It's been almost 10 months since my last blog about the 100 Miles of Istria adventure.. Not that there was nothing to write about , but i didn't even want to mention my less-than-average performances.. I went into some sort of "sleeping mode" after Istria and i didn't have a good race on Castles Ultra 50Mile either (barely finished within the 15.5hr cutoff). I was suffering on my training runs and at one point i almost started to hate the running. On my b-day in July i finaly forced myself to cut my smoking habits completely, hoping it would help me become a better runner - the result was 10 extra kg around my waist and even slower running times :) With this mindset i was slowly rolling (almost literaly with my new body shape) towards the New Year and my planned comeback to Arctic Ultra. It wasn't until late December when i finaly forced myself to start putting in more training , control my diet and lose at least some of the extra kg's. We were waiting until last moment with our registration, but we finaly booked the flights and the game was on.
Andry on the other hand was having a fantastic year, she finished her first 50 miler in Sweden in January, then she smashed the Castles Ultra 50 Miler with the 1st place and Queen of the Castle title and finished the year as a LaSportiva Mountain Madness series champion. It was thanks to her that i found the lost motivation and started working harder again towards our big goal - finishing the first 100 Miler.
January came and went, bringing even more hurdles on the way - Andry fighting for 3 weeks with heavy bronchitis, popping antibiotics like candy with no results.. With all this our mindsets were not very strong, there was just more and more things to worry about regarding the race.
Comparing to the last year, there wasn't so much over-excitement and high expectations.. Our main goal was to focus on the mistakes we did in our previous races and getting it right this time - if there was anything we've learned from the past, it was that a single small mistake can cost you a race. We decided to run in properly tested shoes (inov-8 roclite this time), brought several sets of warm clothes, buffs, gloves, hats.. and amazing winter jackets from Namche Outdoor shop in Prague (Czech Republic), which proved to be a crucial part of our kit.
The journey to Sweden was uneventful, after 12 hours we found ourselves in cold Arvika again, only this time it wasn't white at all. This quickly changed just few hours before the start, when heavy snowing brought a fresh layer of white powder and the temperatures started dropping.
We had a surprisingly good nights sleep, and Saturday morning at 7:00 we lined up at the start. There was 26 people registered alltogether for two races (seven 50miler, the rest for 100M), but the organisers anounced the option to "downgrade" to 50M DURING the race and still earn a finishers medal if anybody feels like not finishing the whole distance. At the end most of the 100M runners actualy ended up taking this offer - we knew from the beginning that this is a definite NO WAY - go big or go home was our plan!
Classic countdown from 10, clapping and shouting, and we were off. This time we decided to line up at the end of the field, jog together the first lap to see how it's going to feel and come up with some sort of a strategy once we see the conditions. The run started with a short 1km trail from the base camp near the lake and followed a snowy/tarmac road to the town. After a 5km loop in the town we turned to a snowy/icy trail mini loop up and down the mountain, slippery 3km with approx 100m of elevation gain/loss. We closed the loop with the same 1km trail that lead to the basecamp. The first loop took us 1:05, with a very comfortable pace and power walking the tricky icy parts and uphills. We decided not to stress the base camp breaks and take all the necessary time to fix everything we need, so i came up with a strategy to split the race into 4 chunks of 40km:
First four laps run 1:05 + 10min breaks = 5 hours
second part 1:20 laps + 10min breaks = 6 hours
third part 1:30 laps + 15min breaks = 7 hours
final 40k just crawl to the finish line, whatever it takes :)
First four laps we spent running with our Italian friend Paolo, following the plan to the T - reaching the 40k checkpoint in 4:55. Up to this point , the race was going very well, the only problem was to find the proper balance with the clothing, as one layer too much meant too much sweating and immediate feeling of cold. I was very happy at this point for that extra suitcase with clothes we packed with us! Andry took her time puting her magic mint creams on her legs , that made half of the race crew tear up inside the cabin :) i made sure we get the calories in - the main part of our menu was bread with strawberry jam , saltstick tablets, coke and the magic potion called Tailwind - almost tasteless drink, with high calorie count and very easy to digest - every lap we took a full cup of this magic and it kept us going strong - definitely a must for our future races!
All of the race crew was amazing, but i'd like to send a big shout out to Alex Hansen, who delivered an absolute 5star service everytime we reached the basecamp!
Paolo stayed little behind as he started to have issues with his knee, so it was just me and Andry now. We knew we're not gonna separate until the end of the race at this point - we were a well balanced team, giving strength to each other.. We don't give a crap about Valentines day - we celebrate love everyday - but it was becoming obvious that the night to the 14.2. will be very special to our relationship :) We followed our established routine and reached the halfway 80km checkpoint in 10h55m , sticking to the plan, despite the fact that after 70km Andry had to have her toenail pulled off in a very painful way. She switched the shoes to Altra Olympus (much wider toebox) and continued like nothing happened. Tough woman my Andry!
The laps went by and we still kept our run/walk pattern from the first lap, wondering more and more for how long we can keep this. After the rough year i had in 2015 i would never expect to be running at all after 80k, yet we were still jogging nicely after 110km! By this point the night was well on and the temeratures were touching -10 degrees. The first signs of crisis started coming at the end of 12th lap - all sorts of pain started to pop from everywhere and it was obvious that it's gonna be a tough mental battle for the next few hours..
We reached CP12 at 17h50m, still within our timeplan, but we both agreed that there will be no more running after this point. As Andry was trying to avoid to step on the injured nail-less toe, she developed quite strong shin splints and pain on top of her foot, i got a nice surprise when my injinji socks cut through a blister between my toes.. But from our past experiences we were already expecting these type of things to happen sooner or later, so we just kept going. It was amazing how we could balance each others lows, get up and continue..
Last 4 laps were the real test, this was actualy the REAL race.. It was pretty much the same scenario each of these final laps - getting out of the warm CP into the cold night, releasing muted cries as we tried to get the hurting cold muscles and joints to warm up and moving, shuffle through the town part of the loop, followed by not so muted cries as we struggle through the technical trail of the mountain, getting back to the lake with the eyes on the lights of the basecamp, counting each step remaining to get there.. Finaly the day broke again and we were in the last lap.. last good bye to the town loop, last painful cries battling the mountain, taking the lake path..entering the Ingestrands camping.. Clapping and smiling Paolo on the way to the finish line, race directors Remy and Tobias waiting under the finish banner as we crossed the line, holding hands high in the air. This was our dream coming true, our moment worth all that pain and struggle.. WE DID IT.. TOGETHER!!!
I will not include the details of the painful travel home, it's always the worst part of the whole adventure, but we somehow made it and at the time of writing this blog we are slowly recovering.
I would like to thank everybody who helped us on the way, to all those that supported us with their thoughts and energy, you are all part of this and it means a world to us!
And for me and my other half Andry - this was more than a 160km race.. This was the best and strongest experience a couple can go through, a bond for a lifetime.
Because those that run together, stay together ;-)
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