LARQ Bottle Review 2019 – Does it live up to the hype?

The LARQ Bottle is the world's first self-cleaning water bottle that'll purify water and neutralize that stink! Does it live up to the hype? Let's find out!

Nike Pegasus 36 Trail GTX Review 2019 – The Best Winter Trail Shoes?

Nike Pegasus 36 Trail GTX in-depth review! Find out why these awesome waterproof winter trail running shoes win an Editor's Choice Award.

5 Best Headlamps for Trail Running & Ultrarunning in 2019 (So Far)

This concise list of the 5 best headlamps for trail running will help you decide which one to buy, based on your individual requirements.

Best GPS Watches for Ultrarunning & Trail Running in 2019

Ultrarunners have a very specific set of requirements when it comes to buying a GPS running watch. Our shortlist of top GPS running watches will help you decide which one is best for you.

5 Tips For Keeping Feet Warm on Winter Hikes & Everyday Adventures

Having cold feet is not pleasant, or great for the joints. Here are my top 5 tips for keeping your feet warm during winter hikes.

The Best Trail Running Shoes in 2019 (So far): The Ultimate Buyers Guide!

Our ever-evolving list of the best trail running shoes for every scenario; whether you run ultramarathons, race 10k's or plan to do a Spartan/Tough Mudder..

LARQ Bottle Review 2019 – Does it live up to the hype?

The LARQ Bottle is the world's first self-cleaning water bottle that'll purify water and neutralize that stink! Does it live up to the hype? Let's find out!

Nike Pegasus 36 Trail GTX Review 2019 – The Best Winter Trail Shoes?

Nike Pegasus 36 Trail GTX in-depth review! Find out why these awesome waterproof winter trail running shoes win an Editor's Choice Award.
- Advertisement -

Matterhorn Ultraks – Mountain Race Report

The Matterhorn Ultraks race weekend features four trail running races around the Swiss Alps, starting and finishing in Zermatt, and a vertical trail race that starts in Zermatt and finishes at one of the gondola stations at the top of the Sunnega mountain overlooking the town. Because there are four distances all broadly in the ‘skyrunning’ category, there is a broad appeal – you can choose from a c.19k, c.32k or c.49k distance, each with a decent amount of climbing, descending and fairly technical sections, as well as the ‘Extreme’ 24k skyrunning race. We were in Zermatt to race the Matterhorn Ultraks Mountain Race (30k).

Matterhorn Ultraks Official photograph 2 trail Kale

Running Matterhorn Ultraks

I previously ran this race in 2016 – you can read my race report here: Matterhorn Ultraks 30k: an Alpine trail race around Zermatt.

I found it hard the first time around, but what I love about races of this distance is that even if you have a tough day, you can still find time to enjoy it, and not get home after dark!


- Trail Running Phone Cases - 25% OFF code: TRAILANDKALE25 -
Rokform phone cases

Last time around it took me 5h50. This time, I was hoping for an improvement, maybe closer to 5h30, as I have three more years of trail running under my belt, although I knew going into the race that I hadn’t done much alpine running in training, so would be at a disadvantage when at higher elevations than sea level (like in Marin County, California where we currently live), and when the going gets steep – which it does, frequently, in the Swiss Alps.

RELATED POST:  Ticks and Trail Running: What are ticks AND how to prevent/remove them.

Race day – the usual big race nerves

One of the great things about the bigger mountain running races in Europe is the energy that the bigger crowd of runners and spectators brings, especially at the start and finish, as well as in the mountain villages and checkpoints along the way. Ultraks was, as always, no exception, and there was a definite buzz in the air as we gathered at the start line, knowing that the first thing we would be doing was heading out of town on a steady climb, before hitting the first large and steep ascent of the day. I tend to get nervous when in a large crowd, but the nerves soon faded once we crossed the line and I could focus on one thing – running.

Matterhorn Ultraks 30k Helen 3 Trail KaleThe first part of the route out of town is on a winding road for the first few km, which is great because it helps thin out the crowds and I never felt stuck or had to queue for more than a few seconds when we reached the steeper ascent, which can be a problem on other mountain races. I’m not especially fast on the steep climbs (in fact, I’m pretty damn slow), so if you are a fast steep hiker then you may still want to get ahead of the crowd on the first few km on the road.

Feeling great at halfway

Up to halfway through the race, I was feeling awesome! I was definitely surrounded by more runners than last time. This is partly because there were more runners! The race sold out this year, with a total of 708 starters. It is also because when the course converges with the longer 49k ‘Sky’ distance race, there were significantly more people running that race around me at the time we joined up. This made me feel good, I wasn’t straggling at the back. It was also impressive to see so many strong runners around me – these people had all just descended from Gornergrat, a c,3,200m high mountain they would have run/hiked up earlier in the day, and still had further to run than me for the remainder of their race.


Christmas Gifts for trail runners trail and kale 3Christmas Gift Guide For Trail Runners

After some gift inspiration for the trail runner in your life, or yourself? Check out our list of the best affordable and useful gifts for trail runners and hikers.
READ NOW

Matterhorn Ultraks 30k Alastair 2 Trail Kale
A photo of Alastair running one of the milder descents

Shortly after the convergence, there’s a steep descent, which is the most technical of the day. You have to scramble down large rock slabs and tree roots, which are all slippery and either need to be jumped or carefully navigated using well-placed trail running poles. I bounded down this, slipped on my butt once, and put effort into not holding anyone else back who was negotiating it behind me.

Furi to Schwarzee – the highest point

At 18km I arrived at the checkpoint at the bottom of the descent – Furi. I had forgotten that Furi only stocked water, and no food, and had skipped on food at the previous checkpoint with the intention of grabbing some fruit at Furi to power me up the large c.800m ascent to Schwarzee, which sits at 2,583m above sea level. Sadly, no fruit for me, so I ate the food I had in my hydration pack and started to climb. After 100m of climbing it was apparent that this was going to be a long haul. In hindsight, the 12k/500m hike I had done the previous day probably wasn’t the best preparation, and my legs and body struggled with every step up this climb. Plus, I generally feel the effects of altitude at 2,000m+, so this added an extra challenge as I worked hard to avoid getting too out of breath. I took frequent breaks to catch my breath, and actually sat down on a few occasions! Hey, the views aren’t bad, so I wasn’t too worried, plus I made a friend who gave me some food halfway up – thanks buddy!

Matterhorn Ultraks 30k Helen Trail Kale

The Schwarzee climb took me 20 minutes more than last time and left me dreaming of hiking poles, which would have helped tremendously. Last time I raced, I didn’t bring my trail running poles and concluded it was probably the right decision. My view now is that I should have taken them, but resisted the temptation to have them out, except for this climb, when they would have made a big difference. At most other times, I was fine without them and could have stowed them in my race vest. Hindsight is a beautiful thing 🙂

Matterhorn Ultraks Official photograph 3 trail Kale

The looong descent

The good news is that once you’ve made it up to the top, you have to get yourself back down, and this is done via a 12k hustle all the way back down the valley to Zermatt. The course here is a mixture of ski runs, technical single track and buff runnable trails so all-round trail running shoes will perform the best. Well, runnable if you can still run uphill, as the buff trails at the end of the section seemed to go on forever, up and down, up and down, rolling along the edge of the valley, before you catch sight of the finish line as you look down into the town from above. I spent the entire descent needing the bathroom, but was now way behind my goal time, and didn’t spare time to stop at Schwarzee for a break, just topped up my water, grabbed some fruit and headed downhill! It was by then the middle of the afternoon, the sun was out, and this section was very hot!

Matterhorn Ultraks EXTREME trail running trail and kale wm 62The route into the finish was slightly different to last time, partly due to the finish line having moved from the center of Zermatt, to the sports center. This allowed the organizers much more room to accommodate the event, but means that you stay out of the town for longer, on the single track, rather than entering town along the river and finishing right in the middle of the main street. What I loved about the finish is that it didn’t leave you hanging (no running around the houses, so to speak). Straight in to town, around the back of the plaza, and bam, you’re at the finish line!

Matterhorn Ultraks 30k Helen Finishing Trail Kale

Race Results

Once the wheels started to come off on the Schwarzee climb, I knew I would struggle to beat last year’s time, and the descent took longer than I had hoped – I had run too hard in the first half, the climbs took it out of me, and all that was left to do was to keep on pushing and enjoying, and to not worry about the time it was taking. Plus, the longer you’re out on the course, the more trail time you’re getting for your money 🙂

Here is the official Matterhorn Ultraks event website if you would like to secure a place for one of the next years races.

Matterhorn Ultraks 30k Alastair and Helen medal photo Trail Kale

READ MORE on European mountain running

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Helen
Helenhttps://www.trailandkale.com
Hi, I’m Helen. I write about all things trail running, outdoor adventures and mindful living. Aiming to be a positive influence and have a positive impact on the environment and those around me.

TRENDING NOW

5 Best Headlamps for Trail Running & Ultrarunning in 2019 (So Far)

This concise list of the 5 best headlamps for trail running will help you decide which one to buy, based on your individual requirements.

Best GPS Watches for Ultrarunning & Trail Running in 2019

Ultrarunners have a very specific set of requirements when it comes to buying a GPS running watch. Our shortlist of top GPS running watches will help you decide which one is best for you.

The Best Trail Running Shoes in 2019 (So far): The Ultimate Buyers Guide!

Our ever-evolving list of the best trail running shoes for every scenario; whether you run ultramarathons, race 10k's or plan to do a Spartan/Tough Mudder..

The Ultimate Stargazing Guide For Beginners: A Must-Do Micro-Adventure!

This Stargazing Guide for beginners is the perfect family micro-adventure. Learn when, where and how to stargaze, plus the essential gear!

20 Hacks That helped Improve My Trail Running Performance (Nutrition, Recovery, Gear + MORE)

My 20 tried & tested hacks that helped me improve running performance. Topics include Cross Training, Nutrition, Gear, and Recovery

Best On Running Shoes Ranked & Reviews 2019: Ultimate Buyers Guide!

The ULTIMATE 'Best of' list for On running shoes (Trail & Road), ranked & reviewed. Find out which On running shoes are best for YOU in 2019!
- Trail & Kale's Recommended Headlamp Alternative -

POPULAR ADVICE

5 Tips For Keeping Feet Warm on Winter Hikes & Everyday Adventures

Having cold feet is not pleasant, or great for the joints. Here are my top 5 tips for keeping your feet warm during winter hikes.

3 Epic Hiking Trails in Marin County: All within 30 mins of San Francisco

Our 3 favorite San Francisco Bay Area hiking trails located in Marin County, California. All hikes are within a 30-minute drive of the city.

20 Hacks That helped Improve My Trail Running Performance (Nutrition, Recovery, Gear + MORE)

My 20 tried & tested hacks that helped me improve running performance. Topics include Cross Training, Nutrition, Gear, and Recovery

The Ultimate Guide to Running at Night: Getting Started, Benefits, Staying Safe

The risks of running at night in the dark can be mitigated by having the right gear and exercising good judgement to help you stay safe.

Finding a Balance: Sustaining Happiness & How to Avoid Running Burnout

A happy, balanced lifestyle lets your energy come and go naturally without risking burnout! Click for advice on how to keep running enjoyable.

Is Trail Running Dangerous? How To Stay Safe on the Trails

Animal encounters, ticks and getting lost may be concerns for some trail runners. Find out how to reduce the risks for these and other dangers.

latest gear reviews/guides

10 Environmentally-Friendly Gift Ideas For Outdoor Adventurers

Looking for an environmentally-friendly gift for the outdoor adventurer in your life? Read our sustainable gift guide for 10 great ideas!

Best Women’s Running Books – Inspiring Reads by Female Runners

Our curated list of the best women's running books, showcasing true stories from inspiring female athletes and adventurers.

Gifts For Trail Runners in 2019: Shoes, GPS, Accessories, Nutrition & More

After gift inspiration for the trail runner in your life or yourself? Check out our list of the best affordable and useful gifts for trail runners.

Randolph Fusion Sunglasses Review 2019 – Elinor & Archer Frame Styles

Randolph's Fusion Sunglasses Collection features the lightweight Elinor and Archer frames, a spin on Aviator and Aviator-inspired designs. Read our review of these Italian-style, US-made sunglasses.

Nike Running Gear Guide – Christmas Gift Ideas For Runners 2019

We have the ultimate Nike running gift ideas for men and women. Stick to this guide and make the right gifting choices this holiday season.

On Cloudflow Review: The Second Generation Cloud Has Arrived!

Tried & Tested by Alastair, our in-house On expert! Find out how well they perform and how they compare to other On running shoes in this detailed review.

Lululemon Gifts for Runners – Christmas Gift List 2019

Make the runner in your life super-happy this Christmas! We've hand-picked the best men's and women's gifts for runners from Lululemon.

Receive our Newsletter

Enjoy first class Trail Running, Hiking & Adventure Inspiration, delivered straight to your inbox.

Welcome to the Trail & Kale Community! Please check your email to confirm your subscription.