Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Black Forest Ultra Marathon

The fire place Mac App came in handy....
The good weather...
The bad weather...

Photo by John Hooper: Kevin Evans

Black Forest Marathon, Germany, 116km, 3150m

The next race on our schedule in Europe took us to The Black Forest and the small village of Kirchzarten which hosts one of the classic marathons in Germany. We arrived nearly a week before the race which gave us good time to train and enjoy the good weather. The training would be important for our last hard week ahead of the World Championships the following week.

The good weather decided to turn on the weekend and by Sunday morning, it was not looking great. Although in the town itself where we started, it was not too bad, unfortunately, little did we know, that at the top of the mountains, snow, hail and cold rain awaited us.

There was a good contingent of top riders lined up at the start, and it looked set to be a fast day. The first climb basically saw us climb nearly 1000m in the first pull, and Dave was looking in rampant form as he took the race to the guys and set a blistering tempo. I was feeling better again, and managed to go over the top of the first climb after 15km in the small group of around 8riders that were left, including the race favorites.

We then descended into one of the many small villages on the route, and that’s when the cold rain pulled in. We had our short sleeve rain jackets with us, which by this stage we had already put on after the first climb. The next climb took us into the clouds and mist, and I had to take a double look when one of the riders pointed out the snow on the side of the road. This was about the same time that I looked at my poor little fingers in my thinnest gloves and started wondering if things would get better or worse. The legs and lungs were working fine and I was hoping that conditions would improve. By this stage, the group was down to six, as Thomas Dietch had already decided to stop earlier. The next climb we hit at around about 50km, the rain came pouring down, mixed with hail for some good measure, and Karl Platt, myself and Dave started drifting off the back of the front 4 riders.

This was the stage when the bodies starting going into crisis mode, my hands and feet were completely numb. I could not even feel the handlebar in my hands, making the descends dangerous. Shifting was also becoming a problem as you could not press the shift lever hard enough to shift a gear, resorting to using the palm of your hand.

All three of us had said we were going to have to abandon the race, biggest problem being that our support crew would only see us again at around the 75km mark, leaving the better part of around 20km to have to complete.

By the time we rolled into the small village where the support was, we were both just shivering wrecks. Its truly the coldest I have been and was completely into hypothermia stages, I actually began to become concerned in those last 10km that I might just shut down completely, climb off my bike and find a tree to sleep under, let alone even make it to the vehicle.

So bad we were, that John was just about to plug the nearest hospital into the Garmin! It took the best part of around an hour and half to stop shivering and trembling uncontrollably. John had to remove my gloves and I could do nothing but sit in the car, wrapped up in his jackets as he sped us towards our hotel and hot showers and tea. Even then, as the blood started flowing back to my fingers and feet, the pain was far from over. All I can say is that it was another humbling experience.

On the other hand, Mannie Heymans managed a great ride to come 7th, and Erik Kleinhans also persisted through the cold weather to finish the race. For us however, even if we had wanted to continue on and try finish, it was not possible. If we hadn’t caused any permanent damage to our bodies by that stage, we had no choice but to be cautious as Worlds was in a weeks time and much more important.

On a more upbeat note, it was also really great to have our Sinamatella camera man, Dale ‘The Hunt’ with us, to document our ordeal we went through, and ultimately to document our build up to Worlds. He’s already been with us through some highs and lows, but definitely fun to have him around.

We are now in Treviso, Italy, and managed to ride the first half of the Worlds route today, and should the course stay dry, and the weather nice and hot, all is set for a great Championship fight.

Provisional Results:

1st Thomas Stoll (Bixs) 4hrs35

2nd Mike Felderer (Full Dynamix)

3rd Mathias Bettinger (Centurion/Vaude)

Next race, World Marathon Championships, Sunday, 10:00am.

Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans

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