August 22, 2010

Winter running

"Is breaking one's leg good enough a reason to come back home late?", I ask Martin as we try and negotiate the super sleep, super slippery, first downhill section of our run, a single track which torrential rain has made look suspiciously like a waterfall.

We are spending two weeks in Austria visiting Martin's family, and have only today, almost a week into our stay,  managed our first trail run together, since Malo's Austrian grand-mother, unlike his French one, is not too keen on playing baby sitter. Still, she has agreed today to look after Malo for two hours, and, Martin having failed with his slick (but clearly not slick enough) attempt at getting 30 minutes more, we've set off feeling a bit under pressure.

The flipside of having a pretty small window for a run is that one is pushed into running hard. Which we are, except there is not much we can do about the fact that the rain and the fog are slowing us down quite a bit.

Yes, this is August. Yes, I really mean Austria, which, unlike Australia, is not in the Southern hemisphere. And therefore, yes, you're right, it should not feel like we are running in the middle of winter. But the fact and the matter is, we are. In fact, I am beginning to think I have fallen victim of a conspiracy: the only time I have ever seen Austria with beautiful sunshine and warm weather is before Martin was mad enough to propose and I was mad enough to say yes.  Which, of course, I may have thought about twice, had I known this beautiful country never see the sun.

We soon get to our turning point, an  inviting hut.  This, I am told, offers amazing views on the Dachstein range, the local highest mountain. Not that I could confirm, since the fog at that point limits our vision to our feet... and maybe even that is only  because I am vertically challenged and therefore with my eyes naturally pretty close to my feet.

Under normal circumstances we would stop at for a radler,which is beer with Almdudler, the local lemonade, only it is much, much better than lemonade (this is slightly off topic and not crucial to the understanding of this post, but Almdudler being the national pride, I feel it is my duty, as the wife of a proud Austrian national, to mention it), since, as Martin tells me, it is very rude to stop at a hut and not get something to drink.   In any case, no such luck this time since we are running (literally) short of time, and the only thing we get to do which respects the local customs is to run carrying logs from the last clearing to the hut... not, jugding from the look on the owner's face, that doing that last one running is the most common way to comply...

 The next day, I get to make up a bit for the frustration of having not done what is, in my book, a proper trail run (I mean, I got the steep hills, the getting-lost in the fog, the going-down waterfall style tracks, the coming-back looking barely human and covered in mud, but come on, two hours...).

After a family hike about an hour drive from home, Martin suggests I run back home. Which is a great idea, if you forget about the fact I have never been in that part of the region, have a far-from-precise map as my only guide, and cannot really count on the help of an hypothetic local to help me out since I have long understood that my high school German was of stricly no help to understand the local dialect. Anyway, I prefer concentrating on the "good idea" part, since running is involved, and therefore set off.

Fifteen minutes later, I am panting up a killer hill which Martin had previously labelled as "a bit steeper, I think, than the normal path, but I think you'll find it less boring".  Not that the gradient leaves me with enough oxygen to irrigate both my lungs and my brain anyway, therefore saving me from thinking about whether I agree. Arriving on the plateau, jumping on the Bumelzug, the local bus, sounds like a cool idea, if only it went not in the opposite direction as the one I am heading towards...

Forty five minutes later, I am almost lost on the middle of a marsh-like expanse of high grasses, mud up to my knees, thinking that the steep hill was pretty pleasant, after all.

One hour and 10 minutes later, I am lost. Clearly, in the fifteen years since my map was drawn, the locals have decided these mountain forests needed more trails. Or maybe they are just trying to make sure vertically challenged foreigners who tricked the Nation's best men into emigrating to other parts of the Alps don´t deserve ever finding their way back home.  In any case, since I am quite keen on seeing Malo - and one of the Nation's best men - again, I bet on the left trail being the right one (ah, ah), which gets confirmed half an hour later, when I get to get a glimpse of the Hallst├Ątter See, the local lake.

From then, it is an hour and a half of uneventfull running before reaching home, and my two men.

Ah, August running in Austria, the rain, the fog, the mud, the vertical trails. Yet somehow... I love it.

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