I'm in Italy, working as usual supporting our Italian users.
The whole focus on IT-related issues.
I know that I'll jog a little the weekend.... but who cares.... Focus!
Work/eat/sleep.... but there is a problem in the hotel room!
My running gear! A LOT of it! It's disturbing!
Wow, wait a little, I HAVE TO MOVE NOW! The thing I have before these long races, to "mask" the stress and tension with work or something else was almost fatal! I had to leave the office in 10 minutes!!!
I saluted and hugged everybody and everybody was wishing me good luck on the race! What!? A race? Again?!
Shit! It's getting real! I cannot think on something else now! Well, actually yes! I'm hungry, so I had to stop to eat a lovely pasta before the trip to Umag!
I was driving. There was no time to thing on something else but the race. I was thinking about my mistakes from the last year, about the gear choices, the shoes to take and more..... and here I was, the Trieste airport. Mikael was waiting for me a few hours now. I managed to be there in time in order to avoid the stress like the last year when I arrived to Umag the very last second to pick my BIB!
The travel to Umag was nice and relaxed but I guess one could cut a slice of stress inside the car.... because we were stressed.... well, a mixture of stress, anxiety, fear, restlessness, curiosity, impatience etc.... Umag was there, the sunset was starting mixing those lovely colors, the sea, the lovely smell mixture of spring in the air. We took our gear from the car. Mikael had to fix that a little bit in order to deliver the right gear to the drop bag in Buzet (half race CP). I did that the night before in order to avoid that particular stress moment.
We were in line waiting to apply for the race, get our gear checked, pick our BIBs, leave our drop-bags to the Buje Aid Station (90km) etc.... Stress? Maybe... I guess I just wanted to run. The "administrative" part went well and a little bit later we were back sitting and driving towards Labin. We arrived approx. at 21:00. An hour faster than I planned before. I wasn't really tired like the year before. maybe because I managed to relax, rest and eat well the whole week prior to the race. I felt good and confident. Still.... a little bit nervous. My goal was kinda eating me from inside.... :)
The race day as usual I work. I woke up in the morning, took my standard breakfast. A little bit more fruit and a few delicious fruit shakes made by my mother. I worked all the morning without thinking on the race. Well I did a little. My sister managed to sew all the flags to my Salomon vest (ITA, CRO and SWE)..... I wanted to be recognized also by this! I am a European "cocktail" indeed!
Mikael was nervous, I decided that it was OK to start to prepare for the race a little bit ahead, in time. Not like the last year when I had to hurry and run to the start!
We got ready, a last check of our gear..... I was ready! I went to the toilet a few times (just to be sure)....
Clothes - Check!
Salomon vest - Check!
Hydration - Check!
Gels - Check!
Camera - Check!
Phone - Check!
..... a lot more..... the list is huge! I guess my LEGO ability comes handy while packing the race gear on a race day! :)
30 minutes later we were there, driving uphill to the city center of the medieval town of Labin, known for its numerous galleries and artists. The most fascinating sight is the central town square with the perfectly preserved loggia and main town gate of St. Flora from the 16th century. Above the gate is the town’s coat of arms and Venetian lion, symbol of Venetian rule. While strolling through the town discover the cannon from the Austrian period and many other interesting details. The athletes were all there. I got out f the car while my sister, mum and Mikael went away to find a parking spot.
I needed to be alone just a few minutes before the start. I needed to sort my things together in my head.....
Short after I met Anders, Tomas and Radana. We all had the Swedish flag on our BIBs! :)
My family was there, we chat a little, had fun listening to other runners, the music, the good vibes in the air..... 1 minute to go!
"Relax, breathe..... stay cool....check the watch, start the camera to film the start and.... " ....
We were running! Well, I waited a little bit, everybody else was rushing inside the old town like crazy, but I know that there is no point doing that. So I relaxed there in the middle of the pack and enjoyed running inside the old town of Labin.
After a very quick section in Labin we proceeded downhill on a quite fast but still partially technical trail down to Rabac - the major tourist resort on the eastern coast of the Istrian Peninsula! Rabac is relaxing in April, there is almost nobody walking along the lungomare. We passed Rabac quickly, Anders and I managed to run easily in a 5:30-isc pace but after the first uphill he decided to take a slower pace. I felt good and I wanted to run like I did in my training the days before, still respecting the distance and having in mind the race the year before and how much I suffered back there! So I ran, a little bit faster than the year before but with great control and attention not to burn my legs, specially in that fast gravel downhill to Plomin.
The trail to Plomin was redesign and really lovely! The first taste of hiking/running uphill. Here I managed to stay concentrated not to push... no matter what. "Be calm, keep this pace to Plomin... nice and easy...." I told myself that several times under that tiny uphill - The same thing I repeated a LOT during the whole course! :)
Plomin was nice, this is a special aid station for me. It's the station where I can understand my body, understand how I feel and say goodnight to my mother and sister (we will see each other nest time after the night....). This year Mikael Lyckeklint was there too. He would start later on the 110km course from Lovran.
The race continued, I was not pushing at all the uphills, a fast hike the most of the time and running the faster sections. That was the whole idea. I was a little bit shocked when we saw a car driving an injured runner away from the course - that was a good reminder that this was a long race, I needed to keep in mind that I'm not an elite athlete and that I need to enjoy the course, the nature, the places... run relaxes, breathe and look outside me.. even when in pain or in tough situations.
There was a moment during the uphill to the Ucka mountain where I was passed by this girl... her pace and running was too nice.... I had to follow.... It was nice, really nice to run up there, with the city of Rijeka on the right preparing for the night and the Istrian peninsula on the right.... the stunning view, the runable course (but quite rocky and technical) were just great. I managed to arrive at Bodaj aid station very fresh. Anders was always there, sometimes in front, sometimes behind me.... we run quite differently. I love the tricky sections and he is fast on the flat.... so we raced a race in a race I suppose.... this was another interesting part in this race that kept up my concentration.... I wanted to be as close as possible to my fellow runners from Sweden.
Photo: "100 Miles of Istria"
The last uphill to the very top of Ucka is quite technical, you may look up and see all those runners hiking in a line one after the other in a uphill serpentine.... nice but still scary to see the climb in front. The wind was not that strong like the last year so I managed to reach the top very relaxed and not really tired.... not at all actually.
When I arrived at the Poklon aid station I had in mind the fail from the last year. I had to eat and drink enough and fast! The temperature was not that cold still I wanted to preserve the muscles from stress. So I did that perfectly I guess. After a few minutes there I was out and running without issues. Just great! That was a huge difference from the year before!
It was fun running during the night, chasing those headlamps in front of me, having fun on the downhills, hiking fast and strong enough the uphills without killing my legs..... the flat running was tricky, I wanted to run faster, but I had to run slow, I had to force my body to run easily.... I had to jog! I remember a section where I was on the top of this maybe 250mt really tricky downhill, a technical one with plenty leafs and roots everywhere and everything was wet! Well, down there was Anders.... I understood that because he went down a few times because he was struggling running with just one pole. I went down like a complete idiot! I chased him on that downhill! And... I was there... just 3mt behind, but I stopped, I wanted him there in front. I had a long flat section in fron of me and I needed to chase somebody... the whole time! That one was a good decision! While I stopped shortly to pee, we was gone in the dark. I started the chase, ... "a lamp"! ..... I passed a runner... "Not Anders"! "Damn!".... after a while another runner.... I chased that one but.... again, that one was either Anders! I got a little bit irritated. I begun to question my running and there she was again... an Italian runner that I was listening to long before talking with other italian runners. She was strong and her pace was OK for me. We continued running and chatting and there was another runner that we picked up along the course. We had all some issues.... chatting about injuries made me forget about my injury for a while.... until the next downhill.....
That was nice....
And there he was. Just before the Brgudac aid station at km 57 Anders was there. I was so happy to see him there and because my Italian friends had issues running downhill I preferred to continue with Anders and check his condition. He was OK. He had issues with his stomach but this seemed not trouble his running ability! What a great person! :)
We went into the aid station, and after a few minutes i went outside just before Anders. BUT! My headlamp! I had to change the battery... I couldn't find the spare battery!!! Well..... after being crazy there outside for a few minutes despite the volunteers told me to go inside I managed to get my crap together and there I remembered that I had another headlamp! I got a lovely lamp from Nitecore the week before that I wanted to test during the course! Well, that tiny lamp did a GREAT job! The Nitecore NU20 not only saved my race, it performed without issues! The light was enough even during the tough downhill to Buzet later on, during the up and downs to Trstenik. The product is a lovely peace of gear and I can recommend the NU20 to every runner. It's maybe not the stronger lamp out there, but it's super lightweight! It's that lightweight that I forgot to have one on my forehead! The lamp may be recharged during the run so I wasn't really worried about that because I had a cable and a USB powerbank ready to be used if necessary!
The downhill to Buzet! I managed to gain approx 1h just in this section. And all this without any issue whatsoever! This was a huge difference is I should compare this race with the one from the year before. I came in the Buzet aid station and I had that smile on my face that nobody could understand.... well, maybe somebody did!
After a fast refill with some pasta and rice (tastyyyyyyy) and some Coca-Cola I went out the aid station. It was here that I supposed to meet my family for the forst time. But nobody was there so I decided not to wait..... Well, they just came while I was getting out! They misunderstood the position of the aid station! Rookie mistake! My bad!!!
I decided to continue running wit the same shoes on, the same socks and same taping on.... I never touched my feet! They were OK, no issues there, so I figured "Why touching or changing something that is working just fine!?"! :)
Well, that decision well be one of many good decisions I made during the race because the Merrell All Out Peak seems to be a perfect shoe for the 100 Miles of Istria. You need protection at the beginning all the way to Buzet. you need a good, proper grip on wet surfaces. You need a shoe that will drain well and fast! You need a shoe that will not massacre your feet when they swell after many hours outside!
I managed to change the laces this time too because of the mistake I did the last year! So I purchased the elastic lock laces from Sportsshoes.com and they performed just great! The idea was to have a lace that was able to lock the foot but at the same time release the lock when the foot should need more space in just a move. The whole thing permitting me to "forget" the possible issue. As a matter of fact in two occasions I managed to forget this and I felt that my foot was a little bit tired. I released the lace a few mm and I was ready to go! With standard laces 8not elastic ones) my foot would swell immediately and maybe compromise my running and maybe the whole race! This was another great peace of gear! And a cheap one! :)
As I mentioned before my mum and sister failed to arrive in time at the Buzet aid station, but we med at my way out of the station. Just a quick salute and I was on my way to the next station.... Well, I wanted to run, but my legs were quite stiff, so I had to power walk/jog in order to warm up the muscles. It was quite chilly that morning and I wanted a little bit of sun to worm my body. I had to wait a few km before the sun heated me a little. I felt better after 10 minutes and I started running those flat sections without issues. This is where you have a lot of flat running just before the next aid station - Hum. But this is also the part where all the runners have to choose how to cross all those river crossings. The Mirna river was higher this year and there was no chance to remain dry. Well, if you remove shoes and socks. But I was really afraid to remove the taping and shoes.... so I left everything as it was and went right across the chilly water. If felt great! Really great!
I know that running that long (approx. 60km to the finish from that point) could result in painful blisters and damage on my feet. Still, it felt like the best choice (and it was). I manages not to loose any precious time while crossing the river, I cooled my tired feet, I managed to refresh my face and hair too (the air temperature was rising really fast) and the water cleaned the mud from the shoes..... good thing that too! :)
The aid station in HUM was the one where I had dreamed of almost the whole course. From Plomin I had to run with groin pain. So I planned to ask my sister to give me that Voltaren creme she had and an Ibuprofene pill.
So, I climbed to Hum known as the smallest town in the world, which is why it is one of the most attractive Istrian excursionist destinations.Hum’s history starts in the earl medieval age, and the fact that the town is completely surrounded with old walls and that there was not much construction outside of them is especially interesting. Thanks to such settlement structure, one can rightfully claim that the entire Hum is actually a monument. Due to its specificity, the town is truly unique and interesting to history and culture explorers, and the area around Hum is especially attractive to nature lovers.
So I was there, drinking and loading with some energy. I was happy and positive the whole race! The weather was great and I wanted to continue.... without resting! So I went.... running downhill first, first easy gravel road and then a quite technical road with tricky stones. This is a quite common trail in that part of the course. Stones all over the trails, sandy soil and roots all over. It can be tricky if running fast. I took that section with patience because.... i managed to forget about Voltaren and Ipren!!! A huge hill was standing in front of me, I recognized the course and I knew exactly what this section is about. It's all about patience! So I was patient and waited!
I waited for that long downhill, I waited the Butoniga lake, I wanted to apply that Voltaren creme on my groin and run without that issue. I had no real pain, but I knew that that could be a real issue if I don't take care of it soon! Well, before the lake there are a few interesting hills to pass. The one to Draguć is worth mentioning. Situated in the middle of nowhere, squeezed on the ridge of a hill, Draguć simply allures you with its harmonious ancient perspective. Due to the fact that many movies have been filmed here and numerous film stars have walked its streets Draguć has been for long babbled the name of – Istrian Hollywood.
The uphill to Juradi is nice, quite easy gravel roads and then... the lake! A great view from the hills on the lake!
This section is easy. A mix of gravel road, tricky trails and the last part is easy asphalt and gravel road. So I was there at the Butoniga aid station and finally I remembered the Voltaren and the Ibuprofene! After approx 5 minutes there I left the station.... this time even more positive about the race than before and hopeful about the remedy on my groin. I started slowly on the flat. I know that after the flat there are two nasty hills. Well, they are quite lovely actually if taken with the right approach. So I did that. I wanted to enjoy those hills and see the nature around me.
I passed Zamask too quite easily. But the uphill is interesting and quite demanding with all the mileage in my legs. Zamask is located on a 411 meters high hilltop with beautiful views all around towards Istrian countryside. You can see the Ucka mountain on the eastern side and the sea on the western side. Zamask is a very nice small village and is known for the fact that historically the border between Austrian and Venetians dominions in Istria was going trough the village.
The downhill.... well, already from Zamask you see the next aid station, the next target to reach. Motovun! Motovun is located on a hill above Mirna river, one of the most fertile territories of Istria, known for many vineyards and truffles.
I was ready to run faster. As a matter of fact I believe I had the best split there of the whole race! It felt good and I just wanted to reach that white gravel road down there and move as fast as possible to the top of the hill to the old town of Motovun I like so much! All those ancient cities are lovely, all preserve something special. You may feel during some moments that the time has stopped there... just for you. You are time-traveling through the history of Istria! Embrace that! This is a unique component of this race and this is one of the many reasons that I return to this race. Not only to run, to race but to "breathe" the race as well.. the whole thing! :)
I reached Motovun after a short chat with Elisa Bordin, the Italian runner I ran a few hours earlier during the night. I wanted to push that gravel road to the bottom of the hill.... it went nicely. I felt really good. A crazy difference from the year before when I was sort of dying climbing to the city on the top of the hill. Now instead.... a different story. I felt strong!
I came to the check point in the old town of Motovun - a medieval town that grew up on the site of an ancient city called Castellieri. It is situated on a hill 270 metres (886 feet) above sea level with houses scattered all over the hill. On the inner walls are several coats-of-arms of different Motovun/Montona ruling families and two gravestones of Roman inhabitants (dating from the 1st century).
In the 10th and 11th centuries it belonged to the Bishop of Parenzo/Poreč. From 1278 it was taken over by Venice and surrounded by solid walls which are still intact today, and used as a walkway with unique views over the four corners of Istria. All three parts of the town are connected by a system of internal and external fortifications with towers and city gates containing elements of Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance styles, built between the 14th and 17th centuries. It is a typical example of Venetian colonial architecture.
More INFO about Motovun
I left Motovun after a few minutes. Much faster than the year before. I crushed that downhill and I really... really wanted to run that long asphalt flat section to the next hill. I had to walk that the year before and it felt really crazy frustrating. This year I was running. A slow pace, controlled, thinking about the tough climb to Oprtalj is! My sister waited for me at the very beginning of the climb, she took a few pictures and I went up and boy I felt great! I could push and I enjoyed the course! I mean... wow! I was still enjoying the run after almost 140km! Great! The trail terminated and the asphalt section to Oprtalj was in front of me..... I pushed a little, It felt crazy good. I felt strong but still, the goal was not to push like an idiot right now but to run the whole section to the very end.
The Oprtalj aid station is a spectacular one. The view is stunning and for me the station has a special value. The two years before I was really suffering there and thinking about the remaining 30-ish km to the end of the race was a huge pain! This year was a different melody in my legs! I was tired, but ready to fight! I had it! I was not 100% sure that I could reach my 30h goal, but I wanted to give it a try anyway. After approx. 5-10 minutes I left the station. My mum and sister were cheering (it felt great)! I was chewing something and rolling slowly down the hill when..... somebody was speaking to me.... in Swedish!? Wow, Anders was there! What a great sensation to see a familiar face in the middle of "nowhere". Just great! He was struggling with nutrition and I wanted to try to reach my goals so we decided to give it a try..... We ran together!
This was just great! Anders and I running together, pushing each other. He is strong on the flats and we had just the flats all the way to the end.... well, almost! :)
We came to Grožnjan, a medieval town whose original beauty has been kept until today, through preserved old walls, forts, churches and monuments.
More info about Grožnjan:
We decided to stop for a good energy refill. I managed to eat a lot, drink and got my gear ready in 5 minutes. Anders on the other hand was suffering, a lot. His body struggled to accept energy. He had issued with Tailwind from the start and after I passed him a salt tablet he just trowed out everything he had inside! I guess that was just good because we went out of Grožnjan quite confident. We started running almost directly after the aid station and we started running with a steady pace. We ran all those loooong tiny uphills, those killed me the year before, but now I was running with ease. Maybe the fact that I was not alone was helping, but the fact that we were running in daylight surely was helping me a lot. I had a lot of energy.
Not making the same mistakes I made the year before was one of my main goals. The other goal was to do my best to try finish the race under 30hrs! Many of my friends, colleagues, family etc did not believe in that idea of mine. Well, I had doubts myself too during the course. But there, really near Buje I stared to believe that the 30hrs dream could be something possible!
I remember that the Buje aid station was one of the fastest. We just went in, refilled and went out even more confident in our running. The night was falling but I felt better, much better that the last year! I guess that the training, the energy plan and the good weather made this possible. We were pushing those last miles really nicely. Other slower runners just step aside and cheered with applauder. That was an energy boost indeed! Magic!
The last 10k..... we were running those last red single trails with ease.... Anders made a slight fall - nothing too bad.... we kept rolling directly, he was fine! I remembered there how I had to fight the year before against all my daemons just to walk to the finish line. Well.... this year was a different story! We were pushing it! The sounds of the speaker from the finish line reached us and... oh boy, what a kick, what a feeling.... I started flying!!!
Anders had to remind me that we should finish this together..... "Right!? Are you running away from me now??!" - "No way m8!... It's just that.... You now!...." was my answer. He understood. I had that what is called "The runners high"! Wow.... just wow!!!!
"Wait! Left or right!?? Shit.... are we lost? Now? a few 100mt from the finish???" - We started searching for trail markings like crazy when from nowhere came out a person and pointed in the right direction! WELL THANK YOU A LOT!!! :)
The finish was there.... in front of us.... the crowd was cheering, some filming.... we tried to finish the race hand in hand and jump over the finish line. Well after a 171km race this task may be very tricky, but I guess it was lovely to see! :)
Branislav Pavić, Mikael Lyckeklint, me and Saša Tubin in Umag after the race.
Thanx Anders for this race! It was something to remember for the rest of our lifes! And why not.... do it again?! :)
I have to thank my daughter, my son, my wife - without them I'll never be the man I am today! Thanx to my mother and my sister that has a lot of patience supporting me during the race!
Thanx to all the volunteers, the race organizers and friends cheering and pushing me online.... you're simply great! :)
See you again in 2018! :)
My "100 Miles of Istria" race on Strava: