After the DNF
Two weeks after my DNF at the Bieler 100, I tackled the Brixen Dolomiten Marathon. The lead up to this marathon had been anything but ideal. It’s amazing what kind of a tizzy a DNF can send you in despite the support from friends and family. My ankle was still not feeling 100% up to a few days before the race. On the Wednesday before the race I decided to go see my physio therapist at Reha Prime. As Andre, the owner of the clinic, told me at my first consultation two years ago, more than half of an injury is in your head – the worry about exacerbating it, of getting injured again, the what ifs and fear are something each athlete needs to overcome to get back to their sport. I’ve always had this with an “escape” plan during the race. The good news from my physiotherapist, Bernt, was that my ankles, joints and legs were healthy, but my lower back was tensed up and I needed to do more 3D stretches. (See below). As I wrote about Biel – if my body says the pain is too great, and I think I’m going to do serious damage, I’d rather quit, recover and run another race than experience one last painful victory. Quitting still sucks though. The other thing that had my runner mind thinking was reading Running with the Pack by Mark Rowlands. This captivating philosophical treatment of running also talks a great deal about the injuries and struggles of running, which had me worrying about that even more – probably because of the mental state I had going into the book.
Getting to Brixen
I travelled with the train from Zurich to Brixen in Südtirol (Bressanone, Alto Adige) on Friday arriving shortly before 5pm. The hostel I stayed in was ideally located about 150 from the starting line, where our start numbers could be collected. The atmosphere was brilliant. On the square in front of the cathedral were hundreds of runners enjoying pasta, sausages, beer and of course gelati. A brief summer downpour did nothing to keep people away. There was a band playing everything from ACDC to Robbie Williams and people were excited. At 9pm I returned to my room and read a little before falling asleep with the band still rockin’ it on the stage on the square.
To say I had a good night sleep would be an overstatement. My mind was full of thoughts. Was it my ankle, work, big world problems, or a girl who had recently gained my attention? It’s hard to say, but the romantic in me would like to think that it was the girl.
I woke up at 5:35 got dressed and had breakfast – müesli, coffee and a slice of bread. Then it was off to the starting line. There was lots of excitement and the early morning drizzle had stopped and sunlight started to spill into the cities ancient cobblestone streets. Brixen is unique – not quite German and not really Italian, but a wonderful mix of the two. As the starting shot was fired it was around 18 degrees in the city and the racers started on their way. After just 5km it already starts to go up.
On the flat I took it easy – ankle was all good. Going up no problems. Breathing and stamina in check. Already at km 5 there were refreshments to be had. I didn’t want to tackle this race too hard because of one, my ankle, which I know I keep harping on; two, that I’m supposed to run in Zermatt a week later; three, despite looking at the course before hand I didn’t really know what to expect. Fortunately, I packed in my Cloudrunners and my Dynafit Feline Superlights. After talking with runners who knew the course I was made confident that the Cloudrunners would be best as there is a great deal of tarmac.
Here comes the rain
At kilometre 10 it started to rain again, and all I could think of was please don’t let this last too long. I wanted to see the impressive Dolomites that like walls of limestone seemingly shoot out of the ground. By kilometre 20 the rain had ended again and I thought that the clouds and fog would lift. At this point we were back on tarmac. Unfortunately the clouds and fog were not lifting though after kilometre 25 we needed to gain more elevation. The hiking trails were great for running on and did not have too many hindrances really allowing for a good flow. At times though the fog was so thick that I could hardly make out the trail. Kilometre 33 saw us move on to higher alpine trail, and levelled out for a bit, which was needed to increase my pace, but I knew that at kilometre 39 the final climb was waiting which saw us going up another 400 vertical meters to the finish. It was a steep ascent and the temperature was dropping. Getting up the the highest point and expecting the finish line there were race organisers waiting to tell us just 700 meters to go. It’s rewarding having the end of a race flatten out because it allows a runner, almost not matter how exhausted to collect some energy and finish the race strong with a nice powerful pace.
Crossing the finish line, I was happy to have run this beautiful race, though the weather had taken away much of the grand panoramic views I and no doubt many others were hoping to experience. On the plus, the race was held on the original course and we made it to the top of the Telegraph. Up top the temperature was a chilly 6 degrees, which meant that I didn’t spend a great deal of time up there.
The organisation, atmosphere and course in Brixen all make it a very enjoyable mountain marathon for anyone looking for new races. The 2340 meters of climb also set it in a category of alpine races in Europe that give you that extra bit more altitude. Shoes are important and though the last 8 kilometres are on high alpine trails, a sturdier road running shoe will serve you fine. Unless you can arrange to change shoes at kilometre 25 a trail shoe will be overkill and not feel comfortable on the almost 20 kilometres of tarmac running.
With its almost constant climb the Brizen Dolomiten Marathon is a challenge. The winners put in great times. The winner in the women’s category, Edeltraud Thaler, won the race for her fourth consecutive time, while the men’s winner. Hannes Rungger, set a new course record.
1. Edeltraud Thaler, 1966, IT-Lana d’Adige 4:19.38 (1)
2. Anna Pedevilla, 1973, IT-St. Vigil in Enneberg 4:35.32 (384)
3. Doris Weissteiner, 1977, IT-Klausen 4:40.54 (310)
1. Hannes Rungger, 1982, IT-Sarnthein 3:25.28 (5)
2. Petro Mamu, 1984, Eritrea 3:27.52 (372)
3. Lorenzo Trincheri, 1970, IT-Dolcedo 3:48.16 (6)
Basic Info Marathon:
3D Exercise to relieve tension in the lower back and legs:
1. Lay on your stomach
2. Do the “superman” raising your legs and arms in the air and balancing on your stomach
3. Turn the palm of your hands facing up
4. Bring your right arm over your back toward the left side of your body, twisting you torso as you do. You should feel it in the lower back and shoulder.
5. Alternate sides
6. Repeat 10-20x per side.