The organisers of the Engadin Ultratrail have chosen a very beautiful, varied route that has it all. The first edition of the Engadin Ultratrail 102 turned out very well.
With a distance of five months, I take a look back at the first edition of the Engadin Ultratrail 102 and follow up with another 10 pieces of advice for future participants.
Roberto Rivola, Movimentor and participant EUT102
1. study the route
As a local, I know the region well, so I was able to plan the rather hilly course with a total of 5,600 metres of altitude difference very well. During the race I noticed that some participants were not well prepared for the numerous, partly demanding ascents and descents or had not studied the route sufficiently in advance. Occasional swearing and even cramps, back or knee pain were the result. Therefore tip number 1: look at the route carefully on the map, or even better: reconnoitre it on the spot.
2. start slowly
The start in the old suggestive village of Samedan is very pleasant, with quite a family atmosphere thanks to the manageable number of starters. The first kilometres towards Marguns are not exactly sexy, but the wide alpine road allows the field to spread out. From the beginning, everyone can find their ideal pace, so that from Lej Alv onwards, you more or less have the single trails to yourself. Although I started with the handbrake on, I was already half an hour ahead on my cautious marching chart at Lej da Staz, which would take some revenge later. Tip number 2: start slowly to very slowly, 102 km are long enough.
3. set intermediate destinations
From Celerina to Lej da Staz there is a single trail that is little used by tourists: a very good choice of route. The ascent to Muottas da Schlarigna, on the other hand, is well known, as it leads past the oldest Swiss stone pines in the Upper Engadine. On the ascent, I was looking forward to meeting the over 1,400-year-old gnarled Swiss stone pine at the edge of the path. Tip number 3: Set intermediate goals, look forward to something (by the way, this also applies to meeting family members / friends / supporters).
4. training downhill running
After the steep descent to Pontresina and the short flat stretch towards Punt Muragl, I could look forward to meeting my supporter. Now it was time to prepare for the 1,000m ascent to Muottas Muragl and on to the highest point, Fuorcla Val Champagna at 2803m. That means: get some food, slow down and enjoy the beautiful view towards St. Moritz again and again. I was then able to step on the gas on the descent in Val Champagna, where I was able to overtake some fellow runners. On the pasture above the Chamanna Val Champagna, it was not always easy to find the route: the cows had probably eaten or torn out the markings. Here's an interim tip for the organisers: have a few volunteers on this part of the route to check the markings or point the runners in the right direction. Tip for runners number 4: practice running downhill.
5. running uphill with poles
I was able to run the flat section along the Lej da Gravatscha together with another participant and ... with countless cows. It seemed as if the cows were spurring us on: they ran in front of and beside us, before a small bridge we had to give way to them. Shortly after, a crisp climb begins: here I met a participant who had calf cramps - and was swearing. By the way, she didn't have any poles with her, which I think are very useful on this route. This was already (or only?) the third long climb. Tip number 5: Train for (steep) climbs, if possible with poles.
6. manage your nutrition
After the again demanding descent on a technical single trail to La Punt, you reach the main refreshment point, where the organisers transported spare material of the participants and offered warm meals. The search for my bag turned out to be a bit difficult, after running back and forth in the gym a few times I finally found it. My second interim tip to the organisers: it would be advisable to list the bags by start number. I didn't need spare shoes and clothes, but I took some of my own food with me. At this point I was (still) feeling very good, I ate some potatoes and continued running with by now a two-hour lead on the march table. Towards Munt Seja I ran up with another runner, probably a bit too fast - and with too little energy in my body by now. That took its toll: at the aid station in Zuoz I had to stop for a while and eat a lot. By the way: here, as at all the other aid stations, the volunteers were very committed and helpful, many thanks for that! From now on, however, my stomach didn't want to digest anything anymore, I could only drink tea. Tip number 6: in addition to your own pace, you also have to manage your nutrition intake well.
7. prepare mental scenarios
What to do when the euphoria has faded and your strength is dwindling? Switch on your head, call up prepared scenarios ("Step by step by step I'm moving forward", "Halfway is done", "Run to the next aid station and then I'll look further", etc.). Thanks to my experience on other ultra and stage runs, I was able to call up my scenarios and just go up step by step to Chamanna Es-cha. Here I only had a warm tea, unfortunately I couldn't enjoy the capuns provided by the organiser at the hut. Instead, I was looking forward to the beautiful panoramic path towards the Albula pass road. I also knew that a photographer friend had been there for hours in the cold wind. Here's another praise: this time to the photographers, who delivered very successful pictures. Tip number 7: Think of mental scenarios and use them already in training.
8. test your equipment
The beautiful downhill to La Punt took place under the motto: "I'm looking forward to meeting my partner"; the traverse to Bever and the climb to Alp Muntatsch were dedicated to mental work. Short break on the alp, where a helper again prepared a warm tea for me, while I put on my windbreaker and mounted the headlamp in view of the upcoming drizzle. The jacket and headlamp proved their worth over the last 12 km. I was glad that I had evaluated and tried out the compulsory equipment well. Tip number 8: Test equipment and especially the compulsory equipment in training.
9. exchange with other runners
Once again I was glad that I knew the route well. In Bever and before Samedan, some participants were flirting with a shortcut to the finish or rather with giving up: we were so close to the finish and we still had this loop with a long ascent of almost 800 metres in altitude. I knew that this climb would have given us a beautiful view of the night lights of Muottas Muragl, Samedan, Celerina and Pontresina, and that despite the dwindling strength, the finish was not far: 90% of the distance we had already covered. I argued like this, and was able to convince my fellow competitors to "reel off" the last 10 kilometres at their own pace. Tip number 9: exchange ideas with other runners, motivate each other.
10. follow the course markings
From the Marguns cable car station we were running in the opposite direction, almost on the same route as in the early morning. But only "almost" on the same way: on the last kilometre the route no longer led into the old part of the village, which confused some participants. A few additional markings would have been appropriate here: the organisers have already recognised this and have planned improvements for the next edition. Now I was able to step on the gas a bit or let gravity play, so that I reached 16 hours 30 minutes, exactly the time I had estimated. The two hours I made up on the first half I "lost" on the second half - but I achieved the target time despite stomach problems. I finished first in my age group and unexpectedly ... won a delicious prize for the oldest participant. Tip number 10: Always keep a close eye on course markers - if in doubt, run back to the last marker or team up with other runners.
Well prepared for the Engadin Ultratrail 2022
I am already looking forward to the Engadin Ultratrail 2022, and maybe meeting one or the other of you on the Engadin trails. We still have enough time to take the 10 tips to heart and put them into practice. I would be happy to support you in your preparations. You can find my offer on my website www.movimentor.ch