"In most parts of France, they climb 'French Free'. In Chamonix they climb 'French Expensive'."

- Tim

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Swiss mountain running

On Sunday’s mid-morning, Paco, ElĂ­as and I took the train to Zurich and met with Frank (Paco’s friend who lives there), who accompanied us to the hostel where we stayed and he talked of close places to go for a hike and maybe do some running. The best option was in the Engelberg area, near Lucerne and where Titlis is located, a mountain of 3,238 m where there is lots of tourism and outdoor activities. On early Monday we took the corresponding trains to Engelberg and spent most of the day doing an incredible run/hike/climb in the mountains. We found almost everything: moisture, snow, clouds, a via ferrata and very technical trails surrounded by beautiful scenery. We had a great time, as we finally felt that the trip to Switzerland gave us something of what we had come to experience. We returned to Zurich in the evening, for a walk with Frank and his family, have dinner and toast the good times shared despite the recent disappointments.

On Tuesday each one took his plane back home and once there we found out the official statement from the Irontrail organization. The explanations weren’t big, but they cataloged the weather as “capricious” and even “critical” during the first night of the race, with mist that made the marking inconspicuous thus putting the runners at risk of hypothermia, because some were not properly equipped and even noted that they didn’t meet the “high standards” (merits) to participate. In short, they apologized for their inefficient organization and stressed that in future editions this won’t be a reason to stop the races, so they will set a qualification system in order to participate. The T71 and T21 runners were offered a free registration for this year’s Swissalpine and the T201 and T141 runners were thanked for getting an overnight soak in vain. Sons of a b*tch!

One of my many questions to the organizers would be: why not disqualify the “inappropriate” runners instead of shutting down the race to everyone else? It’s assumed that there are “race officials” along the route, to ensure that the “regulations” are complied! They make us carry rain gear, maps, GPS, food, first aid kit, and so on… Just to be stopped at the first cloud that settles above the mountain? I’ve been fortunate to participate in a decent number of these races and didn’t really notice anything different about the weather with regards to others. In fact, we had what would be expected at a mountain race in full rainy season, and I even think that I’ve experienced worse weather in others (e.g. the UTMB in 2011) and yet the organization has managed to coordinate at the presence rain, snow, wind, heat, landslides and more. Anyway, what was supposed to be the “hardest single stage race in the Alps” became the worst fiasco that I have experienced in this absurd sport. The organizers have left too much to wish for, a lot to talk about and very little desire to return…

Much of my anger is also because I spent a couple of months doing literally “everything” to relieve a peroneal tendonitis that I acquired due to overtraining and which truly put me in a halt for six weeks, and which was also very painful. I spent money on different doctors and useless medicines, and even canceled my participation at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail (of 120 km) in the Dolomites, which took place (and without trouble) one week before the Irontrail and which I sacrificed for the much-anticipated Irontrail that was supposed to be the best of the year. Due to the uncertainty of my recovery, I ended up buying on short notice plane tickets for a price that could well have taken me to New Zealand and where I got the most uncomfortable seating options ever. I returned from the trip with more weight on me (thank you, carbo-loading and consolation beers) and with very little desire to enroll at any organized race. Ok, I admit it, I’m just “a little” angry…

Rest of the photos are here or in the slideshow below:

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