Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Race Report by AH (Team Leader doncha know)

2010 Gore-Tex Transalpine Run Race Report

Pre Race

Arrived in Ruhpolding on Thu 2 Sep and, after trying to break into a closed hotel, eventually found our accommodation for the next 2 nights; A pleasant hotel within easy reach of the start, and with free Wi-Fi access. Wandered around the town and eventually decided to register, thus leaving us all day Friday for faffing and wibbling. Checked in with the organisers and yes, we were expected. Collected race ID badge, race number and goody bag; 1x 100l holdall, 1x Transalpine Buff, 1x Camelbak water bottle, 1x event T-shirt, 8 day pack of High5 energy stuff, plus assorted other stuff. Read and signed the 4 page disclaimer and collected the 8 stage maps and a neat little race briefing book containing the 4 pages that we’d just signed (More of this later). Staggered back to hotel to drop off bag, then into town for a high fat meal and a couple of carb loading beers.

On Friday we decided to take advantage of the free visitor pass issued by the hotel and travel up the cable car to the highest peak near Ruhpolding. After walking around the mountain paths for a couple of minutes Hamster and I agreed that if this was all the Alps had to offer then we would be laufing all the way to the finish. Schmall Steig indeed! Kaffee, Kuchen and beer in the cafĂ© (thankfully no option 3) before descending back to Ruhpolding; had a bit of time to kill so decided to have a go at that oh so traditional German game “Crazy Golf”. Whilst killing an hour or so the game was notable for 2 things; firstly, the Hamster is a sandbagger having played the game before, and secondly, watching the occupants of the equipment hire kiosk diving for cover after Dis, putting on the 17th, happens to get the ball airborne and flying straight for the ball return hole on the 18th hole. Without their sharp reactions we could’ve been prevented from starting the Transalpine Run due to being in some dodgy German prison cell. Attempted manslaughter or Hole in Nought, you decide! Then off to the pasta party and race briefing. Now, I’ve been to a few (well, two) pasta parties; highlight so far must be the Alpenhorn player from IMSwitzerland (powered by EWZ). Well, I’m pleased to report that the Germans have set the bar that little bit higher. The march in of the flags of the participating nations was poignant; however, the troupe of lederhosen clad young offenders had to be seen to be truly appreciated. With the heel clicking, thigh slapping hand clapping extravaganza it’s easy to see why there doesn’t appear to be any gangs of youths loitering around the lush Bavarian countryside. As ever, there were many facets covered by the 6 ‘man’ squad, from the enthusiastic, must be up for parole, leader through to the chap at the back who was obviously only there for the food. And how could the evening be complete without an encore. The following 20 minutes were a huge let-down as the organisers forced us to meet all the sponsors. This was followed by the playing of ‘Keep on Running’, the transalpine theme song; a tune now indelibly imprinted in my brain. And then the race briefing began. Now, some 550 athletes (plus me and Crashie) and assorted hangers-on, mostly German speaking, and the ambitious attempt to do the race briefing in 3 languages (German, English and Spanish); I’ll let you figure out which parts of the briefing we couldn’t hear! However, they had a powerpoint show prepared so we settled down to the brief. Part 1: reading the 4 pages, word for word, of the document we had signed at registration; the very document that they’d issued to us in a nice portable booklet. It was around this point that Dis and Squishy left us muttering something about oxygen thieves or something. Oh well, at least we could listen intently to the rest of the briefing, unless of course some ignorant competitor wearing a daft cowboy hat arrived late with his ‘mates’ and travelling circus who then proceeds to talk through the English, German and Spanish briefs; oh, hello Erwin! One hour later and the booklet is finished, now onto the safety information and how to attract a helicopter for medical emergencies. Despite our best efforts, apparently having Squishy brief us on this matter wasn’t enough! The key to calling the helicopter involved learning 2 moves; to say “No helicopter” you adopt the John Travolta staying alive pose and to say “Yes, please help me” you need to stand in the shape of a “Y”. This latter option was to cause us some concern later in the race when we spontaneously burst out singing YMCA in a coded tribute to Meldy and Swiss Bobby. Thankfully a swift Bee Gees intro prevented any helicopters from removing Atomic Hamster from the mountainside.

After the race briefing finished (or at a convenient break when it sounded like good night), Hamster and I legged it for the exit (the fastest we were to move for the next 8 days), and found Dis and Squishy in a Pizza/Ice cream parlour. The pizza looked too good to refuse so we continued our carb loading washed down by a couple of beers.

Back to the hotel suitably fed and watered.

Day 1: Ruhpolding – St Ulrich
Keep on Running.

OK, so, day 1 or the start of the race as I like to call it. Following all the hype, training and general faffing, it finally dawned dull and drizzly. Breakfast was at the earthly hour of 8:30am and then we headed for the start area. At 1040 we began queuing to get our kit checked before entering the start pen. The skinny whippets ahead of us all had their bags searched by the official however when it was our turn he gave our sacks a firm squeeze and waved us through; we weren’t sure if that was because he was content we had all the necessary safety equipment packed or he doubted our ability to get up the 1st hill thereby negating any mountain survival stuff. The omens weren’t good; the rain got heavier, put on jacket and listened to the race director telling us all the stuff he’d told us last night. Oddly, with 10 minutes til race start, everyone seemed to want to listen; perhaps we weren’t the only ones bricking it! 1055 and time to crank up the volume; 4 mins of ‘Keep on Running’ (no, not the famous Spencer Davis Group track but some bizarre Europe-esque 80’s glam rock song that the Transalpine Run have taken as their own) and then with 1 minute to go the commentator wails out something about the Highway to Hell, and true to form the AC/DC classic starts to blare out. Lots of very excited runners clapping and tapping their cheating sticks in time to the music. And then BANG! The starting pistol announces the start of the race. Settle into comfortable running pace, and watch the other competitors overtake. Sigh! It’s going to be a long week……. Just after aid station 1 we happened upon our ‘friendly’ cowboy hat wearing runner (Erwin) who’d so annoyed us at the pasta party. He was busy telling a couple from Norfolk that as they had 20k to go (having completed 16k), they were over halfway in 2hr 15 so should be home around 4hr 30. Things weren’t boding well; it was still raining. From here to aid station 2 the hill got steep, and thanks to all the rain, it was like running in bog. Thankfully there was some thoughtfully placed ‘planks’ (no, not Erwin) for us to run along; unfortunately they were covered with lichen which, when wet, made us look like extras from a Looney Tunes cartoon. Eventually made aid station 2 and started refuelling. Erwin kindly popped over and told us that he’d been watching us for 10 minutes and felt that we were taking too long at the stop; thanked him for his concern and waited a further 5 minutes drinking warm soup. Left aid station 2 and commenced the downhill section; thank goodness for gravity. Soon we were whizzing past all the skinny whippets who descended ‘like girls’. Unfortunately this didn’t last long as the wonderful wide path narrowed to single file, and we started doing what the English do best…. Queue! Approaching aid station we encounter Erwin again who advises us that he doesn’t care much for pirates; 3 strikes in one day. Sorry Erwin, but we didn’t start the fire… but we will finish it. The sun comes out, things are looking up. Through aid station 3 and only 7k until the finish and over 4 hours before cut-off; we decide to take things easy and fuel for day 2. It starts raining again and then turns into a monsoon downpour. Keep running and pass 6 runners hiding in a bus shelter; well, a kills a kill. Cross the finish line in 5hr 45min. Day 1 running complete. Find Dis and Squishy and head for the hotel; change, eat, and sleep, with the tune of Prince Charming in my head. Bloody Hamster!

Day 2: St Ulrich – Kitzbuhel. 33.2km 1810m climb 1907m descent
Prince Charming

Alarm woke me from a fitful sleep at 5:50am, and we headed for breakfast. Played a quick game of sore leg poker where you try to bluff your fellow competitors that you don’t ache; I failed. Try not to think that this time tomorrow I’ll have eaten breakfast already. Force down a couple of bread rolls then it’s off to the start. Notice that the organisers have split the field into 3 pens: pen A, fast whippets, pen B, fast, but not as fast as pen A whippets, pen C, fast but not quite as fast as pen B whippets and fat blokes. We headed for pen C and another encounter with the sack feeling official; he seemed surprised to see us but eventually let us in. Race start for day 2 was staggered due to a narrow gully 1.5k from the start; so they let the whippets off at 8, pen B at 8:05 and pen C at 8:10. Unfortunately they didn’t change the cut-offs for the aid stations so those least likely to make the time limits had 10 minutes less as an added incentive; oh those crafty Germans. Oh well, at least we could listen to Keep on Running and Highway to Hell 3 times before we started. Eventually, with the blood dripping from our ears, it was our turn to run up that hill for 1.5k before grinding to a complete halt. After an eternity (probably 1-2 minutes) of standing still, we started the slow trudge along a narrow path up a waterfall. On reaching the top we were greeted by a low flying helicopter who tried his best to push us back down the hill. Despite his best efforts, and our concerns we made the aid station well within time; probably because it was at the bottom of a very big hill and we were able to reach terminal velocity whilst formulating our signature song: “We’re fat, we’re round, we’re eating up the ground, Atomic Hamster, Atomic Hamster”; the tune would remain a stalwart of the next 7 days even if the lyrics changed occasionally. Unfortunately, what goes down (oh, Mr Tyler) must also go up, and the next 10km involved scaling the Kitzbuheler Horn (1738m). The upflat produced the 2nd derivative song “The ground is rough, we’re sh*t at going up, Atomic Hamster, Atomic Hamster”; my, how our time in the Alps just flew by. Looking up the mountain we could see all the people we’d overtake on the downhills, but more reassuringly, looking behind us we could see people too, which meant we weren’t last…. “We’re not fit, we’re not fast but look behind us we’re not last” (Tune: this old man, he played one). So, midway through day 2 and we were developing our own material; we even had the formative “Song for Erwin, Song for Erwin, wearing a hat doesn’t make you interesting” (Tune: Prince Charming). It had thus far been a good day, the sun was out and no sign of Erwin, even though we could now serenade him. Oh wait, look, over there on the hill-top, sitting cross-legged in gentle meditation, either at one with the world or gently sticking 2 fingers up to the slower runners saying “I’m so fast I can take time to meditate whilst you duffers struggle”; you decide. A quick stop at aid station 2 then a flying descent with much singing hailing our arrival in Kitzbuhel; a quaint town whose streets defy the laws of physics as at each junction we were gleefully informed “only 500m to go”, finally we turned a corner and saw the finish line 100m away…. “only 500m to go” came the cry! Actually, it was more like “only 500m to aaaccckkkk”, though maybe with the deviation perhaps it was about 500m. Crossed finish line, found Dis and Squishy, headed for beer tent…. They’d run out. Remonstrated with beer provider advising that the fit racing snakes shouldn’t be given alcohol, and they should save 2 bottles for the fat blokes at the back. They looked sceptical we’d finish another day! We told them not to underestimate the power of beer. Headed for hotel, change, eat, sleep.

Day 3: Kitzbuhel – Neukirchen 46.9km, 2252m climb, 2130m descent
The Saga begins

By day 3 our sherpas had started to give us some mini song-based challenges; as if the race itself wasn’t tough enough. So we had 3 songs to get in sometime during day 3, one of which was a version of the classic American Pie. So, in time honoured tradition……

A long long time ago
OK, maybe just last week
Our muscles were feeling sore and trashed
And I thought me and Crash Hamster could
Talk the organisers into maybe making the route a little flat
But their response it didn’t thrill us
With those 2 hills they tried to kill us
We trudged up the Hahnenkamm
Told a fish joke about a dam
Our audience were really tough
And the ground uphill was really rough
Team Wallace and Grommit had had enough
That’s how we started our gig

Oh!, my, my these here Piratey guys
Telling jokes and singing songs oh how the hours fly by
They leave each town and kiss their sherpas goodbye
Praying don’t forget our beers or we’ll cry
Don’t forget our beers or we’ll cry

Did you read a crap joke book
Or do you just make the punchlines up
That’s what our fellow runners say
And the songs that keep us entertained
Is it natural talent or have you been trained
And with that they just laughed and ran away
Now the lazy supporters never moaned
Just the clang of bells that made us groan
Yes we were broke it’s true
But we had a lauf or two

Erwin was the post-pubescent running tw*t
Even with his less than interesting hat
He shouldn’t mess with the yellow and black
Oh yes, we’d win this war

Oh!, my, my these here Piratey guys
Telling jokes and singing songs oh how the hours fly by
They leave each town and kiss their sherpas goodbye
Praying don’t forget our beers or we’ll cry
Don’t forget our beers or we’ll cry

Anyhow, day 3… settled into standard routine. Steep uphill, get overtaken by loads of runners; glorious wide long downhill, overtake loads of runners. Bask in glory of a comment from one of our favourite photographers “Hey Pirates, you’ve overtaken loads today, well done”. If only we could’ve finished at aid station 2! But we didn’t and a mountain loomed ahead so we knew our high flying position wouldn’t last. Left the aid station and came face to face with the 1st major challenge of the race, a near vertical ascent up a grassy ‘bank’; 3 points of contact and don’t lean backwards ensured we scaled the hazard, and then it was back on the path to trudging as we climbed 600m through the snow and ice, followed by some ridge ‘running’. Well, it was like running but a lot slower and the cut off for aid station 3 was looking very dodgy despite having over 4 ½ hours to get to it. Eventually reached the check point with about 10 minutes to spare, then it was all downhill to the finish. Crossed the line, found Dis and Squishy, went to beer tent and discovered they had no alcohol left, just alcohol-frei! Advised them that they now owed us 4 beers each and enquired what part of keep 2 bottles back for the Pirates didn’t they understand. I wandered back to the hotel whilst the hamster leapt into the town fountain. Change, eat, drink, sleep.

Day 4: Neukirchen – Prettau 43.9km, 1987m climbing, 1377m descent
I think we’re alone now

Following the ultra distance Day 3, the organisers felt it would be fun to put another ultra on day 4. We didn’t agree! Another 5am breakfast; Hamster decided he’d rather have some more shut eye so I had to eat for 2. Then off to the start pen and another meeting with the sack inspection official. Due to the adverse weather conditions at the top of Bimlucke, the tallest mountain of the race at 2669m, sacks were checked for all safety equipment. We passed, and were waved into the pen. We noted, as we stood by ourselves, that our cheerful nature had gained us a good following amongst the other runners; eventually we were approached by an American and asked to do a ‘shout out’ for Samantha in Cambridge whilst he videoed it. Public service discharged it was time for the usual 5 minute countdown and then off on the Highway to Hull. We knew that we needed to put some time in the bag if we were to achieve the tight cut-off at aid station 3 so we ran (yes I know bizarre concept) the reasonably flat upflat to the base of the Krimmler Wasserfalle (tallest Wasserfalle in Europe); pursued an active trudge up the wasserfalle path, being overtaken as usual by fellow runners, tractors and snails. Eventually crested the falle and commenced ‘running’ for aid station 2. Midway to aid station 2 I became aware that the hills were alive with the sound of Drew sick, not the nicest sound in the world, and I was fortunate not to join him. However, ever the consommĂ© professional, Drew said ain’t nothing gonna break my stride, so we kept on trucking. Unfortunately he didn’t want to eat much after said incident, and with a steep hill approaching the option to bonk seemed likely, but we settled for a firm handshake instead (thankfully). Whizzed past aid station 2 and had 3 ½ hours to reach the final check point. Hamster was starting to eat again, but was it enough. Thermal top and jacket were put on and we began the ascent, 1000m over 3k on very narrow paths and through snow drifts; one slip and it was a one way ticket to the bottom of the mountain, do not pass go. About 200m from the top we were passed by one of the ‘pacers’, so we tagged onto his coat tails but not for long; we just hoped he wasn’t the sweeper team or we were truly option 3ed (see the Hamster’s report for definition of option 3). With the cloud base getting lower, and visibility reducing, we were definitely alone now there didn’t seem to be any one around. Then the unthinkable happened, we got overtaken by the Erdinger Alcoholfrei team, top blokes, but normally slightly worse than us. Passed one competitor being looked after by 4 medics; she was wrapped up quite well so probably a victim of hyperthermia. Thought about stopping to help but they seemed to have things undercontrol and we still had a summit to crest and a downhill to fly if we were to make the cut off in 7hrs. Eventually reached the peak and began our descent; our eager anticipation of flying down the hill was shattered when we couldn’t find a discernable path to follow. Time ticked by slowly and the 7hr race time duly arrived and we had barely left the nice hut that had provided warm red not quite gluhwein stuff on a table. Oh well, nothing to do now but reach the aid station and see what happens next. 55 mins later and the aid station is reached; loads of athletes around including the nice Aussie team who all seem to be shouting at us. I wander to the aid table and get some water melon whilst the Hamster talks to the Aussies. Next thing I remember is being dragged by the Hamster (no, that’s not a euphemism) towards the timing mat and him shouting something like, step away from the food fatty we need to cross the mat inside 8hrs as the organisers are extending the cut-off due to the adverse weather conditions. BEEP! 7hr 58m 30s.Thank the Hamster, Aussies and race officials then head back to the food. Text Dis and Squish to say “at 5k to go, about 45mins to finish”; get text back saying “you lie!” Odd! Set off running again and spot 2 wet looking pirate supporters (did I mention it was raining?) stood by the 5k to go marker! Apparently our hotel is only 1k away, but we still have to finish the race, so we head off for Prettau and the ladies head off to get the car. Spirits are slightly higher than an hour ago, but we still haven’t got formal confirmation about the extended cut-off, but hey, we’re Pirates and we’ll finish whatever. Cross the line, meet Dis and Squish, head for beer tent; 1 beer saved, oh well, it’s a start. Advise beer suppliers that one isn’t two, and we expect a doubling of efforts for tomorrow. Head for hotel, change, eat, drink, sleep.

Day 5: Prettau – Sand in Taufers 29.4k, 1503m climb, 2098m descent
The Philosopher’s Song

Two ultras under the belt and Day 5, the shortest distance of the race and a net downhill course; we were rocking as we headed for a leisurely 6am breakfast. Wow a whole 1hr lie in. At the start, after the mandated sack feel, we started hearing people talking about an extension to the cut-offs; at last, the organisers realised the mistake they’d made with such strict cut-offs, but no, apparently they’d added 5km distance and over 200m more climbing to today’s race. Oh great, but at least they offered an extra ½hr to the final cut-off; our collective joy was truly overflowing, and it was raining! Time for another fame-ridden photo shoot, this time from 60s rock star Carl Perkins, apparently he now works for Gore-Tex and asked if he could take a photo of the mighty Pirates for his company website. Naturally we agreed. Oh, hark, what’s that? Highway to Hill? Must be time to start the race. Spent the 1st part of the race with our Aussie mates, and decided it was time to serenade them with our knowledge of Aussie music; cue 2 little boys, waltzing matilda, weather with you and land down-under? As we broke into the official song of the University of Wallamaloo “Eeeemanuel Cant was a real pissant who was very rarely stable”, the Aussies muttered something about needing to put on some waterproofs or something and needing to stop. Didn’t see them again all day, how odd! The hamster seemed in better spirits (yes sir he did, about half past eight) today and was at least keeping solids inside, but a new ailment seemed to be afflicting him; the ability to trip over blades of grass. Most peculiar indeed so this saw me in the unenviable role of leading the ascent to Bretterscharte (2537m), crested the summit (the proper summit and not the “oh summit you’re so blind, you’re so blind you screw my mind” summit), and descended to aid station 2 in Knuttental (why, are they sniggewing? Well, it’s a joke name, like Biggus Dickus. I have a fwend called Biggus Dickus). The next bit of the course is bit hazy, and not because of the low cloud. Climbed through the cloud and into glorious sunshine, then followed the well marked but not entirely sure how far diversion. Much checking of watches and trying to guess where we were ensued, however after what seemed an eternity, we were descending again towards aid station 3 (we hoped!). Finally we reached Sand in Taufers; crossed the finish line, found Dis and Squishy and headed for the beer tent. Now, 4 days of failure, surely they couldn’t mess up again? “2 beers please, and non of that alcohol-frei stuff”
“oh, sorry sir, but we ran out again”
“unbelievable, how many times?”
“oh, hang on, we’ve got these two bottles, will they do?”
“only if they’ve got alcohol, oh they have! Aaahh, you were messing with us, very good, same again tomorrow please”

Day 5 learning has taken place in the beer tent. Head for hotel, change, eat, drink, sniff, cough, sleep.

True race distance: 34.5km, 1813m climb, 2408m descent

Day 6: Sand in Taufers – St Vigil 39.7km 1512m climb, 1193m descent
99 Red Balloons

Fitful nights sleep due to sniffing, coughing and shivering. Headed for a 5am breakfast then off to the start pen. Today’s race started with 17km of flat running before climbing 1500m then a fast descent to St Vigil. Well, that’s what the route profile was telling us. We formulated a cunning plan; run a 2hr 15m ½ marathon to aid station 2 (cut-off 3 ½ hrs) then hold onto any time in the bag during the ascent. Things started well, and we settled into a comfortable pace. Unfortunately, I had been secretly nursing a cold, and after about 7k it became apparent that we’d have to tweak our cunning plan into a plan of survival. This was particularly galling as all the runners we’d overtaken early on came flying past. We agreed to run when my heart-rate and breathing were ‘reasonable’ and to ‘walk’ when I could run no more. Team Atomic Hamster sounded more like Team Asthmatic Hamster. Approaching the town of Bruneck and Hamster decided he needed a refuel walk; well, I was feeling ‘strong’ (sic) so suggested that I run on and he catch me up. This worked well, as I plodded on gaining vital centimetres on the Hamster by the time we reached the town centre; right royal party atmosphere here including the local music bar pumping out some quality tunes including a song for ‘Puddles of Mud’, how they got away with that at max volume at 10am in the morning I’ll never f***ing know. Reached aid station 2 in 3hrs 10min; slightly off the pace. The Hamster kindly offered me some drugs, so I decided to take a couple of HTFUs washed down with a cup of hard, and headed for the climb. Found our Aussie mates again, and Erwin too. Serenaded Chelle with ‘Song for Erwin’ (all 3 verses), then Erwin told a joke (obviously upset that we had all the best material), it sucked, so we pressed on up the hill without them. Head down, f*ck it, JFDI. Up and over the summit, arriving at aid station 3 well within cut-off; Phew! Text to Dis and Squishy, 7k to go, not feeling too good, all downhill, probably an hour out. Set off down the hill, me breathing like a broken steam engine and the Hamster doing his elephant man leg dragging routine. Made good time, and decided it was time to let fly whilst serenading our ‘slow’ downhill runners; “we’re fat, we’re round we’re good at going down, Atomic Hamster, Atomic Hamster”. Continued descending into St Vigil, round the finish area and across the line: 30 minutes; option 3ed! Headed for the beer tent, played the new game of have you haven’t you saved our beer; they had, again, woo hoo! Looked for Dis and Squishy, no sign, settled down and checked phone “on way down hill, will be there in 40 mins”, check watch, we’ve faffed for 10 mins so they should be approaching; look up hill and spot Dis and Squish, cheer them in. Head for hotel, shower, change and head out for afternoon tea. Stop off at finish line to cheer the Aussies in and to buy some merchandise; hear our name tannoyed. That’s odd! I thought we’d finished already, but apparently they we’re telling us that unofficially, we were the ‘best improvers’ for stage 6 having climbed 35 places up the leader (sic) board, and if we showed up at the Pasta Party we’d probably get a prize. Naturally, being modest, quiet English chaps, we didn’t mention this and got frightfully embarrassed when our fellow competitors congratulated us. At 6:45pm, dressed smartly in our Pirate t-shirts, we headed for the Awards ceremony, grabbed a beer and waited. Loads of skinny fast people that we’d never seen before went on stage and got awards for being fast. Then, at 7:20pm the MC announced the best improvers award followed by the names of 2 ladies who duly wandered onto stage; most miffed as I hadn’t seen these ladies either, and they were about to nick our prizes. Loads of muttering about the unfairness of it all and then “Atomic Hamster” announced over the tannoy, followed by lots of cheering. We dutifully moved towards the stage looking very sheepish and not making eye contact with anyone. On stage and met the 2 ladies, who were the sponsors of the prize (doh!), got given some sunglasses, had photos taken, left stage to big applause, shook hands with loads of jealous competitors then headed off for a Pizza to celebrate; not bad for a couple of fat blokes. Eat, drink, sleep.

Day 7: St Vigil – Niederdorf 42.195km, 1963m climb, 1990m descent
Karma Kameleon

The penultimate day, woke at 5am feeling worse than I did on day 6; oh well, could be worse, could have planned to run a marathon with 2000m climbing with a stinking cold. Tucked into another hearty breakfast, reluctantly accepted the praise from fellow athletes regarding our awesome performance yesterday, then put on new sunglasses (you know, the ones we won for being totally brilliant, not that we like to talk about it), and headed for the start. No need for a sack feeling today, the official knew who we were; the sunglasses acting as a badge of honour. Spent the next few minutes signing autographs, having photos taken and doing press interviews, then the countdown began and we were off on the road again. The plan for today was not to lose 35 places and have to hand the sunglasses back for being cr*p. Additionally we thought it would be a good idea to hit the aid station before the cut-offs; it was going to be a tough day and we needed to be at peak fitness to achieve it, “Atchoo, sniff!” Checked with the Hamster as we settled into our ‘run as much as possible, walk to recover, repeat’ strategy. He was fine apart from his left foot failing to lift up; oh good, this should be a fun day. Arrived at aid station 1 inside cut-off so Hamster decided to tape his foot securely; with that he produced the smallest roll of micropore tape ever seen, uh oh, option 3! As he headed off to find the medical staff to con them into taping his ankle without asking loads of difficult questions, I proceeded to don my long sleeve top, thermal top, jacket, gloves and Pirate beany; I was getting odd looks from the other competitors who were stripping down to shorts and t-shirts as the sun was shining and it was a pleasantly warm day (I’m guessing). Suitably togged up, I headed off to find the Hamster who was having fun with the medics who say ‘nicht!’; I peered into the vehicle and said, “oi, Hamster, I’ll set off up that big f-off hill, you can catch me when you’re done here”. The medics who say ‘nicht’ looked at me, and my multi-layers, shook their heads and said “the Pirates, huh?” I nodded and added a hearty “y-arrgh”, then trudged off up the hill before they had chance to ask me why I was dressed like Nanook of the North. Midway up the hill the Hamster joined me claiming the Pirate intervention probably swayed the medics, and I told him “hey, you’re my team-mate, not my rival!” Together we resumed the road to Trudging once more but I also had a new song to cheer my journey “It’s not big, it’s not bold, running a marathon with a cold” whilst the Hamster was singing “Yesterday, we survived, we were so fast they gave us a prize”; have we mentioned that yet? Don’t like to talk about it you know. Crested the mountain (2380m) and took a sharp intake of breath; yes the view was stunning, but it was more around, what? Down there! You’re having a lauf, or not. Option 3, it was bally steep; so we clung onto the chain which was handily bolted to the side of the sheer cliff and edged down the mountain: 3 points of contact? Let’s count them, both hands, check, both feet, check, arse, check, ok 5 points of contact. Eventually reached a run-able bit; well, I ran and the Hamster dragged his foot. Flew down the slope, then around the lake at the bottom before rolling up to aid station 2, again well inside cut-off. Thought about crossing the timing mat before returning for food but were persuaded by a race official that it wasn’t necessary and not to worry about the cut-off at aid station 3 as they’d extended the time by ½ hour; left the aid station with 3½ hours to cover 800m climb and 8k which should, even in our decrepit state be more than sufficient. Don’t remember much of the uphill, apart from the fact that we were once again on the path to trudging; seemed to make good time, then over the top and down the near vertical scree slope; it’s safe to say that our usual flying downhill strategy didn’t make an appearance on this slope. Keep checking the watch, 7 hrs elapsed (the old cut-off) and still no obvious end of the slope in sight. Another 10 mins pass and we’re still running downhill, around corners hoping, nay praying the aid station will come into view; another 5 mins and we start to hear voices in the distant, but we’ve no idea (what do you call a deer with no eyes?) how far the aid stop is! We press on, the Hamster doing his best to find solid ground for his dodgy left foot and me just running and trying to breath when possible and then, at last we enter a clearing and there, 100m away, is the timing mat and aid station. 7hrs 21mins; 9mins inside, that’ll do. Firm handshakes all round as people start to realise that, barring a really terrible final day, we’ve effectively done it; we’ve got over 4hrs to cover 7km, most of which is downhill. Hamster and I elect to take things really easy; we text Dis and Squishy, tell them our plans, then set off walking and taking in the beautiful scenery of the Dolomites. 7km later we enter the town of Niederdorf and walk up the finish chute, well to run at this stage would just be showboating and that’s reserved for tomorrow. Cross the line, meet Dis and Squishy, collect beer from our new best friends in the Gore-tex beer tent, head to hotel, change, eat, drink, sleep.

Day 8: Niederdorf – Sexten 33.4km, 1269m climb, 1123m descent
My Way

And now, the end is near, and so we face, our final race day; however, we did get a lie in and wandered down for a 6am breakfast. Down to the race start, and a pseudo party atmosphere seems to envelope the crowd; 7 days down, 1 ‘short’ ‘flat’ day to go, one final sack groping and only one more time to endure “Keep on Running” and the “Highway to Hill”. 8am dawns, the gun fires and we’re on our way. Now, whilst on paper this was a similar length race as day 1, albeit a little shorter, it’s safe to say we weren’t quite as full of energy as we were on day 1. 7 days and over 280km of running was beginning to take it’s toll. The Hamster had well and truly ‘option 3ed’ his left shin/foot and I, having got over my man-flu, had managed to knacker the toes on my left foot. All in all we were not the super fit aferletes we pretended to be; though we did have some cool sunglasses (though we don’t like to talk about them.) However, we were in good spiwits (yes sir he did, about half past eight) and even found time to add a new song to our repertoire; now the obvious choice would’ve been “only 24km from Sexten”, but we elected for the more subtle “We may grimace, and we may hurt, but in 24k we’ll get a t-shirt”. And the added attraction of this version is that we could annoy our fellow runners with the arrival of each new km marker. I think we’re alone now! You could tell it was the last day as we started getting requests. Early in the race the requests were like, “can you sing over the hill and far away” or “do you know the sounds of silence”? But over the course of 7 days we’d whittled away at the will to live of our fellow runners and they now accepted their fate graciously, (insert own Allo Allo accent) “hey zer, piraten, zing us a song”, “hey, vy aren’t you guys zinging? You always zinging and telling ze jokes” and my particular favourite:
“vy you call each other ‘Sir’ all ze time”
“Mr Hamster Sir, why do we keep addressing each other as Sir?”
“I don’t know Sir”
“But surely there must be a reason Sir”
“No idea (what do you call a deer with no eyes?) Sir and don’t call me Shirley”

Anyway, onwards and upwards (the unofficial slogan of the 8 day transalpine run). Reached the 1st aid station without difficulty, but it was reasonably flat to that point. Then the road to trudging beckoned once more, and we started our final ascent to the Dreizinnen hut, a lovely scenic spot over looking 3 peaks in the Dolomites affectionately called the Dreizinnen (or 3 men, or something; I’m sure someone told me once what it meant but I’ve forgotten, or maybe I haven’t). On reaching the summit, and the hut, it transpired that the hut was also a bar and it was open. Now, we worked out that we had 1½ hrs to descend 5km to the final aid station and suddenly the thought of a cool beer on top of the last peak would be a really good thing to do, and quite piratey. Then we remembered that the Hamster couldn’t run downhill at pace, and we might not make the cut-off (also a hugely Piratey thing to do!). It was a close call but we chose to unfurl the Pirate colours, have a quick photo, dose the Hamster with heavy duty pain-killers then press on for the aid station; in hindsight it was the correct choice as halfway down the descent, just as the pain-killers were kicking in and the Hamster was able to run again, my left quad decided it wanted to tear so I had to slow down. But aid station 2 was close, we could hear the cheering, and suddenly into view, the final checkpoint, and with 9 mins to spare. The celebrations began for we had over 4 hrs to reach the finish line which was a mere 5km away. “We may grimace and we may hurt, but in 5km we’ll get a t-shirt”. Final thanks to the aid station volunteers who had all done a fabbo job over the past 8 days, and then off to the finish line party in Sexten. More song requests, plus some filming from the running cameraman and then Sexten comes into view. 100m to go, unfurl the Pirate flag, brush hair, clean teeth, put on sunglasses (we won them you know! Don’t like to talk about it though), run up finish chute and one final “BEEP!” as we cross the line. Firm handshake, then collect glass of bubbly and medal from the ladies of the finish line (who gleefully tell us that the T-shirts will be handed out at the awards ceremony later; “we may grimace and we may hurt but in 5 more hours we’ll get a t-shirt” harrumph), then stand around as the local paparazzi surround us and take loads of photos. Eventually leave the finish chute and meet up with Dis and Squishy; hugs all round, loads more photos then off to the beer tent, “oh, sorry, we don’t have any beer today as we aren’t allowed to stock it on the last day, you can buy some from that stand over there”. Oh well, never mind, we thank them anyway for their support over the past few days and Squishy heads off to buy 2 beers. A few more firm handshakes as we follow Squishy then a tap (or any kind of bathroom facility) on the shoulder and we turn to see the guy from the beer stand holding 2 bottles of beer for us; a little jape to finish the week off with, nice one guys. Look up just in time to see Squishy picking up the other beer order, oh dear, what a shame! Meet up with our Aussie runners and have photos and more firm handshakes, and Shelley thanks us for the Song for Erwin earworm; Mr Hamster, our job is done. Watch as the looney boys from Erdinger land finish, and offer them both a firm handshake but they insist on being European and hugging us, at least no-one got a photo of that. Headed for hotel, used spa facilities, changed, eat, drink go to awards ceremony.


The Transalpine Run is easily the hardest event I’ve ever done, and we did it, and we ran the ‘difficult’ course. The above attempts to put some semblance of sanity for my 8 days in the Alps. It’s safe to say that there were loads more memories than is possible to put in a race report. I’ve missed stuff out and probably forgotten more stuff than I’ve remembered. Days merge into each other and as a new memory pops into your head you struggle to fit it in to the race. By day 5 our brains were well and truly fried, we struggled to compose sentences and by day 7 even the simplest words were difficult to say; even our jokes were affected , “Two clowns eating a cannibal, one says to the other ‘do you think we’re in the wrong joke’”.


There are many people to thank but I’ll keep it brief. Thanks to everyone who provided support and encouragement on via the wonders of the Interweb, especially GOM and Jj for passing on the information that we were able to send through the medium of mobile telecommunication.

Thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to sponsor us through our Justgiving site.

Thanks to our fellow competitors for allowing us to share in their adventures, and for not throwing us off the mountain when we told the Dam joke for the 87th time.

Thanks to Squishy for keeping the Hamster patched up and in fresh kit for the 8 days and for driving Dis through Germany, Austria and Italy.

Thanks to Dis for providing me with the kick up the arse I needed when my training was flagging. For her constant support and encouragement during the race, and for keeping me in fresh kit for the 8 days. And also for being able to communicate with the locals thus making our stay, and ability to eat that much easier.

And finally a firm handshake for my running partner Mr Crash Hamster Sir. How we ever made it to the end I’ll never know but it was an adventure and a privilege to have spent it in your company.

And that, as they say, is that.

We were ATOMIC HAMSTER, and we’ve been here all week.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

TOAH's race report

Transalp Race Report


What follows is the story of a couple of fat lads taking on a couple of mountain ranges. We do a lot of good work for charidee but don’t like to talk about it. If, however, you’d like to go to www.justgiving.com/atomic-hamster you could leave us a couple of quid for Help for Heroes.

This report will probably be forever a work in progress as I remember extra details from the event; I intended to write it all as the race unfolded, but quite frankly there were times when I was too tired to think straight, so it didn’t happen. A lot of what happens up a mountain will stay up a mountain.

It would be nice to think that some of the information included here could be of use to someone else doing the race; please remember that I’ve never done anything like this before, so take with a pinch of salt where appropriate. Of course, if you have no intention of ever being so silly, we are demi-gods of the ultra-running world with abilities far beyond those of normal mortals...

For those that don’t know, my sense of humour was tragically crippled in a space hopper accident age 14; if you’re expecting erudition or sophistication, please lower your sights. The hunters at Ruhpolding couldn’t manage this, which is why the deer took off their stilts.

I’ve decided to asterisk out all the swearwords; if there’s a word you don’t know or are unsure about, send me an email and I’ll explain it to you...

Turns out that ‘Hotel Garni’ means something like ‘Bed and Breakfast’ and isn’t the name of the hotel at which we were staying; good job we didn’t try to force entry into a ski hotel that was closed for the summer then...

Day 0 or Two Pirates in a bar

One says to the other ‘your round.’ The other one replies ‘so are you, you fat *******.’

The day started with a quick natter with the Aussie racers, Shellie and Gavin, who were in the same hotel as us, before we ascended the local mountain on a cable car. Turns out that this was where they shot the last bear in Germany, before brushing its teeth. German painters on drugs? Who knew?

Paused for coffee and kuchen in a mountain-top cafe, where the choices seemed to be:
Option 1: pay the bill
Option 2: spin, sew or cook to work off the debt
Option 3: you’re buggered

Register for the race then a quick game of Crazy Golf, where Dis sets a new world record with a hole in nought, by holing out on the 18th with a putt from the 17th.

We were sitting in the pasta party on the eve of the race, trying desperately to hear what was being said. Apparently the race had lots of sponsors and we had to follow the orange markings, facts that took 10 minutes to explain in German, but a couple of sentences in English...not that we could hear, because all the Germans cranked up the volume of their conversation when the English part came on. Different race briefings at different times in different languages? A radical idea, but it could just catch on...

One particular German guy, wearing a cowboy hat, was to-ing and fro-ing, lurking unnecessarily close to Dave and generally being intensely annoying. More of him to follow...

We then had the entertainment, consisting of some German kids in lederhosen doing a German-lederhosenny dance. There was a fat kid at the back; we knew how he felt. This was followed by the Parade of Nations, involving some children from the local ice skating club carrying some national flags. The girl carrying the Union Flag fell over; we knew how she felt too.

At last, we spotted someone who looked slow and fat enough for us to have a chance of beating, but he turned out to be the local mayor; it’s the first time I’ve ever looked round a field of competitors and thought ‘wooden spoon, here we come’...

Day 1 or two cannibals eating a clown

One says to the other ‘Does this taste funny to you?’

Starting in Ruhpolding at 11am and 663m, climbing to the Kammerkohralm at 1580m before dropping into St Ulrich am Pillersee at 852m for the finish. Total climb1223m, descent 1034m, total distance 36.3km. Somewhere along the way, we crossed the border into Austria.
1058hrs, the race theme song, Keep on Running (by two German blokes, not the famous song) segued into Highway to Hell by some Australians and it was time for a firm handshake before the start.

After reading an article in Runner’s World about Rosie Swale Pope and her 27 marathons in 27 days, where she decided to use the first three runs as final training, Team Atomic Hamster had spent the previous two weeks doing absolutely no training at all; this seemed to be working well as we blatted along the relatively flat first section.

It didn’t take long before we were engaged in conversation by the guy with the cowboy hat. We knew it was him because he was running in his cowboy hat. He told us that he ‘didn’t care for Pirates’ and made insulting remarks about Dave’s fat belly. Cheeky *******, my belly is just as fat as Dave’s and didn’t get a mention. Turns out that his name is Erwin; it was on his number. This was the birth of ‘Song for Erwin’. To the tune of Adam and the Ants’ Prince Charming, please feel free to join in:

Song for Erwin, song for Erwin,
Wearing a hat doesn’t make you interesting...

At aid station 1, we arrive just after our Danish chum, Bent Kock Neilsen. This is intrinsically funny.

Eventually we got to the last three k, in the company of our Aussie chums Shellie and Gavin. Quality distance measuring ensued, with the next k taking 17 minutes. An early lesson in not trusting the markers. Over the finish line, firm handshake (which is all that’s required between two gentlemen) one down, seven to go. GoreTex tent was down to alcoholfrei only; we complained.

Day 2 or where do Pirates get their exercise?

Gym lad.

0800 start in St Ulrich (852m), immediately into a 700m climb up a steep valley, before dropping to 719m then a second peak up the Kitzbuheler Horn at 1750m and a drop into Kitzbuhel (755m) 33.2k long, 1810m of climb, 1907m descent.

We rock up ready to go at 0800, only to discover that as we’re in starting group C (largely because there isn’t a D), we don’t get to start til 0810. Keep on Running, Highway to Hull, wait for 10 min while the skinny whippets get away. This is to prevent congestion at the first climb. It doesn’t. We’re straight up a path that’s like a ravine, only steeper. We do some climbing and some standing around. We crack a German up by telling the ‘A white horse goes into a bar. The bartender says ‘hey, wev’e got a drink named after you.’’what?’ says the horse,’Eric?’’ joke. We’re here for a long time not a good time. Near the top we almost get blown off by a large chopper, though certainly not in a good way. Descend the valley, getting a little fretful about the 2.5hour cut-off at the bottom; what if they don’t take into consideration that we’ve been swindled for 10 min at the start?

Fortunately, we make it in the nick of time. In fact, by later standards, we were miles inside. So was Bent Kock Nielsen.

Encounter Erwin again; we remember him because of the cowboy hat. He informs us that he will call us ‘dead heads’ because of our Pirate kit. We refrain from informing him that we will call him ****. We break into the instrumental version of song for Erwin instead.

Today is the first introduction of the Road to Trudging. Please feel free to sing this to the tune of ‘Road to Nowhere.’ Having already tracked down the Austrian town of Pfaffing (where there appears to be a Wibling Inn), we are convinced that Trudging must be a place just over the next hill (a bit like Invernoustie in Scotland.) One foot in front of the other; breathe heavily; repeat.

Over the top of the crest, get a runnable descent. ‘We’re fat, we’re round, we’re eating up the ground, Atomic Hamster, Atomic Hamster’...actually pass a few people! Introduce our rallying cry of ‘Nice bench!’ every time we pass a bench. You probably had to be there. Into Kitzbuhel and the mysterious case of the expanding 500m to go. We pass a marshal; she announces that we have 500m to go; 200m later, we pass another one, who says the same thing; another 200m up the road, we ask the next marshal if we have about 500m to go. She is very confused.

Eventually we find the finish line and thus ends another day...with a firm handshake. Beer tent has only alcoholfrei left; complain.

At least the night’s hotel wasn’t up a hill...

Day 3 or why did the chicken commit suicide?

To get to the other side.

Starting in Kitzbuhel (755m) at 0700, this was the ‘king stage’ of the event. ‘King’ is apparently German for ‘*******’. 46.9km long (a marathon is 42.195) with 2252m of climb and 2130m of descent, it finishes in Neukirchen am Grossvenediger at 877m.

Walk down hill from hotel at sparrowfart; see woman running really rapid hill reps the other way; joke about how she wouldn’t be doing that if she was in our race; spot her race number; lose will to live.

Line up in pen C; get live performance of Keep on Running from Otto or Willi or whoever is the lead singer of whoever they are; this must have pleased the good burghers of Kitzbuhel no end. Just time for Highway to Hill before we run back up hill past hotel again, wondering if using the cable car wouldn’t be a better option. The first part of the run took us up the Hahnenkamm; we felt a firm handshake would have sufficed.

As is traditional, Aid Station 1 was reached just as Bent Kock Nielsen was leaving.

Once we’d topped out at Pengelstein (a beery swine at 1938m) we had a really fast descent to Aid Station 2. ‘We’re fat, we’re round, we’re good at going down’ indeed. People are beginning to move aside as they hear us coming, often with their hands over their ears. We’re catching BKN. Dave suggests shooting him to slow him down but then realises he can’t shoot around corners, unlike BKN...

From then on, it’s ‘up there? With my legs?’ time as we climb from 1430m to over 2000m on a track which mountain goats would reject as ‘silly’, followed by lots of wiggly bits which were the inspiration for the phrase ‘**** right off!’...’the ground is rough, we’re **** at going up, Atomic Hamster, Atomic Hamster.’ Through lying snow? Well you wouldn’t expect it to tell the truth, would you?

At the end, we descend a quad-snapping small path; zigging or zagging? I don’t know, I’m a tobogganist; okay, 20 Players please. I have my first fall; shefellova! Arrive in Neukirchen; they’re out of proper beer again; complain. At least I got to sit in the fountain.

They don’t even have a new church, but they do possess the surliest waiter in the world; it’s what keeps Neukirchen on the map.

Day 4 or why do elephants have big ears?

Because their horns don’t work. Trust me, swapping the punchlines between jokes is very funny when you’re running 2 ultras back to back.

Starting at Neukirchen am Grumpyhosen at 877m at 0700, there was one big climb up the Krimmler Wasserfalle to 1550m, followed by a valley road; when this ended, we had to climb up and over the Bimlucke at 2669m then drop down into Italy to finish in Prettau im Ahrntal at 1467m. In all it was 43.9k, 1967m of climb and 1377m of descent; could’ve been worse, it could’ve been long and hilly...

Stagger to the start, Keep on Running, Highway to Hill, off we go. First part was fairly straightforward, which was handy as I’d been struggling to eat. We arrive at the wasserfalle. Aid Station 1, Bent Kock Nielsen. Oddly for a waterfall, water falls down vertically; we zigzag up. We’re still **** at going up. We get passed by a tractor. The tractor has about 8 stone of rock strapped to its front to stop it tipping backwards down the hill.

Eventually we emerge onto a high alpine valley road; despite going precisely nowhere and apparently having no access the other end except up the waterfall, this is busier than the M1. We are forever having to get out of the way of oncoming traffic.
I am now struggling to eat and feeling sick all the time; I decide to have a gel; it bounces. The hills are alive with the sound of Drew sick. Fantastic, I didn’t even have to contrive that pun! I am proud to announce that I didn’t even break my stride as I yacked; I is a proper afferlete, innit? The bouncing gel sparked a chorus of ‘Rubber ball, I keep bouncing back’; I speculated whether Rubber Ball Persson was a mate of BKN.

We then come to the second climb. ‘It’s schmal, it’s steig, it’s way out of our league! Atomic Hamster, Atomic Hamster’ We climb...slowly. ‘We’re not fit and we’re not fast, but look behind us, we’re not last!’ Dave bonks; I bonk. We, collectively, bonk. Completely Option 3ed. Steep track to Trudging. Lots of snow around.

Eventually, we hit the top. The Captain Pugwash theme sounds from the depths of my rucksack; it’s a text from Vodafone.ie to say welcome to Italy. I can’t get a signal in my own living room in the densely-populated English Midlands, but 2600m up a mountain, above the snowline where we are alone and may die, I’m told that my call to Mountain Rescue will cost 75p a minute.

After a firm handshake, we descend slowly and carefully; I use the ‘arse-first’ technique, probably not pioneered by Chris Bonnington. It starts to snow. A few metres down, we discover an alpine hut; the occupants have put out glasses of hot Ribena; whoever you are, bless you. We perk up and speed up til I bend my toe at an interesting angle. I call it a ‘****ing ****-faced ****ing hell-******* ****-****er!’ which helps a little, but I’m left descending slightly one-legged. It’s OK, there doesn’t seem to be anyone around. Did we mention our penchant for Tiffany songs?

We were supposed to be at Aid Station 3 in 7 hours; there is now 7:05 on the clock, it looks like Atomic Hamster are going home.

We eventually get onto something a little less steig and schmal, so decide to get to Aid Station 3 in under 8 hours for personal pride. We’re fat, we’re round, we’re good at going down! We arrive at 7:58. Our Aussie chum Gavin advises us to cross the line (inconveniently located just past the aid station) as they’ve already extended the cut-off to 7:45 and may be looking to do it again. Apparently, even the pacer had struggled in the snowy wastes. We amble over the line, 7:58:30, pause, return to the aid station, eat, then absolutely hoon it into Prettau.

One firm handshake later (though no beer) we jump in the car for a ride to our hotel. Turns out they extended the cut-off to 8 hours and we’re safe...by 90 seconds. Good job I didn’t stop and throw...

Day 5 or why do cows have bells?

Because Noddy wouldn’t pay the ransom. See?

Today was a double-climber, tipped as being the easy day at only 29.4k 1503m of climb and 2098m of descent. It started at Prettau at 1467m before dropping into Sand in Taufers at 872m.

We got to the start to discover that they’d added another 5k or so horizontal, to take in a cheeky 250-300m of climb. Option 3.

Easy enough to get up the first forststrasses, especially with an 0800 start, but the climb up to the 2537m Bretterscharte was a tad steep. O level geography has never seemed so alive. Corries to the left of me, corries to the right, stuck in the middle with you. At one point, the girl in front of me started an avalanche. You don’t have to make it up.

We had a damn good downhill; we were starting to get requests for our songs! All was right with the world...

...until we got to the part they’d added on. It was up a track so indistinct that it had been drummed out of the tracks’ union for not being tracky enough. It was steep. There were cows in the way and we had to take to the heather. Generally the cows had been quite good. People had tied bells around the cows’ necks in order to offer support on the remote parts of the course. These, however were a pain. We planned on ordering steak that night.

People were now starting to join in with our ‘jolly good show!’ and ‘tally ho!’ing, which got me through the difficult additional wiggly section.

Eventually we approach Aid Station 3 in the nick of time (ooh, spot the emergence of a theme) passing a sign marked ‘Sonnenkraftwerk’. We immediately break into a chorus of ‘She’s a model’ by Kraftwerk. Two Americans are startled to discover that we actually don’t make up the lyrics as we go along. With hindsight, we should have done ‘Trans Europa Express’ though I only know one line from that.

It was a blessing to drop down into Sand in Taufers.

Firm handshake, collect one alcoholic beer between us! Result!

Day 6 or two cows in a field; one says to the other ‘I was artificially inseminated yesterday’

‘No way!’
‘Straight up, no bull!’

Sand in Taufers (apply Vaseline) 872m to St Vigil (FAB St Brains) 1191m, featuring a flat half marathon followed by a climb up the Kronplatz at 2275m and down the other side.

We had a plan so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a weasel; blast (it’s relative, ok?) the flat bit then amble up the hill then blast the downhill to the finish.

Then Dave woke up with a cold.

Down to the start for 0700, Keep on Running, Highway to Hill, off we toddle. Didn’t quite manage a blast, but still got to checkpoint two in 2:36, only 6 minutes outside schedule. Next stop was the road to Trudging, where Erwin was being his usual silly self; we earwormed Shellie with Song for Erwin. Erwin blasted off in his usual ‘only jogging with you mortals for a short while but now I must go’ subtlety, but not before he told us all his joke about Gummy Bears and blackberries. Apparently it all resolved around berries and bears being a homophone in German. It’s a good job that it’s a complete flop in English or your sides would have split by now. Erwin, a man who isn’t funny in several languages.

By this time, we’d got much funnier multilingual jokes of our own, mostly centring round the fact that ‘lauf’ is German for ‘run.’ Run up that? You’re having a lauf, sir!

So, at the top of the hill, we jog round for the descent only to find Erwin meditating in his usual ‘ooh, look at me!’ way. We add a second verse to Song for Erwin:

doesn’t make you any less of a ****

Followed by a third:

Song for Erwin
Song for Erwin
Being a **** is nothing to be proud of

We then descended in our usual ‘we’re fat, we’re round, we’re good at going down! Ooh, Mr Tyler!’ way, to encouraging comments and shouts of ‘Go Pirates! Yarrgh!’ from the photographers and other competitors. They were getting the hang of it!

We stormed into the finish area, crossed the line, firm handshake. They’d saved us each a proper beer. All was going well!

After a trek back to the hotel (uphill) for a shower and change, we came back into the village for coffee and kuchen. As we passed the finish, they announced that unofficially we’d won the best improvers award for the day; a pair of 150 Euro sunglasses each.

Thus, we toddled along to the pasta party and watched all the skinny whippets get their stage- and race-winning prizes, before they called two girls on stage for the best improvers prize. ’Dash!’ we thought in a very British way, before there was a stream of German followed by the words ‘Atomic Hamster PSOF’ and two fat lads got to take the plaudits from all the thin people! It turns out that the two girls were the sponsors representatives and so were lucky enough to get to kiss us on both cheeks; a firm handshake would have sufficed.

So we won a prize for being good at going down; we don’t like to talk about it and will probably never mention it again...

Day 7 or two fish in a reservoir; one swims into a concrete wall...

And says ‘Dam!’

Today the prize-winning-but-don’t-like-to-mention-it Atomic Hamster team faced a double dipper from St Vigil (1191m) to Niederdorf im Pustertal/Villabassa (so good they named it twice; 1164m). The climbs were Forcella Sora Formo at 2380m and Weisslahnsettel at 2190m, with a drop to the Pragser Wildsee at 1493m between them. It was bang on a full marathon at 42.195k and had 1963m of climb, 1990m of descent. Roll on our slowest ever marathon...

The big excitement today was the checkpoint 3 cut-off at 7 hours, which was going to be extremely tight, not least because it was much shorter than the 9 hours that it should’ve been according to the published formula. Also, with stage 8 being relatively straightforward and the finish-line cut-offs being extremely generous, reaching V3 today was almost as good as a finish.

0700 start and a gentle jogette uphill to Aid Station 1...except Dave still had his cold and my left foot was now dragging and turning in at an alarming angle. Completely Option 3ed, in fact. People kept requesting songs and congratulating us on our shiny new sunglasses, which kept our spirits high. Erwin was conspicuous by his absence. For once we remained ahead of BKN, though the Aussies were off and gone.
We reached Checkpoint 1 in good time; I decided to tape my foot at some semblance of a right angle, though I discovered that my zinc oxide tape was, in fact, Micropore. This merely created an interesting muffin-top effect round my ankle, so I decided to seek medical help.

I soon tracked down the race doctor, who chatted to the paramedic and said ‘nicht’ a lot. They were the knights who said ‘nicht’. They asked me when it had happened. Spotting that this was a trick question (if I’d said ‘ages ago’, they’d’ve pulled me off, but not in a good way, as it was a chronic injury; if I’d’ve said ‘a few seconds ago’, they’d’ve pulled me off, but not in a good way, because it was an acute injury) I mumbled something about ‘it’ll be fine for a couple of days, it’s not a knitting club or a quitting club, just tape it back into place, please’ and promised to give them a shrubbery if they did so.

It was all in the balance, when Dave wandered over. He’d changed into his Pirate beany; I said ‘nice hat!’, he said he was going to toddle on up the hill, I said I’d catch him up in a few minutes when the knights who said nicht had re-secured my foot. All was well; they let me go, muttering something about ‘British loonies’...so up the hill I toddled after Dave.

The first hill was an excellent example of the Fiat Panda phenomenon. We were on a track so steep that it was the graveyard of many a tractor, but periodically you still had to move out of the way of a Fiat Panda being driven by a bloke called Giuseppe. Where they were going or why, no one knows...

Up and over, not descending so well on the grounds that my foot was secured at 90 degrees by gaffer tape, Dave was off like an Erwin after publicity, we had a bit of a slide and slip before arriving at a lovely lake in the valley...which was full of tourists! Are you a pole vaulter? No, I am a German, but how did you know my name was Walter?

Inevitably, when you get a crowd of people on a narrow track, someone is going to try and drive a wide lorry along it. We had to suck in our bellies, but amazingly no one died.

We arrive at Aid Station 2 to be told to relax as the cut-off at Aid Station 3 had been extended to 7:30 hours and we were sure to make it. Having seen the second climb (nice scree slope, impassable to all but Fiat Pandas) we weren’t so sure. Road to Trudging once again followed by a nasty blind summit (oh summit you’re so blind, you’re so blind you blow my mind, hey summit!) and another climb...before a lovely spot of scree running down the other side. Didn’t hurt a bit...

We hit V3 at 7:21ish, a whopping nine minutes inside cut-off. There was a massive party going on, insomuch as people that have run 270k can party; everyone knew that by hitting that one, we were almost home and hosed.

We walked into Niederdorf/Villabassa, singing songs of Pirate gold and finishing lines. At the beepy mat, a firm handshake was all that was required. The beer people had saved us one each...

The saddest note of the day was the news that Bent Kock Nielsen and Rubber Ball Persson didn’t make the cut-off.

Day 8 or Two Pirates in a bar; one says to the other ‘nice T shirt’

The other one says ‘thank you, I got it eventually’

In honour of the occasion, I’d shaved the week’s stubble down to a porn-star moustache.

Day 8 started in Needadorf-no-thanks-I’ve-got-two-already (1164m) and finished in Sexten (1310m) 33.4k later. It had one climb up to 2405m and the final cut-off was 5:30 hours at V2.

Last Keep on Running (‘even if you’re broken, you’ll make it anyway’...let’s hope so) and Highway to Hull then off we go at 8am. Between us we’re hobbling and snotting and sneezing and struggling a little, but checkpoint 1 is easily achieved once we realised it was 2:30 not 1:30 to get there. Remember to thank the aid station staff for their help, assistance and cucumber.

Climbing with my Option 3ed shin/ankle/foot isn’t too bad but Dave is having a hard time with his blisters and cold; at long last we top out, pose for photos and a firm handshake; wonder whether we’ve got time for a beer at the Alpenhutte; decide we’d better not risk it. I take 800mg of ibuprofen but am still absolute rubbish at going down; Dave is off and gone. We discuss the situation and decide that by the time we have 5 hours on the clock, the painkillers will have kicked in and I’ll run hard whatever in order to guarantee our finish.

Lo and behold, the appointed time arrives and something has reset the pain in my shin to a more believable level; I can dog it from here...

It’s at this point that Dave’s quad is Option 3ed and he can’t dog it from here.

We meet a bloke coming up (minus Fiat Panda) who tells us that we are around 10-15 minutes away from the checkpoint; we decide not to dog it but just to descend within ourselves...

...and sail through the checkpoint with 11 minutes to spare. It’s extremely emotional, so we indulge in a firm handshake and hug a few excitable foreigners. Thank the aid station staff ‘We’re the Pirates, we’ve been here all week’, finally sample the kuchen, ignore the cucumber.

We now have 2:40 to cover 5k, so we walk; we get requests for one last song from several Americans; we finally crack Mattias from Team Lupus (I wouldn’t name my team after an autoimmume disease, but there you go) who has resisted laughing at our jokes for the previous 7 days; we discover that Mattias’ partner Katja is actually the daughter of Nice Beard Man and Shiny Silver Trousers Woman, another team in the race.

It was all downhill from there.

We raised a jog and a rousing chorus of ‘We’re fat, we’re round, we’ve eaten up the ground, Atomic Hamster, Atomic Hamster’ as we crossed the line. We got medals and champagne. We went off for our post race beer; it was all gone. Debs went to buy us one each...then one of the volunteers chased after us to hand us the beers that they’d saved for us specially. Drink two beers simultaneously? You betcha! After 8 days, 193 miles, just under 9 miles vertical, we’d finally got the GoreTex staff trained to our dietary requirements! Thanks, guys!

We cheered in our mates the Ryan Sidebottom brothers and the Erdinger Alcoholfrei boys (who were almost as mad and slightly more crap than we were) we posed for pictures with our most excellent Aussie chums, we went for a shower and a coffee.

At 7pm, we attended the final pasta party for the presentation of our t-shirts.

There was a lot of clapping for skinny whippets who apparently were in a race like ours only shorter (I’ve never been beaten by 30 hours before) and one particularly drunk Swiss bloke who had finally come second after days of coming fourth. He was wearing a very large cowbell and shaking his head to make it clang constantly. Bet he woke up wondering where is bell had gone and why his arse was so sore. If we didn’t someone else will have...

Eventually got called up on stage for our T-shirts; Dave almost got a pink-card medium before insisting on a large. We were the only team to be called up by name...

We could’ve partied on, but to be honest, it was a bit crap, full of skinny whippets who couldn’t hold their beer...


We were something like 171st overall, in 58 hours 58 minutes and 12.6 seconds.

My left shin is completely banjaxed; I will lose any fitness I’ve gained in the event before it’s better.

I’d like to thank the most excellent Team Atomic Hamster PSOF support crew; those back home and via the medium of text that have kept the Jolly Roger flying.

Dis for her assistance to my running partner and myself and general German-knowingness

My darling Debs for her unswerving dedication to my well-being; when all I could do was run, eat and sleep (and often none of them well) she made sure that all I had to do was run, eat and sleep. Above and beyond...love you.

And a firm handshake with significant eye contact to my team leader Mr Dave the mighty ATOM Harvey. It’s all that’s required...

I am sponsored by Ibuprofen, Wiener Schnitzel and Pom-Bears. I wear Sziols, er Sz...er Oakleys.


Saturday, 4 September 2010

Race day arrives, up early in the morning

Well, it's here at last!

Yesterday was a nice gentle relaxed day spent in and around Ruhpolding. A cable car ride to the summit of the tallest mountain (I hope they provide them for some of the stages too!), followed by a little walk to the cafe & kuchen shop to rehydrate and carb load. Got the map of today's route out and tried to trace it from the mountain top but the cloud was so low we only saw white; probably for the best though. Next up, after the ride back down, was a game of golf... don't ask why, it just happened. Shot of the round came from Dis who achieved a hole in 0 on the 18th. A spectacular putt between the rocks on the 17th led the ball to get airborne, flying over the green and up the finishing ramp on the 18th before disappearing into the ball collection tray in the shop. We admitted defeat at this point and headed for the race briefing.

Race briefing in sum..... welcome, mention sponsors, parade of flags, mention sponsors, random dance routine from local lederhosen-clad wunderkind (or young offenders, couldn't work out which), mention sponsors, meet sponsors, mention sponsors, listen to music track, mention sponsors, meet sponsors, mention sponsors, start race briefing, Dis & squishy leave, listen to race briefing (wonder at the ratio of translation, german speaks for 10 min, english translation = welcome, german speaks for 10 minutes, english translation = follow the well marked path, repeat for 1hr). end of generic race brief, start route 1 specific race brief. Learn that it's 36.3k and 1260Hm, which they'd already mentioned, good luck speech, mention sponsors. Depart race brief and head out to find Dis and Squishy; arrive at local ice cream shop and find them tucking into a huge pizza. Decide to join them and order our own pizza, so they order 2 huge ice-creams!!!! help them finish them too. Super carb loading.

Right, breakfast, pack and prep so laters peeps

Are you Jeff Vader?

Atomic Hamster

Thursday, 2 September 2010

The Hills are alive, with the sound of screaming


Where ever you, there's a great big hill
The hills are alive with the sound of screaming
but we've still got 2 days till the start!

OK, so not quite the rhyming finesse of the original but I blame babelfish for the poor translation.

So, Ruhpolding at last.

The sun is out the sky is blue there's not a cloud to spoil the view.....

Flight OK, car hire OK, drive down from Munich, good except 2 near-misses with some great continental driving (also known as swerving at the last minute onto the slip road without using the wing mirrors)

After drving around Ruhpolding for a few minutes trying to find our hotle, we eventually parked and, ignoring the German gent leaning out of his window yelling at us, proceeded to ring the hotel door bell..... no response! Ring again..... no response. Return to parked car and try side door.... locked. German gent hollers again... which hotel are you in? this one we reply. How many nights? 2 we say, waving reservation form. What's the name of hotel?..... Parkhotel we say..... Boy, you are so wrong he replies! Ooooops. eventually find hotel (after following ace directions from helpful german gent in window) and check into correct hotel; which happens to be much nicer than the one we originally tried as it is open :)

Chilling on the balcony, thinking about registration, or maybe a beer.....

Until next time people

This tray is wet, and this tray is wet, and this one......

Atomic Hamster

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Yes there were times, I'm sure you knew

Wow, would you adam 'n' eve it... after several months of stuff and training, the slightly large, but not quite big day has arrived. TOAH has arrived and we're packing for the off. Now, where did I put those walking poles?

Plans.... pack, drive to airport hotel, eat, sleep, travel to airport, fly to Munich, collect hire car and drive to Ruhpolding. After that, who knows!

Best head off and continue the packing/faffing,

Laters peeps,

Aaaargh, I'm covered in bees... (it's an oldie but goody)

Atomic Hamster

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

I think we can win this...

Of course, I think every race is winnable; this feeling generally lasts about 20 yards, until the good people are out of sight and the chance to even sneak in as third in age group disappears as that bloke that you've marked down as beatable (you know, the one with the appalling limp, the scars from his knee replacement and the rattly breathing that that inhaler clutched in his hand will never fix)speeds away as if launched from an aircraft carrier.

I think we're alone now, there doesn't seem to be anyone around...

So what on Earth is the point? Well there's beer at the end of every stage, but there may be more to it than that. Yes, it's a challenge, it's for charity (did we ever mention that?)it's been terrific fun in training, we've spent many happy hours debating exactly what that sharp stuff is that scratches your legs (it looks like a member of the pea family, but its fruit is actually razor blades)we've become intimately acquainted (stop making up your own jokes)with OS Maps, Mr A has carried his walking poles for hundreds of miles without actually using them more than once, but for me...

...it's all about not knowing. In 21st century Britain, it's really easy to spend your whole life never taking a risk. I need to put myself out there in situations which may or may not end well. I need the excitement, I need the adrenaline. It's me and my mate against the toughest terrain the Alps can throw at us.

It's been a bit of a serious post, but this is a serious time, so, as we fly out tomorrow, I will finish with a quote from one of the finest philosophers of the 20th century.

'Let's get out there and twat it' Lister, Red Dwarf.

The Other A-H

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

It's been.....

One week since the last blog

So, TOAH has made a flying visiting to Woth in Germany to support the Pirate massive whilst I stayed at home doing some other stuff; some of which involved running and some didn't.

This weekend sees Team Atomic Hamster reunited for another couple of training runs; this time through the gorgeous Chiltern countryside (if I can find a couple of routes). I hope the weather remains as unpredictable as it has been, it's quite annoying to carry a daypack full of wet weather and thermal clothing and not needing to dip into it. On a run last week it started raining but by the time I'd unpacked the rucksack and put on the jacket it had stopped, talk about unfair! Anyhow, thought I'd run in the jacket for a bit just in case it started again but no, the sun comes out and I'm running in my own mobile sauna! Apparently the sun not only shines on tv but also on AH when running in a rain jacket. In other news, and following on from last weeks revelation, I will be carrying no gels this weekend. See, learning has taken place.

And there are 44 days to go til the start of the 2010 Transalpine Run, in case you'd forgotten what this Blog is all about. The race is now full up; that's 250 pairs or 500 runners representing the following countries: Germany, Scotland, Wales, Denmark, South Africa, USA, France, Belgium, England, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Holland, Luxembourg, Italy, Estonia, New Zealand, Portugal, Israel, Sweden, Czech Republic, Liechtenstein, Hungary and Canada. Actually, just looking at the entrants list there appears to be around 285 pairs, not 250. Damn, there goes our top 250 finish! Anyhow, back to the countries taking part...., we will, over the coming weeks, be identifying popular pieces of music associated with each country (Liechtenstein, why oh why! I just hope they are so far ahead of us....!) and will be learning some lyrics to provide moral support and home comforts to our fellow competitors. Any song suggestions will be welcome, but we reserve the right to discount any obscure tracks although bonus points will be awarded for Liechtenstein. Maybe we'll revise our mobile jukebox option... it'll give us something to discuss during this weekends training runs.

Until the next time......

What exactly is an Evil Giraffe?

Atomic Hamster

Thursday, 15 July 2010

I think never is enough...

Blogs are like buses, except if you get run over by one, in which case there is several tons of difference...

It's getting serious now; time to take my skirt off, cancel my manicure, grow a mustache...

Lots of training with Mr A in Frankfurt, including a little jog round the run course at IMDE; good job Mouse happened by to sort out our pacing.

We were noisy enough...

A week later found us on the Worcestershire Way, in singing, joking and puking mood; it was as if the Anzacs were alive. The miles went by and I'm up to 90 in the first fortnight of July. Who says this ship is lost? No point asking when it is; no point asking who's to go. There's the easy way or the Worcestershire Way.

A trip to Roth for some swimming and shouting is next on the agenda; I'm a little out of practice at both the above. I shall, however, be taking Dave's cowbell, which must count as some sort of training. Ding dong!

Two fish in a reservoir...

I never worked my way through forests, inch by inch, doubled over on my hands and knees...

The other A-H

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Chickety China

the Chinese Chicken

So, anyway, a month since the last post, who'd have thought it. And what a month it's been.... nearly 27 days... that's like almost February.. weird! Now, if it was February I'd e blogging about the Grantham Ultra, a 29.3 mile run along the Grantham Canal, but it isn't, so I won't.

Team Atomic Hamster have been to Frankfurt; ich bin ein Sausage. We went to support a group of Pirates racing (sic) in the Ironman European Champs on Sun 4th Jul. As part of the weekend, we decided to do some running, crazy fools that we are! The temp in Frankfurt averaged out at very hot, so most runs involved plenty of fluid, and loads of rehydration post run. In order to acclimatise ourselves with the Transalpine Run post-run ritual, we rehydrated with beer, mmmmmm, beer.... This may explain why I returned from Germany several pounds heavier than when I left! Anyway, race day saw loads of triathletes swimming 3.8k (without a wetsuit, as if swimming 3.8k isn't hard enough), cycling 180k(+ a little 5k detour, as if 180k isn't far enough) and running 42.2k, all within a 15hr cutoff time. Pah, easy I hear you cry, and apparently the Pirate Posse agreed as all finished and received their respective medals, t-shirts and towels, so well done, Mouse, Cougie, Iron Swiss Bobby, Orange Cannon, Slacker, WildWill, GOM, WildWill's mate, Cougie's BiL, gas man, Wickett, Aandersnog, Plum, Bouncing Barlist.

Can he walk at all, Or if he moves will he fall.... that's what we were wondering on the Monday after IMDE and the traditional post-race party. Again, the Pirate (not quite) Massive proved that it takes more than an extended Ironman race to dampen their spirits, so we sat by the river Main and supped beer whilst regaling the exploits of the previous days; although Team Atomic Hamster were quite quiet due to excessive supporting. Thankfully copious quantities of ale helped lubricate the vocal chords long enough to present awards to the deserving few. And then we left Frankfurt, Frankfurt in Germany, Germany in Europe; Europe, where the history comes from.

So, that was 2 weeks ago, and last weekend Team Atomic Hamster met up for some concerted training; namely running the Worcestershire Way. The original plan was to run 20 miles on Saturday and 11/12 miles on Sunday; a nice little 'back-to-back' training, but as with most plans......

So, Saturday dawned and I crawled out of bed at 7:30am having been partying Friday night until 2am (perhaps not the brightest pre-20 miler prep but it was too late to change anything and it had been a particularly good party, but that's for another blog). Packed, and off to Hamster Mansion, arriving in fine fettle at 11am. Quick lunch then off to the start with plenty of fluid to keep us going; weather was very hot and sunny, ideal! Things were going well; drink, chat, sing, tell jokes, repeat. Then I chose 'take gel' as an energy replacement tactic, about 8 miles into the run. One mile later and things weren't looking too good. reached some road or other at 10 mile and TOAH said, I think there's a pub at the bottom of this big hill, perhaps we can replenish our water bottles and eat some food. So, down the hill we went, with many a 'the pub is probably round this corner' or 'maybe it's the next road, no definitely this road' quotes. However, at the bottom of the hill we found a garage, which served a similar purpose. Sit on grass, drink water, drink energy drink, refill water bottles, start walk up hill.... reach top of hill and realise that the gel needs some fresh air, cue scene from the exorcist (without spinning head or green colouring (in fact it was more fluorescent orange)) Surprisingly, I felt much better after my film scene reenactment, but common sense being the better part of something, we decided to walk back down the hill, find the pub and call for a lift home. 12 miles completed.

Next morning, bright and early, we returned to Vom Bush and commenced the next 21 miles of the Worcestershire Way in slightly cooler temps but higher spirits. 5 hours later, after much upping and downing, we reached Malvern and celebrated with an ice cream.... we know how to party. 21 miles completed.

Things what I learnt from this weekend....... gels don't agree with me! It's only taken me 4 years of Ironman/Ultras to discover (Dis knew about 4 years ago and frequently reminded me of the fact, especially after a gel 'bounced' during IM Switzerland last year, effectively scuppering the race for me!) On the Sunday run I took bananas, bounty bars and rice crispy bars, with water and SiS PSP22 drinks, and had no problem, so...... lesson eventually learnt!

And that just about brings me up to date. TOAH is off to Woth this weekend to lose his voice again, and then another training weekend is planned for the following week.. now, where did I put those gels?

And so, with 51 days til the start, until next time......

Never put a sock in a toaster

Atomic Hamster

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Stub It Out.....

Well, things have certainly moved on a pace since my last Blog.

Having overcome the hand injury, I decided I needed a fresh injury to keep me on my toes... and as luck would have it a little Middle Distance Triathlon at Bala, North Wales provided the vehicle.

Met up with TOAH and loads of other Pirates (Yaaargh!) on Saturday and headed out with TOAH for a bijou jogette along the run course. Ate, drank and engaged in merriment during the evening, then settled in for an interrupted nights sleep. Eventually woke on race day feeling totally (un)rested. Got marked, entered transition, and awaited the call to swim. Entered the water and wondered where the 15.3 degrees temp had been measured from! Feet and hands numb, pseudo ice-cream head, line up was called by the starter then hold the line, then go..........

Swam, got out, staggered a bit, transitioned, biked, returned to transition, noted calf very tight; elected not to run for fear of further injury. Showered, changed, drank coffee, went home, wondered why the toe on my left foot felt sore. Went to sleep.

On waking, I was rather surprised to note that my toe still hurt and was a glorious deep purple; smoke on the water? well it certainly wasn't a heat haze. Visited the Doc and was informed it was highly likely I'd fractured my toe. That's ok I thought, could be worse, I could be training for a running race... doh!

Still not sure how I fractured the toe; most likely during the swim either kicking a stone, or stubbing it on the way out. Anyhow, bruising and swelling has started to go, and I've planned my 'alternative to running' training plan. But, no point dwelling on the past, it's time to stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, disguise fair nature with hard favoured rage..... and to quote the famous Monty Python feel good song

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam.......

and so, as I look outside I note the sun is out, the sky is blue, it's time to go for a bike ride, unless the toe hurts; ok perhaps it doesn't scan correctly (or rhyme) but I'll work on it... I'm sure there's a song in there somewhere.

All right, lads, Leonardo da Vinci's painting the picture


Atomic Hamster

Monday, 14 June 2010

Self Preservation Society

Just under 12 weeks to go until we're doing our best Kate Bush impression and all is not well in Team Disaster Area.

We've been to Bala for the middle distance tri, a fantastic weekend away in good company, with a little race thrown in. We managed a little jogette on the Saturday, averaging 9:30s for 10.5 lumpy miles of the run course while taking it nice and easy. After all, we were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off.

Your correspondent woke promptly at 0230, taking his celtic location a little too literally by being at home to Mr Dai Orrhoea. Our good mate GOM was suffering similarly but made the sensible decision not to start the race. I, erm, didn't.

Racking? There was a Checkpoint Charlie, he didn't crack a smile. He told me my helmet strap was too loose. I tightened the fastener at the back of my helmet to lift it up a touch. He was happy. I think the other six were having breakfast. Hi ho. I racked the bike and loosened the fastener off again. Does he not know how many bikes I've crashed and never lost my helmet once?

The swim went OK; out into the stony waters of Llyn Tepid, the buoys are back in town, pass them muchly on the left hand side, I'm here for a long time not a good time.

Got out of the water, I should've walked away...but there's no danger, it's a professional career.

Onto the bike and up the hills. Can't eat, can't drink, what can you do? Oh, I just died on my arse tonight, must've been some kind of bug. Sat up, toured in, got off, packed it in. Be a good soldier and die where you fell. Not my A race...

When your thyroid doesn't work, you rely on taking a couple of pills each morning to keep you awake. Forgetting to take these on race morning doesn't even scrape into a list of my Top 10 Best Ideas at number 10. Go back to zero, take a pill and get well.

I'm out of Ironman Germany. I'm still going out to support, leaving Jeff Vader to house-sit. I'm as partial to a nice sausage as the next Kenneth Williams. I want to watch Mouse cross that line. I want to take the pee out of Wickett's shaved legs. I want to see GOM finally ride that bike in anger. I'm going to spend large parts of the long weekend running with Dave...

except, remember the stones at the bottom of Llyn Tepid? Dave seems to have broken his toe on one...

Building a henge, are we? That's a fantastic idea...

The Other A-H

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Rock, Paper, Glass.... aarrggh!

But somehow I don't think my new game will catch on.....

I thought I'd try a new extreme sport just before going away on a Triathlon training camp.... 'Washing Up'. I'd played the game before but this time was to be different. As the newly cleaned glass clipped the edge of the sink and started a graceful pirouette towards the drainage board, my lightning fast reflexes pushed out my left hand to catch the glass before it shattered into a million pieces...... however, gravities response was marginally faster than mine, so my hand arrived as the glass shattered. Result: sharp glass in between middle and ring finger, loads of blood and a slightly shocked me wondering why it wasn't hurting! So, a quick call to Dis, pressure applied to gaping wound, arm raised above head and a trip to A&E. 3.5 hrs later, leave A&E with 6 suters, 5 butterfly stitches and a huge bandage holding everything together.

And so to the training camp..... can't swim, can't bike, what do you do? Well, I ran... lots. which considering my A race is a running race was actually quite handy. Keep on Running...... I also did some sun-worshipping - it's good for healing deep wounds in the hand I'm led to believe.

And now the stitches are out and I'm trying to cultivate a neat, but noticable scar. I just need to work on a good story as to how the scar was made.

In other news we have a new pet.... a Degu. The worrying thing is he's far more intelligent than me (Oi! I heard that). If he was slightly bigger, with an orange hue, pointy ears and chased by a pack of hounds he'd probably be a fox. As it is he's not a fox he's a very naughty Degu!

I wonder what's happening with TOAH? If our alternating illness/injury trend continues then.... oh no, er, hmmm....

But the women, they all know hopscotch...

Atomic Hamster

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Whatever happened to all the heroes?

After a Saturday night of Falstaffian debauchery (or a glass of wine and an industrial-sized portion of spag. bol.) Team Overall were set for a 13.1 mile perambulation of the Warwickshire countryside at the Shakespeare Half Marathon.

Our plan was simple; we'd set off hard and see how far we got before it turned ugly.

It wasn't so bad for the first few miles; 'Argrrrrrrrgh!'ing at the crowd, startling other runners who had their names on their backs, enjoying the sunshine; it was our sunshine, our only sunshine.

Then at eight miles it turned ugly. Uglier than Betty. Uglier than Kid Joe. Whatever happened to Mr Hamster? He got a side stitch that made his ears burn.

Mr ATOM was faring little better, having lingered too long at the junction of Postviral and Undertraining...

We considered a pause to watch our Rome burn...

...but you can blag a half marathon, so we did, jogging in in 1:53:shrapnel. Not as we like it, but all's well that ends well.

Before Stonehenge there was Woodhenge and Strawhenge. 200 miles in this day and age? I don't even know where I live now...

The other A-H

Except that since the race...

Friday, 16 April 2010

You are the king of the divan...

I've got a new lease of life! I'm going out and running cross-country, just me and my breathing and my heartbeat (Top tip: keep these with you at all times)...I feel like a runner again. The sun is shining, the birds are twittering (even without opposable thumbs) and all is right with the world.

Of course, due to the cosmic seesaw effect, or good karma bad karma or a Hawkingesque distortion of the space-time continuum, when I am up it seems Mr A is down. He's post-viral and laid up as effectively as Heathrow Airport. Ca plane pour moi? Non, c'est grounded. I am on top of the world, looking down on creation and the only explanation I can find is...that Dave is poorly. Is this to do with the fact that Kaprun, Austria is an anagram of "a kraut spa ruin"? En quatre couleurs? I think we should be told...

You can't claim us, we live here!

The Other Atomic Hamster

Monday, 12 April 2010

I was only, 19 days from the last post....

Thanks to TOAH for a most excellent account of the 48 miles training weekend. Had a great time; lovely scenery, comfortable running pace, and 2 days of loo inspection. What more could one ask for? Well, maybe a colostomy bag. I really enjoyed the weekend, it was reassuring to know the body could cope with back to back long runs, and, with no fatigue in the legs, I was keen to run again on Monday but logic dictated rest, so I did. (Rest that is, not run.)

And then it was off to Austria for a long weekend. The town of Kaprun was our holiday destination, nestled in the shadow of the Kitzsteinhorn glazier, a popular ski-ing location. The plan was to try out some ski-ing, since neither Dis or I had ever skied before and with any time remaining do some walking and running in the countryside. Skied Friday, handed kit back Saturday, ran and walked for the next 3 days.

And so back to blighty for a well deserved rest over Easter and time to get ill! Spent the last week recovering; so now it's just an annoying cough and plenty of FLM to get rid of. Training has been a bit limited it has to be said; but I like to consider the positives and class the past 8 days as 'rest'; I like rest, almost as much as I like training. It's the most underrated aspect of training but ultimately the most important. I'd recommend it to everyone, but in particular to the other 249 teams in this year's Transalpine Run.... if you could put 7 days rest per week in your training schedule it'll really help me and TOAH during race week :)

All being well, the training will start in earnest again tomorrow, tomorrow, I'll be training tomorrow, it's always a day away.....

In other news, which I should really have included in the paragraph about ski-ing, I tried out my new second-hand cheating sticks during a 3 hr walk in the Austrian Alps, and I'm happy to report that they worked. So they will probably get the nod for the forthcoming Transalpine run, which starts in 144 days time.

Right, so that's the blog mojo returned..... just waiting for the training green light..... I want to RUN........ aaarrrgh!

Cat rang bell, I ate food

Atomic Hamster

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Weekend warriors...

And so, having run out of excuses, the first big training weekend arrived for Atomic Hamster. Mr A arrived promptly at Hamster Mansions and Team Overall plus the Squishy one headed off to put their stamp on the Rhayader 20, the Rhayader 20 having singularly failed to put a stamp on the race information we'd been sent...

Despite the presence of a storm-lamp on the table, the weather was pretty pleasant for the race...and there were remarkably few dead sheep. Everywhere you go, always take the weather with ewe indeed. Mr A had gut problems from around mile 8, while your correspondent was resisting the urge to throw up; the hills were almost alive with the sound of Drew sick. There wasn't much singing, but we did manage to crack the 'two fish swimming along when one crashes into a concrete wall and says 'dam'' joke as we passed the, er, dam. As delerium set in, I also coined 'two scarecrows in a field, one says to the other 'can you smell snowmen?'. No, it wasn't even funny at the time, to be honest...

At mile 17, we located a caravan site and one half of Team Andrex retired for a pit stop. It was then just a case of jogging it out for the T shirt; 3:22 and shrapnel meant that we ran the Transalp requirement of 10 min miling.

Day 2 dawned before dawn, as it were, broke. Forcing down breakfast at 4am is never easy. Into the car, then off to Eastnor Castle to ride the Lightning. Even though we were sharp-dressed men in our Pirate gear, we barely had legs and didn't know how to use them. I was first off at 6am, to discover that the first 2k of the 9.3k course was entirely uphill. Nice touch, Raymondo, er Patrick. First lap done in just under the hour, hand the baton to Mr A, wait for him to come in just under an hour later, repeat...only progressively more slowly. Mr A was standing up manfully, my hips locked up and refused to allow more than a shuffle. There were many pitstops for both members of Team Overall. Portaloo, couldn't escape if I wanted to...

Twelve hours later it was over; we'd covered about 30 miles each over hilly, muddy terrain, the day after logging 20 on the road. We'd finished sixth male pair. Admittedly there were fewer than 7 male pairs entered, but a kill's a kill.

Thanks to Mr A for the company and Squish for the support. It's like a big upside-down squirrel.

The other A-H