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Jungfrau Marathon Race Report

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Jungfrau Marathon Race Report

Post by echoguy on Sat Sep 26, 2015 9:47 pm

Jungfrau Marathon – 2015
“Hopp, hopp, hopp”. The chant of the spectators filled the streets of Interlaken Switzerland during the first few miles of the Jungfrau Marathon. The chant was familiar to me, but I just wasn’t sure where I had heard it before. Maybe the Tour de France. Maybe televised European track meets. I did not know the meaning. My initial feeling was that it meant something like “go, go, go”, but it sure sounded more like “up, up, up”. Was I being encouraged? Or was I being taunted?

I had picked Jungfrau for my 100th marathon or beyond over one year ago. I was looking for something epic and a run in the Alps seemed to fit the bill. The race starts with some loops in the resort town of Interlaken followed by a relatively flat section in the Lauterbrunnen Valley. After 16 fairly flat miles, the route then climbs over 4,000 feet in the last 10 miles with no downhill and very little flat.

I had no experience training for an event like this, but I decided that I did not need to do any downhill, quad pounding running like I would for most hilly marathons. I ended up spending a lot of time on a treadmill set at 9% grade. Most of the treadmill time came at the end of a regular morning run or a weekend long run. At that grade, I could not run much, so I set the pace for 15min/mile and power hiked for up to 6 miles at a time. My plan was to do a lot of hiking for the last miles of the race.

We flew on the overnight flight from Cincinnati to Paris with a connection arriving in Geneva mid-morning on Thursday. We rented a car (because of plans to visit rural Switzerland later in the trip) and headed toward the Berner Oberland for the race. We stopped at the Gruyère Cheese Factory in Gruyères and the Cailler Chocolate Factory in Broc in an attempt to stay awake after the long plane ride. My plan was to limit the cheese and chocolate on the trip…I failed early and often.

We stayed at the Hotel Staubbach in Lauterbrunnen and we were all very happy with its old world charm. We found the staff very helpful getting us oriented to the area and suggesting activities. We spent the morning Friday hiking a flat, alpine route between Grütschalp and Mürren with wonderful views. My registration fee included a free pasta dinner at any one of many restaurants in the area. We chose the Hotel Steinbach back in Lauterbrunnen, a good choice.

On race morning I caught the 7:03 (trains leave every 30 minutes) from Lauterbrunnen to Interlaken and arrived at the starting line about 90 minutes prior to race time. It was fun walking around and seeing how they organized the starting line. For a race of over 4, 500 runners, I was surprised to see only 12 port-o-lets and 8 free standing urinals (a new type of outdoor toilet for me). I guess that lots of folks were using the hotel bathrooms that lined the starting area. I also saw a fit young woman calming her pre –race jitters by smoking a cigarette. A European thing?

About 30 minutes before the gun, I made my way to the drop bag truck and found myself in crowd of folks tightly packed trying to hand off drop bags. If anyone had panicked, it could have been a disaster, but everyone seemed relatively patient so all went fine. I made it to the starting corral area with about ten minutes to spare. I felt like I was in about 3:35 shape for a flat marathon, but I did not have an informed idea of an expected finish time for this one. For the best case scenario I guessed 4:45 so I lined up with the 5:00 pacer.

The Race

0-5k – 25:30 – pace 8:13 – elev gain neg 7 feet – ave HR 154

The race starts on the nearly completely flat streets of Interlaken. My plan was to start fairly comfortably at 8:30 pace and I was surprised that the 5:00 pacer was starting out faster than me. I decided to pull ahead of the pace team so that I did not get trapped in the crowd at water stops and hoped that I would be putting the pace team behind me for good.
The conditions were nearly perfect for running. Around 55 degrees with a little breeze. I was in shorts and singlet, but worried a bit about the temperature when I would be hiking at the top.

5-10k – 25:28 – pace 8:09 – elev gain 57 feet – ave HR 133

More flat miles in and around Interlaken. I settled into a pace and heart rate that was very comfortable for the distance. Near the 7k mark we rounded a corner in town to a breathtaking view of the Brienzersee with its turquoise water contrasting with the dark blue sky. Toward the end of this section we entered a bike path and I was amazed when the 5:00 pacer with his full pace team came weaving through the crowd at sub 8 minute pace. I decided to let him go and keep my comfortable pace

10-15k – 28:05 – pace 8:34 – elev gain 227 feet – ave HR 132

Hills..Yipes!!!!…I had not expected significant hills before the mountain. This section started with a significant climb into the town of Gsteigwiler. The work of the climb was well rewarded with a stunning view of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau through the picturesque village flowers. This bit also had down hills, something that I had not prepared for. I worried about my quads if we had much more downhill

15-21.1k- 36:48 – pace 9:30 – elev gain 496 feet – ave HR 129

Most of this 6k section is alongside a stream that drains the mountains above the Lauterbrunnen Valley. The sounds of the water running through the rapids added to the ambiance of the beautiful valley ahead. The trail narrowed to a bike path width for much of the section so things stayed fairly crowded at this point and pace was pretty much determined by the runners around me.
The end of the section was a significant climb into in to the town of Lauterbrunnen. I stopped to see Martha and Mary Beth in town and report that I did not intend to try to catch the 5 hour guy. I also grabbed a short sleeved wool shirt to carry with me up the mountain in case things got chilly up there.

Half marathon split – 1:55:51

21-25k -20:53- pace 8:17 –elev gain neg 45 feet – ave HR 129

This loop in the Lauterbrunnen Valley was the last level ground we would see. My pace and heart rate both felt comfortable. All was going as planned as we headed into the mountains.

25-30k – 49:24 – pace 15:10 – elev gain 1607 feet – ave HR 128

Here we go!!! My goal was to try to keep pace near 15 minute miles and HR around 130. As we passed another group of “hopp,hopp, hopp” chanters I finally just asked in English for a translation. A young guy named Omar near me confirmed that it was encouragement and not taunting. I think it is like Americans saying “chop, chop” or hurry..Omar asked me where I was from and I said Cincinnati in the middle of the US. He said he was very familiar with the US since he had come to the US for college where he played on the golf team at the University of South Carolina. What are the chances of two Gamecocks meeting at a marathon in Switzerland? He told me he was running his very first marathon and I told him I was running my 100th. Imagine that.

I was happy to see that the mountain part of the course was marked with a distance marker every 0.25k. That would be way too much marking for a normal course, but it was really encouraging to see the next sign ahead while traveling so slowly.

This section ended in the resort town of Wengen on pavement with lots of enthusiastic supporters yelling “hopp, hopp, hopp”.

30-35k – 45:29 – pace 14:59 – elev gain 1241 feet – ave HR 124

By the 30k mark I was pretty accustomed to power walking and I did not like to see the spots that leveled out a bit because that meant that I would have to break into a jog again. I liked hiking!! But, I did not pay enough attention to my heart rate and allowed my hiking to slow to the pace of the crowd around me. My heart rate shows that I certainly could have hiked faster. Most of the trail in this section was wide enough to pass folks, I just felt comfortable moving with the crowd.

Like almost all of my most recent marathons, I took a Honey Stinger gel at mile 5, mile 10 and mile 15. But in most marathons, the time from mile 15 to the finish line is less than 1.5 hours. This race was very different and I found myself extremely hungry as I progressed up the hill. As I came to aid stations I took whatever food they offered and looked forward to a big meal at the finish line.

35-40k – 55:55- pace 18:01 – elev gain 1334 feet – ave HR 122

The trail in this bit had fairly long sections of single track and a few parts that were fairly technical with boulders. Because I was back in the middle of the pack, I was pretty much moving at the speed of those on the single track in front of me. I really did not mind a bit. The mountain scenery was stunning and I was not in a hurry. Last few km was on the deep single track of the Eiger Ultra Trail. I wonder if it goes all of the way to the Eiger.

40-42.2k – 26:28 – pace 19:07 – elev gain 87 feet – ave HR 129

The elevation gain for the last few km is deceptive because it starts with the steepest part of the whole race and then finishes with a gradual downhill to the finish line. We were moving very slowly up that last climb. My chip time shows that I got passed by more than ten guys in my age group on that last section so I must not have pushed on the downhill like I should have. But, I was just enjoying the whole experience and finishing #100 with a big smile on my face was better than pushing the red line in this one.

Finish Time – 5:13:54

At the finish line I collected my finisher’s shirt, medal and giant chocolate bar and immediately looked for Martha and Mary Beth to head toward the resort to look for a meal. We found a table quickly and in just a few minutes I was devouring a giant plate of rösti, replacing every calorie I had just burned. We finished our day on the mountain with a short hike on the trail towards Mannlichen, a perfect cool down time with views of both the mountains and surrounding valleys.

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Re: Jungfrau Marathon Race Report

Post by RoadKillBill on Sun Sep 27, 2015 6:08 am

Wow, wow, wow! What a terrific experience. Great race report. So glad to hear that you had nice weather. Also glad to hear that you (wisely, IMO) chose to enjoy the day. That event certainly could have been a monumental sufferfest with a trip to the medic tent. "the route then climbs over 4,000 feet in the last 10 miles with no downhill and very little flat" -- OMG! Well done, Brian. What a great way to celebrate #100. Thanks for taking time to share the account with all of us.

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Re: Jungfrau Marathon Race Report

Post by LMRun on Sun Sep 27, 2015 11:02 am

Congratulations on 100, sounds like a great adventure. Cool

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Re: Jungfrau Marathon Race Report

Post by twal on Sun Sep 27, 2015 11:53 am

Great report from a great race. Congratulations on 100.

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Re: Jungfrau Marathon Race Report

Post by haggis basher on Mon Sep 28, 2015 1:22 am

Mighty impressed with your effort, and enjoyed the write-up. How do you manage to keep your pulse rate so low! I just run on a 'slight' slope, and it shoots up to 130 plus!
See Ya
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Re: Jungfrau Marathon Race Report

Post by kyoung on Mon Sep 28, 2015 7:49 am

Congrats on 100!! Amazing accomplishment. Thanks for race report. It was a great read!

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Re: Jungfrau Marathon Race Report

Post by marathonman60 on Mon Sep 28, 2015 10:10 am

Well done!
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Re: Jungfrau Marathon Race Report

Post by Dave Tuttle on Mon Sep 28, 2015 5:19 pm

What a race Brian!!!

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