Running into the 50k Ultra World

“Face your life, it’s pain, it’s pleasure,

Leave no path untaken.”

-Neil Gaiman

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Bran Castle, the starting point


Elevation, oh my!

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.

BIB Nume de familie Prenume Categorie Status
 5135 Gaines Tara United States 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.

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Sarajevo from one of my runs, headed above the city.

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.

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Below is a video of the race from 2016. So much snow for May!

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