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Ascent to Punta dei Salati-Macaunaga on 2015-08-21

Climber: Marcus Lostracco

Date:Friday, August 21, 2015
Ascent Type:No Summit Goal
Point Reached:Punta dei Salati - Macaunaga
    Location:Italy
    Elevation:4265 ft / 1299 m

Ascent Trip Report

Day 7 - 21/8/2015 - UTMR Stage 2: Staffal to Macaunaga

Early morning in Staffal -0 I was on the toilet several times before and after breakfast. I had another night of almost zero sleep. That's 5 nights with about 2.5 or 3 hrs total sleep. Past mornings had been fine, but today, I really felt fatigued. I should have taken this (and the constant toilet trips) as a sign to take it easy at the start… We were sent off by an old Italian mountain guide (probably in his late eighties), wearing a beautiful grey 3-piece suit with an amazing grey hat with big white fluffy feather in it. Sharp guy. He gave a little speech about the mountains, with the last thing he said being one of my favorite sayings: When you love the mountains, they will love you too. We were also given a brief history awareness speech about some aspects of the stage. One of the descents was a World War II road that was built by the Italians to navigate in the mountains. The old Italian man counted us down from 10 (in Italian) to send us off (it was pretty funny).
I made a point to stick with the top 10 (since I felt like that's where I belonged and I was in a position to do so). The pace was hard for me from the start. We started in Stafal at 1100m, and we were going to be climbing for 7km to 2900m to _______. I was struggling to stay strong up this first climb, mainly due to fatigue. My heart rate got high quickly so I had to slow it down. I dropped back a few spots and just kept a comfortable pace up to the top. Another slightly technical climb with some probably-good views (we were in the clouds). As we reached to top, there was an Ibex silhouette on the top of a rock formation. I pointed it out to everyone, which was a reaction of awe…. it was an incredibly majestic, mystical sight. However, it wasn't actually real… just a statue… oops…. Still really cool.
At the top, they had a water station which I stayed at for a few minutes to hydrate before the long descent. These aid stations don’t have Gatorade, or any sweet hydrating drinks, besides iced tea. So I drank some of that and filled my water, and carried on, to start the descent down to the town of _______ at ________m.
I felt good on this descent, passing several runners. At one point I caught up to the race director, Lizzy, and one of the main volunteers frantically marking the course…. Just after this we reached a wide open meadow which was a point of confusion for about 6 of us, with no clear indication on where to go. I sort of took the lead and followed my gut down a trail that led past a little house. Asking the people if they knew where the race went, I was surprised they did, and told me I was going the right way. The others followed my lead from there. We lost probably about 3 minutes here. When we reached the technical part leading into the town, it was a tough, switchbacking of placed stones, which had gaps all over. I passed one of the Italians I had beatedn the day before. Soon, and old French guy was on my heels, really pushing me down this section. I was happy to have him there as motivation to push the pace. Technical descents require really quick reactions and hyper-focus. One mistake and you could be done with the race, and in a really tough spot for getting medical attention. We reached the aid station in ______ together at ___________.
I took a lot of time at this aid station, feeling pretty spent. Losing several places to others that took less time here, I didn't let it bother me, because I knew I was really tired and needed to take the opportunity to rest before the last 20km. Overall, I think I take longer at the aid stations than most, which I think is something that I could work on - active recovery during the race, being nourished and managing my pace.
I set off from the aid station with the German guy from the day before, who I knew was a good climber. Leaving the town was quite a pleasant little route, going through gardens, courtyards, and passing between houses. Then we were on a road following a river, where the climb started. The Italian guy I passed earlier, came running the opposite way - he had taken a wrong turn and started climbing the wrong mountain… pretty funny since there was a very clear arrow directing us to go left. I hiked with these guys along the road, and even in this section I struggled holding the pace. I let them go ahead and let me myself get dropped, deciding to take it more slow to conserve the little energy I had left. This was going to be a long climb for me… I could tell. For the 2 hours it took me to complete the climb from ______ m to _____ m in ______ km, I was only passed by one other runner - the other Italian guy, who is a very fast climber, but slow on the descents. He passed me near the very top of the climb as well. It's interesting with the stage race structure - you learn other peoples' strengths and weaknesses. This climb, although really hard for me, was really enjoyable… The progression of the landscape from being down in a town, to following a river, to being in dense forested trails, to being above the trees, to eventually being in barren rock alpine was a fantastic journey.
After the long and lonely climb, I was relieved that it was over. Now ahead was a 13km descent to the end of the stage in Macaunaga. I started running down the trail which was a switchbacking of placed giant pieces of granite on the outer side of the trail, and loose rocks on the inside. I chose to stick to the large rocks as I found it easier to run on. This section was the WWII road that was mentioned in the start… I couldn't really see a vehicle getting up here on this road but it was probably a lot different 70 years ago. Sticking to the outside granite slabs wasn't always easy, since some could be missing, some could be loose, and some could be slick. I was keeping a full stride for the most part, but the alternating between outer solid rocks, and inner loose rocks, was really demanding, and a physically draining effort. My body was already dead and still had at least 11km to go. I was soon caught by the French guys on this section - they were yapping away about how great this descent was, "une jolie descente!" and I was thinking to myself "to hell with these guys and their positivity…this trail is brual!"…. 99% technical as HELL. They soon dropped me. The trail then turned into a deep trench of rocky singletrack… really tough to run in. This was the longest, most brutal, most technical, most physically demanding, difficult, and most beautiful descent I have ever done. On the first break of the downhill I emerged from the woods and reached a meadow, greeted by a lovely cacophony of cowbells provided by a group of beautiful pure-white cows with big black eyes, grazing, and watching me run by. This brought a smile to my face and I felt overwhelmed with elation. It was a great moment.
From here, the descent continued, still managing to be technical! I was really tired, and I got caught by the other Italian guy that had passed me on the climb… I'm a much better descender than him, so this was tough to handle. We ran together to the last aid station, which was 5km from the finish. I took my time, again here, and lost the position on the Italian guy. Soon, a lady arrived at the checkpoint in high spirits, and carried right on. I could not allow myself for her to beat my so I got back on the trail and started motoring down. This was an easy, wide trail and I allowed my legs to stride out as far as they allowed. I ended up finishing the stage 16th overall, totally exhausted, in a time of 6 hours 57 minutes, which put me at 12th in the overall combined standings.
I was happy to be done. One of the hardest things I have ever done to date… I think I would have done better had I been less fatigued at the start. Some of us took an ice bath in the Macaunaga town square public water fountain… felt amazing. I had lunch with a table full of Brits, which was all good. The town put on an awards ceremony for the top finishers of the stage - they were really embracing the event and it was so nice to see. It was a fun little event and a really nice turnout from the town. Before dinner, I watched a band playing live music at a little country club nearby… they were playing American country and blues music… the band was really good, and the vocalist had a great voice, but she had a lot of trouble pronouncing the words, so it was actually really funny.
Stage 3 tomorrow….
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:9725 ft / 2964 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:9725 ft / 2964 m
    Route:UTMR Stage 2
    Start Trailhead:-5460 ft / -1664 m
Descent Statistics
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Marcus Lostracco
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