Images by Carel Du Plessis of Black Line London’s annual Box Hill challenge. 20 reps, great friends and LOTS of cake.
Writing my Trans Alpine Run race report was a challenge in itself, such was the off the scale epicness of the event, but here goes….
My wife Aléchia surprised me one day last year with an entry to this race. The GORE TEX Transalpine Run, 260km , 8 Days and through 4 countries, out of her mind as usual. I was training for the London Marathon anyway so how much harder could it be.
After a PB at the London Marathon and chuffed to bits, we set our mind to the Alps. Training switched from the flat road to trail and hill work, North downs, South downs and Wimbledon common were our training ground, not exactly ideal but that’s what south west London has to offer. Hours put in, or so we thought, off to Munich and on to Oberstdorf. Maintenance work on the railway made us feel right at home and with a bus replacement service (foreign to all the Germans and Austrians) we arrived safely.
We opted for the Hotel accommodation during the race instead of the camp. Knowing what I feel like after only a single marathon, a comfy bed would make this race that little bit easier. We were delighted to find that our first night stay was only 30 meters away from registration and the start line for the first stage, result! At registration we got our duffel bags, arm warmers, buffs and all the rest. Dropped everything off that the hotel and off to the pasta party. The race has pasta party every night complete with prize giving for each stage, local entertainment and photos and videos of the day to go along with the food and beer. The first night consisted of an small opening ceremony along with a very long race briefing. By 11PM you could see many tired eyes around you, 650 athletes longing for a good nights rest.
Race pack packed and off to bed. Our duffel bags were left at our Hotel reception every morning to be collected and transported to our hotel in the next town, very well organised.
This first two stages were tough to say the least, along with rain and cold weather this was going to be a challenge unlike anything we have faced before. Day one went well, we completed the 35km in 8h30m, happy with a steady pace staying injury free.
Day two, the the clouds rolled in. Persistent mist, wind, rain and freezing conditions over the last mountain made the 24km stage feel endless. Aléchias knees were starting to feel the strain from the alpine terrain and on the decent into St Anton we found ourselves pushed to make the cut of time. We missed it, by 10min, but due to the bad weather conditions we later received word that the time limit was extended.
The morning of day three, to start or not to start, that was the question Aléchia had to consider, knees swollen and in a lot of pain, she decided to crack on. Only to have to stop after a few km. A tough decision, but the correct one to prevent serious injury to her joints. The four days of rest also allowed her to run the last stage and cross the finish line by my side. I finished stage 3 in good time with my ankle and knees also starting to provide me with a warning that its going to be a long week.
I continued on through stages 4-7, going though all sorts of issues with an over extended ankle and the usual knee issues from 8 days of consecutive pounding over the alpine terrain. Towards the end of stage six I was really thinking of putting an end to the whole thing when I took 2h30m to complete the last 8km decent into St Valentin. Pure agony as I could hardly put any pressure on my left foot and had to use my trekking poles as crutches. The penultimate day I took it easy and by the end of stage 7 I managed to put in a blistering decent with very little pain, not sure if it was the heavy dose the ibuprofen or arnica that made the pain go away, but pretty sure that all my prayers during the previous days were being answered. I crossed the line in Sulden knowing that the last day is going to be though, but that I will finish this race for sure.
The last morning and with Aléchia by my side I was overcome by emotion. 7 days of the toughest racing I have ever done was behind me, just 42km more to go. The last stage was the toughest by far, the extremely rough terrain over the last 15km was covered at snails pace, our bodies pushed to the limit once again but 8h30m later we crossed the line in Latsch, my best friend at my side and in that moment I knew that every step was worth the effort.
Now, two weeks later, sitting back on my sofa, a sore knee and ankle reminding me that I am still in recovery mode, the race still seems like a blur. Got the race photos and all of my GOPRO footage together and try to get to grips of that just happened.
This is one epic race, I have never before experienced similar emotions during a race and trying to put everything into words is so difficult, especially being a photographer and preferring to communicate through images. So I made this video to try and show what a great week I had.
A more comprehensive day to day blog of the race by Aléchia can be found here.
This is not a race, its a journey. Not just over the Alps, but a journey of knowing yourself. Meeting the most awesome and inspiring people along the way, whilst seeing some of the most beautiful places in the world. I can seriously recommend the Transalpine Run to anyone looking for an extreme challenge, I am already looking forward to my next stage race as I am definitely hooked.
And as the race says…”KEEP ON RUNNING”