100 Miles of Istria – How did it all begin?
23. 04. 2019
I learned about the 100 miles of Istria race when my partner Rendík had sent me a list of races and this very race attracted my attention. We discussed it with Rendík and we decided to go for it together.
We arrived to Umag on Monday 8th April 2019 in the evening, which gave us a few days for acclimatization. We both walked and ran around Umag a bit in those days. The start of the race was on 12th April 2019 at 4.00 PM and we ran from Labin to Umag. The registration was no problem and on Friday 12th April 2019 at 1 P.M. we were sitting in the bus that was taking the racers to the starting line in Labin. We could already feel the nervousness and respect of the demanding trail radiating from all the race participants in the bus. Even I and Rendík had butterflies in the stomach and we tried to take the edge off our nervousness by joking. We arrived at Labin at about 3.30 P.M. When we got off the bus, we felt the breath of a fresh breeze. The weather was completely different than when we had been leaving Umag. The temperature had dropped and all competitors immediately started taking some extra clothes out of their bags. We, therefore, disappeared in a small local pub. It smelled of cigarettes but we were happy that we could hide from the cold weather for a while.
Some 30 minutes later, we were standing at the starting line and in no time we were running pitter-patter towards the finish line which was 168 km away from us at that moment. An elevation of 6 539 meters was in front of us.
I and Rendík set off in light pace and the remaining racers ran past us as if the finish was around the corner. The first easy ascent waited for us after about 5 km where the trail got narrower and we got stuck in a bottleneck. At that moment we moved forward very slowly and we even had to stop and wait in some places. We slowly advanced until the whole pack started moving again and we could pitter-patter again. After the first 15 km, we arrived to the first refreshment station. We gobbled up some fruit and continued after some time. So far, the route was pleasant and not too demanding, so we could warm up. We felt physically well and we were mentally preparing for the peak of the trail, Vojak. Honestly, inside I was looking forward to the peak. I cannot say why.
We set off for the next few kilometres and as we were climbing the first peaks, the temperature began to drop, fresh wind started to blow, and we realized that the peak crossings themselves would be very challenging due to the weather.
I knew that we were both physically well prepared, though; we had good and first-rate Kilpi clothes, and at the same time I was sure that we were both extremely mentally resistant. That's why I was relatively relaxed.
Before we reached the foot of Vojak peak, we had about 35 kilometres behind us. Meanwhile, the weather was worsening, the temperature was dropping even lower, the snow had begun to fall and the wind was getting stronger. We felt quite comfortable, though. There could have been a temperature around zero below Vojak peak but we were used to such weather and it did not limit us at all.
As we were climbing Vojak peak (1,401 metres above sea level), a strong gale appeared out of nowhere and the temperature dropped to -4° C. We quickly rushed down Vojak and I silently prayed that we would finish the first half of the trail without any injuries. I can tell you the descents were much more difficult and demanding than the ascents. On the way down from every peak, wet stones, mud, slippery roots and leaves were awaiting us and the descents were very steep overall. Having descended Vojak peak we still had other peaks to climb ahead of us but I was already looking forward to the checkpoint in Buzet located on the 88th kilometre where our dear better halves had been waiting for us. That's why we did not have any problem keeping the set pace all the time. We arrived at Buzet at about 5.45 in the morning. We hugged our beloved ones, filled our stomachs with something warm, I changed my shoes and we told each other that it was only a few miles to reach the finish line. Cherishing the idea, we set off on the second part of our trail. The day was breaking and the sun began to peek out on the horizon.
After a few kilometres behind Buzet we had to wade the river for the first time. I and Rendík arrived at the river bank and stared at each other in disbelief, looking for a place to cross the river. After a while, it dawned on us that there was no use wasting time and we jumped into the water. We were knee-deep in it. At that moment I realized that changing the shoes had been quite useless. We waded the river and ran on but after a while, we had to stop because our socks had rolled down in the wet shoes. We adjusted them and fought on. We had to cross three more fords, each of them came after about an hour when our shoes seemed to have dried. This caused blisters to spring up all over our soils and I reported to Rendík that my first two nails had fallen off. Nevermind, this it the pain that you can deal with in your head and if you take such a long journey, it is something you have to count with.
Every hour, we constantly added BCAA amino acids and also took one Anticramp tablet preventing against cramps that we had obtained at www.nejlevnejsiprotejn.cz, so we were always feeling well and comfortable while running.
With each kilometre closer and closer to the goal, we almost regretted that our time on the track was getting shorter, despite the fact that the other half was clearly more challenging for me, as it was not so adventurous. There were a lot of flat stretches of the trail and when we finally reached a rare hill to climb, we had to fight muddy clay during the ascent. We felt like we were walking on one spot without moving forward and it was really exhausting.
The stretch of the trail from Motovun over Oprtajl to Grožnjan was really rewarding. We ran through picturesque small towns, past ancient buildings, the people along the trail were waving at us and cheering and even the peaks offered nice views. Simply speaking, this section was really worth it and I would love to come back there again one day.
We expected that the last 20 km would be a down-the-hill run until we cross the finish line. We were, therefore, looking forward to that section, planning to quicken up our pace and reach the finish line soon. At least that was the plan, based on the map of the race where the section was drawn as a downhill one. Unfortunately, an unpleasant surprise was in store for us as the section was practically level and we had a feeling that we were not making any progress at all. The signs telling the racers how many kilometres to go were also depressing. I felt like it would never end. Despite all that we strived to keep pace and not to slow down. Finally, we managed to reach Umag and we knew the finish line was just a stone's throw away. Then all went like a hot knife through butter. We ran off the fields towards the houses and the finish line was within sight. We heard the music from there and we knew we had made it. In the last couple of meters, we were running towards the finish line that was located at the local school. When I saw it 150 metres ahead of us, I felt tears in my eyes. We had beaten 168 kilometres, climbed 6,500 height meters and all that within 26:01 hours. It was unbelievable. The whole race showed me what I can do, what a human body can manage. The race also gave me strong impressions and experiences that I will cherish forever. Even our final standings were very good. I finished first in my age category and fourth among women overall. Rendík won a beautiful 20th place in his age category and a wonderful 38th rank among men overall. And what I would not have gone without in the race? My Ninja sweatshirt and Hurricane jacket, top quality shoes and BCCA and Anticramp dietary supplements.