26 April 2014

Brasov Marathon 2014

Today I participated in my first trail running race of this year: the 38 km Brasov Marathon mountain trail race. It was the third edition of Brasov Marathon, one of the mountain running competitions organised by the CPNT club from my hometown Brasov.

In 2012, the first edition had only cross and half-marathon races; I ran the half-marathon race then - It was my second half marathon ever. In 2013, at the second edition, a long and difficult marathon race was added to the event. but I competed again in the half-marathon race, because the event was just two weeks before  Ecomarathon, where I was already registered for a full marathon race. This year I decided to skip Ecomarathon and to attend the full marathon race of the Brasov Marathon event. I had to! It takes place on the trails that I know so well, practically on my "backyard playground".

Brasov Marathon is one of the most difficult trail marathon races in the area. After the last year race, many experienced runners said that it is probably the most difficult mountain marathon in the area. This year however, the course was shortened from about 42km to a more manageable 38km and to "just" 1880m of elevation gain. A difficult climb of 300m elevation gain, on Gabony Steps up to Tampa Mountain top was removed from the route. The climb on the Gabony Stairs is still part of the half-marathon route, making it also one of the most difficult half-marathon routes in the area.

As I already mentioned in older posts, I am reducing the number of competitions. Brasov Marathon is one of the very few races where I plan to participate this year. I want concentrate more on quality than quantity. By quality I do not necessarily mean better race results, but races that I can prepare better and enjoy more.

The almost snow-less winter meant that instead skiing I ran a lot during the last months, so I felt quite prepared for this race. On Monday, 5 days before the race, I did a reconnaissance run to Postavarul Peak. It was one of the hardest runs I ever did! Above 1400m there was a lot of fresh, wet, almost knee deep spring time snow. Running through this snow felt like being in a juice squeezer! Totally Exhausting! Moreover, after the hard running session I got a stiff and painful back. So I had to rest for the next four days before the race. The rest was welcomed, not to mention that it rained most of the time. To my relief, on Friday the back pain was almost gone and I started to feel again energetic, ready for trail running! The mountains were calling me again!

The race was very well organised. On Friday evening I attended the technical briefing so I could clarify all the details of the route. For safety reasons the organizers did some last minute route changes so even though I know the area so well, attending the briefing was still very useful. During the race, everything on the route was as described at the briefing. The route was very well marked and volunteers were placed at the critical cross-roads.

I was surprised to see how much snow had melted in the five days since my reconnaissance run. Most of the fresh snow was gone. The snow still on the route was mostly old frozen snow. In some places the snow was replaced by sticky mud, but mud is much less problematic for running than deep and wet snow.

Again, I ran the race without carrying any electronic gadget with me, except my small dumb-phone that I had for emergencies - I did not touch it during the race. I did not have even a watch with me! I find any gadget to be distracting during a race.

The start was quite early, at 8 AM, so I had to chose a breakfast that would be easy to digest. At 6:30 AM I had my traditional big bowl of integral oats with home made yogurt. Then I added a caloric bomb: 250g of organic vanilla mouse... The evening before I had a good but quite light meal: pasta with sardines and lots and lots of spring garlic. It looks like my choice of food was well inspired. I felt very comfortable and energetic during the race. I did not feel any hunger until well after the race. I only had two small banana pieces from the hydration stations along the route. I did not carry any gel or energy bar with me, just a 600ml bottle filled with fresh lemonade that I prepared in the morning. I drank quite a lot of water and isotonic at the refreshing points and used my lemonade on the longer stretches between hydration stations points.
Reaching Postavarul Peak - 1799m. The highest point of the route
The profile of the course was not the most optimum for my running style. Most of the up-hill sections were in the first half of the race. I am good on uphills, but quite slow and cautious on downhills. I managed a very good climb to Postavarul Mountain Peak, the highest point of the route at 1799m. However, the route back from there consisted of mostly long downhills, giving a good chance to other competitors that are better than me on downhill to catch and overtake me. And this is exactly what happened. At least, to my surprise it happened much later than I anticipated and just a couple of runners overtook me... but they included the third finisher in my age category. Well, he deserves his place. He is a much better and experienced downhill runner than me and at the finishing line he was 5 minutes ahead of me! So once more, I finished in the fourth place in my age category. The previous year I was the fourth of my age group in the half-marathon race. I checked the half-marathon results of this year... with my last year time I would have also been the fourth in my age category...

The weather during the race was perfect for running; quite cool and pleasant. The rain that fell almost uninterrupted for four days stopped during the night before the race. During the morning the weather became sunny. As most of the route was through woods, the air kept cool and pleasant for most of the race duration.

As a conclusion, it was again a very well organised race by bighearted volunteers. I have also noticed that the organizers have listened to the feedback they got from the participants of the previous editions and implemented most of the suggested changes and improvements.
I also noticed the great fair-play spirit of all competitors - we all enjoyed a lot this race!

Will I do it again in 2015? Definitely yes! Depending on the races calendar I will decide then if I will do the full or the half marathon, but nevertheless, I plan to participate again! See you then!

Some of the photographers were very quick to post their photos on the web. Here I am just before the finishing line, running together with a runner with whom I "shared" the last kilometer.
photo by Gabi Varzari