03 May 2015

Brasov Marathon 2015 - Racing again on trails


25th of April 2015; Brasov Marathon: My first race of the year. Actually I can come up with quite a few firsts regarding this race:
  • My first race after almost a year. I ran fewer races, mainly to reduce the stress effects that high intensity running puts on my body. Also, the the beginner enthusiasm with races started to wear-off and I want to run and enjoy the mountain landscapes at a slower pace.
  • My first race since I decided to go pure vegan... This suddenly happened after a big meaty Christmas meal that took half a day to digest. So for the last four months I ate 99.9% vegan. It is probably too early to draw any conclusions, but one effect that I clearly experienced after the race was the almost instant recovery! The day after the race I went skiing and next day I did a 15 km trail run!
  • My first race where I decided to run at my own pace. I lost probably 10 minutes  from my finish time, but I enjoyed the race more than other past events and I recovered faster.
  • My first race that I recorded with a GPS device (see it below at the end of the post). Well quite a few months ago I found a cheap and small smartphone that fulfilled my minimal requirements and finally replaced my trusty old dumb-phone.
  • Brasov Marathon is also the only race where I participated four yearly editions in a row. I ran the half marathon race in 2012 and 2013, then I moved up to the marathon last year, and did it again last week. Actually in 2012 it was one of my first trail running races, about half a year after I started being more serious about trail running. 
Flying down the hill from Tampa Peak (Photo by Brasov Marathon volunteer)
I love this race. It is organised very well by the experienced members of the  Nature Protection and Tourism Club (CPNT) from my town Brasov. It also takes place on the mountains and hills around my city Brasov, on the trails that I love and where I run almost daily. Due to its difficulty, the marathon race was shortened a bit last year, so it only measures around 38 km (about 10% shorter than the official marathon distance). The technical single trails and the accumulated altitude gain of almost 2000 m, make it a rather tough trail running race, especially for those that do not know the route well. The route starts from Sfatului Square, the heart of the historical old Brasov, at an altitude just a few meters below 600 m and reaches Postavarul Mountain top at 1800 m (1799 m to be precise).

I collected my race number the day before the race, so on Saturday morning I left home just 25 minutes before the start time. I warmed up running the one kilometer distance from home to the start place. I immediately entered the start zone, after my equipment was checked. I positioned myself after the first quarter of the runners as I did not want to start too fast, but also I wanted to be positioned quite well after the first kilometer on the streets when the route narrows  and starts climbing Tampa mountain on the winding trail through the forest.

It was a beautiful day. Perfect for running I would say! Dry sunny and windless weather with almost perfect blue sky! It did not rain for a few days before the race so the trails were just perfect for running. Not too wet but also not too dry.

Until Postavarul Top I took it very easy. In fact my time was several minutes worse than on a training run last summer! Probably the snow above 1400m also slowed me a bit. In any case I was walking all the steep sections and running only when the uphill slope was below around 10%.  Still I progressed slowly overtaking a few runners. I overtook the last runners when we reached the rather icy ski slopes on Postavarul Mountain. I was prepared for the snow with a pair of snow crampons for running. They helped me a lot on the uphill and gave me confidence to run quickly on the snow downhill.
On Postavarul Top! (Photo by Brasov Marathon volunteer)
From the last uphill slopes to Postavarul top, until the finish line, so for about 2/3 of the race, I did not overtake any other runner, nor was I overtaken by someone from behind. In fact I ran alone as if it was one of my usual weekend long runs. Around the half of the race I asked how far are the next runners ahead of me; 5-10 minutes I was told. I knew who they were, and that I have little chance to catch them up. I also knew that there were at least 4 very good runners in my age category (two of them finished on the first and third place). So it made no sense to accelerate. I was right. I finished 10 minutes after the runner in front of me. So for the rest of the race I ran at a quite relaxed pace, trying to keep my ranking till the end of the race. After each control-point I listened to any encouragement sounds that would indicate that someone behind me is approaching the control point that I left... Any time just silence... just me and the forest!

I finished on the 12th place out of about 120 runners that finished the marathon race. Two places better than last year when there were fewer runners. In my age category I finished on a comfortable 5th place. I was happy it wasn't the 4th place like last year... everybody hates the 4th place!

Again I ran the race with almost no extra food. I had my usual runner's breakfast, a big bowl of oats with a mashed banana in the morning. During the race I only had two pieces of banana at two check-points. Then water and isotonic drinks - offered by the organizer at the hydration points along the route. I also had a bottle of 600 ml of water with me. A bottle of at least 500 ml of water was compulsory. I would have prefer not to carry it as I knew well the location the hydration points and I could plan the run accordingly, but the extra water was helpful on the last long descent to Brasov.

At the finishing line I was happily greeted by my family. Last year I overestimated the time I would need to complete the race so they arrived just a tad later than my finish... This year they were in time, especially that soon after I finish, my daughter ran in the children's race of the event.

A big thank you to the organizers of the race. Each year, the organizing gets better! Keep up the good work and see you next year!

For those curious to see the route and analyse my performance, here is the GPS route I recorded.