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Garmish Marathon
Perhaps the most spectacular race in the German calendar, the Garmisch-Partenkirchen marathon is held in the heart of the Bavarian Alps in June. The route covers a seriously mountainous lap of 51km and 1750 vertical meters.

Garmisch Marathon 2000

We had ridden the long version of the Garmisch Classic in 1999 (two laps, see below), albeit on a washed-out and somewhat shorter course. This year in our infinite wisdom, the MadMilers decided to ride just one lap of 51km and 1750m vertical, and not two. All except Simon, that is, who just can't get enough pain, it seems. So, as the 2000-odd marathonisti grouped under overcast skies as 8:30, Simon and the other ultra-marathonisti were already well underway. The lap on offer this year was much as advertised, although they still had managed to cock up the profile map. This doesn't sound too bad, but picture that when you are riding for several hours, you spend most of your time playing little mind games like "let's calculate how long I still have to climb" or "at what time will I be at the next drinks station", etc. So, it's very easy to become demoralised when your map says you have a comfortable 12km downhill when in reality you have an hour or so of grinding uphill. Still, the course was pleasant, the downhills were fun, and the distance was manageable. I might even enjoying doing another of these short ones. With incredibly optimism, Andy had spent the day before predicting his finish time and goading Jens and I about how many minutes ahead of us he would finish. Pride comes before a fall, as they say. It was with immense self-satisfaction that I caught Andy just before the top of the first hill (he was walking at the one walky bit - I rode by commenting "Come on, Grandad!") and rode ahead of him through the drinks stop. Of course, this just puts pressure on you - knowing that at any minute you could be caught and likewise humilitated. Jens had stormed on ahead, but I was motivated by Suzanne and Petra, who were watching the race and informed me that Jens was only a couple of minutes ahead. Storming up the second hill, I was desperately hoping to catch him and in doing so throw the entire form book (not to mention Andy's pre-race bookmaking) out of the window. It was, sadly, never to happen. The middle section of the course was the part which had been washed-out in the previous year. It was easy to see why, as the race followed a river, winding down the valley in a curious bank of fog created by the icy, alpine melt waters hitting warmer air. It somehow got pretty wet and muddy too, as shown below, and although my memory is of solid sunshine, I'm told it rained in part. Again, I passed Suzanne and Petra to be told "he's only just ahead" which gave me the lift to pound up the last hill. This was the steep little killer which had done me in the year before, but this time, knowing the course certainly helped. On the last downhill, which winds down a rocky switchback with bermed corners, I heard the moral-sapping noise of a snakebite. Puncture! At this point I knew I was nearly home, but didn't know whether I was close enough to run home. Rolling down the last section on the rim, I stopped where another rider had just finished fixing his wheel thinking "run or repair?". Anyway, this kindly Austrian bloke gave me a hand with my wheel, expertly and swiftly changing the tube, whilst all I could do in my blind panic was mutter "Schneller! Andy's just behind me". Just my luck if it takes a mechanical to allow Mr. Lanky not to suffer the indignation of finishing last! With the wheel pumped up to the minimum 3 bars, I pumped across the last 2 kms or so and into the finish, completing the race in a measured time of 2hrs 58'. This turned out to be exactly the same time as Jens' official time, meaning that if it took me 4 minutes to change my tire, I was possibly only a minute or two behind him before the puncture. I count it as a moral victory even if no-one else does. It turns out that my fears about being caught were unfounded. Andy had also had a puncture, which, without expert Austrian assistance, had taken him a reputed 13 minutes to fix. Although this was doubtlessly grossly exagerated, Andy was still some 25 minutes behind me in total, so the old man had been well and truely beat. As always, the organisation was superb, the course spectacular, and the post-race showers icy. One glitch - the organisers had allowed for two piddly hosepipes in their budget to wash the dirt off 3000 bikes. You do the math!

Garmisch Marathon 1999

The course in 1999 was different than advertised, mainly because the original route had been washed out in the week beforehand. Here's Andy's version of events:A ride through the Alps on a spring day, or so we thought. Normally the course winds up a mountain and pops out above the tree-line to a vista of still snow-capped Alps and endless blue skies, before drifting gently down dairy pastures filled with grinning cows with neck-bells that play cheery tunes. Alternatively, it could turn out to be your worst nightmare, especially when the normal 50km lap (1750m climbing) was wiped out by floods and landslides the weekend before, so that they had to re-map half the course resulting in a lap of 40 km and ca. 1.450m of climbing. On the surface this may seem like a cakewalk but the new course was forced to take routes that you would think twice about riding down on a 2 hour weekend blast, let alone for on an endurance race. Simply put, 20% of the uphills had to be walked, 90% of the downhills were done on nerve-ends as even the smooth and 'easy' descents had 2-foot wide, 1-foot deep random washouts to keep you awake. At one point you had to climb up a landslide and ride down the 'new' streambed. The finish was down a hairpined, gravelled walking track and then the end of the downhill course from the day before. Nutty! Just to make it extra fun it was 29C in the shade at the 9:30 start, and this climbed to 34C by the end of the first lap. Apparently the finishing rate was about 75%. It was mental. Really mental.

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SOME TIMES AND PLACES AND FEELINGS Chicks: 35 finished the full course and 81 did the half course which was won in 2:20. Chris (now a two times marathoner) finished in 4:37 and was 35th out of 38 in her category whilst Petra did it in 4:08 and was 34th out of 43 in her category. Chris - "It's just another marathon, what's the big deal?". Actually, what she really said that she never wants to do another marathon like it - after doing lots of hill training in Heidelberg, Chris was a bit miffed to have to walk up stuff. I should also point out that Chris is a PhD and has figured out that riding down hills out of control at speed over of rocks, roots and gravel is not to her taste. She'll be back for the Black forest though! Petra - DOA at the finish and glad there was only 40 km of "that" to get through! Petra found it "interesting" but was pleasantly surprised to finish having a less-is-more approach to training. Blokes... 567 finished the half course and 748 did the full course which was won in 3:37 mins. Gavin did it in 6:37 and was 312th out of 511 in his category whilst I did it in 6:07 and was 250th out of 511in my category. Gavin: Happy to get the first full marathon under the belt but having had to do the second lap with no suspension (the air cartridges failed), a broken spoke and suffering from hay fever he is somewhat chuffed to have got home. The idea of having to do "those" descents sans bouncy bits gives me goose bumps! Andy - Starting the second lap I should have been worried about the horrid steep climbs and more horrible pushy bits (with toes with broken blisters from the first lap), instead I was worrying about surviving the descents after stacking it once and parking in a bush a second time (better than another stack!) during the first lap. VERY happy to finish it, and happier to do it with nothing worse that a scuffed elbow - it was no suprise that on lap two I passed a rescue chopper in a field whose crew were bagging some poor bloke whose bike was parked in a nearby tree. A bit miffed about not getting under 6 hours, it was on after 2:50 for the first lap. I got a mental low for the mid-third of the second lap and got lazy and lost time before getting my shit back together. You live and learn.

 

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