Date: 10.09.2021 Time: 11:19:59 Distance: 80km Elevation: 3300m

Waking up the morning after the 7k Night Trail with seriously painful legs I knew I’d made the K85 a lot harder than it could have been. That’s not to say I regretted racing hard in the Night Trail, because having won that race I felt the pressure was off so I could relax and enjoy the big race. But, walking downstairs on the way to the start line for the K85 was a real challenge, so I knew the K85 would be tough.

Thankfully I knew the race would be made easier because I’d be running with Andy. We’d trained together and always intended to run as a team. I was particularly thankful for this companionship as most of this race would be run in the night, starting at 11pm.

Starting out we took it easy and relaxed into the first hill, just chatting and trying not to go too fast in the first few hours. The course had three hills, with #1 being the biggest, #2 the middle sized hill and #3 the smallest.

All was going as expected, and then at about 1:30am the rain began. The weather forecast said that we might get the occasional light rain shower during the night, but in reality it rained solidly from 1:30am – 4am. Surprisingly that was not such a bad thing, because it stopped us getting too warm and as a pair of Brits we were pretty happy running in the rain.

And before we knew if we’d hit the top of hill #1. Time to head downhill. The route had a good mix of different terrains. There was some technical trails, some road and some mixed paths. The route from the top of hill #1 down to the valley was mostly gravel which meant Andy and I were able to find our stride and clock up some good Kms.

Being a pair of runners from Berlin who race mostly on road we opted for an unusual race strategy. Whenever the terrain became rough, or the hills became steep we found that other runners would power past us (our legs are just not accustomed to the ups & downs). But when the gradient wasn’t too steep we were able to steam past a lot of runners.

So Andy and I played a 80km long game of leapfrog. Overtaking on the road and gravel sections, only to be caught when the paths were technical.

The only really stressful moment came around the 50km mark. It was the most technical downhill section with slippery roots, tough paths and steep gradients. This was the moment Andy’s headlamp died. I tried as best I could to share my headlamp with him but the path was only wide enough for one person, so it wasn’t really that effective. This was our slowest section by far, with several kms around 15min, and one taking as much as 20mins!

Thankfully this didn’t last too long, as we eventually got to the next aid station, where we were able to collect supplies from a drop bag – and I’d I’d stowed a spare torch in my drop bag.

It was also at the bag drop that we got some exciting information. Up to this point we had no idea where in the rankings we were (since we were just running for fun and hadn’t kept track). But, we could see only a handful of people had already used their drop bags, so I check the live rankings on my phone. Without knowing it we were 10th and 11th!

No sunrise in the morning, but the fog was beautiful in it’s own way

Now the fun became not just finishing the run, but getting the best result we could. Unfortunately this was when I hit a 5km bad patch and had to do a lot of walking, so we lost two places immediately after the bag drop.

But after some time I perked up again, and we pushed the pace for the final 25km. Although the final hill is the smallest and least technical it is certainly not the easiest! Hill #3 has several false summits and although it’s not too steep it drags on for a lot longer than I’d like. But, on and on and on we pushed.

Thumbs up if you’re having fun!

By the point we began our final descent the daylight had well and truly begun and the world was beginning to wake up and begin their day – we were just finishing ours.

The final few km were entirely uneventful. Our pace increased a little, and we finished smiling, laughing and feeling great about our achievement.

Finishing the K85. What an adventure.

One wonderful aspect of this Innsbruck Alpine Trailrun Festival is that there are so many different races happening over the weekend. So just a few hours after Andy and I finished we watched our friends who’d done the K42 race finish.

There were some amazing runs from our friends in those events, including Felix coming 6th in his first ever marathon, and Anita winning her age group.

In the 48 hours after the race my legs were useless. The hills had destroyed my ability to do anything other than sit still and recover. Thankfully that’s exactly what I wanted to do!

This is a race I’ll be back at for sure. I might do a different distance, but the IATF is a great event and I fully intend to come back for more next year…