A narrow, rooted path, heavily overgrown, every step carefully. Branches and foliage stretch out from above, duck your head. Further through a river bed, over slippery stones, into a mountain village, over the market, through gardens, past locals, later through a banana plantation. It is an adventure for Rosanna Buchauer, this first world championship in mountain running and trail running. She has never run in the jungle before. But of course, she says, her conclusion is positive.
Born in Inzell, she fought her way to fifth place last weekend on a 78-kilometer route through the jungle in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. As one of 74 starters. She climbed 4800 meters and needed 8:50:45 hours, about 28 minutes longer than the first place. She was surprised by that, she says two days later on the phone. She had an intense season, including taking part in the Eiger Ultratrail and the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. Therefore, her main wish was to finish at the World Championships, her hope lay in a top 20 finish. Her main concern was the heat. But her “plan”, which she and her trainer had worked out since she was nominated by the German Athletics Association five weeks ago, “two thirds” worked. “I have accepted that sweat runs down all the time,” says Rosanna Buchauer and laughs.
To see how her body reacts to extreme heat, she spontaneously trained for a week on the Italian island of Sardinia in autumn. It ran in “absolute midday heat” and it started at twelve o’clock. “The locals have wondered why I’m running right now,” she says. But she learned a lot from it, for her body and her equipment. Otherwise she ran with her pigtails, which were soaked with sweat from the midday heat on the island and hit her shoulder like a whip. For the World Cup Thailand so she braided her hair tightly around her head. She used tape and Vaseline to prepare places that could become sore from the rubbing of the backpack and clothing on the salty skin, and she rubbed cooling gel on her headband, her scarf and her bracelets before and during the race.
The World Cup in Thailand, which lasted three days, was the first in a combined format of mountain running and trail running. The mountain runners started first on their short distances of between eight and eleven kilometers, on Saturday it was the trail runners’ turn with 38 and 78 kilometers. In addition to Buchauer, Benedikt Hofmann started for the men’s long distance and Hanna Gröber in the mountain run for Germany. Ultra races are Buchauer’s speciality, i.e. races over 50 kilometers in length that require a lot of strategy. You have to divide your forces economically. You go up steep climbs, on flat stretches and downhill you gain time by speeding up.
Buchauer’s trainer, Arne-Christian Wolff, knows what heart rate his athlete can sustain over long distances. “Based on that, we calculate how many carbs I’m burning and consuming,” she says. In total, she consumed eight liters of water enriched with electrolytes in Chiang Mai. She fed herself energy with the help of gels; To keep her stomach from becoming acidic, she ate bananas, cakes and white bread at the aid stations along the route. Her running backpack, a kind of vest, weighed two and a half kilos, in addition to a liter of water, she had gels with her, a rescue blanket, walking sticks and a cell phone for emergencies. And a whistle. If she strays or falls, she calls for help.
Up to the age of 16, Buchauer trained speed skating at a competitive level
Rosanna Buchauer has only been a professional since 2021, but has been athletic all her life. Between the ages of 12 and 16, she trained in speed skating at a competitive level and began running in the mountains while studying in Innsbruck. That’s still what fascinates her about her sport today: crossing several peaks at once, soaking up the panorama. She trains up to 20 hours a week alongside her part-time job in project management. 80 percent basic training, 20 percent high intensity, intervals and hill sprints.
She would never have thought that she would still be taking part in a World Cup at the age of 32. Experience counts in sport: How well do I know my body, what can I demand of it, how do I motivate myself? Motivation, an important topic. “Before the competition, I think very hard about why I’m going to the starting line and why I want to finish,” she says, wanting to avoid doubting why she’s actually doing it along the way. During the race she just wants to keep an eye on her pulse, see what is still possible, where she can still get something out of it.
She wants to continue training over the winter, turning screws, such as the performance indicator VO2max, which indicates how many milliliters of oxygen she can take in at maximum per minute when working at full capacity. In June 2023, the next Trail World Championships will take place in Innsbruck. Running on familiar paths, without cooling gel, without constant sweating, without a jungle.