Harpagan 56- race report

This post is a direct continuation of the previous one, the Autumn 100, which I finished just 6 days before Harpagan. I finished Autumn 100 on Sunday, 14th of October and spend the subsequent few days on recovery. I suffered most from chafed and sore groin and other sensitive parts around that area.

On Monday the groin was OK and luckily I didn’t have any significant muscle soreness in my legs. I of course was tired and to be honest, wasn’t particularly keen on running Harpagan. I left the decision whether to run or not till Friday morning.

On Wednesday I flew to Gdansk, Poland and spent a couple of days running errands. My legs felt very good, except for a slight stabbing pain in left hip. I was concerned that this could turn really bad during the race. Still, on Friday I decided to take part in Harpagan, but that I would start slowly. The aim would be to finish the race, and not fight for the podium, like I did at the 54th (2nd place) and 55th (5th place) editions.

Harpagan (56th edition, 19/20th October 2018)

This time Harpagan took place in Kwidzyn, a town in northern Poland. My friend Michał and I checked in the race HQ around 19:00 on the Friday. Having registered and picked up our race packs, we settled in the school gym where we started to prepare for the race. There we met our old Harpagan buddies Mateusz and Tomek, so I knew I will be running in a tried and tested cohort. We were also joined by Piotrek, whom I met at the 55th Harpagan six months ago. After 20:30 we left our drop bags in the designed place and took a short walk to the start. There, at 20:55 we picked our maps and were ready to start.

With maps in hands, ready to roll

The first loop

As I had decided, we set off relatively easily with a mix of gentle running and power hiking. The leaders quickly disappeared in the distance, but I didn’t care about it, focused on my own race.

Here’s a legend for the following map snippets: the purple line is the ‘ideal’ route, as presented by the organisers after the race. The thinner, multicoloured line is the route I took, as per my Garmin Forerunner 310XT watch. The colours reflect velocity: green means we were moving fast, yellow- moderate, red- slowly.

Checkpoint 1 (CP1) was easy and we quickly got it. We got a bit confused on the way to CP2 near the high-voltage line, but not a serious error.
CP1 done and dusted
CP3 didn’t present any major challenge. We messed up a little on the way to CP4, by following the railway line too long.
CP4 done
CP5 and CP6 were obvious to navigate to and we got them maintaining a solid pace. The night was cold, but dry and very pleasant for such adventures: it was perfect for power walking but also the cold incentivised us to run. I planned to attack CP7 from the road, but we didn’t find the expected fire lane and had to resort to a bit of  detour.
CP8 quite easy and obvious.
The remaining way to CP9, CP10 and the HQ was obvious and we covered it smoothly.

We reported to the half-way point at the race HQ at 4:20 am. The first loop took us 7 hours and 20 minutes, which was a very good time, considering we didn’t push very hard. My Garmin watch showed we covered 51.5k. I didn’t know at which place we were and I didn’t care.

I felt all right after the first loop. Tired of course, but most importantly, the hip was holding well so I had high expectations for the second loop. We spent 14 minutes at the race HQ. During that time we accessed our drop bags, refilled food and drink supplies and rested a bit.

The second loop

Still in darkness, we set off. Grzesiek, a guy who finished the first loop a few minutes before us, now joined us for the second loop. We pushed ahead now in a strong group of six.

PK11 was close and we quickly found it. The route to PK12 was obvious and coincidental with the organisers’ ideal variant.
I chose to reach CP13 via Ośno, so differently than the organisers suggested. In hindsight, that was not a good route choice, because past Ośno the track disappeared and turned into a heavily overgrown orchard, through which we arduously fought our way. We bagged CP13 just past 7 am; it was finally light enough to pack our head torches. I chose a long, but secure route to CP14, which, in hindsight, I regret. We could have saved 1.5k or so. Especially that it looks that there must have been a bridge on the river, which was not marked on the map. CP15 was obvious and quick.

En route to CP15 I got an energy kick and picked up the pace considerably. Having bagged CP15 I was conscious that there is just 28-30 k left to the finish. With the hip in good shape I picked up the pace even more with some good bits of solid running. My friends initially looked that they might let me go, but they didn’t give up and maintained the stronger pace.

CP16 was straightforward and I chose an efficient shortcut through some fields. The way to the vicinity of CP17 was easy, we only lost a few minutes searching for the checkpoint. CP18 and CP19 were easy and uneventful.
Our attack on CP20 would have been perfect if not for a little cock-up close to the CP, which cost us 8-10 minutes.
The final stretch to the finish was easy and covered fast.

We covered the last stretch running with short walking breaks. Despite tiredness, on the final stretch I managed to maintain an impressive speed of around 9 km/h. While pushing hard to the finish our cohort split into two groups. Tomek, Grzesiek and I finished at 12:47, while Michał, Mateusz and Piotrek at 12:50. The end, job done, mission accomplished!

My, Grzesiek’s and Tomek’s finish:

And here are Michał, Mateusz and Piotrek finishing 3 minutes later:

Race summary and some numbers

Despite starting the race conservatively, I finished in respectable 8th place with a time of 15 hours and 47 minutes. Garmin showed I covered 107.11k, which is not very surprising as the navigation wasn’t very challenging. What also doesn’t surprise is the fact that the leaders were far beyond reach, with the winner needing just 11 hours and 52 minutes and the runner up 12 hours and 46 minutes.

Happy finishers, right to left: Piotrek, Mateusz, Michał and I

A short recording from the medal ceremony: the top eleven receiving their medals:

The top eleven.
Seriously unserious behaviour.

Despite running much less than at a few recent editions of Harpagan, my finish time is my 4th best ever. I was faster only at three editions::

  • 49th Harpagan (April 2015)- 13 hours and 53 minutes
  • 51st Harpagan (April 2016)- weirdly also 13 hours and 53 minutes!
  • 52nd Harpagan (October 2016)- 15 hours and 23 minutes

So it is a good idea to run one ultra straight after another!

To sum this and the previous blog post, I first ran a 100 miler and achieved my plan minimum (finish within cut off). Then, just 6 days later, I finished Harpagan in respectable 8th place, having covered a distance of 107k. A result way beyond expectations, so shall I conclude that this is the way to plan races?

Not necessarily. The truth is that I would have preferred to have a larger gap between these two races to give myself more time to recover and regenerate. In an ideal world, I would have spent 3-4 months on solid training for Autumn 100 so as to finish stronger. Then, after a few weeks’ time, I could have fought at Harpagan. The reality was that in those 6 days between the races I was tired and wasn’t too keen on doing Harpagan. There was not enough time to get hungry for racing.

Anyway, this now concludes my running season, which I will summarise later this year. My next ultra race is in early February. I will be preparing for it over the next three months and I will surely race in some local orienteering races. As far as the next blog post is concerned, it will be one of the ‘travel blogs’ series, from an interesting place across the pond, so stay tuned in a few weeks’ time :).

All the best,


PS. If anyone is interested below are the full maps of both loops.

Loop 1
Loop 2

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