In the second instalment, we catch up with Stephan Gruber and Gaspard Petiot to hear about the pain of retiring early and how they’re getting back to full strength.
"It’s fine now, but it took much longer than expected to recover. I was thinking after one or two weeks I’d be ok but still two months on and I’m not able to train. But now it’s finally getting better."
"I had pain from the beginning of my toes to my knees, I was just not able to run anymore. It was really a big issue. I was not able to fly either – to keep your legs straight you have to use your ankles a lot, so that was it for me."
"It was due to the wet and cold, I got sick in my ankles." [It seems most likely that Gruber picked up a cold weather injury sometimes known as trench or immersion foot, which occurs after prolonged exposure to wet conditions.]
"I never had this before. The main problem was we walked the first two days in the rain and cold – and it was really cold, there was strong wind. I always walk with my poncho and shorts that go to my knees. From my knees to the ground I had no protection and that was a big mistake."
"My feelings change often. At the beginning when I quit I was really not unhappy – it was good for me as I knew I didn’t have to walk anymore which was so painful. But then afterwards in the following days, watching the others from the sofa and not being able to walk? That was terrible."
"You focus for such a long time on this race. You build your team and sponsors, then quit after three days? It was a shit feeling. But I finished the race [in 2015] and this time I retired so I know both feelings and I’m ok with it."
"I’m not angry, just happy that I’m getting fit again."
"The arm is alright, the cast came off at the end of August. It’s fine now. I have more problems with the knees. One is injured from the accident and the other from all the training. I can walk and hike but can’t run or go downhill. There is still some work to get the knee ready. I will go for some more diagnosis in September and October."
"How do I feel? It’s like waves, there are good moments and bad. Just after it was really hard for me but at the prize giving I was happy to see all the guys. It’s hard to get motivated again. I have to let it go and wait for the motivation to come back but I have started to paraglide again."
"Actually, I really wish I could do [the race] one more time but only if I can be at 100% full fitness, so let’s see how the body recovers over the next year. Until the accident it was going pretty awesome. I’d done pretty well, especially given the time I had available to train, with with my job and kids. I did tremendously. But just one small mistake with this injury. It’s like we’re racing on the edge and this time I felt on the wrong side, but usually it works. I can’t be disappointed – just bad luck.”
Photos by © zooom / Harald Tauderer, © zooom / Sebastian Marko and © zooom / Vitek Ludvik