The Swiss Alpine, one of the premier mountain races in the world gets under way next weekend (July 28th 2012), and I’m getting ready to run the Marathon version, the K42. Last year I ran the K42, it was my first marathon and a wonderful experience in 2011, so I’m going back for 2012. If you’re new to the Swiss Alpine, here’s some info so you know what to expect.
The Swiss Alpine is a special sort of race and comes in a number of varieties, from a kid’s run up to the K78 ultra. I thought about entering the ultra version, but after the Swiss Irontrail was canceled I’m feeling a little jinxed, like if I decide to do the ultra some freakish event will screw it up in the end. This way I can leave early in the morning, do the race and party later in Davos. If all goes well I will likely run the MountainMan Ultra in August.
Basics Need to Know
The K42 is a fantastic marathon winding between mountain villages and over high passes in the Swiss alps. Part of the race is on road, but a large part is on mountain hiking trails and through the woods. There are aid stations all along the way, and you will likely run past a number of people ringing cow bells to motivate your forward progress. Although people will run on the flat parts, most will walk or fast hike up the mountain sections, and then slowly run down the mountain passes. It will help to have descent shoes for the sections above 2000m, but you don’t need to go all out with Gortex shoes. You don’t need to take a backpack, but a small one for a jacket and gloves would be smart. Unless you drink tons of water you don’t need to take a pack with you, but I do advise being prepared for the weather.
Rain and Gear
The Swiss Alps have been rather unstable over the past few years in July, and 2012 is perpetuating the trend (Irontrail was canceled due to the weather). Don’t expect a sunny race until you see the weather in the morning. Last year there was rain at the pass section, and many people looked pretty miserable running in the wet cold environment above 2000m. I however loved it as I came prepared with a nice Salomon running jacket and Mammut gloves. This kept me warm and active when the weather turned bad. I took along a Salomon S-Lab 5 pack as well, which was perfect to hold my gear and camera. Otherwise you’ll likely need to pick up one of those unflattering emergency rain ponchos from the support team.
Last year I ran the K42 in Salomon Crossmax Neutral shoes, they did well, especially on the pass descent section, but this year I know more about what I like in a running shoe. I would love to run in my On Cloudsurfers, but I don’t think they would be ideal for the descents (especially if the trails are wet). I’m thinking of going with the Salomon S-Lab 4 soft ground shoes. I ran with these on the Irontrail T71 course, and they perform very well on mountain ascents and on soft ground or wet trails (as I expect to encounter). Due to the last 5 km being mainly on asphalt, I don’t want to run with the Inov8 RocLite 285s or the La Sportiva Vertical K shoes, which rock on trails but not so much on hard streets. I run the risk of having my back cramp up running too long on asphalt without a cushioned shoe like the S-Lab or On Cloudsurfer.
One of the coolest things about running the K42 in 2012 was how good I felt after finishing. I wasn’t destroyed, my body was strong and my mind and soul were fulfilled. It motivated me to continue on with trail running and I’m happy I bought the ticket and did the race. The Swiss Alpine K42 is more than a race, it’s a wonderful mountain experience. You travel through the full variation from hard roads in the mountain villages to wooded trails, alpine terrain with ascents and descents as you transition from one valley to the next. The Swiss mountain community is very supportive of the race and it will be an experience you’ll never forget (unless you encounter a severe brain injury). If you have any questions on what to expect, feel free to Contact us and ask away. For more info on the race, check out the links and images below (from the K42 2011).
SwissAlpine 2011 K42 Marathon Report (@ blog.americanpeyote.com)
Next July I’ll partecipate in the 2013 edition of the K78.
I’m planning to buy a new backpack and wondering which one choose: the Salomon S-Lab 5 or the S-Lab 12?
Thanks for your advice.
Well, it really depends on how much you want to spend and how much you want to carry. Both the 5 and 12 carry the same size water bladder, the advantage of the 12 is that you can carry more gear, and the side pockets are easily accessible while running. The 5 is a nice pack, but it’s very limited in size and you can access the front bottle carriers, but the zippered side pockets are hard to open while running. With the 5 you can take the water bladder, some food and basics like small jacket, gloves, etc which is enough because you don’t need a huge pack for the K78, the race has lots of water/food stands, and you could easily use the S-Lab 5 in my opinion.
However, if you intend to use the pack for other ultras that require more gear, then it totally makes sense to get the S-Lab 12. You might also like to consider the Salomon Skin Pro 14+3, which is cheaper and almost as nice as the S-Lab 12. It doesn’t have zippered side pockets, but otherwise the packs are very similar.