It is the week of Christmas events. I am still feeling the effects of Blatersa, both the race and the positive feedback for the De Blatersis article. Meanwhile, I have become the Backpack Lady. From now on, everyone is checking the contents of my Sport Billy, whether at a race, or at our regular Sljeme training session. Good, caring people are the ZTŠ crew (ZTŠ=Zagreb Trekking School). 🙂 Sport Billy has reduced in size this time, but, still, I have to buy a smaller one, with that straw. 🙂 Or just the straw, as I have just now figured what that hole and the drop mean on my Cube backpack. If I forget the water container, I’m in trouble. 🙂
Anyway, our coaches told us that this Saturday’s training session would be Samobor Winter Trail League. I immediately searched the web and Facebook, scanned the photos, the sportswear, backpack sizes (are they carrying them at all, what if I’m thirsty, can I eat the snow, etc., etc.). On our jolly drive to Samobor, the three of us were talking about the races we plan for 2018 and whether we are now doing the 9k or 16k race. We decided to hit the 16k race, I am preparing my small backpack, containing: 0.5L of water, 1 energy bar, 1 cellphone, 1 magnesium stick, plasters (the whole pack, I have to bring something for the class, right?). Items used: 0.5L (needed more), half the energy bar, the magnesium stick. I am making progress, right? 🙂
The runners gather at the start line, 400m from the tavern Poljanice – 400m of downhill paved with slides, ice and mud. I notice several cool-dressed experienced-seeming trail athletes with a small backpack so I calmed down my “to-take-or-not-to-take-the-backpack” voices.
The start of the race was immediately followed by a mild uphill, and I am already feeling the prosciutto from the evening before and the wine from Wednesday. This is the week of Christmas events, remember? It was hard in my stomach, the legs, the whole body. In that moment, I recalled the feeling of our training session in Maksimir on Thursday, the feeling was 10 times worse; we were doing interval training, it was my first interval training ever! This is the week of Christmas events, remember? If I hadn’t collapsed then half way of every sprint, with prior unbalanced attempts to hold on to the nearby park lamp, bush, bench, bucket, person…I will not do it now, either. 🙂
I soon started to cerebralise my new blog post. It takes so little.
We were ascending that mild uphill carefully as we didn’t know what to expect and we even separated for a while. Soon the 9k-race trail separated from our 16k one and my ZTŠ peer (let’s call her Butterfly) pushed harder on a mild uphill. At one point, we turned and we could not see the Third of Three. “She may have taken the 9k trail!” I am running back towards her, calling her name, while the Butterfly is trying to reach her by cellphone. Success! We all meet on the right trail and all of a sudden we see the fourth ZTŠ peer moving towards us, surprising us having decided to come to the race. I am jumping out of joy with my hands in the air, trying not to slide over. Endorphins hit you in all sorts of ways.
Soon, the Butterfly and I pushed a bit harder, having seen that we are entering the ATSTR zone (Area of Training Session and Trek Race) of several weeks before. We are reaching the frozen parts of the downhill, I am already moaning out of fear, and the Butterfly says “Just relax, let go, if you fall, it’s ok, you will get up.” Although this is my guiding thought through life – you let go, fall down, get up and move on – in this moment I just thought that if I slide off the trail I am hoping for a butt slide, not a roller. 🙂
The hills offered us a two-season magic – in one moment, we were running in the winter (ice, snow, melted snow, mud), and in the other, in autumn (leaves, mud, sunny trail). All of a sudden I heard my favourite Return to Innocence by Enigma, and I had left my headphones at home. Feel good moment.
The downhill took quite long, but we ran it as much as we could, trying not to think so much about the upcoming uphill. What you fear is what you get. My legs are burning ever since the interval training the other day. My arms are hurting, too, leaving a question mark above my head – how come is this happening, I don’t remember a four-legged uphill! This is the week of Christmas events, remember? 🙂 All the moaning voices were gathered under “Buhuuu, I wanna run, buhuuu, my legs and arms are falling off, buhuuuu, I want flat or downhill, buhuuuu, how far ahead, Papa Smurf?”
A spontaneous teamwork soon followed – the Butterfly is flying the downhill, I am pulling the uphill: “Downhiiiill! There you go. Uphiiiil! Oh, thank you so much!”
After a steep mud-surfing downhill I ran towards two handsome hikers. 🙂 I’m not sure about the Butterfly, but I most certainly did. I thought to myself “We are so cool like this, and we are so gonna run between them.” It doesn’t matter that our race numbers state that we are race competitors and that the last time they saw one was an hour ago. “Helllooooo!”, we greet, just as we greeted everyone before. The guys turn around, greet back, and luckily they saw our race numbers and said “Hey, girls, aren’t you supposed to go this way?”. And one of them is knocking with his trekking pole on the tree, as some kind of strict teacher calling me to write Pitagora’s theorem on the blackboard…and showing clearly drawn arrows. I am seeing the arrows on the right, and one long strip that I did detect several seconds before that (non)faithful encounter, but it seems that I was so confused by the sunshine upon them. Or I was perhaps confused by that mud surfing several minutes before. Whatever it is, don’t allow yourself to be confused on the hill. 🙂 On the inside, I was shouting “Mud, open thyself and take me!”, and on the outside “Oh my God, thank you soooo much.” shouting in my Dalmatian dialect, as if that should mitigate the fact that I made a mistake on a marked trail at a race in the middle of a hill far away from my hometown of Split. (Once, a sea current dragged me while I was swimming in the Hvar sea, and I spent a full minute thinking how fast I was swimming. 🙂 I caught some rope last minute. Not funny.). So, hill or sea…you have to be careful and focused. The standard “Where are you from, girls?” followed and “See you at the mountain lodge?”, but I already continued to run the School of Downhill Running with my Butterfly, saying goodbye to the two rerouters and shouting “Oh my Goood, how could this happen, and we were following all the marks, we thought that you were race competitors, too, and that we will haha outrun you, you-you-you…” the echo continued and I am trying to be funny. Endorphins hit you in all sorts of ways.
After such a steep downhill we thought that the finish line might be soon there, but we were awaited by a stream. I was trying to hop like a bunny over the stream, with my usual “wohooo” when doing it, but instead, there was a “wohh…splash!” Oh, focus of mine, you wandered again, haven’t ya?! Still, this is my favourite option, rather than the one from Blatersa “wwww…hhh…(mute)…u!” in 10 feet of distance, with the stream being half a feet, barely. 🙂 The nature didn’t spare the Butterfly either; just before the end of the downhill she ran across such a pool of water, and I was left “on the shore” last minute and started laughing uncontrollably, holding my knees, like a child playing the game “Let’s run across the pool of water. You first!”. 🙂 🙂
We were clueless about the kilometre we were at, and the quadriceps started burning hard, so we decided to take a magnesium stick. We moved forward, hopped over another stream (this time successfully), and then just as we were nearing the end (unknowingly), we passed through…you guessed it…mud. We started wondering what are we dragging all of a sudden, so we figured that it’s just half a tonne of concrete on our soles. 🙂
After a few steps, I am finally seeing the start line we took from. “We’ve arrived!”, the legs shouted, but I soon remembered that that downhill is now the uphill to the finish line. So there we were, having just taken the fresh magnesium, which apparently turned the laughter mode on, that hysterical “hahahaha…I don’t waaannnaaaaa” 🙂 but at the same time you are making steps forward.
At the moment you want to cry…you laugh…and move step by step…forward.
A few moments later there was the best part. No, it is not the finish line. It is the people at the finish line. Those that are truly happy for you. The eyes don’t lie.
I will try to sum up what followed in several lines (as it lasted from 1pm to 1am) 🙂 : what are you drinking; what are we eating; what are you drinking; we are sooo coming back at this race; Mr Z. is gonna play the guitar now; Margita is siiiinging; Margita doesn’t wanna sing without her vocal chords all warmed up; Margita doesn’t know Croatian songs; what are you drinking; we are sooooo coming here for the finale during the masquerade…with a tent; what are you drinking; we are soooo going to Sljeme tomorrow morning;…” We left the tavern around 10pm and ended up muddy feet at a Zagreb cafe bar. 🙂
Tomorrow morning, 15k of Sljeme…it was a nice spring morning, 24 December 2017.
Having descended the mountain, I ran another 5k to the bus station to greet mother Soldo. What a day!
And in the evening, there was a spontaneous cycling tour to Bliznec where we surprised our crew who was warming up with mould wine and getting ready to go to the midnight mass by Leustek trail. The Guy from Sljeme that Morning and myself had all the athletic clothes in the washing machine (that was our excuse for not going uphill). 🙂 As I was still under PBSD (Post Blatersa Stress Disorder), upon the first sign of frozen toes and fingers, we sat on our bicycles and…froze our a**off during the downhill on Mihaljevac. We crossed the city square in a transition mode, pushing our bikes which alleviated the coldness in our fingers and toes (or, at least, it fooled our brains).
I arrived home and wrote this article till 3am, with sporadic recalling of these moments and a 2-minute zzzz every 20 minutes. I don’t know if it was the day before, the uphill Gips (the name of one trail on Sljeme), Mom’s arrival that afternoon, coffee at 6pm, two-wheel uphill at 8.30pm, mould wine at 9pm, the moaning downhill at 10.45pm or the transition zone middle of the advent, which was a brief reminder of my triathlon days. Endorphins hit you in all sorts of ways.
This was a weekend of spring-autumn-winter magic and making new friendships. Just as it is suited for Christmas (minus the spring-autumn part 🙂 ). Then again, Christmas happens every day.
Happy holidays to you all…