Day Six- Sand in Taufers to St Vigil (Italy), 38.5 km

Friday, 7 September, 2012
This race (it is a race but really it’s more like a long journey with great scenery). Must be like the running equivalent of the Tour De France. For the first five days we’ve been toiling along in the peloton, admiring the views and occasionally getting little insights in to what happens ahead of us and hearing stories about what’s going on up front. I now realise that I had unrealistic expectations about the kind of journey this would be. I thought that being away from the sharp end of the field would mean more banter, trading stories etc at the checkpoints at least. But people seem to be more concerned with their own individual journey. All this is fine but it’s not toasting my bread. It doesn’t help that Jody and me couldn’t be more different. Mine’s a half pint full please, whereas his is very much of the half empty variety. Moaning is a regular feature. Sometimes the banter has been energising but the fact that we’ve been trying to work each other out at the same time as writing a blog, hasn’t helped. I feel that he doesn’t know the first thing about me and vice versa and had hoped that this would change over the course of the week. Also I’ve had my fill of being a domestique, trotting around well within my comfort zone. So, I decided to release the chains and get competitive. We’re all different animals, driven by different winds but usually manage to find a common goal. Jody and I have not been able to do this yet for whatever reason. Perhaps we were not meant to start this race together but who knows? Some discovery will come out of it though I hope, although I don’t know what that is yet. Unlike in the Tour De France, there is no team ethic to drive you on. If you don’t click with someone, then the little faults soon get magnified because you cannot busy yourself in some other goal. In the mountains you have to face up to who you are and that means not always hiding in the pack. For my running partner, this race is about finishing, which I have a lot of respect for, and this is the reason why I have run with him every step of the way for four days, which has not always been easy. However I like to tackle challenges head on and so that’s what I did today. Yesterday I had decided to race between the checkpoints and then wait for Jody to arrive. I was finding his constant negativity a little tiresome, so decided to take off. He could feel my impatience to get up near the front and he argued rightly, that we were running as a team and should sacrifice any individual ambitions for the greater cause. But now that we were three quarters of the way through, I was already sure we would finish. Neither of us had picked up any injuries. I needed to test myself at least once, so that I could learn something about myself physically and mentally, otherwise I may as well just go for a walk in the park.  I ended up running-by chance-with a German guy called Trainor, who was on the military pentathlon team but was being sponsored by a bra manufacturer! His partner had dropped out injured. Later that evening at the pasta party, he sat down next to us and in that direct Teutonic way, asked me to partner him for the rest of the race. This was a bit of an affront to Jody I thought, so declined the invitation, saving all three of us a pretty awkward translation situation, which would have been full of comic possibilities admittedly. This partner swapping business is a bit farcical and seems to be quite common as people fall by the wayside. Today’s stage started with a long, flat section before heading in to the woods and then slowly bending upwards towards the longest climb of the Transalpine, a 1,300 metre assault on the legs, to the ski station at Kronplatz. From our start in B Block, I slalomed through runners, plant pots and badly parked motorbikes towards checkpoint one, some 13 km away, where I was intending to wait for Jody. The plot changed after arriving there five minutes ahead of the other runners. There was no electronic strip to register our transponders, which meant no automatic one hour penalty for arriving more than two minutes ahead of your partner. So I kept on running. By the time I reached checkpoint two at around 23 km, I had such a big lead, it was impossible to stop. I jogged on the spot for half a minute while I agonised about what to do, while the stewards encouraged me to keep running. I thought about the team situation, 42nd out of about 48 teams. It didn’t seem to matter where we finished in the team rankings as we were so far down the list. Not being accustomed to needing very much water between the checkpoints up until now, I had only quarter filled my camel bag. This was a mistake as I ran out almost straight after checkpoint two and soon began foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog. Two German first aid medics refused to give me a drink and said only ‘you must keep on’. Then I made another blunder, concentrating so hard on the path ahead, so as to break up the torment in to manageable sections, I gazed up and saw some orange writing on a tree. Unfortunately, it was the wrong kind of sign. I then spent the best part of five minutes trying to find the path before heading back to the one I had just left. The Salomon yellow jersey wearers, a Spaniard Anton Karrera and his partner, a young German called Phillip Reiter, who had won four of the five stages so far, were right on my heels. It was very frustrating but there was nothing else to do. They passed me 400 meters later, Karrera with his hands on his knees, Reiter, preferring to use poles. I had opted not to use poles as I felt sure the extra effort of using your upper body, consumed more energy. On this occasion, I think it was a mistake, as my knee took a hammering on the downhill section. Two Germans running for the Gore team also over took me just before the summit but I was able to reel them in on the 5km descent to the finish to come third. For the first time this week, I felt genuinely satisfied. Afterwards Jody and I shared a beer and he had his first chance of a pizza, which seemed to make him happy. He is a vegetarian, which is a little bit more challenging in Austria and Germany than in Italy. So tomorrow we tackle the Dolomites. Perhaps that will make him happy?

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