TransAlps Days 6 & 7 Summary

[Read about Day 1, Day 2 and the quick summary of Days 3, 4 & 5. And check out Ryan’s photos from Days 1, 2, 3 & 4 and these amazing race photos of Day 6 by Klaus Fengler and by Schneider Outdoor Visions, and of Day 7 by Klaus Fengler and Schneider Outdoor Visions]

Before I get into a brief summary of the past two days, let’s start off with a quick overview of what Ryan and Ben have been doing over the past week:

As of day 7, Ryan and Ben have run 179 miles (287km) with over 45,000ft (13,800m) of gain and 44,000ft (13,300m) of descent and have averaged a 12 min/mile pace (7:30min/km).

Ok, ok, all those numbers and feet and minutes per mile are meaningless, so let’s put it into perspective:

Ryan and Ben have run the equivalent vertical distance from sea level to the top of Mount Everest and back down to the ocean… and then half way up and down again! They have run the distance between New York City and Baltimore, Maryland. Stack 4 Empire State Buildings on top of each other and that’s (on average) what they climb every single day as they run an average distance of a marathon per day. For you New Yorkers out there, in the NYC Marathon you climb the equivalent of approximately half of one Empire State Building. With all of those visuals in your head, now add their speed into the equation. Their overall average speed is 5 miles per hour, roughly equal to a 5 hour 14 minute marathon which is not all that much slower than the average American road marathon finishing time (in 2011) of 4 hours and 40 minutes. And again, multiply all of that by 8 days. And throw in plenty of mud, rocks, ice, snow, grass, gravel… oh yeah, and THE ALPS into the mix.

If you’re not impressed then you’re not human.

Day 6:

Halfway into Day 6, Ryan & Ben were greeted by this sign:

They should have added the word “steepest” to that sign too! They climbed 1000 vertical feet per mile…. for over 4 miles! Here’s the elevation profile of Day 6:

Ben’s update:

Capt’s log day 6(of 8): Keep moving forward. At the on set Ryan and I were both worried about our bodies but today they cooperated. So to thank them we thrashed them again. Blah blah…knees….blah blah…you know the story. Not sure where we stand today but we fought hard over 38K (23 miles). We have lived to run another day. Let us see what tomorrow brings.

Ryan’s update:

Another day down. 24 miles with some serious elevation including a continuous 1500m slog up a ski mountain at about a 20% grade. You wouldn’t have thought Ben had an epic yesterday as he was like a new man today. We both fought painful knees at the start to finish strong on a tough road descent. Inside the top 10 I think. We may pay for this tomorrow…

After a grueling day 5, a successful day 6 was exactly the kind of mental boost they needed before what was, most recently, a grueling day 7.

Day 7:

Ben’s update:

Capt’s log day 7(of 8): On the penultimate day we ran through the Dolomites and boy did they dole out a mighty blow. In the morning the thought of another marathon was almost too much to bare. However, Smith and I did work. We were 7th in the open and probably around 12th overall today. Not sure where we are in the cumulative standings yet. Ryan shins are killing him but we literally have one more mountain to climb. No matter how this turns out Ryan and I are going to be an emotional wreck. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion tomorrow.

Ryan’s update:

A real tough day in the mountains. Had to dig really deep today to handle the pain but we stuck at it for a 7th place finish. Spectacular doesn’t even begin to describe the scenery! Very worried about my shins for tomorrow…

Last I heard from them, they were soaking their sore muscles in a freezing cold fountain.

It’s easy for all of us to say “only one day to go!” when, for them, one more day, 21 more miles feels nearly unreachable. It’s like the final 6.2 miles in a marathon. Sure, you’ve already done 20 but these last few will feel as long and much harder. The end is near but feels impossibly far. It’s not until you actually SEE the finish line that you can say you’re “nearly there!”. But it’s the best we can do to continue pushing them forward. Thankfully, tomorrow they’ll face less uphills and downhills than they’ve faced in any of the previous days. Technically, it’s the easiest day, except for the fact that it comes after 7 brutal ones.

Here’s a description of what to come on Day 8 from Go Trail Magazine:

The final stage of the 2012 GORE-TEX® TRANSALPINE-RUN requires runners to get through 33.4km to the beautiful Italian town of Sexten. Not the shortest of the stages but certainly the route with the least altitude difference, this stage begins at 1180m in Niederdorf and will take all competitors through some of the most beautiful scenery of the entire event. The first half of the route is relatively flat as runners make their way to the 2nd aid station. From here the runners, after eight days of alpine running take on the final steep ascent of the race climbing up to Driezinnehutte at 2405m. The breathtaking views across the Dolomites in the predicted bright sunshine can then be enjoyed by the runner, including the backdrop of the famous Drie Zinnen, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its all downhill to the finish from there as the route descends to the finishline in Sexten, to an emotional and euphoric final finish line of the 2012 GORE-TEX® TRANSALPINE-RUN.

Day 8’s elevation profile:

So as Ryan and Ben recover from Day 7 (and all the days before that) and prepare for Day 8, I wish them strength and perseverance to push through the hardest 21 miles of their lives tomorrow. Continue working together and enjoying the views. You will make it to that 8th and final finishing line and we’ll all be there with you.

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