It has now been a few weeks since the completion of the Red bull X-Alps, and it has given us time to reflect and write this blog.
We are having a great time here in Germany. We are all recovered, no more dreams of having to get up to get ready for the next hike, where will we take off and what route will we go. The kids love it, Penny is settling in to the "local lifestyle", I have high speed Internet and am able to work from here without any problems, the beer is good and cheap, so everything is just pefect.
The main question I am hearing, is if I would go for the 2011 x-alps again?
I am very happy with my 13th place finish this year. I did have a good chance to be in the top 10, if I would have choosen the "North Route", as I was sitting in 9th spot with 48 hours to go. The weather seemed to be in favour for the north the days I was traveling through that section, but had already positioned myself in the south. The "South Route" did have a lot of wind and it was hard to gain distance. It is not that the north or south route is better, it all depends on the wind and weather at the time you are there. Christian Maurer (winner) took the "South Route" and Alex Hofer (2nd) the "North Route" and both where very successful in both areas. It is just how you hit it, and being in the right place at the right time.
The major aspect that seperates the top pilots from the middle and end of the pack is the skill level of these pilots and some of them, being from around here, have a lot of local knowlege. The top finishers are exceptional pilots though, are in a class of their own, and did take more risks than I did. If I would go for the next x-alps, I would have to spend at least 2 months with a motor glider (motor sail plane) to really explore the whole route and fly it several times to get more familiar with the area and different valleys and landing areas. I also think the next x-alps, you will see more professional mountain guides as supporters, as had Christian Maurer.
Another important point is if I/we are willing, and able, to to free up the necessary time for training and also the time for the training in Europe. Further more, it is a matter of money as well. This race cost us more then $20.000. We were able to raise $10.000 at our fund raiser, but our personal costs exceeded $10.000. Thanks a lot to everyone again who came out to support us and spend money at the BBQ and on silent auction items. This obviously was such a huge help to us. We had a couple product sponsors too, (which I will mention in a bit) who helped us as well. The biggest expenses are the airplane tickets, car rental costs, gas, shoes and hiking boots. (I had about 12 pairs of shoes & boots through training and the race), phone, internet costs during the race (checking google earth, routes etc), maps, GPS, light weight equipment, and the wing, not to mention the time you are not working.
We got the wing for about $3000 from Nova. I was very happy with the wing as it certainly was better then most wings in glide. Ogi even thinks that the Triton is pretty close in glide with his Bommerang. Very good from the performance perspective and even better if you look at the saftey aspect as the large Triton is rates as a EN "C" wing.
Vincene Muller with www.MullerWindsports.com sponsored me with the Apco "ChairBag" harness. This is a very comfortable harness. The reserve is under the seat and the harness is reversable and very light. For the race I ended up with the SupAir Altirando XP which I got sponosred from SupAir. The reason why I chose this harness over the Apco is because the backpack is developed by mountaineers, is extremely comfortable and perfect for the hiking I had to do. I did not once have sore sholders during the race. The harness also has an optional leg fairing (pod) and an additional bag which can be mounted on top of the backpack. The backpack itself is very large and easily fit in my large triton, helmet, and other gear.
Craft clothing line, who sponsored me with clothing, has such an excellent line of clothing for active sports people. I used a sweater which was perfect for warmth around the neck, which is so important, and at the same time it drew the sweat off my body, and believe me I was sweating!! Very impressive is their underwear. I wore this during night time hiking, and again, your body never stays wet from sweating, you stay warm, but do not over heat either. It is hard to explain, but it certainly is different from what I have used in the past. Once you use the "Craft" line of clothing, you will not use anyting else.
Ark'teryx supplied me with a light Gore Tex jacket and pants which I used as my fly gear. The pants and jacket together, weigh only 590 grams. I did not have to use the pants too often though as the leg fairing of the harness (pod) was so good and kept me very warm. The jacket was awesome, keeping all air and wind out, keeping me very warm.
Another sponsorship which I was very grateful for was the "MBT" shoes. During training, I tried a number of different styles, and found the best for me, and the best for the different conditions I would be in. The shoes made it possible to walk long distances, on the pavement and on some hikes, without any pain and too much blistering. I had no problems with my knees, as I had in the 2007 X-alps, and by the end of the race, all I had was swollen feet, swollen achilles and a couple blisters. I would say this is normal with the kind of walking and hiking we ended up doing! I did not use any regular runners, only the MBT hiker, runner or sandal, or a solid hiking boot.
I would like to mention a few people I met because of the x-alps and have become very good friends with. Thanks to Till Gottbrath (Team Nova leader and owner of KGK) who connected me with Craft, Ark'teryx and with Garmin. His connections helped me get these product sponsors. Thanks also, and again to, Michael Phol (one of the best Austrian x-country pilots and super nice guy). Michael helped me in route planning and took time off to meet and fly with me before the race. Mik Broschart, simply a super nice guy, who was always there to help any way he could. Lloyd Pennicuik and Lewis Nott - Team Australia, who I spent some time with before the race and found that we were together quite a lot during the race. And of course, our great friend, Frank Kernick - 2007 supporter, who convinced me to go me into the x-alps, who helped raise funds to cover some of the expenses, sponsored me by paying for some expenses and joined me in Europe for a week prior to the race to check out the Frensh Alps.
Since the race, we have done a few presentations about the event, with information from the preparations (training, nutrition, logistics), the race itself, and the variety of equipment we used. Please feel free to drop me an e-mail if you have any questions.