First race since last year’s Naliboki marathon. The main goal for this race was to collect as many as possible metrics and inner body feedback to analyze for the upcoming bigger race later this year.
Right from the start the first 300m ascend began. I was running the race with the tracking poles for the first time. I didn’t know the comfortable hiking pace. So I rushed as usual in such cases. As result, I drastically slowed down closer to the mountain top. Several guys overtook me. Wasn’t happy about it.
Descent. There was rain the day before the race. After the rain, the ground was too slippery for my shoes with shorter lugs. So it was very uncomfortable for me to run downhill. I was checking with every step whether I’m going to fall and slide down on my butt or my face. It was scary, a bit. To hide this fear my body was super tight during all the descent. When your body is in some unknown or uncomfortable situation, it tends to be over-tightened. Just for some reason, my brain thinks it is safer. Closer to the end of that 400m descent I got a terrible spasm in my core muscles. Because of all of that extra body tension, I guess. Having tap water in bottles was also not the best idea. It was nearly impossible to stand that pain. I didn’t have any painkiller pills with me to “fix” that problem. So I took a couple of salt pills and convince myself they should help. They helped, I guess. Also, slowing down to a nearly pedestrian pace. Anyway, the pain had gone away, and was happy again.
Next +300m of elevation gain and then 10km on more or less plain terrain were pretty fine. I was enjoying the nature around me and the sunny weather. Finally, I got some feeling of solitude at that part of the race. I don’t like having somebody’s breath behind my back or somebody’s back in front of me. It’s much more difficult to focus on “your race” in such cases. After another short ascend another ~200m of descent started. The ground under my feet was much more dry and solid compared to the first one. So as an experiment I decided to run down at max possible speed. It was fast. It was fun. My legs didn’t like it though. I got cramps in several muscles on both legs. My quads were crying.
Short side note on downhill running. Just want to get rid of these thoughts.
Being relaxed is key for a good fast descent. But to stay relaxed you have to have a lot of trusts. You have to trust the traction of your shoes. You have to trust the power of your legs — they should be able to handle and react to any unpredictable situation like losing the balance after stepping on some loose or slippery stone. You have to trust the flexibility and strength of your ankles. They shouldn’t twist after stepping on some loose rock again. You should know how to engage your core and spine muscles during descends. Sharp and focused mind to process huge amount of information. And, no doubt, you should roll your legs as fast as the terrain asks you. And do not forget to breathe steadily to nourish your brain and muscles with oxygen. If you’re missing some piece of that puzzle, then you’re slowing down. You’re losing confidence. It is unnatural to slow down during descent when the gravity pushes you down. The easiest way to walk around this feeling of unconfidence is to say to your quads “Guys, my shoes/ankles/mind is not ready to run this descent. May I ask you to make it fast and smooth? Or smooth at least?” And it works. But not for long. After some time each quad muscle contraction is like needle therapy with hundred of needles in your quads.
A lot of words to deliver short thought — running down is a very technical thing which has a lot of variables to control. And it is very fun when you running down fast as hell.
End of the side note
The culmination of the race was reaching the top of Szczebel mountain with about 700m elevation gain. As an experiment, I decided not to use poles on this ascend. To refresh the memories about how it feels to do a long climb on steep technical terrain. Climbing is much easier compared to running downhill. All you need is to have enough gas in your tank to maintain steady hiking. I didn’t have enough gas on that day. Despite the fact, that I ate 3 gels during this ascend. The last vertical 100m wasn’t fun at all. At the top, there was an aid station. I took a sit on a bench to drink cola (goddamn good cola it was!), and chatted with organizers. Thanks to the lad who guided me to the right (which was left) turn. I was in one turn from running 65k instead of 45k.
In the last stage of the race, I didn’t have enough courage and power to run fast. So it was chilling last 7km. Also, I was a little upset that I didn’t hit the target time I set for myself before the race (which was 5 hours).
But still, it was great to run in the mountains again
Thanks to my good friend Hanna Rudakouskaya for all these great photos and videos.