It’s been already three weeks since the event and I don’t want my memories to fade away. On 19th of August, 2017 I’ve attempted to run and finished 58km route of Magurski Ultramaraton in Kępna, Poland. I’m proud of this accomplishment and I want to share this experience with you.
To run ultra distance
The idea of running something longer was bouncing in my head for a long time. I didn’t run such distance since quite long time and I was wondering if I could go back to it.
I guess around May, my friend Krzysztof mentioned this to me that there’s this ultra race with relatively easy trails and he’s considering to get in. For him, it was first of such distance, for me it was only second, but I’ve never run this far.
I’ve signed in, thinking that the date will put some pressure on me to train more during upcoming months. That didn’t go well.
Although I’ve managed to train a bit more than during winter, it was still not enough and I was going to feel that later on the race day.
But I’ve enjoyed the journey. It motivated me to go for couple more runs that I wouldn’t usually do, to extend my usual running routes and to go beyond my comfort zone.
I’ve arrived in Kraków around Friday noon and met with Krzysztof. We’ve packed our stuff into his car and drove 3 hours to Kępna, a small village in Magurski Park Narodowy that was hosting the event. On the way, I’ve also picked up my GPS watch for the race.
You see, my old Garmin forerunner died some time ago and I haven’t bought yet any new. I was considering something new but couldn’t decide. Fortunately, I’ve found some offer from doBiegania.pl - you can rent a test unit for couple days, just to try it out. They had Suunto SPARTAN ULTRA BLACK HR for a test and I was able to pick it up.
In the end, I didn’t like the watch. The shape was quite okay, but I wasn’t happy with overall UI and performance. The battery was running bit low at the end of the race and I was also feeling lost with the usage of the interface and buttons. It did its job, to measure my time, distance, HR but I would expect to be more impressed with a watch that costs more than 2000 PLN.
We’ve arrived in Kępna in the late afternoon. The race’s base was located in the elementary school. After picking up our race kits with numbers and some gadgets we set up ourselves on the floor of school’s gym hall (free accommodation). At 19:00 we’ve attended short race briefing, checked the weather and spent rest of the evening chilling and resting.
The race was scheduled to start at 5 AM to I’ve set my alarm for a half hour earlier. During the evening I’ve eaten few bananas, muesli bars, and some sweets. I wasn’t really hungry, to be honest. I was happy that I’ve brought earplugs with me and was able to easily fall asleep this night.
The race day
I woke up a bit earlier than planned as other people were already preparing for the race and the place was getting busy.
I put on my running clothes (nothing special), my old Salomon running vest (which is getting a bit old and not so comfy, maybe I’ll replace it for next big race). It was maybe an hour before sunrise, so we’ve decided not to take any headlights.
Outside we’ve met with Łukasz and his girlfriend. He was going to race the longer route, 92km. Impressive! Obligatory start foto. Countdown. Ten, nine, eight… one, go!
I run for such moments
I’ve started slow and was running in the rear. We’ve run through village maybe for around one kilometer and then, the route turned into a small path and first ascent.
It was challenging, but not that hard. I still had energy and was feeling good. After about 5km we’ve climbed up the first hill and begun the descent. Unfortunately, we’ve made a mistake and at one point took the wrong turn that led us off the trail, losing around 5 minutes.
We’ve run to the valley, through a small village (Kąty) and turned back into the fields and hills. From here began the most beautiful part of the route. The sun rose above the horizon and was illuminating everything with soft, warm light.
Everything was looking peaceful, quiet and gentle. I’ve loved the colors of the pastures, dirt road ahead and a distance panoramas. Every few minutes I was taking the phone out of my pockets and taking pictures.
We were going in moderate terrain and I was still okay although slowly my energy levels started to fade aways. But the nice experience of the morning kept me going.
After 10km I’ve begun to count kilometers to the first aid station. It’s been taking too long and it has been about 2 hours into the race. Some notes I’ve dictated to myself during that time:
Kilometr czternasty. Zaczynam być tylko zmęczony. Ale mówię sobie, że jeszcze tylko sześć i będzie przerwa. Zjem sobie arbuzy, odpocznę chwilę wypije trochę izotonika. Złapię drugi oddech. To nie może być już długo. … Piętnasty kilometr, to już ¼ trasy za mną. … Kilometr 18. Troche nie mam już siły. Liczę ze punkt odżywczy będzie za niedługo.
I’ve dragged myself through the last kilometers to the aid station. Just before it, I’ve met a young guy who was volunteering at the school & air station with his father. We’ve chatted a bit and managed to get to the station. I ate an orange, a few bits of a cucumber, refilled water and left the station.
I was good to go, at least for some time.
Pain is fake…
Next 20km wasn’t easy. It was getting hot, aroung +30C and now the route was leading through the asphalt road. I was trying to catch up with Krzysztof but he was quite ahead. I did meet him much later at around 40km when he was struggling with an injured foot.
But meanwhile, here I was, slowly pushing myself through misery and loneliness on the route. I was listening to music. I remember “Sia - Bring Night” literally brought me power for some time, but that also faded away and I was just left there alone.
Relatively large uphill part started when we were about to climb Baranie. It was about 35km and it was the most challenging climb. When I was finally on the top I was feeling bad. My feets were hurting and I was thinking that I won’t be able to run the remaining 20km.
On the other hand, I was telling myself: Hey, I’ve already finished almost marathon now. From this part, it will be mostly downhill and about half-marathon till the end. Even if I have to walk, I’ll finish.
On the trail some minutes earlier I’ve met a cool guy, Michał Kurowski. We’ve chatted a bit, but then I’ve left him later as he was bit slower (not that I was fast).
But my feet were really hurting. I was passed by few runners who were in much better shape than me. I stopped few times to clean up my shoes insides and socks hoping that it will help me a bit.
Sore and tired I’ve managed to get to the 2nd aid station. I didn’t spend there much time. I just grab another orange, a bit of watermelon and refilled water again.
During the race, I was drinking a lot as the sun was shining and it was quite hot around. Yet I still was feeling quite dehydrated. But at that point, I was only thinking about getting slowly and safely to the finish line.
The last part of the run begun with the short ascent on an old asphalt road with the famous quote painted on it “Ból to ściema”, which in polish means that pain is fake. I decided to stick to this meme.
… but the success stays forever
Except few early kilometers and a short talk with Michał, I was running most of the time alone. But for the last 10km an older lady caught up with me and kept me company. I was admiring that after such long distance she was keeping up much better than me.
We’ve talked about running and I’ve learnerd that she started her journey more than 30 years ago, to help her husband keeping better health. She gradually moved up the distance and now here I was meeting her at ultramarathon, almost 60 km route in mountains. Amazing!
We’ve alternated running & walking and managed to conquer last hill - Wysokie, with some nice views of the surrounding hills.
From there it was about 5-6km downhill run to the village. I kept thinking to myself that the finish line is close now and I’ll get some beer and finally will be able to rest. Feet were still hurting but thanks to the company from Anna I was able to distract myself from it and focus on just moving forward.
Finally, last straight part through the village and the school and finish line were in our sight. We decided to run through last few hundred meters. At the entrance, I was greeted with a spray of water from the fire brigade and fully wet crossed a finish line getting a medal and a beer. Done!
I remember the tired feeling when I was sitting on the grass, in front of the school, just a few meters from the finish line. Tired legs, salty skin, a taste of crisp beer. I’ve tried to get up and walk to school to get a shower but I couldn’t. My legs didn’t allow me. I had to sit there for about 30 minutes to rest.
After a struggle, I’ve made them move. The shower was nice refreshment but also unpleasant. Legs were hurting, everything was hurting a bit.
Rest of the evening was kind of a blur. Waited for Krzysztof for a finish. I’ve got a massage. There was a big storm that interrupted it. Also, an hour later, our friend Łukasz finished 3rd on the 92km route - congratulations!
I ate spaghetti, got a couple of beers in the evening and was resting on the floor in the gymnastic room at the school where we were sleeping. The next day legs were better. At least I was able to walk.
During the race, I had few moments of doubt and was thinking that I’ll never run such distance again. These feelings have now faded away and I’ve already started to hatch some ideas in my head. This is definitely nothing for 2017. I need more time to prepare.
The only upcoming thing I planned already is Ealing Half Marathon that I’ll run in 2 weeks. Wish me luck here.