100 miles of Istria 2016 – Race report
This year’s season has started a bit messy to me (and still is), since I did not get into any of the races that I REALY wanted: UTMB and Western States. So it ended up that I had to figure out how to qualify to WS and get some points to UTMB next year.
The 100 miles of Istria seemed like the perfect opportunity to do both things at once. It is a lot early in the season to run such a long race, I would rather have a long race around July-August than April, but as we are expecting a little girl in the end of September, I thought it would be nice to get it done soon. Also because now Maibritt would be able to come together with me.
The fact that Per Egon Rasmussen and Maibritt Kristoffersen were also going to run the race contributed to the decision, so we knew that we would have good company there. Plus, I had never been to Croatia and my girlfriend Maibritt have always said wonders about this country.
Decision taken and we were taking the trip to Croatia :-).
About the race
We decided to flight to Zagreb and rent a car there, then travel to Umag. It is a long trip by car (a beautiful one though) and if I were to do it again I would fly to Ljubljana (Slovenia) instead. We traveled to Zagreb because, by the time I was buying our flight tickets, there were some rumours in the news that crossing the Slovenian border could take some hours.
The 100 miles of Istria is a race of 170km and with 7120m of acc. elevation gain and 7400 of acc. elevation loss. The race starts at Labin (at 16h of the 15th of April, 2016) and ends in Umag. There are some cut-offs on the way, but you have 48h to finish the race.
The course is really varied and even though you never get really high in altitude, you do get a mountain experience in the first half of the race. I would particularly split the race in 4 parts: the first 20km, which are very runnable in fresh legs; the following 70km which are relatively technical to very technical; the following 60km, which are a mix of very easy and relatively technical terrain; and the last 20km, which are piece of cake (if you can still run :-)).
The first 20km are very runnable, it goes a lot up and down, but it is not very technical and it is really beautiful. Not much to say here.
The following 70km are the hardest of the race, and the coolest as well. Some very narrow single tracks, mountain ridges, a lot of stones, steep and technical downhills, and some easy transport gravel roads (mostly close to the aid stations). The most technical parts were, for me, between Brgudac and Buzet.
The following 60km are a mix of very easy transport trails and some exhausting 400m high hills that seem to never finish. Some slightly technical parts and narrow trails, not easy but not hard either – from an objective point of view. Of course that when you have 90km in your legs, this stretch will feel much harder than it actually is. It was indeed hard to come through this part.
The last 20km of the race are really piece of cake. Mainly flat and slightly downhill. Pretty runnable, if you still have the legs to it.
The course is super charming, going through some small beautiful villages like Motovun, Hum and Groznjan. A really nice and beautiful lake in Butoniga. Some awesome mountain ridges, which were unfortunately run in the night but nonetheless have provided us with astonishing views.
The course marking was impeccable, I’ve never seen something quite like it. I still managed to run wrong a couple of times, but it was my own fault. Mostly when I was fiddling with some equipment/food and missed a turn, but it was really quick to figure out. I never went more than 50m wrong. The course was marked with some red/orange flags and you can always see the next flag. All flags have reflective band on them, so you can see them during the night.
My girlfriend was following me during the race and, with the exception of the aid station in Bodaj, all aid stations are reachable by car and she could meet me every time. The volunteers were quite nice with her and even offered her warm food during the night.
The race was super well organized and the direction of the race was very responsive whenever I sent them a mail with a question.
Before the race, I’ve got the GPS coordinates of all aid stations, so Maibritt could easily drive to them. Here are the GPS coordinates (in latitude/longitude) of the aid stations for 2016. Not sure they will be the same for the years to come though…
|Aid Station||GPS Coordinates|
|1 Labin (start 100 miles)||45°05’08.2″N 14°07’21.6″E|
|A Plomin||45°08’19.7″N 14°10’47.6″E|
|B Bodaj||45°14’21.7″N 14°12’16.4″E|
|C Poklon||45°18’29.3″N 14°12’56.3″E|
|D Brgudac||45°22’51.2″N 14°08’39.1″E|
|E Trstenik||45°27’00.1″N 14°03’26.1″E|
|3 Buzet||45°24’42.4″N 13°58’03.6″E|
|F Hum||45°20’53.6″N 14°03’01.7″E|
|G Butoniga||45°19’46.2″N 13°55’08.0″E|
|4 Motovun||45°20’12.2″N 13°49’40.7″E|
|H Oprtalj||45°22’51.0″N 13°49’10.8″E|
|I Grožnjan||45°22’45.7″N 13°43’21.4″E|
|J Buje||45°24’31.6″N 13°39’31.7″E|
|5 Umag (finish)||45°26’07.1″N 13°31’23.3″E|
If you want the coordinates in decimals (to use in Movescount, for example) it is very easy to find online converters.
Important to mention that helpers did not get access to the aid station in Butoniga and had to wait outside. The aid station is inside a closed area, so you first have to use the aid station and then get out and meet your helper.
It is a very cool race and I would definitely recommend it. Croatia is a very beautiful land, and this is a really nice way to see some of the insides of it. However, I do hope that the organizers will decide for an earlier start time. I think that 16h is not a very good choice. We hit the night too early in the race and end up running the most beautiful parts in the dark.
Maibritt drove Per Egon, Maibritt Kristoffersen and myself to the start line, in Labin. We arrived around 14h and had time to enjoy the pre-race mood. The race is not that big, this year there were around 290 runners in the 100 miles.
We positioned ourselves relatively in the front and the race went off punctually at 16h.
As I said, this race was really early in the season to me. It was a bit of an impulsive decision. I didn’t manage to train as I should for a race this long. But I was feeling fresh and I was really ready to give my best shot. I had 3 plans: a very ambitious plan to run around the 24h; a more realistic plan, to run under 28h; and the last plan, which seemed so far out that I didn’t even really though it would happen, to arrive under 32h.
The race started great, I was running up and down and feeling super comfortable. I quickly ran up to the first women and stayed there. When I reached the first aid station I was ahead the 24h plan and feeling super good.
I kept gaining positions and I eventually overtook the 1st woman. There I knew I had a good position, and I started to wonder on whether I was running too fast. But it didn’t felt so.
Up to Brgudac (57km) I was really running good, feeling fresh and ahead of the 24h plan. The mood was very high, and meeting Maibritt every time was awesome! At every aid station Maibritt was waiting for me with new soft bottles filled with 32Gi Endure, and 32Gi energy to refill my backpack.
Up to this point I basically followed all the way with Janessa Taylor, a really strong female american runner, which I am sure we’ll be hearing about this year. We were constantly overtaking each other and sometimes running together and chatting.
In Brgudac, I thought that the most technical parts of the race were gone and I decided to change shoes. I wanted something with more cushioning. So I put on my La Sportiva Ultra Raptors, which I have ran so many times with. The problem is that the lacing was a bit broken and I could not tight them enough. Furthermore, this was the most technical part of the race and I did not work well with soft shoes in technical trails. It ended up so that I completely trashed my legs in the next 18-20km and when I arrived to Buzet I was smashed. My quadriceps were completely burned, my right knee was annoying a bit and my feet were to throw out in the bin. Plus, I was in desperate need of sleep. Going through the night is always really hard for me, and this time was no different. Maibritt took good care of me. I ate some pasta, slept 15 min, changed shoes again and back to my La Sportiva Mutants (event though the damage was already done), used too much time feeling sorry for myself and then went on. The sun was starting to shine, so I could take the headlamp out.
After Buzet, my only objective was to complete the race. I knew that the 24h plan was long gone. 28h was still well in reach but since my legs were so trashed and I could barely run, I knew that I would not be able to reach it either. My motivation was so low that I started considering whether I should continue at all.
When I reached Hum, I was feeling better then before. Changing shoes helped, but my legs were still trashed and I was mainly fast hiking than running. Meeting Maibritt was always a boost to my mood. I ate and drink and after 10min another runner came in complaining that he had been peeing brown and that one of his kidneys were hurting. The staff called a doctor, who advised him to stop. The guy was really crushed and sad. That pushed me out of this aid station, I told myself that I would do it “because I can”.
So I went on to Butoniga (118km), which was the lowest point of the race for me. I really almost dropped out here – everything was hurting. I have ran a couple of 120-125k races and at this point I am usually almost there. But here I still missed 52km! 52 fucking kilometers man! It seemed so far out with my legs in that state that I was ready to give up. Then I asked Maibritt: “What should I do?”. She knows me very well so she told me: “I cannot take this decision for you, but you know how you are going to be if you stop…”. I used a lot of time pondering whether it was wise to continue, but what I said to her was: “I’ll go to the next aid station and we’ll take it from there”. And that was basically how the rest of the race went, one aid station at a time. Slow and steady progress.
The next aid station, Motovun, was a really nice small city where Maibritt got me an ice cream. Then Oprtalj, then Groznjan and suddenly I missed only a half marathon. The night started falling again and I was marching to goal, at this stage it was 10% run 90% walk, but I was sure that I would cross that finish line no matter what. Buje was the last aid station and goal was suddenly some hours close (yes 13,4km took over 2h at the end – that’s how depressing it got).
I crossed the finish line in 31h41min49sec, hand-in-hand with Maibritt, and I am proud that I did it. I am really proud that I didn’t give up.
It is my first 100 miles and things didn’t go as I planned, but I came over it and I finished it. And I definitely learned a lot from it.
I have underestimated how hard this race really was. No matter the terrain, 170km is a very long distance. I feel that I am in a really good shape, but I do believe that I was not 100% ready to run this long. Looking back, I think that the 24h plan was too ambitious, but sometimes you have to gamble and I do not regret that I did. Maybe I have ran too fast in the start and I would have had a better race if I had slowed down a bit and ran after the 28h instead. It was definitely too bad that I didn’t have the legs to run a lot in the second half, because I could have won a lot of time there.
I had an awesome experience, have learned a lot and have completed the race. So all in all it was a success. This is for sure a big step towards the races that I want to run next year, if I get lucky.
I am not proud of my finish time, though. I do not think that it reflects the shape that I am at. I used too much time in the aid stations after Buzet, because my legs were so trashed. The shoe change at 57km heavily compromised my race and I regret that I did it.
I have to register here a huge thanks to my beloved girlfriend Maibritt for all the help and care during the race. She was amazing and this achievement is just as much hers as it is mine. She helped me taking the race one aid station at a time, encouraged me to continue when I thought that I was about to break, and was a huge motivational boost every time that we met. I do not know if I would have done it without her :-).
Also a big thanks to my sponsors Passion Sport (32Gi Denmark) and La Sportiva Danmark for the awesome support!
Equipment and Nutrition
- CEP ultralight t-shirt and underwear
- Salomon shorts
- Injinji + Feetures! socks: a combo that always works for me and got me through with ZERO blisters
- Compressport Visor: super comfortable
- Salomon Advanced Lab 12 with 2 soft bottles
- Gemini Duo headlamp with a 4 and a 2 cells batteries
- Inov-8 Race Ultra Shell HZ (super like anorak – wind shell and rain jacket)
- Black Diamond Ultra Distance Carbon Z-poles: only used them after Poklon. I took them up for the first time around 50k into the race. Before that they were packed in my backpack
- Sea to Summit collapsible cup: not the lightest but definitely the best taking all into account (in my opinion)
- The rest of the mandatory equipment: space blanket, first aid kit, mobile phone, …
- I used my La Sportiva Mutant up to 57km where I changed to my La Sportiva Ultra Raptors. I love both of these shoes, but I regret having changed to my Ultra Raptors. It was not the right shoes for me in the technical sessions since there is too much sole. The Mutants are awesome shoes, very versatile and responsive shoes. They are my absolute favorites. Check my review here.
- I used 32Gi all the way plus what they had in the aid stations. As usual, my favorite product is the 32Gi Endure energy drink. It works perfectly for me from start to end. I also used Chews, Gels and the Coffee/Guarana shots.
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