Pitching myself in tranquil Umag 3 nights before race day, walking distance from the sports hall was the perfect start. Apart from my arthritic ‘Big Toe’ recent development (great!) I was relaxed, happy and excited for the journey ahead. This was my first time visiting Croatia and my first 100 miler. I chose 100 miles of Istria – Red, because the point to point journey across the Istrian peninsula across new terrain, marvelling at medievil towns whispered, wonderful adventure, right down your alley Gita! with a decent 46 hours to complete… I can do this! Travelling light and fast (as possible) from Labin to Umag back to the sea, just makes sense.
I started running 12 years ago after meeting my hubby who inspired me to just give it a go! I was hooked from day 1, which was a 10 minute run around the park. I’ve built up the distance slowly and ran my first ultra marathon 4 years ago. I’m not fast (by any means) or am I a fell runner (I wish!) but I love it. Running has given me pure joy, good health and confidence. Running is a big part of my life now. Entering events such as 100 miles of Istria has been a revelation. A common denominator with all walks of life, all ages, all shapes and colours. The passion for the sport, the camaraderie and the positive energy is powerful.
It’s 3pm on 12/04/19 and it’s a dull day, but the square is bursting with energy. DJ, music, drum roll, rain, picture a whirlwind of colour and sound, the excitement building up. Coats of gore tex and pertex, predominantly male sex. I search for the women, some dressed in shorts, wow you’re awesome girls! (and of course you are too boys!
The weather wasn’t a problem, I’m used to it. Hours of training on the north west coast of Scotland. Hills and bog in horizontal rain storms, it’s exhilarating, it blows the cobwebs away. I enjoy running against the wind as much as the tail wind, better the rain than the sun beating down too hot. Nevertheless I put on my waterproof trousers as well as my jacket. Time slipped away, oops! no hanging around on the start line… we’re off!
For me (at my level) it was a race against the clock. The first cut off would be a good challenge, nevermind the 40+ hours on my feet! that was lurking in the back of my mind. I gave myself 9 hours maximum to get to Poklon (41km), this was doable… it took me 9 hours and 50 minutes in the end. Naively this spelt disaster in my mind (but why? I had 40 minutes in the bag) the last thing I wanted to do was chase cut offs. I tried that last year at Transvulcania and failed. The seed of doubt was planted.
Slow to start, I was in the back of the pack, but that’s OK. Twist, turn, click, clack. Swish of a kilt and friendly cheer reminded me of home. Spring was further on, the leaves on the trees and wildflowers welcome. I entered a green tunnel, followed by lumpy trail, followed by another green tunnel and so on. I was grateful for the red flags, this wasn’t straight forward. It was getting dark, then came the snow and then the blizzard, Ucka resembled that scene from Aliens. I hunkered down and laughed, Lieutenant Ripley eat your heart out! The yawning and nausea stopped. I was in survival mode. My poles and I bonded, trudging through claggy earth and over slimy rock. They were nearly ripped from my grip with the gusty wind. The fog set in, flattened flags in freezing blizzard, it was hard to see the route ahead. Phew! Thank you to the guy who appeared from nowhere and pointed left when I was about to go right! a crucial step.
There were 4 or 5 of us now, heads down, pushing forward. A girl from the Blue joined us to the highest point up icy mountain steps into a winter wonderland. We’re surrounded by trees heavy with snow, sheltered from the wind. My Border-Collie would have loved it! I pictured her leading our small pack. We started to descend, tree roots and slick mud became the focus. Then my torch packed up! Lucky for me the woman hirpling past kindly came to a grinding halt and shined a light. I found the spare torch and switched it on, but will it take me through the 2nd night? I shouldn’t have let this worry me, but at that point the seed of doubt took a hold and swamped my mind.
Poklon aid station. I heard it before I saw it. I stared at my watch in the light of the tent, 50 minutes past my personal deadline! I decided to gather myself and have some coffee what, no coffee?! The hot fruit tea was delicious, but I really wanted hot caffeine. It’s cold, but the crew cheerful. There were 2 runners wrapped in blankets, teeth chattering, shivering uncontrollably, I felt sorry for them. I felt OK, the new waterproofs had protected me from the elements. My toe behaved itself and the nausea kept at bay with crysallised ginger. I needed to get out of there! There was no food, but I had bars, gels, a sandwich, so just keep going!! My hands were cold, my feet were wet. What’s up? The minutes were ticking by. I don’t want to chase cut offs going over and over in my mind like a stuck record. I wasn’t thinking straight and I was getting colder, feet firmly rooted. The film score rose to a crescendo. Times Up! It’s not the happy ending I envisioned.
The hot fruit tea by the stove, the kind-faced bus driver, the friendly banter at Buzet all numbed the blow of DNF until I got back to the apartment, then I sobbed, the disappointment was crushing. Later that day I would cheer on the finishers. In trotted the shivering 2 (amazing!) and a woman (in my age category) who was 10 minutes behind me at Poklon finished in 43 hours, hats off to you all! I plan to return, stronger in mind and in body. I have to finish 100 miles of Istria.
Thank you to Alen and the team for your boundless energy and good nature, it was a privilege to take part in this fantastic event. Thank you to Konoba Tranzit for the delicious lemon cake, the best I’ve ever tasted. Thank you to Martina and Valentina. You all rock!
Foto 100 miles of Istria