Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Jahorina 104K

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. 
Palacinke, delicious

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. 
pretty forrest 
muddy forrest 
The next section was weird for me.  It was pretty runnable yet I couldn't really move much more than a 14 minute pace which for being only 3-4 hours in the race didn't seem very good to me.  It just felt like a dream at times and the couple of tunnels were super creepy.  Then it started getting light and instead of feeling more awake, I felt like I was sleep running.  I remembered Emir told me to take the run gum with me which I have never tried before.  It was kind of weird consistency and I wasn't a fan of the taste but I'll be darned, it worked.  All of the sudden I was wide awake and moving better.  At the next aid station, I also found some meat, cheese and bread to make a couple little sandwiches that I think helped.  The people volunteering for this race were all so nice.  I couldn't help but stand around for a few minutes and chat with them.  Normally I might be antsy especially earlier in the race to keep moving and not linger but my main objective was to finish this thing.  I knew that I was not going to be setting any kind of records on this kind of terrain, it's just not my jam but I know I'm capable of completing it so that's what I planned on doing and I planned on enjoying it.

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.
bobsled track!
I felt really strong on this part.  I hadn't seen any other runners all day and then all the sudden I saw several not far ahead of me and I passed them on the climbing, which is usually the part I get passed on.  Colorado living perhaps??  The negative however was that my feet were really starting to hurt.  They were wet from the word go so its no wonder I could feel blisters on the balls of my feet.  Blisters were a big reason for our DNF two years ago.  I didn't want to stop to let the medic tend to my feet and ultimately it was my demise.  Emir's words from right before this years race were echoing in my head "if you feel anything on your feet, stop and get it taken care of".   As they became more painful, I made my decision to take time for my feet at the next aid station.  It was a requirement to have some first aid stuff with you so I had bandages in my pack along with dry socks to change into.  Lucky for me the next aid station was the mountain house in the middle of Trebevic.  It ended up being my favorite aid station of the race.  The two guys in charge were AMAZING.  They  put the medic to work to tend to my feet.  They had a HUGE vat of Tailwind which ended up being a lifesaver for me.  I filled both my little bottles with it.  And they had an amazing spread of food.  I ended up being there a solid 30 minutes but it was so worth it.  The first aid to my feet, the food, a bit of rest and fun conversations with the volunteers really rejuvenated me.

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! 
What I did not know was that the next section was a repeat of the mud from hell.  It was not the same trail as early in the race but may as well have been since it was dark and I encountered ALL the same problems.  UGH it took forever and was so frustrating with tired legs and this late in the race to be dealing with this awful mud.  blah.  Emir was waiting for me at the last aid station, thankfully.  I really needed some motivation after that demoralizing section.  I knew the exact part that was left and I knew the first half would be on the road, uphill but nice paved road but then I knew we go back into the forest for close to two miles to the finish.  And I knew what that meant MUD.  He gave me bananas and encouragement.  He said I had tons of time left so just take my time.  Even though my main goal was just to finish, he knew that if I could make it under 24 hours, I would feel like it was a big accomplishment for me on this type of terrain.  And at this point, even if I walked most of it, I could still make that.  So even though I was not looking forward to the forrest, I set off looking forward to my solid finish.

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!!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

JUT blogger day

Once again, it’s been a bit lengthy since my last blog post but once agin life has gotten in the way.  Since my last post, I was offered and accepted a full time job at a new hospital in the university of Colorado system.  I was already working on an as needed basis at one of their other hospitals and loving it.  I saw this as a unique and great opportunity to get to set up the rehab department in a brand new place and be part of building this new hospital community.  So there’s been that and there’s also been my dad.  Unfortunately, at the very end of April, he was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. It was very shocking as he was not a smoker and he was at the time, still a very active man playing softball, golf and going to yoga.  There’s been so many ups and downs the last few months with him going through harsh chemo.  It’s a daily worry and stressor for me.   I even was very worried about leaving to go on our trip to Bosnia and Croatia because he was admitted to the hospital a few days before we were leaving.  He had a blood clot in his lung which they treated him for and he went back home so I felt better about leaving.  He was still very much on my mind while on the trip which was why it was so great to have this special Jahorina blogger day to attend.   It gave me a day to relax, get to know other people and learn more about a country I love so much.  So here’s my recap of the day.

had to leave this to go to Jahorina ;-)

Emir didn’t arrive until Wednesday evening so we had a 6 hour drive from the island to Jahorina. We did manage to get there before midnight and breakfast for the bloggers wasn’t scheduled until 9 so all in all it worked out well.

Breakfast was an impressive spread that included many of my favorite Bosnian dishes.  There were introductions, talks from the organizers and they outlined the itinerary for the day.  Then it was time to load up in the van and head out.  In total Bosnian fashion, we jammed all of us in probably an 8 person van including 3 people up front but that's what makes these adventures fun for me.  I love experiencing life the way the people in that country live it.
catching up with Sanja!
First stop was the ski lift that takes you to the top of Jahorina Mountain.  While I have rode this before, it's always an enjoyable time.  The views riding up and down the mountain are fantastic.  When we reached the top we saw there was some construction taking place.  Our host for the day, Mladen, explained how they were creating a lake and also some additional ski routes.  I like seeing how much work has been done on this mountain the last few years.  It's such a beautiful place with an awesome olympic history that I think many people would enjoy visiting so hopefully all these things will attract more visitors.

Next Stop was Ravna Planina.  On the itinerary it said something about zip lining but all I saw when we first got there was a gondola so I assumed something was lost in translation ;-).  And I didn't mind because they said there was a lake and restaurant at the top so I figured it was pretty.  Then Mladen came around asking if we wanted to zip line or ride the gondola or do both.  If you are going to offer me both then of course I will do both.  I love trying new things and I had never zip lined before so I was all for it.  The zip line was fairly short but for my first time, I really enjoyed it.  I was only slightly nervous after watching one of the other bloggers get stuck in the middle.  The person helping us get on the zip line explained how to hold our legs and feet so that wouldn't happen.  I did what he said and I actually flew past the landing platform but it was easy for them to help me to the spot to dismount.

After that, we loaded into the gondolas.  The views on the way up and down were awesome.  Up at the top was a lake and a restaurant with even better views.  Mladen explained how they would like to connect the ski slopes at Jahorina to this one at Ravna Planina for one huge, long ski run.  He also told us that there was night skiing there as well.   Our final activity was sitting down and having lunch together at the restaurant at the base of Ravna Planina.  It was a very nice place and the food was delicious.  It was nice to sit and chat with Mladen and some of the other bloggers, who as the day progressed spoke more and more English ;-).

lake at the top

After lunch we piled in the van to head to Sarajevo.  Mladen had plans for us to walk through the old part of town which Ive been to several times and it would be great for everyone to experience however the weather had other plans.  Instead we were dropped off where the race packet pick up was so we could collect our stuff. 

We had a little time to kill so myself and a few of the other bloggers went to this coffee shop that I had been to last year, so good.  After that, we walked to the new gondola that takes you up to Trebevic Mountain.  It actually originally opened in 1959 and was a source of great pride during the '84 Olympics.  Then during the war of the '90s, Trebevic Mountain was known as sniper alley and obviously the gondola didn't run and was destroyed.  It's taken a long time to get the gondola and Trebevic back up and running however I can totally understand the memories that this area must bring to people.  The re-done gondola is beautiful with the Bosnian flag on the cars which are all the colors of the '84 Olympics.  The view as you ride up, is just spectacular.  You can see so many of the cities special sights and all the surrounding mountains.  This was definitely my favorite part of the day.
walking in Sarajevo

one of the old gondola cars...those things hold a lot of bloggers

The last part of our day took place at Sunnyland.  Sunnyland is an amusement park up on Trebevic Mountain that opened a couple of years ago.  Our family has told us about it but we had yet to get the chance to go.  The highlight of the park is the alpine roller coaster which I rode twice ;-)  I had never been on a coaster where you basically drive it yourself so I did find that to be entertaining.  There was also play structures and courts for kids. 

We then had dinner together in the restaurant there called Oxygen.  It was super nice and the views were fantastic.  At the end of dinner, Emir showed up with his step sister Bjanka and her fiancé Dario.  It was so great to see them so at that point I said goodbye to Mladen and the fellow bloggers. 
view from Sunnyland
I want to thank Sanja and Mladen for hosting us bloggers on that day.  And to Dinko Bažulić for all the AMAZING pictures which are what helped to fill this blog post!  It was a lot of work that went into planning that day for us.  I truly enjoyed meeting the other bloggers and learning of their trail running experiences as they all came from other countries.  I also LOVED exploring the mountains and Sarajevo.  I understand more now of exactly what happened and why in the past, we as a family had not really gone up into those mountains.  The tons of mines, remnants of war and just the horrible memories.  That said, I am so glad to see this area being re-born.  There are new hotels and restaurants.  New places for activities.  It's such a beautiful area for locals and tourists alike to enjoy hiking/outdoor activities in the summer and great skiing in the winter as well as to see all the historical sights from the Olympics, it would be a shame for it to continue unused as it was.  I saw many people up on Trebevic that day which is a great sign that this is what people want and as more people come, I am sure they will continue to build and bring the mountains back to life :-)

sign of a very fulfilling day ;-)