mouse) Castle and started to get excited to visit it. Sadly, when we arrive there was a note saying it closed in June. The castle had an amazing door on it with a falcon. Someone said they raised falcons in the castle, but I never verified it.



Maus Castle gate


We made our way to Sankt Goarshausen, checked into our hotel Nassauer Hof. We were informed that the beer garden at the hotel didn't open for a few more hours. So after showering, John and I went to find beer while we waited for Dad and Stephanee to finish their hike. While we drank beer by the river I read that there was a great veggie friendly restaurant on the other side of the river in Sankt Goar. So we decided to take the ferry across the river to have dinner.

Enjoying our beers while we wait on Dad and Stephanee

The restaurant was closed, so we found another place by the river and had an ok dinner. But really any dinner by the Rhein after a good day of hiking is a good dinner in my opinion.


Dad and John telling me they love me


St. Goarshausen to Kaub ~22 km / 3000 ft of gain (my Strava stats)

After breakfast at the hotel we went to checkout and the hotel owner told us that part of the Rheinsteig we were going to hike that morning was washed out and impassable. She gave us several alternative options, and we chose to walk along the Rhein to the statue of Lorelei that sits on an island in the river. From there, there was a path / stairs that went uphill for quite a while to connect us to the Rheinsteig.
The statue of Lorelei
Not long after getting on the Rheinsteig we reached the famous Lorelei rock. Where according to folklore, the beautiful Lorelei would sit on the cliff combing her blonde hair, distracting shipmen with her beauty and song.

The view point from the Lorelei rock



Another statue of Lorelei
The trail traversed through a lot of vineyards, which provided amazing views of looking down the grapevines to the Rhein river.


Views through the vineyards

About half way through the hike we reached a big field with a circle of large chairs, the back of the chairs had some sort of religious symbol on them. I am not sure what they were for, but interesting to see nonetheless.



The circle of chairs
Right before started the descent into Kaub we came upon a cabinet that said, "Sesam öffne dich!" (Open Sesame). So of course we opened it and we were rewarded with little bottles of Riesling wine. Every hike should have a wine or beer box on trail!




Drinking on the trail!

John and I reached Kaub before Dad and Stephanee, so we decided to take the ferry over to the Pfalzgrafenstein Castle, which was a toll castle commissioned by King Ludwig the Bavarian in 1326.


Pfalzgrafenstein Castle
We spent the night at the very nice Rhein Turm Hotel and had an amazing dinner. I was excited that they had a full vegetarian menu. I highly recommend the hotel and restaurant if you are in Kaub.

Kaub to Lorch ~13.5 km / 2500 ft of gain (my Strava stats)

Our 3rd day of hiking was our shortest, which we were all looking forward to, especially since it was supposed to be a hot day. We started with a climb out of Kaub through vineyards with the Gutenfels Castle towering above us. Which at one time was a hotel but closed years ago and isn't open to the public, so we just got to admire it from afar. 


Gutenfels Castle
As we continued along the Rheinsteig we saw trail marker signs with wine glasses on them and signs that said "Weinstand". I got excited that we were going to get another wine box en route. After a few hours we reached the Weinstand, which looked more like beer garden in the middle of the trail, but sadly it was closed. I don't understand why they weren't serving beer at 10:30am, it is Europe after all!


Wine trail marker

Weinstand!

Damn it, closed!
The trail continued along vineyards with excellent views of the Rhein and several castles on the other side. A few of the castles looked to be hotels or restaurants. 


A castle on the other side of the river

As we approached Lorch we encountered another castle, or castle ruins. The Nollig Castle ruins were gated off, so once again we had to view it from a distance.



Nollig Castle 

Lorch is known for its wineries, since we had a short day of hiking we were looking forward to sampling some local wine. Unfortunately, a lot of wineries were closed in August or on Wednesday, but the tourist office did provide us with a wine tasting.


One winery was open and had a restaurant, Laquai, so we decided to have dinner there. I thought the dinner the night before was the best I had had on the trip, but Laquai topped it and the wine was spectacular as well.


We spent the night at Hotel Im Schulhaus.



Lorch to Rüdesheim ~26 km / 3700ft of gain (my Strava stats)

Our last day of hiking was originally 22 km, but when I looked at the map and realized the Sankt Hildegard Abbey was only a few kilometers further with at direct path down to Rüdesheim, I decided we should pay the Nuns a visit. Who wouldn't want to walk a few extra kilometers to taste wine made by German Nuns?

More awesome views
Knowing it was going to be a warm and long day we got started early. The morning was wonderful; the trail climbed up and down through vineyards again. Before descending down into Assmannshausen we came upon another wine box, when I opened it had a scanner that checked IDs to unlock the actual box with the wine. Unfortunately, it wouldn't accept our US driver's license or passports, so I grumbled about it under my breath all the way down to Assmannshausen.

It was nearing midday when we got to Assmannshausen and it was starting to get hot. I also noticed a cable car in Assmannshausen, so I pulled out the map and realized that you could actually take the cable car up to the Niederwald hunting lodge, rather than hiking all the way up. I was tempted for a moment, but too stubborn to actually do it. About midway up the grueling, view-less ascent, I sent my Dad a text message telling them to take the chairlift up and save their energy for the hike to the Abbey. He texted back saying they were going to stop for lunch in Assmannshausen and would probably take the lift up. That meant they were over an hour behind us, I was hoping the long day and heat weren't getting to them.


The tempting chair lift

Once John and I made it to the top we realized we were in the middle of a tourist area. There is a lift that goes to Rüdesheim not far from the Assmannshausen lift, which makes it the perfect afternoon trip for all the tourist who stop in the various cities via boats. I found myself slightly annoyed to be around so many people after 4 days of see less than 10 hikers each day. My first reaction was to get out of the tourist area ASAP, but then I saw a sign for a castle and thought this might be my last chance to actually get to visit a castle on this trip.


Castle ruins


Niederwald Monument
The castle was just a few ruins, we passed through quickly. I was now ready to get rid of the crowds, and head to nuns and wine. Not long after we passed the Niederwald Monument we started to see signs for the Abbey. All of a sudden my mood changed. Then off in the distance we saw the twin towers of the Abbey's church and I got really excited.


Only 1.1 km to go!

The Abbey was gorgeous, I had my glass of wine, bought a bottle to take home and one for Dad and Stephanee, just in case they didn't make it to the Abbey (which they did).


The Abbey


Water on one side and wine on the other
After 4 days of hiking and close to 50 miles, we made it to Rüdesheim!

We celebrated over a wonderful meal in the beer garden of our hotel. The Wandering Wallaces had completed another successful hike!


Celebrating completing our hike!

We spent the last 2 days of our trip drinking beer in Köln and Düsseldorf.


Kölsch in Köln

Alt in Düsseldorf.

Dad and John

Mine and John's lock

Prost!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Girls Gone CCC

At the start


It started with a surprise Christmas gift. Ann informed me that she had payed 50 euros each to put us into the lottery for the smaller sibling of the most famous—and infamous— trail ultra in the world. At 101 km, Courmayeur-Champex Lac-Chamonix (CCC) is a distance we’ve done before, much less daunting than the 170 km of the original Ultra-Trail du Mount Blanc(UTMB). Best of all, the course is set in the Alps, a circumnavigation through three countries of the tallest mountain in Europe, renowned for outdoor enthusiasts and some of the most beautiful views I’ve only seen in photos.

This whimsical gift took a turn about a month later when we discovered that we both got picked in the lottery to run. All of the races we had planned for the year had to be reevaluated. Peterson Ridge 40 miler was still a good way to get our base miles up early, but our big race for the year—the Fat Dog 70 miler—wouldn’t work since it was two weeks before CCC. We cancelled and forfeited the money. 


Got our PEKs (Performance Enhancing Kokopellis) on


The NUT 100k, two and a half months before CCC, would be our proving ground for the distance. And with a difficult 12,000 ft of climbing, the closest we could easily get to CCC’s gobsmacking 21,000 ft of elevation gain.



Then Ann’s injury happened. I ran NUT solo and it truly tested me, both physically and emotionally. It took two weeks before I could get my head back to a place where I wanted to put on my shoes and go for a run. In fact, I only went for a few before a long-awaited two-week family vacation with no running at all.

The crowd corralled at the start-- we're in wave two of three


Six weeks after NUT, I was ready to run. But after my first short, midweek run, I thought I felt a hint of grinding in my right knee when I walked down stairs. After a week and a long run with painful downhills (usually my favorite), I was certain. I made an appointment with Ann’s physical therapist. With four weeks til the race, we were still working up to a decent mileage base— not worrying about more targeted training like climbing, altitude or technical trails—and I was staring down a knee injury.

Stretching at the start line



I rested during the week, but I couldn’t skip the weekend long runs. Sometimes my knee felt better, sometimes worse. Then it was time to go to Chamonix.

Natural slate roofs and mountain views in Courmayeur


After a long journey, we arrived to a gorgeous house right in town where we’d spend the week. The views and weather were absolutely stunning: towering, needle-edged peaks loomed almost overhead, fronting the majestic, smooth snowcaps of the real mountains, reaching down into the valley with glacial fingers. The mountains were so close that we could walk 10 minutes, take a cable car another 10 minutes, and be up to snow in another 10—on both the north and south sides of the valley. I have never seen such vast vertical distances. The sight alone left me breathless.



Our run the first day was difficult, but also freeing. My knee hurt, but it was manageable. More importantly we had no responsibility, no time limit, and an unlimited, interwoven grid of trails to explore. I was nervous about the difficulty of the trail, but excited to experience it—and this mental readiness was what I needed.

View to a single file line of runners


The next day we did a hike that was a demanding, rocky climb up (and then steep back down). Although it was tough, I never faltered, felt like I could keep it going forever, and my knee felt downright decent.



We rested the next two days, had our gear checked, picked up our race packets, and got ready. That last day of not doing much at all was tough. We discussed where John and Fred (Ann’s husband and dad) would meet us and what to bring. I wished the start of the race would come quicker.


Ann enjoying a climb


Then it was time. We woke up, put on our favorite running gear, and walked to the buses that took thousands of runners to the start in Courmayeur, Italy. It was a very normal race start, albeit around ten times the number of people we’re used to. We climbed a fence into our assigned corral, to start in the second wave around 9:15am. The wait was interminable with minute-long snippets of pop tunes (including our own inside-joke, good luck song) punctuating the murmur of the crowd, until finally, it was our turn. With so many people it was a slow surge through the town, spectators and people going about their normal day all cheering for us.

We wound through the close, cobbled streets and then began a steady uphill as we left town. At the first little grassy park, at least two dozen men stood lined up, just off the road, peeing. That was to be a theme for the day. Not only is CCC overwhelmingly run by men (85%), but they stop to pee anywhere and everywhere.


Line of runners, mountain views, and strong sun


Up and up, then we finally peeled off the road and onto the dusty, rocky trail. Almost from that point on, it was all single-file. There were some surprising downhill sections, but mostly we made our way through a forest and out onto the open, grassy hills to tackle the first and steepest climb, up to Tete de la Tronche. The scenery was stunning, with ridges of stony mountains behind us and the bright, golden hills straight up ahead. Runners slowly jockeyed for space as they saw opportunities or became impatient, but more often than not it was finally getting to run only to catch up to a pause in the never-ending, snaking queue.


It's about to get steep



Then the climb began in earnest. I focused on the shoes of the person in front of me and simply putting one foot in front of another. At times it was unbelievably steep. The sun was intense in the exposed mountain air, dust kicked up by hundreds of feet in front and behind. I would look up from time to time to see the line of brightly-colored figures impossibly high above me, crossing a switchback that had been previously hidden by the switchback before that.

If you zoom in, you can see a zigzag line of runners all the way up to the top on the left


It was about three hours before we made it to the top, which we had estimated at about 10 km into the race. We did it, we felt strong, and it seemed the worst was over. We got a welcome single cup of water from the helicopter-supplied point, where they shooed us off to the first aid station "only" 5 km away. Finally, some downhill along grassy ridges among the alpine spires! I was conservative with my pace, so early in the race and with my knee, but it felt pretty good. Still, that 5 km seemed to take ages.

We restocked at Refuge Bertone. I drank all 2 liters of my water (plus electrolytes) in that first 15 km, and fresh water (no electrolytes) tasted amazing. Then we were running the next 12 km section, almost flat with a few ups and downs thrown in.


The first major climb (and highest): Tete de la Tronche


Again, we were caught in the single file and it seemed to take a surprisingly long time to get to the second full aid station at Arnouvaz. They didn’t have much I could eat but I knew I needed something, so I got a bar out of my pack to slowly eat as we ran. Again, I drank my full 2 liters in only 12 km. This time when I refilled, I added a single Nuun tablet. I was amused by (and grateful for) an exuberant man, who didn’t seem to even be a volunteer, telling every runner exiting the aid station tent with gesticulation and exclaimed French to get water from the nearby river rather than the bucket there. Ann and I dipped our hats and bandannas into that cool, clear water, and he was right-- it was heavenly.



Now it was time to attack the second insane incline, Grand Col Ferret. This time I didn’t have the blissful ignorance of Tete de la Tronche. I knew it would a few hot, exposed hours. The trail here was steeper, rockier, dustier. I stared at the feet directly in front of mine and willed myself to keep moving forward, even as people peeled off to rest for a moment. Every step took a full in-and-out breath. I relied heavily on my poles.


Smiling at the top of Tete de la Tronche


Ann ran out of water during this climb and we pulled over at a dirty trough a little past midway. I appreciated the rest, and despite the murky water in the trough itself, what came out of the little pipe at one end was cool, clear and delicious.

Just when I started to think it would never end, I saw a large white dome tent with red spots. As we got closer, a man was shouting “Welcome to Switzerland! Fondue! Cheese! Cows!” and other Swiss stereotypes. It was so funny and unexpected; it gave me a huge boost.


The Swiss board sign behind Ann, the other side had an I for Italy


Looking back down into Italy, it seemed hot, difficult, and distant. Down the other side of the peak was Switzerland: green grass, rolling hills, and best of all: shade. We headed down, still gentle on the pace but steady. It felt like we were finally in the race.

Long line of runners down the ridge to get to the first aid station, 5k away, at Refuge Bertone


There was a brief water stop at La Puele where we thought we had already made it to the big aid station at La Fouly, and I enjoyed that I didn’t need anything but the encouragement of the volunteers and other runners. We continued downhill, chatting with a man from Baja California, Mexico, as we wound back into the trees and finally, steeply down into La Fouly.



By this point I had already downed at least 6 liters of water and only peed once, probably about 7 km in. I had a cup of Coke at every aid station, and tried to have a bit of something to eat, but the only things available seemed to be sweet.  We left La Fouly and I still felt pretty good. We had more downhill ahead of us as the sun fell behind the mountains and early dusk settled in. During this long section we chatted with a woman from Hong Kong and a woman from England who was running with her dad—who himself had run UTMB five times previously. People out for walks or to spectate shouted “Allez” and “Bravo,” sometimes calling our names read out from our race bibs, bringing a rush of emotion and gratitude.

Ann and the Alps


On a bit of uphill, we reached a ridge and a right turn on the course, a natural place to stop. Here we decided the shade under the trees was dark enough in the gathering dusk to dig out and turn on our headlamps. We headed down the rooty, technical ridge, chatting away, when a man running passed asked us (in American) if we were American.



My mired running brain kicked in suddenly: “Jordan!” I yelled, certain. He turned around. We had found the one other person we knew running the race. He ran with us for a bit, telling us about his difficult race so far. He had been stopped at one aid station for two hours, stomach upset, unable to eat anything. He wasn’t doing great and thought he’d probably stop at the big aid station at 55 km, Champex-Lac. We leapfrogged with him for the next few miles.

Lots to smile about

The trail became a gravel path along a river and crossed into a tiny, old town. Sturdy, thick, buildings like barns, made of dark slabs of aged timber hung over the road from either side, giving close, cozy feel. There were some water spigots and groups of kids handing out various things, tables set up here and there. It was difficult to tell where the official water stop was. At one table out front of a small, white house, a family passed out paper cups of hot beverages. 

Ann had been looking forward to coffee, so we stopped and had some. I took a few sips but the acrid taste of instant coffee, black, made my stomach drop and the leftover taste sat sour in my mouth, making me feel nauseous. I tried to think about anything else, but the darkness made visual distraction impossible. That’s when I realized that I hadn’t been eating much, or drinking any electrolytes. I tried to stuff those thoughts down the back of my mind.

We continued on the road through the town, crossed a bridge back over the river, and finally turned up off the road to climb a single-track gravel trail. The sudden steepness surprised me. The course profile map showed a bump of a hill up the 5 km or so to Champex-Lac, but each climbing step had me breathing hard, feeling as difficult as the mountain pass climbs up Tete de la Tronche and Grand Col Ferret. I couldn’t get over how small this hill looked on the course profile map. It didn’t bode well for the next three climbs in the second half of the race.


At the first aid station, Refuge Bertone


Ann was cheerful and chatty, talking to me as I kept falling behind. I was quiet, concentrating on continuing forward. She would wait for me, but I couldn’t keep up. Couldn’t even try to keep up. We hit a technical, steep, rooty section and I felt panic. As sapped as I felt after this half, I couldn’t contemplate doing the same thing again, in the dark.

Finally, finally, after some switchbacks that truly tested my resolve, we came into the Champex-Lac aid station. I saw John standing along the barriers leading in. He and Fred came with us into the tent.


Hut ruins along the trail


Inside was a nightmare. It was the biggest tent I’ve ever seen. Full of people in various states of consciousness, like the set extras from The Walking Dead. Packed with picnic tables and unappetizing, half-eaten food over every available surface. I sat down near the entrance and tried to catch my breath. Ann, John and Fred all asked me what I needed, what they could get for me. My eyes barely focused, and I couldn’t work up the desire to go through my drop bag for the fresh gear and treats I had so carefully packed just 24 hours before. I just sat. Nothing sounded good.

A man sat down next to me and asked me if I was okay. I told him I couldn’t catch my breath, and he said that he had gone to the medical tent and they gave him an asthma inhaler. “But I don’t have asthma,” I said. “Did it really work?” 


The hills are alive


He said it did. But I couldn’t motivate myself to even figure out where the medical tent was.

Then Ann, John, Fred and I started talking about stopping.


Stopping to dip our awesome unicorn bandanas in a cold stream, just after Arnouvaz aid station


I had already rehearsed this one hundred times, silently, in my head during the climb to Champex-Lac. I wanted to resist. Ann cheerfully stated that she was just glad to have made it this far, after her injury in May. Fred and John said we had already accomplished so much.

Then Fred said we only had 7,000 ft of climbing left. I perked up: that would mean we had done two-thirds of the hills and only had one-third left to go. Ann dug out our chart, and as soon as I saw the number, I started to cry. We had climbed a little more than 11,000 ft and had a little more than 9,000 ft to go. Close to half. I knew I couldn’t do what we had just done over again. Somehow that little difference of 2,000 ft made all the difference in the world. I was done.


Starting the second climb to Grand Col Ferret


We gathered our things and went over to the corner of the tent for dropping out of the race. I wish I could remember the word they used on the sign. An official came over and cut the barcode from our race numbers as well as the tags from our packs. I used the Live Trail app to hit “Stop” to let them know I had quit. And then we walked out of the tent. It was so easy, quiet and quick.

Outside of the tent, I changed into my warmest clean, dry shirt from my drop bag that John and Fred had brought. I also dug out a small bag of potato chips I had been daydreaming of. As we walked away from the tent, on the sidewalk along the lake, I noticed other runners also walking, surrounded by their families and friends. At first I thought that they, too, had quit, but I noticed the tags intact on their hydration packs. We were all walking along at about the same pace, but they were still in it. We could have still been in it. That was my first pang of regret.


Made it to the top of Grand Col Ferret
I ate the potato chips and they tasted sweet. The more I ate, though, the more normal they tasted and the better I felt. I seemed to snap back to reality, back from the blur of mind and body that had just consumed me in the aid station tent. I started to piece together that I had been drinking straight water (and lots of it) without electrolytes, not eating much—and nothing salty. The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that I had bonked from lack of salt.



On the hour-long drive back to the house, we saw long lines of headlamps leading down into a valley and then zigzagging up steep hills. I was so glad not to be doing that.

Looking back on Italy from Grand Col Ferret


At the house, we ate, showered, and put our things away. When I took off my shoes I discovered that the blister I knew I had was worse than I thought: two layers, one of them blood-filled. I relaxed in a hot bath and tried to pop it. I FaceTimed with my family for an hour. I didn’t go to bed until after 2am.

The next morning, Ann and I went to the finish line in Chamonix to cheer on finishers. It was beautiful and very emotional. We stayed for quite a while, lost in our own thoughts.


Looking on to Switzerland from Grand Col Ferret


We decided to go for a hike, and we talked about everything. Was there something Ann could have done or said to convince me to keep going? I wish I had taken more of my own food with me, but my pack was so full of the required gear. I should’ve taken more time in the Champex-Lac aid station to see if I could recover. No talk from our crew about the possibility of quitting. The list goes on, but it comes down to nutrition: the need to eat early and often, over the entire race.


Idyllic Swiss countryside 


I saw a course marker and realized we were on the CCC route. We realized that this was the home stretch into Chamonix, down from the final peak. Sure enough, we a familiar face heading towards us. “Baja California!” I shouted. He looked surprisingly clean and cheerful, and stopped to chat with us. Then the three course sweepers, wearing race bibs with “FERME” instead of numbers, walked up and encouraged him to keep going. We wished him luck and continued our hike up to Chalet de la Floria, where we enjoyed the view, a snack, and very well-deserved glasses of wine.

Trail marker and downhill to La Peule


And that was it. We packed up our things that afternoon while looking at CCC and UTMB race stats on the LiveTrail website all day long. We learned that this year's race was just about the hottest on record, with a drop rate about 10% higher than the previous year. That made me feel much better about our first, dreaded DNF.

Ann and family were off to Germany the next day for a week-long hike along the Rhine, and I woke up at 3am Sunday morning to catch a shuttle to the Geneva airport. Our adventure was over.



Definition dirtbag 

In the two weeks since, I’ve had plenty of time to think about the race and distill the causes of what happened. Some of it will forever haunt me: Did I really feel worse than during the Overlook 50 miler or the NUT 100k? But mostly, my takeaway is that I had the experience of a lifetime, running in a gorgeous setting with someone I love to spend vast quantities of time with. And while I’m not in a hurry to participate in any of the UTMB races soon, I can’t wait for our next run—on our home turf in Forest Park, or whatever far-flung race destination we dream of next.


Enjoying the aid station at La Fouly
A note from Ann:

I was going to write a separate post on my thoughts on CCC and our first DNF. But after having a few weeks to reflect on it and looking at our pictures, what it really comes down to is that fact that I got to spend 13 amazing hours in a very special place with my very best friend. If you look at all our pictures during the race, we are smiling and having a blast! 

I was feeling great when we made the decision to DNF and I have been asked why I didn't finish the race. The simple answer is I didn't want to do it without Susan. If I would of been 10km from the finish maybe my decision would of been different. But years from now when I look back at this race, I am not going to remember the DNF, I am going to remember the fun we had while we were out there running and hiking. 

We learned quite a bit, some of it I should of known by they way she reacted to the heat during Overlook. I was eating at every aid station and assumed she was too. I could of pushed her more before she decided to DNF, but you live and learn. 

I am pretty sure I will be back to Chamonix, maybe just to do OCC. Having the opportunity to experience the energy and excitement around UTMB is amazing. 

Rays of the sun setting on the other side of the Alps

Sunset glow heading along the river down to Praz de Fort

In a daze (Susan) and feeling strong (Ann) at Champex-Lac
The UTMB/CCC finish line