Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Jungfrau Marathon- Sept 5, 2009

Jungfrau apparently means “young maiden (virgin)”, or “Virgo” (astrol) and stands 4158 m (13, 682 ft), forming a solid 10 km wall, along with its sister peaks the Mönch (4,107 m) and Eiger (3,970 m) near Bern in central Switzerland.

Jungfrau the marathon only goes to Kleine Scheidegg (2061 m) and reportedly has one of the highest finishing rates of marathons despite the nearly 5920 ft total elevation gain (1823 m) and time limit (6.5 hours). 3308 men and 822 women from over 60 countries started this year, and the winners finished in 2:58: 33 (same man holds course record of 2:49) and 3:34:24 (women, record 3:21). I was already scared after the whupping I got in Davos last July, then the Angst was fueled further as I watched videos of last years runners at the expo, amazingly fit and skinny people who looked liked something the cat dragged in, some kneeling and tearful by the time the crossed the finish.

My goal was to finish under the 6:30 time limit without getting swept. I knew from marathonguide.com that they “sweep” the slowpokes if they don’t make certain timecheck points, but still give you a T-shirt and medal even if you don’t finish. I learned from a man, Hans from Hamburg who had done this course 5 years running, that if you don’t reach 38k by 5:45, they actually place an avalanche curtain as a barrier to stop the slow runners. I also read that because of all the single file parts, it was important to position yourself amongst people your speed, or you’d spend your time on the sidelines letting people pass or being frustrated being stuck behind someone even slower than you.

At the hotel I met this woman, Janet from Vancouver Island who had done 250 marathons/ ultras over the past 20 years, including 2 previous Jungfraus, Pikes Peak, and the K78 at Davos. She told me to add 90 min to your usual land marathon time, and to pace yourself easy in the beginning

After 3 days of rain, race day was perfect and sunny. Notice runners using nature's toilet- there were no portapotties on this course. I started with the 6:00 pace group , the first 10k was on flat land through the city of Interlaken. I knew these fit folks weren’t just shuffling along for no reason when I lost them at 20k, but in retrospect I probably should have gone faster on the flat part to have more of a buffer later.

As advertised, there were some rollers in the 2nd 10k, before hitting “The Wall” at 25.5k. It was steep trail switchbacks, and where I was, everyone switched to walking. It was completely demoralizing to huff and puff along for what felt like a mile only to see that in the interim you had advanced from 26.0k to 26.25k. Don't know if the quarter km markers were a good or bad thing for morale. I had expected the whole 2nd half to go this way like Ventoux, but fortunately, there were several flat portions where we ran through scenic mountain towns
with an amazing number of spectators with cowbells and numerous bands, including these clowns . We went through quiet riverside forest trails, rolling green mountainsides , real Nike ad terrain, and several times would turn a corner to face a huge, snow-capped mountain which took your breath away. I could see why many think this is the most beautiful marathon in the world, and afterwards I realized I had taken over 60 photos/ 5 videos during the race. We saw the famous Jungfrau helicopters which legend had it would rescue stranded runners from mountaintops, but were probably really there just to carry supplies. There was a bagpiper on one peak , Alpenhorn players and schoolboys waving swiss flags on another, and rest areas every 2k in the middle of nowhere, they could only get there by copter probably.

From 38k-40.5k was single file rock scrambling . At mile 25 a very fit woman collapsed in front of me with an agonizing cramp, and a man had to pull her leg. I had felt some tingly pre-cramps in the back of my left leg for the previous 2 hours and considered myself lucky as I climbed past her. The peak was 7234 ft (2205 m) and there was a group of half dozen people standing there to help climb the runners over the rocks before the steep descent to the finish at Kleine Scheidegg.

I could hardly believe seeing my sister and her daughter at the finish line, but I think they were more amazed at seeing me cross the line in under the time limit, at 6:17:44. I remember thinking, hmmm, I can actually run 6 hours, the Fairbanks ultra in 2 weeks shouldn’t be too bad then, and also thinking I wanted to be a better runner. Of course the resolve to be a better person melts in 30 seconds as I had to have the postrace beer and Olma bratwurst before cramming like sardines onto 2+ hour train ride back to Interlaken. We met Janet,
who had finished an hour before me, for more pasta and beer, and discussion of possibly taking on the Zermatt marathon next July, over 7000 ft of climbing and a 7 hour time limit. The next morning at 6 I got ready for the 24 hour trip back to Seattle, while Janet went for another run in the mountains.

1 comment:

  1. k Ro.

    here it's. you ready? (cui - commenting under the influence)

    blah, blah, blah. swiss mt is blah, blah high. swiss scenery is blah, blah, pretty. swiss whatever is la, la, whatever. Janet is so strong & fast & smart & swift & beautiful & virtuous, & canadian & blah, blah, blah...

    did you happen to share with Janet v.i. the time you shed from this year's cdt? your stp 1 day ride? your ability to complete d2dlv (& ventoux&montreux)? the brs pts you earned during AA to train for Jungfrau?

    k- from what i've read, eiger is deadly. didn't know this race was in that league. your pics look like a ricola ad spot. pretty damn ass scenic for sure, but i'll take the central district any day of the week too.

    wanna really impress me? we have a monthly challenge called 6 min sept. do that. i do like how you complete jungfrau and then immediately ask, what's the next hardest mt?, but show me some brs pts (oh - how convenient, tdm is coming) and we are doing september's challenge too. then complete a tri and you'll really, really impress me then.

    p.s. (your niece is so cute. she should get the yellow jersey for support)