9 Sep

Back From The Alps

Shona ThomsonRegular runABC contributor, Shona Thomson, is just back from the Alps where she was running a stage of the Gore-Tex TransAlpine Run (TAR). We caught up with her afterwards to find out how she got on…

Remind us what the Gore-Tex Transalpine Race (TAR) involves?
The TAR is one of the most demanding yet picturesque trail runs in the world. It is an eight-day event, taking in four countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy), covering 270km and 16,300m of ascent. Each day averages 42km with a typical vertical gain of 2,300m. This was the eleventh time over 300 teams of two from over 20 nations undertook the challenge.
You were running the second stage of the race. How did you get on?
I was running the 25km stage from Lech to St Anton. At 8am on Sunday 30 August, I lined up with 600 other runners from around the world to begin the second day of the TAR. I love the atmosphere at the start of great international races such as the TAR. I could sense the tension, excitement and anticipation of what the Alps would do to us on this day. Although the shortest stage, it had 1,899m of ascent and over 2,000m descent. Unfortunately on the day, it just didn't come together for me. The altitude of the Alps, the steep ascents and descents, the scorching heat, nausea, a niggling injury and the brutal time cut offs all converged and it proved just too much for me on the day. Disappointingly, my race ended after just 15km at the beautiful Eriacharlpe.
Sorry to hear that. How are you feeling now?
This is my first ever DNF. Of course I was disappointed and my confidence took a shake. However, sometimes things don't happen as we want and I certainly wasn't the only one who suffered on the day. There are many positives from this trip. The scenery was even more majestic than I could have expected. I have skied in Austria so I knew just what a utopia the area was in winter, but I was amazed by its metamorphosis into a summer running paradise. The climb up to the summit of the Rüfikopf (2,339m) provided us with the most breathtaking view across famed Arlberg region, known to most for its world-class skiing. The race atmosphere was terrific and as always it was great to meet many other runners from around the world.
What were the race logistics and organisation like?
Executing a stage race like this through the Alps is complex. Despite this, the detailed planning clearly paid off. The race was well route marked and check points were well supplied. The evening pasta parties provided a great opportunity to chat to fellow runners from around the world. Safety was also top priority with medical crews and pre race kit checks.
Accommodation at the end of each of the stages was plentiful and close to the finish line and start line for the following day. An incredible amount of effort clearly goes on behind the scenes to move the event from stage to stage through the winding Alps!
What kit did you wear on the day?
It was extremely hot on race day. I wore a Gore Running Air Ladies T-shirt, Gore Running Essential Ladies tights, Innov8 Roclite 282 GTX trail shoes. I used a Salomon 20 trail running pack and Carbon FZ Black Diamond Collapsable Poles. Inside, I carried a Gore Running Air Lady GT jacket and Essential Ladies Hoody in case of bad weather. I also took fluid and a few Gu gels with me, although there were very well stocked checkpoints.
What else did you do when you were out in the Alps?
Whilst in the area, I also took the opportunity to visit the Gore European Centre of Excellence in Feldkirchen-Westerham.
It was amazing to hear more about the fabrics, apparel and footwear. It was great to see the products being tested in the labs and learn more about the processes that make Gore-Tex breathable and waterproof.
Would you consider doing the full eight-day stage race?
This event is very special. Some day I would like to come back and settle unfinished business. However, the training for this level of event should not be underestimated. The climbs and terrain were some of the toughest I've ever run on so it'd be something that would require a very different type of training to my normal marathon training plans.
If you would like to run the Goretex Transalpine Race you can find out more details at the event website. You can view the kit Shona took at the Ellis Brigham and Gore websites.