Tuesday, May 30, 2017

100 Miles of Istria, no surprise, did not disappoint.  As last year the race committee orchestrated a 170k race that was incredibly well organized, supported and energized by everyone involved with it.  Add to this the beautiful countryside, the sunny skies, the Adriatic Sea, and you have yourself one hell of a race!
As I am knocking on the door of becoming a seasoned mountain 100 runner I feel confident that I know what a great events consists of.  But, if you want to hear it from a newbie just ask James aka “Frenchy” Lambert!
I was happy to be given another opportunity through the Ultra Trail World Tour to return to Croatia for this race.  A podium finish last year earned me with invite this year, thank you UTWT.  I fell in love with the race last year and had no doubt I would become just a bit more smitten.  Plus, this year I would not be solo, I would be sharing this experience with my partner, Frenchy.  And so here we were two runners, with different levels of racing, different experiences to draw upon, and different race goals but the same love and passion for the journey we were embarking upon.

Runners love story!
This year the race was added to the UTWT series and I was excited to race it as such.  Frenchy was looking to finish the race to gain points needed for the lottery for Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc 2018.  
Two kids horsing around ;

I tend to tell more of a story in my blog than just the nitty gritty of the race.  Feel free to scroll to the bottom for the nitty gritty!
With 100 Miles of Istria added to my calendar so began my prep for the race.  Having raced it successfully last year, I felt confident with mimicking the same training plan.  And so I put together a plan with similar weekly mileage, vertical climbing, and strength training.  All necessary elements in preparing for Istria.  Frenchy would have the same training plan.
My gear would be the same, it all worked incredibly well only need was to set Frenchy up with the same. I would be using the Ultraspire Zygos pack with the front water bottles and the Lo waist belt for pinning my bib as well as easy access calories.  The pack would carry the rest of the needed supplies (details to follow). While I would not be using poles, I hooked Frenchy up with some sweet Black Diamond collapsible Carbon Z trekking poles (soon to be his new best friend), 

Does Frenchy looked a bit wide
eyed here?
What a great group!
Training complete, gear assembled and we were off.  We arrived late Wednesday for a 4pm Friday race start.  The day and a half before the race was spent just being lovers walking around the quaint city of Umag  with a little race prep thrown in and the occasional pulling of Frenchy off the ceiling.  This was his first mountain 100 and yes, he was as terrified as he as excited by what he was about to undertake.  But the coast line, the food, the energy of Croatia and maybe a bit of me kept him balanced and excited.
4pm Friday post 100 mile bus ride to the small town of Labin and the race start.  We arrive an hour early and so we hit a restaurant for some pasta and a soda.  Not a bad idea, I eat enough and I’m happy that Frenchy is eating well.  A full belly for a long adventure race was not a bad idea for my Frenchy.   My goals were based off last years 25 hour race.  I was looking for the same, faster or perhaps a  finish.  Frenchy was looking for that finish and an adventure.

Busing it to the start!
Pic of a pic 

A kiss and a hug were exchanged knowing the next time we would see each other would be at the finish line in Umag.  We would both be spending the next unknown number of hours experiencing the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  Our feet would be taking different steps but on the same trails and cobble stone roads, our eyes would be seeing different views on the same horizon.  We would meet knew friends and we would learn more about the deep inner recesses of what makes up our mind, body and spirit.  We would be running 100+ Miles of Istria
Amazing country side.
First AS Plomin, 17k into the race and all was well.  I was running comfortably, consuming calories regularly and while a little warm I knew the sun and the temps would be dropping while I was climbing.  My head lamp came out at the 32k 2nd AS and I recalled to last year that I was a bit further before needing the headlamp…I wandered how Frenchy was and what his sunset view looked like.  By the 3rd AS 43K I pulled on my arm sleeves and my gloves not quite needing my windbreaker.  While all systems remained intact, my feet were beginning to feel the technical rocky terrain in a way that I did not expect.  AS 5, 74K I knew I would not be chasing a PR.  While my legs were feeling strength on the uphills, my quads were feeling to much of the downhills and my feet were definitely complaining to me.  This would make the nighttime section just a bit more tough…and then along came Sam.  There were 8 Americans racing and lucky me, he was one of them.  He was from Alaska and this was his first 100 mile race.  Fact... misery loves company.  With company you can “suffer better”.  Chit chat takes your mind off of you, along with giving support to another runner in turn provides you with strength.  Sam and I raced into the night, and into Buzet.  The one AS with our drop bag.  A place to change your shirt, repack your calories and yes change your headlamp batteries.  As well as tend to any ailments IE draining and bandaging blisters.  We had to laugh when as we left Buzet not only was the sun up but we went the wrong way!  Guess we were having to much fun!  Through some highs and lows Sam and I kept company.  We had a Czech fellow with us for a good portion and even though he did not speak English we were still company.  We parted ways around 150k when my stomach insisted I stop and rest.  Sam gave me the phone number of his girlfriend who had raced and Won the 100k event.  I took the number knowing I would not be using it but knowing that as Sam left me, it made him feel better.  Time did not matter as I sat in the shade.  The sun was hot and my stomach was in knots.  My uphill legs were there but my downhill legs forgot to show up for the race.  And my feet were no better and of course I worried for my none mountain runner Frenchy.
Blue all around  but not my smile,
or my spirit!
A few more runners pass (I am mixed in with the 100k runners) and I start moving again.  This is the inner strength ultra runners have, to keep moving even when all the fibers of your being don’t want to.  I started hiking the ups, slow trot on the downs and walking the technical downs.  On the flats I trot.  I had less than a marathon to go and I knew I would be finishing this race.  No PR, no not even close.  Last AS with 13k to the finish, a volunteer I recognize from last year tells me I am 7th female and that if I keep moving I “should” be able to hold it.  I enter the AS and pick up a soda, and a handful of chips.  Even as I am munching on the chips unwanted tears are welling in my eye and rolling down my cheeks.  If you have run 100 miles, you know how this feels.  Your emotions are dripping off your shirtsleeve.  Last year it was a pissed off achilles tendon and then a bee sting that had me sobbing like a baby and this year it was the wear and tear of racing 100 miles and the frustration on not performing to the level of which you are capable of.
I left that AS and after 3k began to see the count down from the 10k to the 1k mark.  It was flat, not technical and so I ran.  My body was no longer feeling increasing levels of pain, it was all generalized.  I passed many runners who had passed me when I was struggling and sitting on the side of the road and words of encouragement were exchanged.
28+ hours F6 and the finish line.
The deeper you dig the deeper you are affected, truth.

Being at the finish line to watch someone you love accomplish something they have only dreamt of!  Super proud of my Frenchy.

Gear-- 5 stars--  all of it was perfect for this race and I would not change a thing!
Zygos Pack
Lo waist belt
Julbo Access shades/ head buff
Strider Skirt....love this skirt!
Capilene lightweight Tank/ Centered bra
Arm Sleeves
R1 gloves
Black Diamond Icon Polar headlamp
Hoka Speedgoat
Stance Run 3/4 socks
Tailwind Nutrition

Take aways—

Mountain races requires training on the trails if you want to be successful at racing competitively.  Most of my training for Croatia occurred on the streets of New York.  3 weeks prior to Croatia I went back to Bend Oregon and logged 100+ miles with 31k of climbing.  One week of trail running while solid is not enough.  My feet were too tender for the rocky terrain and while I had been doing my strength training for my legs, my quads were in no shape for the downhills.  
My love for trail racing has much to do with the lessons I learn with each race. 

Nest up....
The North Face Endurance Challenge 80k Costa Rica May 26

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