Saturday, August 8, 2009

The race is over

The race is over ... Not quite for our minds yet.
Our bodies are almost recovered and we are already catching up with work and getting things organized. 

The race was very intense and it was impossible to update this blog. We updated our race blog at the Check it out, there you can read others and see a gallery of photos and videos as well.  

I have to say that I had a lot of fun doing the x-alps adventure with Penny this time. Not that Frank was a bad supporter for the 2007 x-alps. Actually he was way easier and more human with me than Penny was. To be a supporter and a team for the x-alps is a huge test on your friendship and partnerships. We have seen some teams never talk to each other after the race, and on the other hand, it connects can also connect an amazing bond. As you all know, Frank and I are still very good friends and now Penny and I are even talking about marriage!!! Whew

I know that a lot of you want to know how we are doing and want to hear about what happened during the race. Most questions are:
How was it?
What was so special about it?
Would you do it again?

Here is in short was I/we think about it:

I have to admit, having my kids and Penny as my partner is still the most exciting adventure of all. But following in excitement right behind is the x-alps. What makes it so unique is that you are so fully involved 24/7 for numerous days on end. Nothing in the outside world even filters into your mind, work, kids, news, rumours. For both myself and Penny, we realized the focus we had and the concentration you have on the moment, you are absorbed in everything about the race. You do know the overall plan for the race, in where and how to go, but being able to do it physically, you need to concentrate on the moment you are in and this allows you to push the limits of physical stress or fly in conditions you never would fly in.
If someone tells you that you only can sleep 2-4 hours a day and have to hike up to 4000 meter in elevation or 50 km or further distances a day, for 12 days without a shower or bath, everyone would say you are crazy. The most amazing part is how the power of your mind can allow your body to do it.
As an example, one day I started hiking at 3:30 am, almost fell asleep walking along the road at 6:00 am, but Penny gave me a Red bull and I was a new person!! Then was flying at 11:00 in lee thermals while we had plus 100 km/hr winds build up behind the mountain. Eventually I got flushed down and managed to land in very steep and alpine terrain in the dolomite's, hiked over another pass (1000m elevation gain) and decided at 5:00 pm to hike up the 3300m Marmolada Glacier and rock climb in 120km/hr winds and to be down at 10pm in time for a pub to still be open and feed us spaghetti and beer. All this in one day and we were out there for a total of 12 days or so ( I already forgot how long it was) This was also one of two meals we were able to eat in a town at a restaurant!
Out of this ordeal, all I had was a couple blisters at my toes, heels and hands. I had swollen feet and archilles tendon which is all good again.

I am more amazed how Penny did all she did. She kept the van clean, had my bed ready when it was needed, got up an hour before I got up to have breakfast ready and the morning worked out, worked on the computer checking other athletes routes and updates on weather, had all the technical details in order, cooked, and made sure I have all the liquids and gear I needed and to top it off, she hiked all the mountains with me and most of the peaks to help carry up gear and supplies. Ask her how much her backpack weighed and she will tell you at least 30lbs of extra gear, food and water - she was probably right. Where ever I flew down, she hiked back down, up to 2500m elevation differences, and  somehow found time to stop in at a grocery store to restock, and then catch up to me again. Most amazing part is that she always had a smile in her face and was still talking as much as usual and what you know of her.

Now would we do it again?
Hard to say, It is an amazing adventure. The competition is extremely strong (Paragliding World champions and world cup winners) and the main benefit to most of the Europeans is that they know the alps and routes very well. They had alternate route plans and take off sites dependent on weather conditions, winds and time of day. Most of them are extremely good pilots and willing to take huge amounts of risk in how they fly and where they fly. To compete with these kind of guys is very hard. If I would do it again, I would have to spend at least the same time in physical training as I did for this race and next time I would travel the route for 2 month with a motor glider (sail plane).
It is too soon for me to make a decision on whether I would go through all this again. We still have some some time to think about it.

Even though my body's aches and pains and feet are back to normal, and the fatigue has diminished, we are both still having "nightmares" about where to launch, how is the weather, what are the valley winds doing, have we over-slept. It still takes both of us a couple minutes to realize where we are and that the race is actually over. We have both enjoyed a few flights this week.............hiking up 800m elevation gain, even when there was a perfectly good gondola right above our heads!!
We want to thank so many of you for helping us getting to this race. All your support at our fundraiser was incredible. It is a huge undertaking and a huge expense, and with your support helped make it a reality for us. And thank you too for all your comments on our guest book. I am sorry we didn't have time to respond, but we enjoyed reading them when we found a moment.

Max & Penny

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