Last time that Emir and I did the ultra at Jahorina, we spent Friday laying around, trying to rest and sleep since the start was at midnight. I didn't really feel like that helped, if anything I just stressed out all day about not sleeping that much. So this time, my plan was to enjoy the day and not stay cooped up in the hotel room. After breakfast, Emir wanted to do his run and go up to the peak so I decided to stay and take a nap and start to get my gear in order. When he got back we decided to go into Sarajevo to meet Bjanka and Dario. It was SUCH a fun afternoon. I really enjoyed it and it helped me to relax about the race. I was so excited to tackle this race after the DNF two years ago but soooo nervous at the same time. I've done ultras completely solo before but nothing near as difficult as I knew this one would be. I knew there would be insane terrain in sections which normally I rely on Emir to help me through as it's not my cup of tea. I also was very worried about getting lost. I knew they had worked really hard since the last time we did the ultra to make sure the course was better and well marked but doing it solo made me worried about it. Anyway, back to our lovely afternoon. I had been dying for Sarajevo cevapi so we did that in old town. Then we headed up to café up on the mountain with of course amazing views to have palacinke and a beer. And finally checked out the Avaz twist tower in Sarajevo. It literally was the perfect afternoon before the race. And when we got back I still had time to lay down for a couple hours before the start.
|OMG SARAJEVO CEVAPI!!!!|
|nothing is complete without pivo|
|twisted tower with Bjanka and Dario <3|
|awesome views from the tower|
The start of the race went well. I felt good, I was moving well. I was excited to see Emir at the first aid station. We had a significant climb up the ski slope which I felt I handled better than I expected. I was thinking how maybe this will go better than expected. Why would I go ahead and even have those thoughts?!
Because as soon as I left Emir, the MUD! omg I have never experienced mud like this even two years ago in what I thought was the worst mud in the world, this completely surpassed that. It was dark so it made deciphering the 1 inch mud that is ok to step in from the 6 foot deep mud almost impossible. I would cruise along as this was a nice runnable section and suddenly find myself completely stuck. I literally many times had to use my poles to break the seal between my shoes and the mud. A few times, I was so deep in mud that my shoes actually came off, yes completely off! I tried to go around the really bad sections but there were parts where there was just no where to go, or at least I couldn't find safe spots to step in the dark. It was for sure a rough time. Eventually when I got to the next aid station they asked me how I enjoyed the swamp, ugh.
After leaving that aid station I was feeling happy and pretty confident I could do this thing. And then probably what was the worst part of the race happened. I got lost. But as I found out about 30 minutes into being lost, it wasn't that I messed up, it was that someone had torn down the race markers in this section. It was an awful, awful feeling. I kept backtracking to the last marker I saw and tried going several different possible ways and I could never find any other markers. After I did this several times I finally turned on my cellular to call Emir. I'm not going to lie, I was panicking. What if I never find my way? There's no way I'll be able to finish this race, Ive wasted so much time!! And unfortunately I had not seen another runner this whole time. There was only 65 or so runners and there was a whole bunch way ahead of me and then a few behind but apparently none close. Emir talked me off a ledge and said he would make a call to help figure out where I was. When he called back, he told me that everyone was getting lost in this part due to the missing markers, luckily as we were trying to sort out where I should go, a group of guys were approaching. They had loaded the course onto their watches so they had a general idea of where we should be going. They let me join in to help me find my way. Even with the watches it was still a while before we figured it out and found race markers to follow, phew. Despite how upsetting, frustrating, etc this was, maybe it happened for a reason. I ran with these guys a few more miles at which point we reached the mountain climbing part and yes I mean literally mountain climbing with a cable and everything. I run mountain trails and sometimes that means climbing over rocks but I don't rock climb. This part was SCARY as hell for me so having the guys there with me helped me to get over it and just do it. It was also helpful because they were climbing behind me so when I dropped one of my poles (of course) they grabbed it for me. I felt a huge relief when this part was over!
|hot mess after that climbing nonsense|
After that, there was some more runny parts and eventually I made it rather uneventfully to the nice, big aid station that I had been thinking of all morning. They had my drop bag and warm food. I had some clothes etc to switch out and I was in desperate need of the bathroom to lube up some parts that were scraping off my body with every step. It was very moist out from the get go, humidity and just very damp so I was soaked the entire time which did not help my chafing problem. I was so engrossed in those tasks and wolfing down some food, which I have no clue what it was, that I totally forgot to put more fuel (gels, chomps) into my pack. CRAP!!! I realized a mile or two away and there's no way I was going back. At this point it was raining too :-(. I was just going to have to rely on what I had left and stocking up at aid stations. It wasn't ideal but not impossible.
The rain stopped about 15 minutes later and everything became steamy, yuck and I happened to be going through this almost rain foresty type of place by the water. At this point after being through all that mud and just being wet for hours upon hours the impossible water crossings didn't really bother me. I just walked right through, I mean why put all the effort into trying to avoid getting wet when you are already soaked not to mention the tenuous footings I for sure would have fell anyway. I just couldn't believe some of the spots they expected us to get across, I was like "for real?!" there was also the super slick, super muddy like 50% grade downhill parts in this section, umm yup, you better believe I slid down on my ass. Every time I encountered some kind of ridiculous thing like this, I would think "how do those fast people do this stuff so fast?!" I would love to see how they could get through these parts so fast, me if I tried to move any faster than a crawl, I would likely plummet to serious injury! anyway eventually I made it to a rocky type path which was pretty flat. Unfortunately then the tunnels started. SO MANY TUNNELS! And some were very long and very rocky and SO DARK! I would put on my phone light each time but it was still so scary. I was waving my poles around to defend any creepy person that might be lurking in there. It was also really hard for me to move too quickly with all the rocks so these tunnels would drag on much longer than I liked.
|this was a short tunnel|
There was some more running parts after that until I recognized the part where we start the LONG climb up to the Trebevic summit. It starts in a neighborhood with some insanely steep roads, that I don't understand how people drive on them and then you get on the trail to keep going up, up and away including the infamous olympic bobsled track, which is always fun.
|medic on the left saved my feet! He also didn't want to let me continue the race|
I was ready to push it to the peak. Until I reached the ridge and I remembered how technical and long it is to get there. It felt like FOREVER but I got there. And I have to admit as much as I hate that section because of how technical and rocky it is, I also LOVE it so much. It's definitely hands down the most beautiful spot of the course. If I didn't have a race to finish, I could spend some real time up there enjoying the views.
|I hate the technical ridge but I LOVE being up on Trebevic :-)|
At this point, I was kind of thinking, ahhh the hard part is over, about ten more miles and I'm done. And for a while it was good. I was running, passing a few people even some rocky parts I kept moving. I kept eating a ton of bananas at the aid stations because I was getting so hungry but only had a couple things left in my pack. The tailwind had really helped me get through for a while but I drank most of it at this point. The second to last station, they told me that Emir had been asking for me and they took my picture for him. I was feeling pretty decent and I told them to relay that to him.
|letting Emir know that I was still alive and kicking!|
As expected, I cruised pretty well on the road. Even being uphill, I ran most of it. Emir drove along side of me for a bit, pushing me along until it was time to go into the forrest. They were the longest two miles of my life. The millions of creek crossings, the super steep mud inclines, it was all just more than I could take at 63-64 miles. Also after climbing straight up for about 10 minutes or so, I very suddenly felt woozy. I knew I needed more calories but the problem was I only had half a banana. I knew it wasn't really enough but I was going to make it. And I did, that last part was slow as hell because I crawled because I literally had nothing left in me but I didn't care, I crossed that finish line in 23 hours and 22 minutes.
I feel damn good about this race. I didn't do anything spectacular but I fought my way through a race that is SO far out of my comfort zone and I did it alone. I'll be the first to admit that technical, climby races are not my thing and I'm really not that great at it. I have never been comfortable doing a race like this except when I have done it with Emir so this was huge for me to take it on solo. I am so proud of myself for just keeping going no matter what challenge was thrown at me and no matter how scary it was. It was also a big finish for me as running has just been a struggle for the past year. I pretended for the better part of the year that moving across the country, starting new jobs, getting adjusted to altitude didn't affect me. Finally after struggling big time at the 24 hour race at Palmer Lake in the spring, I admitted that I was not myself. As exciting as moving was and how happy it has made us, there was so many life adjustments and it just takes it's toll. It wasn't until about 4-6 weeks before this race, that training runs finally started feeling good to me. Everybody is different and I just think I'm one of those people who needed close to a year to adjust to running here in Colorado. This race was a big milestone as I finally feel back to myself and I was able to keep pushing for almost 24 hours which back in April, I definitely could not.
As for the race itself, as much as I was cursing the course at times, I loved it. The race directors made huge changes to the course since we did it two years ago and it is light years better. I complain about the obstacles like the tunnels, the rock climbing and the technical ridges on trebevic but really they are awesome. It makes the race unique and scenic. Even the muddy Forrests and water crossings as annoying as they are, are still beautiful scenery. Two years ago, the aid stations were hard to find and at times under staffed and under stocked. This year was the opposite. They were all full of enthusiastic volunteers and plenty of food and drinks. I'm really very impressed by all the changes they have made. As I have said before, it's so refreshing to see a race care so deeply about the runners feedback. They have spent a lot of time and energy trying to make this event the best it
can be. The Jahorina events truly showcase the beauty of the Bosnian Mountains surrounding Sarajevo. It's definitely worth the trip there. I highly recommend it!
Thank you to Dinko Bažulić, Adnan Bubalo and Jadran Čilić for the AMAZING photos!
So what's next?? Well now that I feel like I've finally got my running mojo back, I actually want to do some more races again. It also really helps a lot that I don't have to work weekends anymore. I was working pretty much 3 out of 4 weekends until I took this new full time job. It was definitely affecting my training and also left no time for races. I've had my eye on Javelina Jundred for a few years but going from the east coast would have been a huge undertaking. I wasn't completely sure I wanted to go for it this year but now that I feel like I can actually do it where a few months ago, I really don't think I could have and Emir has shifted focus to some shorter races for a bit, so I feel it's a good time to do it. Unlike Jahorina, Javelina is totally up my alley. It's runnable, it's loops, it's a big party. So after coming back from Europe and an unexpected trip to Philly to see my dad and family, I've already jumped back into training. 9 weeks til race day!!!