Following my performance in Tromsø an opportunity arose to fit in one more Skyrace before the stint of big obstacle races this autumn. Not wanting to waste the opportunity; before I knew it I was on a train pulling into Zermatt, a town in Switzerland that is dwarfed by the magnificent Matterhorn.
The race is called the Ultracks Matterhorn Skyrace. Starting and finishing in Zermatt the course continually goes up and down in a large loop around the town, all in the shadow of the Matterhorn. In total the route is 48km with over 3600m of elevation gain! Similar stats to Tromsø but the main differences would be: less technical running, the heat and the altitude.
I was Intent on trying to enjoy myself as I always race better when this is my first priority…it seems running at altitude makes this relatively difficult for me though. I enjoy feeling strong when I run but either the thinner air or the psychological impact it has makes it difficult to simply run hard with a smile.
I therefore also had a game plan. Having learnt the dangers of too high heart rate early I decided to try and run the first half making sure my heart rate didn’t exceed 170 bpm…this worked to an extent as I made it round the course in one piece…but only just.
After the first big summit I started to get the feeling it wouldn’t be the best of days for me. My stomach had already started giving me the feeling it was going to cause me a few problems and thankfully there were some long stretches of mountain track with no spectators…
After the strength I felt in Tromsø it was hard to cope with how weak I felt. With the sun beating down on my neck and never feeling especially good I put my head down to grind it out. The only thing that made me feel better was taking the occasional glance up at the Matterhorn that was ever present towering above.
The second half of the race I was stranded out of sight from competitors in front and behind so I simply ran where I could, hiking ascents I would usually skip up and thankfully I was soon descending back into Zermatt some 5 hours and 20 minutes after starting.
It wasn’t until an hour later on the phone to my wife I found I had actually came 11th…I couldn’t believe it. I estimated something like 20-25th! So a relatively good result for what felt like a terrible race full of toilet stops and hiking.
This race was a bonus to take part in itself so I couldn’t help but feel privileged to be there and spend a short two days in Zermatt which is a truly special town.
I will next be taking on Toughest Oslo…let’s hope I haven’t forgotten how to do monkey bars over the last 12 weeks of just running!