Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Matterhorn Ultraks 2014

After a long (a whole year!) silence I am back for another race review. I have been asked a few times about my last trip and I would love to share my impressions from this beautiful race: Matterhorn Ultraks, 2nd edition - 2014.

The race is relatively short: about 46 km (although many Garmins measured a couple of km more than that) with good 3600m climbing (and of course 3600m descending).

It was not exactly a "focus race" of the year, but I must admit I was kind of scared for some reason. Well, I were not injured and had a good recovery + training after Transvulcania in May, the race is not the longest (distance or time) I've done, but... still I had proper butterflies in me going into it.

Before going into details, I can tell that the race is hard, really hard, the climbs are properly long and steep and descents are good too, less technical than I expected after Transvulcania and reading the race reports, but still with few rather slow parts, which would be even slower in wet weather...
...But in good weather it's just amazing. The route is so beautiful that you can forget about the race just staring around in those moments you are not fighting for the breath on the climb or staring on the technical trail on steep descent.

At 7:30 in the morning, August 23, I left Michael and Vitaly on the starting line in Zermatt (1600m) and started the run to the first uphill... to Sunnegga (2260m). I kept effort on comfortable level trying to ease into some kind of rhythm.
I felt ok... but definitely not a strong day for me... legs were not too heavy, but lacked the "pep" and the uphills took more effort than usually... Yea, I know that I train at sea level, but it's not the first mountain race that I did... Well, as long as I did not brush the cut off times, I decided not to fight with myself and just ran along and enjoyed every moment of the trip... I stopped to take pictures more than a few times and even moved from the trail when the view was better in some places. Anyway this race is relatively short and you cannot tire of the scenery.

At Sunnegga I was @ the back of the pack since I was slow starting and then the single trail had traffic jams, but later on runners were a bit more sparse and I slowly made my way to Gornegratt (3130m) starting passing people but not too aggressively... and of course getting them pass me back when I stopped for the pictures :-) Trails were mostly not too technical and the only reason not to run them was their serious grade... so I got full worth of my BD Z-poles and settled into familiar hiking style.

The downhill to Riffelalp (2222m) was really pleasant although I am still too slow on downhills I've got much more confidence after Muhraka+Manara repeats... well, I even tried to take a wrong turn... 3 times (!) on my way, but luckily was shouted at every time and at most lost a couple of min each time.

After Riffelalp the route took us down with some technical parts to the rather dramatic hanging bridge at ~23km with "no running" sign... we were also promised one more aid station at Furi (24km, 1867m) but it for some reason was not there... Good that I did not learn the route too well, so was not too much disappointed :-)

The next big up was to  Schwarzsee (2583m), were I met Michael and Vitaly and after a few shots and 10 min I were on my way to the Stafel check point

Stafel is not an aid station, more just junction where the 30k and 46k routes part for the last time and the final cut off is enforced for 46k runners. The trail was runable and beautiful downhill, so I got to the point in time and continued upwards and again down to the last aid station in Trift (2583m).

At aid station I helped myself to a piece of really delicious cake took some pictures of sheep on the trail and continued to the last up along waterfalls and final downhill to Zermatt.

We were lucky this year to have few dry days before the race, so the downhill was with a good grip and I ran it all (slowly :-)) and suddenly it was going to end... "1km left" sign and the entrance to Zermatt followed way too quickly and I was welcomed by music just before the finish line.

Michael and Vitaly welcomed me at finish and we finished the lovely day with a good dinner at Miyoko restaurant (Michael's choice) just 300m from the finish line.

Yes, I know my time was relatively slow even for me (10:15) but I cannot say that would want to finish this race earlier, this course is worth every minute I spent on it and I loved all of them!

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