The start of the Istria 100 by UTMB®️ race 2022


After a few years with postponed races due to pandemic I finally got the chance to race my favourite race - the Istria 100 by UTMB®️.


I trained properly prior the race with one big difference when compared to the last editions. I never did any specific hill training. I focused on the overall distance and the "time spent outside". During the last race prior the race in Istria - the Kullamannen Trail race, I observed that I could manage the distance quite well and feel good about it while running with a quite decent pace. I was always afraid of crushing my body before the finish line or doing serious damage during the race. The feedback that I got after that race was interesting indeed. I learned a lot much about nutrition and pacing and those indications gave me a quite good basis to improve a few more parameters during the Sandsjöbacka Trail Marathon race in January this year. Yes, that race was a shorter one where I was quite forces to push a bit more the pace. The result was interesting and I finished the race happy with the performance.


Although the training volume was good prior this race and the indications of my best overall form ever I was always seriously worried about my tendons and ligaments that I have issues with. My groin issues are a stressy factor for me but miraculously, during both the Kullamannen race in November and not after the race in Istria, I have to say that I never had issues while running these two 100-mile races. I have to work specifically to address these problems, do some serious gym, mobility and Yoga exercises and I might be ready for my next adventure even more prepared and stronger.


This race started well. I was confident in my training. I trusted my body, and I was well aware of the course changes. But I never planned the race in details. I know what to expect and I also know that races like this one may and the potentially will test my body, mind and soul on various levels... this race was no different from other editions. It was challenging from the very beginning!


We started from Labin the 8 April at 17:00 CET. It was quite cloudy, a bit windy and on a chilly side. But nothing to worry about. The first km are almost all a downhill to Rabac. An easy a relaxing section just to "enter the game", relax and enjoy. From Rabac, the first climb is a 450mt easy hill and after that one the descent is really fast to the Plomin Luka CP. That section is dangerous. Everybody is relaxed and speedy and there is a huge chance to be caught in the act of running waaaay too fast and crushing the quads. I didn't do that. I opted for a reserved approach to the whole race. I knew from the beginning that my training for this race was all about volume. My legs could never sustain and severe beating. So, each and every downhill and steep climb was taken with the necessary approach and respect.


The climb from Plomin Luka
The race starts from the Plomin Luka CP. The first "real" climb to over 800mt and the first taste of the mountain weather. The difference this year was that we would not continue climbing. Instead, we would roll the whole way to the sea level to the Mošćenička Draga CP.


The weather was killing us. IT was getting dark and the visibility was challenging, the fog was getting really thick on the tops and the winds were getting really powerful! I remembered the last edition prio the pandemic there!


I had the opportunity to share that section with Alberto Toldo from Italy. We chatted a bit while running/hiking the challenging trails. The downhill went well, it was really a nice section and after the aid station we started the long climb to the peak of the race to the Učka top. My hiking pace was a bit more powerful so I had to leave behind Alberto. That was the last time that I would speak with some other fellow runner during the race! I did 150km alone! The climb went unexplainably well. I felt the whole way in control balancing the effort. The trails were protecting us but we heard the winds crushing on the threes and the mountain. It was the last 400mt of the climb where we felt the power of the Bura wind. I was almost blown away!


Unfortunately, there was nothing to see. The bad weather conditions denied us any proper view this time. But I got the chance to admire Rijeka in a few occasions. I simply love the city where I'm born! The descent to the Poklon aid station went well despite the wet rocks, humid trails and the beasty fog. Sometimes I had issues seeing my own two feet! Incredible! Even more incredible to me were a few runners that passed me like kamikazes! I guess that they were the blue course runners. Who knows.



The high hills during Istria 100 by UTMB


Anyways, I managed to pass a few runners to the very top and I was really happy with the performance of my body during the section.


I left quickly the aid station and continued running the same steady pace. The idea was that I would keep my legs from unnecessary stress while moving forward in a effective way. I was passing runners. I was chasing those headlamps in the dark. Nobody passed me. I wondered how many runners were there in front and how many behind me. Mostly I was there all alone in the dark fighting my own demons. During those flat high hill sections I pushed myself to run without stopping. I used the climbs to eat. The energy levels were always on spot. A few gels exploded in my vest. That resulted in a sticky vest that was killing my hairy body! :)


The climb to Žbevnica was nice. This was the only race where I actually enjoyed that section. The winds were strong. We had fog, hailstorm, a bit of snow as well.... but I was OK. My new jacket did a great job protecting me!


The downhill to Buzet
The 900mt downhill to Buzet went surprisingly well. OK, I felt my quads. But they were working well. I was absolutely in no pain. I was happy and looking forward to eat something warm after more than 16 hrs of movement.


Leaving Buzet is never easy. After 30 minutes in that aid station changing clothes and eating a bit it's never easy to start running again. But I was happy with the choice to rest a bit more and take my time there.


I was looking forward to run faster that flat section to the Butoniga aid station. Yeah right..... Once again I had the chance to remember myself that after 100k I couldn't really trust my judgment or my mind. I should have planned better the course prior the race! There was nothing flat after Buzet! Just a never-ending running up and down those lovely hills. I really appreciated the course change once I forgot myself of that "mistake". Well, the plan A of the race was trashed almost after 20k when the weather conditions worsened. But I still had a pretty good chance to get a new PB of the course despite the conditions of the trails and the difficoulty of the new course.


I reached the Butoniga aid station and I left it right away. I never did that before. I was running a slow paced tempo the whole flat section to the Zamask climb which is a tough one and quite technical as well. Hiking that one gives me always some kind of feedback of the overall form. I was OK. I was running a 6.30/k pace quite easily. My quads were a bit tired but I never felt ant soreness. The climb to Motovun went well as well. I was expecting an aid station there as it usually was, but I needed to wait a few miles more to reach Livade.


The flat section to Livade is a long paved road where I wanted to push the pace a bit. It's quite easy to gain some time there on those flat sections and relax a bit. The problem was that just seconds after I ate something in that aid station I felt the need to throw out live everything. That resulted in the fact that I left the aid station with nothing in my body. I was running that section only on my reserves. It felt good. Not great, just good. The climb to Oprtalj is usually a tough one rewarded with a "pit-stop" as a lovely aid station. Not this time! The new UTMB -imposed changes removed that station and I needed to wait to Grožnjan for new recharge. Luckily I had a few UMARA gels left that didn't broke and I managed to continue the race despite the crazy weather. I mean, I had only a t-shirt on in Livade and ca. 20k after that everybody needed to take out the jacket, gloves etc! The temperature went down to 3-4°C accompanied with hard winds that were almost hurting us. It started to hail as well.... again!


The last section before the storm


That section is the section where I understood that reaching a new PB would be a mission "almost impossible"! But I gained some confidence and I started running the whole Parenzana to Buje - the last aid station before the end of the race.
I had a blast there, I ran with a smile and I managed to pass several runners as well. It felt really good. I stopped for a minute in Buje, recharged and as the weather worsened I took an extra bottle of water. I know the last section. I the weather gets nasty that last section despite being almost flat can kill legs! Really!


Yeah..... it was nasty alright! The red trails changes into a muddy, and really sticky form that created an extra weight on each shoe that created an extra challenge on each and every step. The only way to minimize that "problem" was to run on higher grass. In that way I was able to run-ish forward. My legs were hurting now but incredibly my feet were fresh like at the very beginning of the race. I pushed the pace a bit where I could and I did what I could where I could.... I was running towards the city light. Nobody passed me, I passed nobody.... we were moving in silence fighting the elements getting closer to that finish line. To the end of this race....


And the finish was there. Just 2hrs after leaving Buje. I was really afraid that it could take more time, but it didn't! The last part, finishing on the red track was like a dream. The surface was red like the trails in the area, but those last 200mt were not sticky and I felt like running again, my legs felt no pain no more. It was an amazing feeling and crossing the finish line was beautiful indeed.


My mother and my sister were ready there to welcome me. A tasty pizza and a cold beer was waiting for me as well. I really appreciated that! I needed real food! :)


Feel free to watch my video on YouTube.
This time I shared a few thoughts during the race as well.


Enjoy! 😁


LINK on YouTube:


Considering the weather conditions of the race and the challenging trails just finishing the race was a major achievement. Already after 40k the "Plan A" was trashed. I decided to prioritize safety and the mist won back there. During certain sections I could barely see my own shoes and the terrain was quite slippery. Speed was not an option. I still tried to push it during those faster sections. The cold wind was beating us all. Many decided to DNF. That wasn't a valid option for me.


I felt in control the whole race an I just waited for those last 40k of the race. I knew that my legs had a lot of power left in order to make a strong finish. I saved a lot of energy thinking about those last 40k saving my legs on tougher climbs.


The problem when the "Plan B" died was when in Livade (131,9 km ) where the weather changed once again. The chilly winds, the cold, hale and even snowy rain started to drastically change the trail conditions. The last 13k describes the whole race - a fight moving forward!
My shoes had like 1kg of sticky red mud per shoe and moving was challenging. I managed to relax and move forward in a quite decent way running on higher grass. It was not pretty, but I was getting to the end of the race. Those last 300m on track were amazing. I had a blast and I felt like flying. I was fast and everything seemed so easy....


This edition of the race will remain in my heart as one of the toughest races that I finished. Amazing indeed!


The day after the race it was of course, as the day prior the race, a simply fantastic sunny day! 😜😁🤙


I managed to capture a little of the race but those last 20k were all about moving forward and staying up right without falling. Filming was not an option! 😁😜


Despite all I enjoyed this race! The new course is quite demanding.....


The by UTMB®️ thing.... Well, I understand the need for these races to develop under such an organization. However the races are loosing a bit of their "spirit" because of that. Luckily, the crew in Istria is simply amazing! The volunteers, the organisation is simply on top! So, all the changes, the added fee, that is a problem for many local runners, the cost of the images that are lower in quality from the ones shared for free during previous editions will never diminish the quality of the 100 Miles of Istria race.
However, in my opinion, the race fee should be revisited and a few minor technicalities as well - in particular the stations layout during tougher weather conditions. The finish area was actually a bit chaotic in my opinion.


There is a good possibility to improve even more the race with minor changes and attract even more runners.



My race gear:


  - Altra Olympus 4
  - Injinji Crew
  - Inov8 Raceshell
  - Dynafit Ultra Shorts
  - Dynafit cap
  - Simond merino wool mid layer
  - Salomon S-lab 12 vest
  - Pioneer poles
  - Kalenji t-shirt
  - Wool gloves
  - Waterproof Forclaz gloves
  - Petzl SWIFT RL headlamp (Nitecore HC33 spare)



INFO for the trail nerds:


I fnished the race in: 28:39:53