18 September 2013

Ciucas Trail Marathon 2013

This Saturday I ran my fourth full marathon. I participated in the Marathon Race of the Ciucas Trail event. The event has three races. A half-marathon, a marathon and an 100km individual ultra-marathon. Last year I ran the half-marathon so this time and I wanted to do the full marathon race.

One month before the event I did a reconnaissance run on the marathon route; an illustrated description of the route can be found in an older post. Knowing the route meant that I did not have any orientation issues during the race. The trails were very well marked, except a few key crossroad points that could have been better signaled. Unfortunately a few of the best runners got lost and ended up doing a different route... not necessarily easier.

The weather was cold, wet and quite windy on the exposed mountain top. When I left Brasov in the morning it was raining heavily and I was mentally preparing myself for running in the cold pouring rain. Luckily the rain gradually eased and eventually stopped just before the race start! I ran with a thin merino wool shirt. I also had my running jacket with me and used it on the windy sections. At the end it wasn't that cold and the woolen shirt was a bit too much and got quite wet, but without causing too much discomfort.
On my way to Ciucas peak  - photo by Camelia Varsescu
Once more, I ran the race without any watch or GPS device. I really like racing this way. I study the map before the race and I make a race plan. During the race I always have a good idea where I am and how to manage my energy. I also tried to run my own race, not paying too much attention to the other competitors. I did not want to get exhausted and also did not want to hammer my knees on the downhills. At the beginning of the race, in the forest, the trails were a bit muddy. However, much of the route had really good running conditions. The wet trails were better than during the reconnaissance run when they were very dry and dusty.

After the first 10 kilometers my place in the race stabilized. I am quite good on uphills so I almost caught up with a few runners on Ciucas top. However, soon, on the downhill they disappeared in the distance ahead of me as I was carefully running downhill. During the downhill I was expecting to be overtaken by several runners, but nobody did. Later I learned that just after I started my descent from the peak, it was covered in a thick fog so the next runners got lost in the fog for about 10 minutes. Actually after passing by Ciucas Hut one runner (Florin Simion) overtook me. He was ahead of me until the hut, but stopped there, while I decided to skip the hut stop on my way down to the finish line.

I finished with quite a good time: 4h52. Almost the same time as on the reconnaissance run, but that time I skipped a 5.5km section of the route that also included a long 300m elevation gain ascent. I could probably be 10 minutes quicker if I would have run faster downhill. I preferred however to be careful with my knees and to avoid slipping on the muddy sections. I managed to finish the 13th of the 168 competitors, and the 7th in my age category. Not a bad result, but many good runners were either absent from this event, or were running the ultra or the half marathon races.

I want to thank the organizers and the volunteers for the effort they spent to organize this event. It is not an easy task to manage three different races in the same day. The bad weather made it more difficult. I also know that they had some serious unexpected issues that made organizing the event even harder.

I am now concentrating on my last marathon of 2013. The famous and spectacular Piatra Craiului Marathon. See you there!