Archive for May, 2012

What a week-end !!! Again I’m thrilled and still have the marathon feeling in me. We left this Friday (25 of May) from Brasov thinking to participate at the Hercules Half Marathon. For Rose it was a slight increase in mileage from EcoMarathon  cross and for me it was the reasonable way of finishing a month in which I’ve already run a marathon on 5 th of May. But while I was driving thoughts were crossing through my mind… Why not participate to the Marathon? I feel pretty good… why not?… hmmm maybe its not good to push for another one in such a short period … maybe my knees are not up to the challenge… no, I think I can do it, nothing is hurting me, I feel like before the EcoMarathon. Let’s go for it !!! Why not after all? 😀 … life is short 😀

So I was going to participate to an event that I knew almost nothing about. I’ve only consulted the half marathon profile. I’ve remembered though that it was a bit longer than an usual marathon: 45 km. But I didn’t know anything else. I didn’t  know how many climbs/descents it has … I didn’t know where are the refreshments points … I had only 2 gels with me and one ampoule of Magnesium.

We’ve reached Herculane late in the evening ~ 23:oo,  we’ve picked our starting kits and hurried back to the apartment to get some rest. The forecast was not too promising for this week-end and we were almost certain that we will run with rain pouring on us. But surprise … in the morning the rain stopped. This is good. I don’t mind running while raining … but I don’t like to wait at the start line and get wet. After the start it can rain … I don’t care.

At the starting line it was a nice atmosphere … the competitors were making pictures, chatting, laughing and warming up for the event. We were warned that the route might change since in Saua Ciumerna it was windy, foggy and only 5 degrees C. I was thinking: “Where is this place? Is it far away?” I had no clue what the organizers were talking about :). Anyway at 9:00 we’ve started. Rose wanted to finish under 3h and I … well I just wanted to finish. I didn’t had any expectations from this event… I didn’t even know in what I was getting myself dragged into. I will find out later…

The first portion is on asphalt ~2,5 km. I’ve started not too fast, at my normal breathing level while running.  After 10 minutes we’ve reached the first climb … I didn’t know how long it was, but to be honest I didn’t really care. In this marathon I want to enjoy this beautiful area and these mountains. It was my first time here … why care how long is the climb? So I didn’t push it … I’ve climbed as fast as my comfort zone was allowing me. In the first few meters my upper leg muscle was a bit sore … I don’t know why. I was remembering that I’ve experienced this pain when finishing EcoMarathon. So only 3 weeks was not enough for me to fully recover. But a muscle pain is not really a problem. In my case it reaches a certain bearable peak and it stays there. A joint pain is something to worry about. Anyway this pain was like an effort threshold … when going too fast was slowing me down :). I didn’t care anyway since I knew it was not something to stop me from finishing. After finishing this first climb … surprise ! The route was fuuuull of mud and water. Yupiii! For me it was very nice … I really enjoy running through mud and water. I have some kind of thrill. To be more exact. When I was a little boy when I was seeing a pool of water or mud I was running into it … and jump… you know, like a kid. And than my mother was mad at me :). Noooo, don’t go there, you’ll get yourself wet !!! But that was all the fun … getting wet and muddy. Well I remember that sensation and this is how I was feeling on the route … like when I was a small kid … only this time my mother was not there to spoil my fun 😀 … I think 60-70% of the route was muddy. EXCELENT !!!

I was so much enjoying this run that I didn’t bother to change my direction when approaching a mud/water pound. I was crashing into it … and the water and mud was splashing sideways … just great. Anyway, I was enjoying this conditions but not all the participants were like me … so I’ve passed quite a few. I was going quite fast since in this way I was throwing sideways more mud and water 😀

This time I’ve run with my new pair of Asics Trail Attack 7. I’ve read here (http://hoinarii.blogspot.com/2011/05/ecomarathon-2011.html) that they are quite good so I’ve ordered a pair since at EcoMarathon my Salomon Speedcross 2  almost killed a toe nail again … and this time it was cut properly. I like the Speedcross but I thing they are too aggressive with the nails when running downhill. I’ve tested the Asics last week on Piatra Mare and I was thrilled … I was ecstatic … wowww, the downhill running its really a pleasure in the Trail Attack 7. The cushioning its just great and your weight its not stopping in your toes anymore. And this is great because in this way I could go down reaaaly fast. I think that if I would have had these shoes with me at EcoMarathon I could have finished under 5h … but anyway that’s not the point. These shoes are just great for trail running…. especially when running downhill.

Slowly I’ve reached km 18 in exactly 2h. I was running quite good and I was feeling great. No pains to worry about … maybe just my right ankle which got a little twisted on Piatra Mare … but again, bearable. I’ve run most of this marathon alone … I had time for myself, a lot of time. But what to do with it? I was so relaxed, so thrilled when crashing into the pools of mud that my mind was literally UNPLUGGED. I was thinking of NOTHING. Its hard to explain… I was reading last week a good book – Self-portrait as a runner long haul writer by Haruki Murakami – and I was having the same thoughts as he was describing there. Basically NOTHING … I was unplugged from my daily problems, worries … Although I was running and my body was consuming energy my mind was relaxing. To make another comparison. I was having quite the same sensation while driving in a comfortable car on a beautiful mountain road.  I was not thinking to much about how steep the road is because my car was doing all the hard work … Quite the same I was feeling at this marathon. I was in cruise mode, passenger in my own body. The running was so natural that I was not bothering anymore … I was like on auto-pilot. Its like when you learn something very well … like riding a bike, driving a car, etc. My body was doing the running and I was enjoying the ride and the sights. It was GREAT ! I was not experiencing any problem, any pain … I was looking how the km’s were passing away. This is my greatest achievement so far … enjoying the run and not thinking how to trick your body to continue when something is hurting.

This nice feeling I had it until km 35 :D. I mean come on … its a marathon not a jog in front of my house :D. The problem … well I had only 2 gels with me. Eventually I was about to finish my resources and it happen at km 35.  My legs became heavier and my rhythm decreased. At the last check point with refreshments I think I’ve eat at least 3 oranges and 1-2 bananas. I was soooo hungry… hard to describe. I didn’t have any food with me and I was literally seeing in front of me a big bowl of pasta. I was so hungry that I had even begin to smell the pasta :).  I was passed by a group of runners … they had one steady rhythm, not too fast from my own but I didn’t have any energy to stay with them. I was completely drained. I think it would have been nice to measure my wight after the race :D.

So from my cruise mode till km35 I’ve switched to damage mode for the last km. I was dragging myself step by step. Now I was feeling the marathon in a different way :).

When stating the race I thought that 3 extra km will not make too much difference … well they do if you are drained.  While approaching the finish line I so somebody in my back coming quite fast … I really hate this behavior. I mean come on … you had 45 km to pass in front of me and you want to do it not in last few meters … does it really make a difference? We are not competing for the podium.  So I’ve switched to sport mode and accelerate. I don’t know from where I had that last drop of energy, probably because I was disturbed from my running and got pissed off, but I really pushed the throttle and finish the marathon sprinting.

This time I didn’t had that thrill when finishing MPC… I was feeling sorry that the cruise mode lasted only 35 km. Next time I will be more careful to have enough energy to keep it for the whole event. That’s really a good goal for me and something to train for.

At this event my watch run out of battery just after km 18. That was really a bless … In this way I didn’t have to think about timing and I think that it contributed to enter in the cruise mode. So next time probably I will run without a watch.

The story in images:

 

The event was very well organized and we are looking forward to come here again. The area is so nice that we might not wait for next May to come. On Sunday we’ve been to the sulfurous pool in Herculane … it smells like shit (literally) but its a nice experience :D.

How should I start this post? Probably by saying that this Saturday (05.05.2012) was crazy|incredible|beautiful|emotional|hard|… and I can go on because there are so many words describing this day.

It was my second marathon after MPC. It was my second encounter with the virus that got me infected last year. I had my eyes on EcoMarathon since the beginning of this year, but although I wanted to participate I’ve kept postponing the registration because I was not sure if my knees were ready for this challenge. After seeing that the registration was soon too be closed, because of the big number of participants, I finally registered and hoped for the best.

Some details about this competition:

After Postavaru Night I’ve got Rose infected also and she registered for the cross, this being her longest mountain run yet. At Half Marathon Brasov I saw that my knees didn’t bother me at all so I was eager to compete at my second marathon.

Living in Brasov I have the opportunity to run on Tampa. I really love this small mountain… its so easily accessible and it offers so many kinds of trails for running. I have begin training for the EcoMarathon since March after the snow finally was at a decent level :).  Although I run at least one time per week on Tampa I knew that I still lack the training to feel really comfortable before the marathon. Its not that I think about timing. I’m not at that level and I don’t really care too much (at least for the moment) about the competition with the others. For me the marathon its a battle with my self and it will probably remain like this. By comfortable I mean being able to run the whole event and enjoy it. Although I was ecstatic after finishing MPC I had one painful experience over all (during the race and after 🙂 ).

So, my main goal for this event was to enjoy it and not feel veeery sore afterwards. Saturday morning me and Rose were quite anxious … I was thinking of my past experience and for Rose was her first major event. Both of us didn’t know what to expect. But the atmosphere was great … we’ve met a lot of friends, had some friendly chats and finally around 9 AM we were ready for the start.

This time I had some basic knowledge about the marathon so I’ve prepared. I’ve started by analyzing the route profile and the hydration points. This was important because it can help in making a strategy for the race. By strategy I mean to know when to accelerate and when to slow down. Also for me the hydration points were important because when reaching them I had each time half of  Sponser Energy Gel. I was planning to run with my camel back to have water between the check-points and to use the water from the hydration points to take the gel (you need at least one cup of water ~100-200 ml for not messing up your stomach).

Coming back to the race… at 9 Am we’ve started. Rose had one goal for this race – to finish in less than 2h. It was quite ambitious since she has started the training 2 weeks ago. I had my fingers crossed for her. I’ve positioned myself in the first rows because I knew that after 3 km there is a small bridge which will become a bottleneck once most of the competitors will reach it. Rose found out this the hard way – she lost 5 minutes there waiting to cross.

I’ve started quite fast and I was beginning to see in front of me the people who usually come in the first places… I was not feeling tired at all but I knew that I’m not at that level and by keeping this rhythm from the beginning probably will have some nasty side effects later in the race. So I’ve slowed down but not too much such that I was able to cross the problematic bridge without waiting. Now the race starts … now I have to climb the first 400 m … now I’m in the woods, on the trails. Now it begins too be fun… Now I was beginning to enjoy the event.

The marathon is composed from 3 laps each of them having ~ 14 km – combined the route has the shape of the clover leave. On the first lap I’ve chosen to run without the sticks since the climb its not too hard and on descents I prefer to run without them. For the rest of the race my mother was waiting for me at the finish/start line to give them to me. I was targeting to keep a steady rhythm on the climbs and on descents to accelerate … the plan worked perfectly and after 1h:23 min I finished the first lap.

I was feeling great, no pains … just enjoying the run in this beautiful location. I was imagining Moeciu de Sus as a balcony towards Piatra Craiului, Leaota and Bucegi. After each climb a great view towards these mountains was giving me more strength for the rest of the race. Everything was just perfect, but I was thinking about Rose. Will she finished in 2h? I hope so … Slowly I’ve started the second climb of lap 2. This time I was beginning to feel tired … I was using a lot the sticks to push uphill, but I was feeling exhausted. After reaching Cheile Gradistei Fundata I had 1 ampoule of magnesium and started the third Sponser gel. Looking back I don’t think it was such a good idea.  I don’t know if it was due to the gel or something else … bottom line is that I felt quite bad on the last km’s of lap 2 and I’ve finished in about 2h.

After finishing lap 2 I’ve met Rose at the start/finish line … she was delighted … she finished in 1h:57 while loosing 5 minutes at the bridge 🙂 Congrats!!!  I was very happy for her but I’ve came back quite fast in the marathon mood since I had now the last lap of the marathon. While I was reading about this event early this year I knew it was the hardest. I had 1 Sponser Activator – which tastes like shit 🙂 – and started lap3. I knew I had to use all my strengths and all my energy still left in my body.

The first climb is quite long and hard but strangely I was not feeling bad anymore. I could even chat with Razvan and Paul during the climb and slowly we’ve reached the first hydration point … here I saw competitors with cramps. I was feeling great though and kept on going. I was not looking back anymore, I didn’t know if Razvan or Paul is still behind … I was very focused on the trail and I’ve begin passing a few competitors. I run the whole portion till I’ve reached the base of Gutanu climb. This final climb is the longest, reaching the highest point of the marathon ~ 1500 m. I had a few refreshments but the gels were somehow messing up my stomach … anyway was bearable … I didn’t throw up but I was not tolerating anymore isotonic drinks, just water.

I kept a fast and good rhythm till I’ve reached Gutanu. There I’ve packed my sticks and started the descent. I knew I had 6 km left to the finish line and I was just a bit over 4h:30 min. This was the first time when I’ve realized that I’ve done a pretty good race … I could finish it in around 5 h. This is awesome ! And I’ve accelerated … I’ve run like crazy through those woods but also the tiredness was beginning to slowly install in my body. This portion of the race was the hardest for me. I wanted to finish in around 5h but my body was not. I’ve kept encouraging … I was talking with my self loudly. I guess I was looking kinda strange there … who is this guy talking too? Is he crazy ? :). I was talking to my self … those were the longest 6 km of my life. I knew that while I will approach the finish line I will hear the loud speakers… I was running and running and I could not hear the fucking loud speakers. How long do I have to run??? … eventually I heard the noise coming from finish line… what a relief  ! Another 2-300 m of descent and I was on asphalt again with 300 m to go. I heard somebody coming fast behind and I’ve accelerated … I’ve sprinted the last hundred meters and passed the finish line in 5h: 5 min. What a race !!! … and what a feeling !!!

Now the story in images :

Competitors rushing before the bridge 🙂

The event was beautifully organized by Centrul de Ecologie Montana. Thank you guys for creating this event and thanks to all the volunteers that made everything possible.