What have I done to train for my upcoming 53k race?
-I ran 70-80km a week.
-I did a 34.5km trail race with quite a bit of elevation gain recently.
-I will carb load today. There are ample Bosnian bakeries around to accomplish this.
That’s about it. I am relying on years and years of running long distances to get me through.
I truly never know how I will do until I am in a race. I have these vague ideas of how it might turn out, but really I don’t know what my pace or finish time will be. I am yet to take a DNF (knock on wood). Luckily for my family, the race is providing a live tracker so they know when to be at the finish line.
So, this is how I will kick off my fall break–spending time in one one of the prettiest places in the world. I will run the Dinaric Alps along the Dalmatian Coast, for hours, finding strength in mountains.
Then, I will spend the rest of my break lounging around on the pebbled beaches with my family.
My previous experience running Skakavac Trail is in contrast to this year. Last year, there was a blizzard on the morning of race day in what was an unfamiliar country and terrain, along with my first experience with winter in seven years. I had just arrived from Thailand. To the mountains. In the snow. In Europe. No beaches or 100 degree weather, which is a different kind of combat. It was rough. The markings were either blown away or covered in snow, and again, I did not know these mountains well enough to navigate. My phone had 3% left when I called my husband to tell him I was lost. Search and rescue was getting ready to look for me when I found the next aid station myself. When the trail lost elevation, the snow had melted, leaving behind runoff that resulted in a muddy, slippery, steep mountain to get down.
It did make me feel a little better to hear that local Bosnians also got terribly lost–that it wasn’t just a confused foreigner in a strange land, but in fact the extreme, unexpected conditions.
I finished in 7.5 hours.
I don’t have any pictures of the actual snow storm portion, nor did I bother to take pictures while sliding down the muddy hillside, for obvious reasons. There were a few clear moments where I could stop to catch my breath and capture some of the beauty.
How it went better this year:
In the months since we first arrived, we have hiked many of the popular trails around Sarajevo. Geographically, I was able to figure out where I was nearly the entire race. They provided a GPX file this year, which made me feel better prepared. I carried a backup charger in case my phone battery died due to the cold. Luckily, the weather was not nearly as severe. They moved the race up two weeks to mitigate surprise snow storms. However, there had been snow in the mountains just a few days prior to the race, so really, the mountains are simply unpredictable here. The organizers made huge improvements with the markings by using wooden signs that were hammered into the ground, making the trail much easier to follow.
Logistically, it was a bit more difficult this year. My husband left on an overnight trip with the secondary students, so I organized our babysitter to take care of the kids. Then, a friend drove me up the mountain to the start. While I ran the race, my husband returned from his trip, so he was able to meet me at the finish. I texted him selfies (see below) as the run progressed.
All’s well that ends well.
Progression of selfies
People have asked me how I felt after I finished or what was the best part. My son bombarding me with a hug and “MOOOOooom!!!” You did it!!!” was without a doubt, the best part. This is me seeing his face and incoming hug.
I was shattered and rebuilt in the 5 hours, 17 minutes it took me to finish.
Which is the reason why I run.
The only races that disappoint me are ones where I didn’t cross the finish line a little better than when I started.
It is an unforgiving, brutal, and beautiful course. See you in 2019 Skakavac Trail.
I have been MIA on TaraRunsTheWorld for the last month. I have told people that inquired I am tired, or bored, or various other excuses because explaining the real reasons seem a bit too long-winded. Here is the space to explain the real reasons. The real reason for a blogging cut back? Time is a limited resource and I found it consuming far too much of it to take photos, write about it, and share it around. I also found it made me focus too much on myself, which in balance is important, but I didn’t like the way it was making me feel when I have many other people, hobbies, and outlets to put my limited energy. Last but not least, it made me like running less. I haven’t felt like that. Ever. I found documenting all my thoughts about running sucked some of the joy out of it for me. I can’t have that.
With all that in mind, I figured I could do it more sparingly and still find the good—so many people wrote me to say they had started running after reading some of my posts. That makes me super stoked. The reflection process has also been a positive side-effect to my running.
Sooo, I’m baaack.
You know, a little bit.
I have done a few races since I last blogged, the Sarajevo Half Marathon being one that I had had on the docket for quite some time. I did this one last year, meaning I knew to expect a few hills and higher temps due to a later start than one would consider normal for a half marathon.
It was exciting to see so many people from our little expat community with laced-up running kicks. There were quite a few parents and a couple of other teachers running the half marathon. There were also lots of students running the 4 km with their parents– my son, daughter, and husband included. For me, it is a fairly rare occurrence to be among like-minded runner types. It was nice to not have to explain what I was doing getting ready to run 21 km. They knew.
I have put some work into getting some personal records in the recent past, so for this race, I just ran for enjoyment. I did put effort into it, but I had no plans of anything beyond running and having fun at the event. Which I did.
Europe has some seriously good runners. Many were at this race. I watched them in awe fly by me in their sponsored racing kits. Speaking of awesome runners, this was the day in history that Eliud Kipchoge broke the marathon’s world record at the Berlin Marathon at 2:01:39. Sort of made my half marathon time of 1:47 minutes feel pretty wimpy, but I know, I know, we only compete against ourselves. Even Kipchoge?
There were thousands downtown Sarajevo–both to cheer on the runners and those that were participating in either the 4 km, the relay half marathon, or the half marathon. They closed down the streets, most of the town came out to watch and support the runners, and it was a really well-organized race going through the most beautiful parts of Sarajevo.
After, we laid around the park and drank our complimentary electrolyte beverages for a while until the kids got restless.
Then we moved on to the after party barbecue downtown at Kutcha . If you haven’t already, check it out. It has an artsy vibe, fantastic burgers, craft beer, green space to kick back, and good music. Lady H celebrated with her signature dance moves.
I was stoked when I saw this race come around on my Facebook suggested events. It was set up pretty last minute–about a month before race day on July 4th. I think because of that, it had very few people sign up. I suspected it would be a small event because about two weeks before the race, the participants received an email saying they moved the location from downtown Boise, to the tiny town of Melba (I had to look up where Melba was), combining with the Olde Tyme fun runs that they have done for years on the 4th. I didn’t realize just how few racers had signed up until about half an hour before the race started and I asked a fellow runner picking up his race packet. He said the race director told him about 20. Turns out it was 22, to be exact.
Melba is about an hour drive from Boise, so I rallied my kids at 4:30 am by scooping them out of bed, still in their jams, my husband putting them in their car seats. They always view these early morning wake ups as adventures, so they were pretty excited. Fingers crossed that attitude doesn’t change in the foreseeable future. They also knew there was going to be a fun 4th of July parade after the race, so they were willing to comply.
We got there at 5:30 for the race packet pick up. It was at the Tower Theater, a tiny little old theater on a quintessential small town main street. Melba looks like a town out of an Old West-style movie. It even had people riding horses and tumbleweeds to make it legit Old West–not staged, I kid you not.
As I processed the size of the race, I was also grateful for the cooler morning. It isn’t usually lower degrees on the Forth of July, but because of the early start, Melba delivered perfect running temperatures. At the 6 am start time, we had a simple countdown from three to start us off.
I started off in second place, following a pretty fast guy in the lead. I held second for most of it, with a lady that trailed right behind me a majority of the time.
I was still feeling pretty strong and holding second place. I was starting to feel it at 18 kilometers, and the lady that was behind me overtook me. She was super sweet, offering me encouragement and telling me to stay with her.
I had failed to eat anything before the race and only had two gels with me, which is what I usually carry with me for a half, but without having my banana breakfast, I felt the loss in calories. The race did have a roaming aid station, which worked pretty well. She drove her van to three different locations, providing water, Gatorade, and oranges. She drove to the person in the lead and waited until the last runner had passed through her aid station before moving on. I know they were short on volunteers because of the later festivities in the town, so this was pretty clever.
After the last aid station, where I grabbed some Gatorade, I felt much better, regaining a lot of my strength. I finished right behind the lady that had passed me. I also finished third overall and second female (you know, out of 22). My only complaint about the race was that the results were all screwed up. They also said they would hand deliver our medals to our houses, and I have not heard word on that yet. I guess things like that are to be expected in a race that was new this year and wasn’t maybe as planned out as it could be in the future. They did a good job with getting us our packets, the course, pictures, the roaming aid station, and of course, I dug the location because of the parade that was to follow. I would do this race again…if I get my medal, that is.
Evaluating the calorie situation, I should have had my 100 calorie banana in the morning (but, duh, I know) and I should have had my second gel one kilometer earlier, before I felt tired. It was hard to get back my speed after that.
At the end of the day, I only race against myself, and thinking about it from that angle, I did get my second best half marathon time. I was happy with that.
1 hour, 44 minutes
Red, white, and blue festivities
With the combination of the Olde Tyme fun run, it felt pretty festive afterward. Lots of families out and about with some good after race food. We set up our blankets and sat for a bit, snacking on some of the foods. It was still pretty chilly though, so we grabbed our change of clothes and found the nearest diner with hot coffee and American-style breakfast.
We killed time until 10:30, which was the start of the parade. It was the first parade our kids had seen, as that is not a thing that happens overseas…at least not the places we have lived abroad.
We stayed and watched the parade until past noon. Sun-soaked and post candy saturated crash, the kids both passed out on the car ride back.
The day flowed from race, to parade, to cookies, to fireworks well. We were all so tired at the end of the day though, everyone went to bed two hours earlier than usual. It was awesome.
That was my first observation of Transylvania100. The elevation gain for the 50k is 3,328 meters, which is 10,919 feet. That is not the peak elevation, that is the gain!
I have wanted to do Ultra for years, but haven’t felt brave enough, or been in the right place and time. The stars sort of aligned for this and I didn’t have an excuse not do it. Naturally, I signed up.
Nume de familie
Senior 18-39 ani / years
It isn’t feasible to take my family, considering the costs of the flights and all that, so I am going solo. I haven’t traveled that far solo before, much less for the biggest race I have ever tackled. I am a bit concerned about the whole thing logistically. Luckily, I have figured out a coping mechanism–don’t think about it too much. Just run.
Run I have. I run on average 70-80 km a week anyway, and have upped that to about 90 km. That isn’t too much of a change in distance, but what I did do differently to start training is adding some elevation gain to my runs and trying to get that elevation gain on trails. I recently did a 24 km training run and was surprised by how much my legs were not used to that. I had to load up on electrolytes after each training run. Transylvania will be completely trail and in the Carpathian Mountains, so some pretty wild area.
I currently am living in Sarajevo, which is in a valley, surrounded by three large mountains and some other hills. This is fortunate for my training. During winter, I had been a bit lazy and done mostly flat runs. Lazy, and in fear of the ice on all the steep roads. This training has been good for me to kick myself back into action.
For my training runs, I really have only done a couple of these longer, steeper, trail routes. Some of my others shorter runs I still sought out elevation. I am a bit worried that this won’t leave me prepared enough, but I am hoping that between these runs and my base fitness level, it will carry me through.
I am now at the tapering stage. I hate tapering so much that I haven’t actually started it. I will probably wait until a few days before to kick it down to 40 or 50 km a week, but that is also unlikely. Tapering is by far the hardest part of training for me and I often just avoid it all together. However, I do better in a race if I do taper, so this will be a mental struggle that I grapple with in the weeks to come. There are infinite considerations in the tension between what we should do, and what we want to do.
If you check out the website and look at past results, it takes the best runners much longer to finish than your average 50k. It is a little hard for me to tell based on names, as most of them are foreign names, but it appears that the fastest woman came in around 9 hours last year. It also looks like there will be snow, wind, ropes to help climb the trails, and did I mention, elevation? I am trying to plan for all four seasons in one 50k. If everything goes right, I am hoping to come in around 10 or 11 hours. At the end of the day, I just want to finish without getting lost or injured.
I am looking forward to seeing what I am capable of both physically and mentally. In these types of races, you come out a changed, improved person. I think if you can’t figure yourself out in a race like this, it isn’t happening. I hope to find balance in nature and, consequently, in myself. I must travel to an unknown land and an unknown place within myself to achieve this.
Cheers to what can only be described in my book as an adventure.
Below is a video of the race from 2016. So much snow for May!