For a week in August, myself and my best man-to-be/life partner Mark headed off to Austria for a week of distance running and activities. Austria is a popular destination for skiing holidays and nordic walking – meaning hills and plenty of them. The plan was get there, run a trail each day of varying distance to start the day and take on another activity eg. canyoning, canoeing, or summer tobogganing (?) in the afternoon if there was time! With this being the only chance we will have to do something like this for a long time it was decided that this would also be my Stag-Do – and for us being the wild boys that we are it can only mean a week of “lads on tour” debauchery, misbehaviour, and ‘Stag-Do stitch-ups’.
Day One: In Which We Arrived
Forgoing all the travel details, getting to Austria was incredibly simple. Straight away we were greeted by our private travel (Stag Do VIPs) – a taxi driver who took the steepest bends on motorways at speed with one hand on his mobile phone, had no problem overtaking other cars on blind corners, weaved around the straight roads, and generally kept one hand on his phone checking Whatsapp and the other on a can of Redbull. He put us at ease though by having enough confidence in himself to not bother with a seatbelt.
Current risk of death: High.
After dropping us safely at our hotel – finding it by asking passers by for directions – we had the chance to explore. Starting with an easy stroll through a local trail we came across trim-trail type equipment to play on while working our way higher up the hills. We carried on up, exploring as we went, plenty of Jesus statues, a small church, and perhaps meaningful (but perhaps not) rock piles..
A fairly hefty trek actually brought us to our target, a hut on the top of the hill – this turned out to be one of the lowest peaks in our visibility. Bring on the rest of them!
We pretty much legged it back down to make sure we were back for dinner, awesome fun on rocky trails!
Stag Do Dinner: Tomato Soup, Hunter’s Chicken, White Chocolate Cheesecake – a group of around 20 walkers are also staying in our hotel, drinking lots of wine and conversing loudly. Hope they don’t plan on staying up too late…..!!
Day Two: In Which We Undertook Our First Run
This being a Stag Do (WOOP WOOP) we had to start as we meant to go on – so straight out of bed we were on to a mixture of press ups and squats. Mark went for 10 sets of 10 reps to hit one hundred of each, but me being the stag went for the ‘DIO’ approach and downed 4 sets of 25 each to hit 100. Tough going but we live for crazy antics!
After sorting logistics of the week, blah blah, we were off! The target was initially to hit a high peak not too far from Mayrhofen – Ahornspitze – but our rep convinced us it would be too late in the day to start – we should set off at 6am if we wanted to reach that, so instead we aimed for the next highest peak – Filzenkogl – so we could hit two mountain huts along the way.
Stag-Do Stitch-Up #1: Trying to run as far as possible up a particularly steep part of the trail – I made short work of it (meaning I didn’t run for long), felt the effect a little bit but didn’t throw up or anything! Stag-Do hardcore!
The first hut, Alpenrose, was a nice respite provided our next two Stag-Do moments;
Boob count #1: Awww yeh we got to see some boobs as a lady on the table opposite changed her top! Changed it right in front of us you guys! We just about saw the boobs as they were nearly completely drooping under the table. Staaag-Dooo (AWOOGA)!
We were reduced to a fairly slow walk to hit the next hut – Edelhutte – 1 1/2 hrs later both flagging and desperately in the need of some lunch. We necked some eggs, bacon, and potatoes and were straight into a downhill run towards our goal destination. A nice long run along the ridges of the mountain turned into another uphill slog to hit the peak of Filzenkogl.
Making our way back down, the hills provided us with a nice bathing pond to rest our legs for a short while, then it was simply a case of pounding our way back down the tricky trails, navigating rocks and tree roots through the winding paths until we could cool off again in the river/waterfall at the bottom.
Comfortably back in time for tea!
Daily Distance: Approx. 20km
The local pub quiz was on in the evening, we joined a team of nerds and showed them who’s boss by nailing the movie villain picture round while Mark fucked up a Monopoly question (twat). We won anyway and got a bottle of Prosecco and some chocolates – we totally had a couple of glasses of that Prosecco before bed too! This trip is getting hectic!
Day Three: In Which We Ran Some More
We started straight on it again before breakfast – hair of the dog! This time with a small 5 minute superset of plank 30 secs and Hindu Pushups 30 secs. We were both feeling it a little bit at the start but when on a Stag Do (BOOM BOOM), do as a stag would do! And a stag would do a plank/pushup superset.
After breakfast we were, of course, straight on it again. The plan was to visit an area called Stillupgrund to make our way around one of the largest reservoirs in Austria and see some waterfalls along the way – so that’s what we did!
We walked about 5k up to the first mountain hut to loosen up our legs, had a brief but successful conversation about stamps with a lady who spoke no English, and got ourselves running on our way to the next hut. The roads were long, twisting tarmac paths – wide enough for cars and minibuses. Being a long, steady incline we ran most of the way to the first hut, with a few stops for pictures etc as we kept by the river and being in the valley had mountains either side of us. We hit the reservoir just before the first lodge and were shown just how immense it looked.
The reservoir remained by our side for the rest of the run up – it got steeper but we managed to maintain a steady pace – hitting the goal hut just before Mark and so being the Stag (WOOF) I had to lead by example by necking a few tricep dips and pushups before he arrived! Legs and glutes feeling it a fair bit already.
We stuffed our faces with as much bacon & potato salad that we could, drank 2567 litres of water, enjoyed the view, and head straight back down! There are always stories of people puking etc on Stag-Dos and I’m not surprised as running downhill on a full stomach can really feel a bit rough! I held it together though as I’m no lightweight!
Daily Distance: Approx. 35km
NB: The two mad stag challenges I was set today I failed – first was to eat all of the tomatoes I was given with my lunch, to which I was like “No waay man! I can’t EVEN!” and also I have an allergy to tomatoes. The second was to get a high-five from anybody that we ran past which I failed as running fast towards people with our hand raised seemed to look like more of an aggressive gesture than we anticipated. Stag fail!!
The evening found us heading into Mayrhofen for a couple of drinks with a few of the Chalet staff. Weird thing to do on a Stag-Do (WAHOO) but we felt like a calm evening after a heavy day on it! A couple of pints, a game of darts, and an awful lot of bollocky conversation later we were done!
Day Three: In Which We Rested By Walking
A few aches sailing around the legs in the morning, today was planned to be less full-on to give us a little bit of recovery time. We got three separate cable cars to reach a 3,500 (approx.) metre peak in an area called Hintertux – a snowy glacier peak full of skiiers (nerds).
We took up a tour of the ice palace, a series of tunnels, caves, and lakes within the glacier – everybody of course wearing ski jackets, thick trousers, walking boots etc while I was in my Subsports cold weather compression gear. I think we all know who got it right – exploring this was awesome, climbing down ladders and paddling across underground lakes deeper and deeper into the glacier.
Thankfully there were no Stag-Do Stitch-Ups down here as anything crazy we could have attempted would most likely have lead to an icy death. Good fun all the same though! Slipping around the tunnels, messing around at the back of the tour (because we’re mad Stag-Do misbehavers) and having the tour guide describe things directly to us in German despite clearly stating that we were English and knowing full well that he spoke English (he only spoke English to the Italians).
Daily Distance: N/A as it was an easier day
Back at the Chalet I smashed in a half-hour of yoga to keep the buzz going. For the evening we sourced out a nice looking restaurant in the hills, had a mini trek up only to find it shut. Doesn’t matter had a walk! On the way back we discussed at great length respecting women and how awesome it is when women train hard and challenge their fitness. Classic lad Stag-Do banter!! Waheeyyy!
Day Four: In Which We Were Half-Naked On A Mountain
A lie in until half 8 showed us how the antics must be taking their toll, but as soon as we had a chance we were straight on it again! Lads! We went up the hill just outside our Chalet, following a steep winding trail in a comfortable run-walk-run pattern to reach Steinerkogl – the hut we reached on the first night – received our traveller’s stamp and carried on our merry way.
Stag-Do Banter Alert: We ran past a group of the elderly Geordie walkers on the way up the trail – one of them told Mark that wearing Camelbaks (which Mark obviously wears) is for wimps. Booya! Top notch banter! Lad!
The trail led to a long woodland track, with a sheer drop on one side, a narrow uneven path, and the occasional flowing stream on the other side, it was like running through The Forest Moon of Endor. The long path eventually came to our second targeted hut and revealed our ultimate goal of the day: the Brandberger Kolm, a 2700 peak (the 2nd highest that is realistically accessible from Mayrhofen without taking a bus or cable car).
Our running was quickly slowed to a walk as the route got narrower, steeper, and much more treacherous – consisting of large rocks and slate in all directions. We trekked and scrambled our way higher and higher as the trail got steeper, eventually forcing us to climb up and over many rocks and through some narrow waypoints with an increasingly larger drop a few inches in the wrong direction.
It was only when we hit the top that it really struck that we had actually just climbed a mountain, with nobody else around and no real experience we had just comfortably worked our way up a pretty tricky route. The views and feeling while resting on top were incredible, with mountains as far as the eye could see (including many snow-covered peaks), the valleys, villages, and waterfalls below, it was an immense experience.
I was so inspired that I built my own rock pile to show how deep and spiritual I am.
We soaked up as much of the experience as we could, took plenty of photos and worked our way back down. It took a lot of careful-going of course but we managed a bit of pace weaving our way among the rocks. We trotted up to what was supposed to be another smaller peak before heading back but this just seemed to be a random crossroads with nothing of note here.
Daily Distance: Approx. 25km
Day Five: In Which We Ran To Italy
To put it simply, today we ran to Italy. End of story.
I’ve learned two things on this trip; 1: Austria is in the Alps; 2: Italy borders Austria; 3: Italy is in the Alps; 4: My list-numbering skills leave a lot to be desired.
We got a bus up to an area named Schlegeis which began a steady uphill rocky trail which crossed streams, followed a flowing river, and passed some of the largest waterfalls we had seen yet. We made short work of this journey, crossed the border into Italy and soaked up the sights! The mountains on either side of us and the valleys below were impressive, but there was no time to waste so we kept on it and headed back down! Knowing this would be our last real full day for getting on it we had to make it a marathon session! Woop Woop Stag-Do sessions!!!
After tackling a few rickety bridges over violently flowing rivers and smashing in the final rocky incline to the Berliner Hutte, the final destination of the day had been conquered – about 1 1/2 hrs. We wolfed down some eggs, bacon, and potatoes and were straight back on it! I know eating is cheating but the hunger tends to build when ascending these slopes and cereal bars/ginger biscuits only keep you going for so long!
The speedy descent was a great feeling – battered legs, aching muscles, full stomach – running downhill is incredibly taxing and with no breaks we made our way back to the start point, with dry mouths and hot bodies we were given a refreshing drink of undiluted blackcurrant squash. So refreshing.
The journey back gave the chance to reflect on what we had done as we knew this was our real bit of distance, along with the peaks we had conquered throughout the week, today we had put in just-under marathon distance along some very tricky and challenging terrain. Stag-Do beasts!!!
Daily Distance: Approx. 42km
Our evening consisted of savaging a barbecue dinner, much chit-chat, a little bit of chess, a couple of drinks with our Chalet housekeeper & Inghams rep, and an impromptu game of British Bulldogs on a local football pitch for some reason taking us through until around 3am. Beastly day for beastly Stags (WOOHAA)!
Days 6 & 7: In Which Some More Stuff Happened
The last couple of days remained relatively chilled after the preceding sessions, Friday was a trip to Innsbruck to soak of some culture, which turned into a long lunch and drinks in an Austrian market with our Inghams rep, while Saturday brought an easy 5k run before a cable-car trip back up to the Ahorn – the area with the bathing lake/pond just below the Filzenkogl peak which we ran on the first day – Stags returning to their first watering hole to round off the trip! As we sat with a cup of tea, watching the clouds rise, reflecting on the week just gone we realised what mighty stags we were! Also we were surrounded by cows which all wore large cowbells and aarghshutupthatsoundissoannoyingitisringingaroundinmyheadstill.
Other Points of INTEREST
At the start of the week we picked up a ‘Wunderpass’ – a route map with an area to collect stamps. Through the week we collected aroound 18 ‘stampels’ (15 were required) to earn a bronze, sliver, and gold hiking badge – while also hitting 2 peaks which earn us an ‘Edelweiss’ badge followed by the ultimate ‘Ibex’ badge. We proudly displayed our badges, much to the envy of everybody else in the world.
We had a member of staff at our chalet who (unwittingly) provided a great deal of entertainment – from banging his head on a light every time (every.time.) he came to our table, to spilling milk/coffee/anything he was carrying all down himself (every.time.) to unbuttoning his shirt at the belly while he was talking to us for some reason – chaos pretty much followed him everywhere he went. The rest of the staff were great to us, very accomodating, food excellent etc etc
We saw nobody else running during the week, looks like nobody else can handle our Stag-Do (WHUT WHUUUT?!) intensity!
Chess Results: In game order; Win for me; Stalemate; Win for Mark; Win for Mark.
We think Mark picked up a bit of a case of trenchfoot this week. Loss for Mark.
Main Kit Used:
Inov-8 F-Lite 195s: Excellent shoe for easy terrain and for kicking around in, always comfortable and nicely camoflaged in the snow.
Inov-8 Racesocks: Comfy, lightweight, breatheable, don’t rub when wet – these did the job perfectly all week – on the day I wore some Karrimor running sock I picked up a blister on my heel which may or may not be coincidence. Either way, the Inov-8 socks always feel great.
Sub-Sports Compression Shorts: These are so comfy I mad sure to wash them in the sink so I could wear them again, a great set of compression shorts that never seem to smell too bad (very important), didn’t get too hot and neither ‘ride up’ or squash any delicate areas. I also had my Sub-sports compression tights ready to go but it was always too hot to run in them so these became evening recovery wear.
Muddyrace T-Shirt: Whenever it was deemed necessary to actually wear a top, there was a trusty Muddyrace top ready to go! Obviously these are comfy running tops that look great and let the world know who’s boss. People noticed the logo and often asked what it’s about so now I’m hoping for an Austrian OCR in the Alps.
The Suffering T-Shirt: Again a comfy running top with added bragging rights. I could tell that everyone we passed (even those who spoke no English) wanted to shake my hand, if only I wasn’t running so super fast around them.
Subsports Cold Compression Top: Perfect for the day in the Ice Palace! Kept my body temperature normal as could be and made me look far more stylish than anybody else! Me:1, everybody else: 0.
Polar M400 & Garmin 310XT: Both taken out with us to check distance, gradient etc. and had no problem with either when it came to GPS signal or distance accuracy. The M400 has a much shorter battery life however and the calorie count seems way off when not wearing the heart rate monitor.
Muddyrace/The Suffering Buff: Without these I would have been much worse off – without mentioning how stylish it is to be wearing one of these as a headband, when it is a hot day and you are slogging your way up a mountain getting hotter and hotter, dipping the buff into a stream and putting it back on to keep your head or neck cool is a lifesaver.
Moutain Warehouse 22L Backpack: Did the job but noticed a tear in what is a relatively new bag before we had even set off on the first day which is currently held together with a safety pin. The bag is comfy enough and doesn’t move around when running but it is worn very close to the body and ended up soaked in sweat each day! Nearly ruined my Wunderpass!! Unfortunately I will probably need to replace this before Man v Mountain.
Written by me: Keith Fairburn
Personal Trainer, Sports Therapist, S&C Coach.
Ninja Warrior Semi-Finalist, Obstacle Racer, Salming Running Ambassador.
If you have any questions about anything I’ve written in this post or want to get in touch, contact me.
Next up is Man v Mountain at the beginning of September, clearly the training is well under way for this. Did you know that I’m being sponsored by the Cheltenham Park Hotel, part of The Hotel Collection, to attend the OCR World Championships? No? Well you do now! Read The Road to the OCRWC now!