An Ultra-special trail-event at Monte Grappa, IT

As Carsten from Rock’n Trail asked me to travel with him to “Trail degli Eroi” in Italy near Venetia I had the idea of some training days in a region of the Alps and a 46km-trail-marathon on Sunday. But it was different: Much more better than ever expected…

20140926_110211We were guests of the organization team as official blogger/athlete from Germany. So we had a very full schedule. But more than the attribute “full” you can describe it as: Historical, impressive, touristical, funny, delicious, … – INCREDIBILE!

20140926_100206Starting with a dinner on Thursday after arriving at Venetia airport in our hotel and restaurant L’Antica Abbazia with very special regional food we visited the top of Monte Grappa on Friday morning. On this top is the monument from second world war in memoriam of the 23.000 soldiers died there in first world war. This (and the guided tour by our “professore”) was really very impressive. For me a very new aspect of trailrunning: sports, nature and historic! But it is so near at the spirit of trailrunning: No more enemies – but being together as friends!
And this describes these days in full: We had very much fun together with our group from organization, Italian and Polish media, German, Danish and Spanish runners, … (Which only describes their roles, not the kindness and intersting mind of these incredible people).
20140926_162817Beside steadily eating and drinking (“Italian dolce vita”) we did a very short trailrun on top (spending more time with photo shooting than running), visited the famous wooden bridge from Bassano, another historical war-museum (“Alpini museum”), shopped local Grappa, visited a winery, a brewery, … and took part in press conference pasta party before the race right now.
What said Allesandro the afternoon before we finished touristical programm to get our race number: The ULTRA is now finished for you. ;-)

IMG_0698But this was not the truth in full: Carsten and me decided on Saturday to switch to the Ultra trail (80km and 4000m altitude). I never run such a distance before but the preconditions were as perfect as they could be: I was fit, relaxed and best carbo-loaded after the days before, full of energy by all experiences, an interesting altitude profile (one big ascent at the beginning, “smaller climbs” after that), trails not so technically, perfect weather conditions, … – and with Carsten a perfect Ultra-experienced coach at my side!

The race day

20140928_025613We prepared everything the evening before and as we were living in the hotel beside the starting line we could wake up “late” at 2:15. Fully prepared we went to breakfast with cappuccino/espresso and chocolate cake in our fantastic L’Antica Abbazia. This cake saved my day… ;-)
At 3 o’clock we started after a silent moment listening to “Amazing Grace” by trumpet.

VIRB PictureAfter 2km on street we started with our long uphill: 1600 in elevation up to the top of the Monte Grappa. This was my first time running with a headlamp in a “race” (once again very happy to be perfectly staffed with a Lupine - the “Piko X Duo” with replacement battery) and it was an exciting feeling to run in a “small visible world” only.

On the top (“Cima Grappa“) we ran through the monument which was (based on our experiences and knowledge of the last days and especially in the dark) a very touching moment (“Dona nobis pacem.”)
After a short technical downhill we went on to a hiking path around another mountain, like running on a gallery. Even in the dark we could imagine how beautiful this trail is. During this hour the sunrise started slowly and the majesty of the mountains became visible in bright red. Incredible!
We passed a small chapel and even if it was possible to switch off the headlamp now it was difficult to see the trail with tears in the eyes…

VIRB PictureThe next hour there was a steady up and down on small roads and different trails. After approx. 30km the most beautiful part of the Ultra began: Running on the edge/crest of the mountains with incredible views to left and right and other runners in front of us. This moment Carsten and me were really thrilled and Carsten told me that he was very happy that I (and some Prosecco and beers :-)) convinced him to run the Ultra instead of the marathon distance.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUnfortunately an hour later we were “divorced”: Carsten was still a little bit tired from Transalpine and from a half marathon the week before and had to suffer more and more. I tried to motivate him but as we were near the time limit at the checkpoint at the half/42km he told me (several times) I should go ahead. So I went ahead on my own and passed several other tired runners the next hours…

The trails varied on the second half again: We went through forrests with broadleaf trees and conifers, ran beside rocks, over green hilly grasslands.
I tried to keep on running (even slowly) and to walk only on steeper uphills – what was fine. First time I went through the mountains with running sticks – and this was very helpful on the ascents. Carsten received two pair of sticks from Komperdell so I took the opportunity to test them (for me and the manufacturer).

So the last checkpoint came closer and after that the final downhill (about 1000m down to the finish line) started. Even if these were great trails (several stones and small rocks most time on the path) after 70km of running and tired legs/feet this was pretty tough. But I remembered my holiday trails in Mallorca and tried to concentrade a last time and had really fun with this “f…ing downhill”. And I was able to save the distance to the Italian guy behind me who came closer in the beginning of the downhill.

VIRB PictureReaching the finish I was not able to say an adequate “Thank you” to Daniele and Alessandro from organization. But sometimes a smile and hug are more than words. Recovering with the well known “Italian dolce vita” (pasta party, cake, …), taking a shower and massage I waited for Carsten who did not cancel the race but fighted hard and finished also – respect!!!

On Monday my flight back to Germany was scheduled for the evening so I took the chance to rent a bike and went up the Monte Grappa a last time to say goodbye. Deeply thankful for these incredible experiences…

DO IT!

Why always focus on “big” and “famous” events like Zugspitz/Eiger/… if there are so great other “smaller” events?! Especially in combination of incredible trails and historical memories. So DO the Trail degli Eroi!

20140929_141754Beside this great running event the area Venezia/Bossano is worth a journey: Famous for prosecco, wine and of course grappa and delicious Italian food in general the Monte Grappa is one of the best spots for paragliding in Europe (or even worldwide9. Beside that you can perform several sporting activities like hiking, mountainbiking, cycling, rafting/canoeing, climbing or skiing.
You can visit the famous small village Asolo, Bassano del Grappa with his wooden bridge, several museums, … Last but not least (again) to mention the memories of the First World War on Monte Grappa with monument and museum.

There are several accomodations available – but I would recommend the “Hotel L’Antica Abbazia”, great rooms and a molto bene restaurant. Even when sleeping elsewhere you MUST visit! ;-) Not only my recommendation – see TripAdvisor.

I will be back for sure… ;-)

To all Italian friends: Most of my blog is written in German, but beside enjoying the pictures of my posts please try the (automatic) translation buttons on the top right hand side. Grazie…

8 days of trails – a lifetime of memories!

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