Bib number 509, Aramis Sasinka VM1 SWE
A Swedish flag proudly waving above the printed elevation profile for the 100 Miles of Istria 110km race ready to be folded and pinned to my shorts. Wait…. Swedish flag? Oh yes, I live in Sweden now…. So they registered the residency as nationality I assume… whatever….. :-)
Let’s start a little bit earlier this year. I was surfing a few interesting sites on Facebook and some nice links and I stopped on one image…. I recognized the surroundings! Yes… I was born there! I “felt” the nature and something happened. I had to run that race! “Wait.. an Ultra? … for me? No way! Way toooo soon! But…. “
I was curious…still, the shortest distance of 65km was not really that interesting…. The 100 miles is too much for an ordinary family guy… but the 110km…. “uhmmmm… “ I was thinking loudly.
At the same time it was time for the local winter trail. Just 35km I figured… this could be a lovely test. I applied and enjoyed that one, the Sandsjöbacka Trail Marathon 35k race! Wow…. My first trail race! :-)
After a week or so the low discounted period for the participation fee was to be ended and I wanted so badly to apply, and avoid expensive start fees. So I did sign up… the crazy decision to run the 110km race of the 100 Miles of Istria. After I pushed the last button I received the e-mail…. I was almost afraid of reading it! What did I just purchased??
All those questions after that. How much do you train? Are you fit?... Are you prepared for this?…. Are you fuckin’crazy?!.... the 40yr crisis maybe?….. and so on…
But many of my colleagues were impressed, inspired…. my family as well. My wife (my biggest supporter together with my daughter and son) tried to hide her disapproval, her being so worried about this crazy dude…
My training did not change a lot… as usual. Approx. 50-60-70km per week with at max 95km per week… nothing more. My record trail run was something like 36km! And I figured out (reading a lot) that I did not need to run 100km right now. I had to focus to the quality training….. keep a nice fit balance and get stronger and improve the running technique…. That was it. I never pushed too much. I tried to avoid stress situations and just run and enjoy… simple as that.
The company that I work for contacted me one day in February and they wanted to have an interview with me!
… “Wait a little bit! An interview with me?!!”
Yes, somebody thought that I was a great inspiration and motivation for others. A nice example to change the bad routines into something better…. Well…. That was a nice experience. A nice rainy photo session, the interview on the phone and … the article soon to be printed out in our corporate magazine in several different languages! Nice! :-)
That was a lovely kick! I needed to finish that Istria craziness! “I need to focus!”, “I need to fight and win my demons!” I figured out…. And yes, exactly, during a long ultra-trail you get to know all of your craziest demons! :-)
The race was getting closer. I managed to combine a work trip to Italy with the race! Great! The 13th of April I took a flight to Milano and worked there for two days and after that two more days in the Verona area On the 16th of April on an afternoon I drove the rental car to Umag and I took my race BIB and checked for the race! All set to go now…. :-)
Drove the car 100km from Umag to meet my mother and sister, eat something and sleep (at last)….
The race day. I woke up early in the morning. I got some coffee and started my PC. I started working as usual. Nothing new…. I concentrated to fix those IT related issues that I managed to forget where I was at some point…. My sister managed to "ruin" my zen by asking something like: “Are you not going to prepare yourself for the race?” Well…. She was right of course, but I had a lot of time, the clock was just…..upssss… 17:37!!! Yes, I should get ready!
I sorted out all my things from my luggage on by bed, divided all the things to carry during the race, those things to have just before the start etc… Ok, check…. Done! :-)
I prepared all the things, my gear, my camera, phone…. Charge all together to avoid bad surprises when/if help is needed. I checked the list and…. I was almost ready to go. Ah yes…. My clothes… I can’t really run in my underwear! :-)
I got outside to feel the temperature, the humidity and all…. The clock was a little bit after 20.00. The temperature slightly over 10°C. I figured… the night is going to be chilly, that’s something to consider. The humidity in central Istria is nothing to joke about…. And the fatigue is to calculate in that equation too! OK. I have to wear layers…. “I have a rucksack, so if I’ll start “cooking” I’ll just drop something of my clothes in the bag and keep running”… I figured….
The 144mt above the sea was another thing. But I figured… At that point I will be warm enough and the adrenaline will keep me warm! No problem there….
We were ready… I was ready to go!
My sister drove the car to Lovran. My mother was with us. She broke a toe a few days before but she couldn’t miss the start of that particular race! :-)
In Lovran I met Radana Maric. That lady is a rock! Check out her race too! :-)
The start was delayed just a little bit…. 10 min. The heart was pumping a LOT…. I was ready! I felt good… really good! I missed my family, their kisses and hugs…. But I fooled myself and pretended that they were with me all the way…. They were, but 1600km away in front of a PC :-)
The music started…. The BANG…. Everybody was running…. WOW! What a feeling. The folks cheering…. Just great! :-) If you need a kick to start running just come to a start line and feel the adrenaline of the racers…. It will contaminate you! :-)
The climb started right away. Slippery stone stairs, humid, wet stones….almost icy! I was happy with my choice of shoes. My Salomon S-Lab Ultra performed just nicely!
We were a human column sweating and climbing… all together as one. A quite stunning and unique surrounding between all of those athletes…. There was nobody running. We were just climbing, one step after the other. Check out the chart just to understand the first 7km of the race. In something like 2hrs we passed the first check point. The wind was cold, really cold. The mist was terrible, I mean, I never felt such a mist in Croatia and I’m born there. The visibility was just above 1.5mt! There was no idea of running there… After reaching the top the slight and wide downhill was such a blessing and it was great just to stretch my legs! But I felt surprisingly well. No pain, nothing wrong, and the spirit was good. After that point I concentrated on the pace. I wanted to keep a nice pace, a slow one, but steady and calm that would keep me from injuries and falling. There were many racers falling on slippery rocks. The temperature was slightly above zero and on the tops there was snow on the ground in some spots and in a few occasions the mist turned into slight rain that switched sometimes into snow! Well…. I was not prepared to that. But I figured: “I live in Sweden, I run all the winter and prepared myself during the chilly and rainy days in Sweden…. I have this shit under control! No problem!” .
The downhill was long. A technical single track slippery trail…. Sometimes really nasty. I was lucky to have in front of me a guy from Russia with a monster head-lamp! What a relief running behind that dude… that was easy! And the first food supply came after circa 10km …. “Upsss….. Wait!”…. “Reality check….. I was a long way away from Sweden, from my home and family… but another family will wait me in Buzet (my mother and sister)…..”. We continued the race…. It was really dark. Strange sound came out from the woods. But I was never afraid and that was quite strange. “Wait… a light …. I have to get that one”…. And I got that one…. And another… It was great, nice…. But … “Wait dude… you have just 80% of your race ahead! Calm down now!”.
So I did calm down…. And I needed some humans around me. It was quite nice to just listen to people discussing their running stories, achievements, experiences… that stage in the race went like nothing!
Another downhill…. A fast one.
I did listen to a friend of mine who told me NOT to run uphill. I did not (apart a few “easy ones”)… sorry m8 :-) After a half an hour I was alone…. That part was nothing for me …. I hate running alone when tired or if I don’t know the surrounding area! “But dude… you’re home!” Yeah…. I was kinda home… but due to the mist and night I could be in Norway for that matter….
The daylight came out slowly, I felt better, my pace was better. I drank and ate and the body felt nice. I was now reaching my distance record! From now on every single step would be my new personal record! And I had not even finished half of the race!
Somewhere just before Gomila I felt that something was happening with my left feet. “It swelled already!?” I did not want to stop. There was just a strange feeling but no pain. At the Gomila point a guy took our data. He was freezing in a tent in a misty windy morning! Wow… kudos to that dude! He was such a nice and surprisingly positive man :-) As a matter of fact all the people working on the race, all the voluntaries were nothing less that excellent! Thanx! :-) Just before the Žbevnica point I heard a guy running with an "interesting" pace. I checked his BIB and the man ran a 100miles run! Wow…. He was a power dude! We had a short chat and straight after came another racer. I recognized his voice. That athlete was that dude running behind me when I listened to all the nice running stories. :-)
I figured: “He is a chatty one. I need somebody to distract me, and to do that nasty downhill with!” That downhill after Žbevnica towards Buzet is a tricky bastard! A slippery one due to the rain, a lot of leafs on the ground.... and you never really know if the fot is going right or wrong.... It went well untill.... a strange feeling in my foot toe, wormth.... the toe pushing the top of the shoe, the kick, another, and another after a jump.... now I felt like warm water around the big toe. I was afraid that it was broken or something worse. I knew that my Salomon were not really the perfect size for me. I have a 43.1 size when I actually needed a 44. The smaller size is great on really nasty short trails... but here that was just a bad choice! Peace! Now I needed to roll down to Buzet! I desperately needed to change my shoes! I wanted my Inov8 Ultra 270 Now! :)
By the way, the guy that was running this part of the race with me was Fadzli Ahmad! Well done m8! Great run! :-)
We reached Buzet! The half of the race! Food… I needed food! But most of all I needed to check that foot!
My family was cheering, my sister had that worried look stamped on her face and I thought of my family back in Sweden. My wife is surely dying of worries…. “I hope not, I’m just running and having fun here I figured!”
The foot was OK. Nothing wrong there…. Or maybe yes. There will be a blue toe nail, it will drop….eventually, but who cares. Everything was just fine. The swelling was normal. I was good to go! “Wait… the food dude!” Oh yes…. A little bit of polenta with tomato sauce and… my sister came with some veggie things made for me. Due to my allergies and food choices this is always a tricky thing. I can’t really expect that the event organizers will prepare something just for me. But the food choice was great! Well done! Plenty of everything that I needed to refill the body!
After about 15 minutes, I changed, refilled my body with fuel and kept rolling….
The rain started to fall stronger and that was not a good thing since my jacket was not really rain-proof. It was ok with a little bit of rain…. But not this! Bad clothes! :-)
After Pietra Pelosa, the first uphill after the last pause. That one went nicely, no problem. I checked the watch, 70km or something like that. Wow…. My new record I reckoned! The wind started to blow really seriously. A cold bastard wanted to blow me away from the track I guess! I started to freeze… The fog and rain had turned to snow at one point! Now it was a steady drizzle. The valley floor was thick with mud, a sticky one…. A grey one! No… my new Inov8 shoes! Eehehhehe….. I laughed at myself… No problem. I was running alone… again! Nobody could hear me talking to myself and laughing to my taughts! :-)
I just wanted to reach the next aid station. I needed to see people…. :-) But still…. Another step ahead… wow… another record! Nice! What a great feeling!
Feel free to watch this short clip made during the crossing of the Mirna river.
I really appreciated the ice-cold water! :)
This place is a unique place, quite isolated. The misty, cold and rainy weather contributed to a unique experience - a mixture of different and often "displaced", maybe "illogical" feelings....
I will return there! I have to see that place suring a sunny day and climt to the Pietropelosa castle church.
Oprtalj…. Food! I needed a LOT of fuel! My body was shaking…. I was freezing! I felt the water inside… the jacket was doomed… there was no or little protection. There was a nice fireplace here…. What a great idea! Thanx for that! I was able to recover, to gain some heat and to chat a little with a great guy from Seattle (USA) - Adam G Hewey. The race had become more about finishing than racing. The next aid stations were crowded with cold runners. I remembered that I had a rain cover or something with me! What a great thing! I was finally able to roll without freezing! Great! Up and down…. over lovely rivers and icy water which was literally a cure for my sore feet and legs.. I went down inside the cold water with my knees….. Great!
I felt better…. The next stop was Završje... a quick energy refill.... a thumb up to my mother (my sister went inside the tiny old classic istrian village to take some lovely photos).... and after 100mt. i was climbing a hill again!
But now I knew.... 30 km to go! Ok.... peace of a cake i figured! "I will finish this beast! I have to!"
Grožnjan.... what a lovely place.... you have to visit Grožnjan! I felt OK but I noticed that all these small stops managed to fool me somehow…. Something was not OK. But the feeling was ok. I was running uphill! I was positive and after a short chat with the voluntaries and my family I continued the race. Those first steps were.... pain! Just pure pain..... but everything was OK after about 150mt. A little bit of asphalt helped to stabilize the stride. But I noticed that I had to be really careful in order to avoid injuries now…. I was too close to quit! “That was not an option! Not Now!” I figured….
I’m looking now while writing this text on the Triban check point…. Well, I guess that that went fast…. I don’t remember anything…. Oh yes, those young ladies cheering and annotating our numbers! Wow, those voluntaries were just a great team! Thanks! She told me …. “Buje is near… really near! Keep dancing!”…. “Thanks! I’m dancing all right” I replied with a thumb-up gesture.
The night was falling down and I was without a proper head lamp. The one I needed was waiting me in Buje. I had to reach Buje as soon as possible…. It was getting dark… darker….
I started to speed up my pace…. A little bit more inside the woods. Those lovely single track trails are just great to run…. Sometimes to speed run :-) After a turn I tramped a little bit “strange”…. “I’m a little bit tired dude” I told myself. “You have to take it really easy… patience is needed!”. A few runners running the 65k race passed. One had already the head-lamp on. “Well…. The lamp was not really needed… not now at least” – I commented silently…. Another 65k runners passed…. Fast, a lady and a guy, I guess from Russia. Great running there by the way!
I was getting a little bit frustrated and nervous when a guy from Croatia came. He had issues with cramps or something, he was not really able to run. Me neigher, but I had to reach Buje! He told me calmly that Buje was really near… something like 2km! “Wow…. I’m so near! That was fast… “ I thought… We arrived in Buje. My mum and sister were waiting for me. All good there. Some Coca-Cola… (I needed a quick boost), chips (salt)…. Fruit…. Whatever! It’s incredible but in such a race your body is a monster! I was eating such a “monster food mix” but the body seemed to appreciate the cocktail! I had no issues with that. Still I met a few that had to DNF because of stomach issues, cramps, cold… you name it.
Buje was behind me…. JUST 13km to go! Just a regular training lunch run to go! “Wow…. I’m almost there….” ….. I was “dancing in the clouds of joy”. But…
After about 4km I hit something, nothing was ok anymore. The whole body wanted me to quit… every muscle, there was no energy left! Nothing…. I was empty! The only thing inside my body wanting to continue was not a muscle…. It was the brain. And yes I managed to focus, to get “my crap together” and to keep moving forward…. One step ahead after other one…. “Keep rolling dude! Keep moving! Do not stop!!!”.
I was in deep crisis…. I saw lights, there ahead was the motorway! I was really near Umag! I have to run there! I did it! I did it! But…. “What?????” A turn to the left? Inside the woods? A tiny single trail? “Another one??!!”
“OK” I told to myself….. I figured that a peace of soft trail would be nice to my sore feet and legs. And in fact that helped…. The technical peace of that trail did help to distract me and gain some speed. Not much, I was speed-walking all the parts that were not “interesting”. I wanted just to reach Umag. Nothing more! Nothing was important. I had the faces of my kids and wife in front of me…. I was chatting with them. The night was not so scary anymore. The cold went away. I knew that I had to distract me somehow and keep on moving ahead. I started chatting with me… with everything around me. I noticed two eyes in the bush. I said “Ciao” to the animal…. And started laughing…. I turned… nobody…. Ahead…. Nobody…. I stopped for a second…. Silence! I started to get nervous… Am I LOST!?? Am I running around? Moments of panic!!!
“OK…. Keep rolling dude. It doesn’t matter…. You’ll get somewhere!” That was easy to say, bur really hard to accomplish. I was tired, really tired. My eyes were closing. My mind started to “play” with me…. Not only every muscle, but also my brain wanted to shut down…. to lay down somewhere, anywhere and… take a nap.
No…. I noticed those lights again….. “Am I really running around….. in turns?!”…“Was I really lost or was this a perversion made by the race director?! I’ll kill him!.... Anyway…. I love him! This is still the best race I raced…. but… I need to finish this!”. And I started to roll with a faster pace. Not running, speed walking, jogging… something – whatever. A lady came from behind! “Wow, after 1h and 15 min of running alone! Thanx!!!” I felt alive again! I did not ask if I was on the right trail (apparently I was since she was there running the 65k)…. I asked How much more do we have to run. She replied: “Just a km or so to the last check and after that just 5km. You did that!” she replied ….and turning the head right after she asked: “Are you OK?” she looked at me curiously. “Yes… all good!” I replied. And kept running…
Vilanija: I met two volunteer, and one told me: "Only 5k to finish!" … “5 freakin' km??!! Whatever” I told myself, and “Thanx” I replied and continued running….. “A man has to do what a man has to do right?!” :-)
Adam G Hewey wrote a lovely statement on his blog: ”From Buje you can see the coast, the end of the run. From Buje you can take a road straight to Umag. If you are a psychopathic race director, you send your runners North, then East, then North, then around in a circle.”… :-)
I was near. I knew that now! After a few km…. asphalt! “What? Already!?”
What a great feeling! I gained extra energy. Started to run a little bit faster…. Everything was nice now. I had no pain, no issues. All good now…. really marvelous…. My sister was there on the course…. I smiled and kept moving ahead. “Let’s do this!” I told her pointing to the finish line direction. I wanted her to run ahead to film the finish line or something…. But I was fast…. I was really good with everything (maybe a trance or something).
The feeling when crossing the finish line cannot be described. It’s unique! That feeling has to be earned! ;-)
My goal was to have an adventure in Croatia – the land I’m born in, the land I spent the first 20 years of my life and enjoy each and every step of this race. I had a hidden desire to end the race before the sunset (before 22:00). But finishing the race under 25h was the realistic wish. And I did it! I crossed the finish line just under 25h!
Of the 187 people who actually started the race: 94 finished and 93 DNF (Did Not Finish)! 50% finishing rate! That's my badass kind of race! ;) My sister drove home. I was sleeping in the car…. We arrived and after eating up all the remaining food from the day before the “walking dead” showered (managed to fall asleep in the bath tub) and after that I slept like a baby….
The day after I noticed that my feet were swollen a little bit. But I was walking! I was alive… more alive than ever before! What an achievement! All those images, feelings, impressions….
Hvala Umag! Hvala Istria! Hvala Alen Paliska! :-)
I hope to see you all again next year!
Photo (logo) credits are from the 100 Miles of Istria Race Photos. All other images are mine.
The day after the race relaxing in Rabac (Croatia)
A huge THANX to my family that supported me in this adventure (and continues to do so), my mother and sister assisting me during this race and Stena (the company I work for) that allows me to train with great people!
Everything started there.... September 2013!