TUT 2017- race report

Following on from my previous blog post (http://wolnybiegacz.pl/en/first-ultramarathon-in-2017/) here comes the race report from Trójmiejski Ultra Track (TUT- http://tutrail.pl/.

Start

Saturday, 18th February 2017- the alarm clock woke me up at 5 am. I had a quick cup of coffee and  light breakfast and at 5:30 my friend Michał arrived, left his car near my family home in Gdańsk, Poland and we set off jogging to the nearby suburban railway station Zaspa SKM.

On our way to Gdynia
At Gdynia railway station- enjoying the warmth

After 20 odd minutes we arrived at Gdynia main railway station. From there after 10 minutes of swift walk we arrived at the start of TUT. There’s already been quite a crowd of 300 or so people warming up and getting ready. We met Igor, a friend whom we met at the Harpagan ultra race a while ago and with whom I ran on a couple of occasions. He seemed to be bursting with energy and keen on a good result. His result was indeed impressive in the end, but more on that later.

Before the start- blurred memories of it!

Part 1 (Start – Checkpoint 1)

At exactlly 7 am the whole crowd set off uphill into the woods. The path was icy, so I moved to the side where I could find grip on snow or mud. Many runners had ice grips on their shoes and it was certainly a good decision to have them. I decided to run in my favourite Salomon Speedcross shoes that have nice and aggresive lugs- great for mud, just about right for snow, but useless on ice. Igor quickly disappeared out of my view, while Michał for the first kilometer or so was within my sight, but gradually the distance between us was increasing and I eventually lost the sight of him for the following 7 or so hours.

Still enjoying myself…

As I wrote in my previous blog post, my intention was to finish this race within the 11 h time limit. Having thought about it some more I actually set my personal target to 10 h. Michał on the other hand tried to convince me that 9 h is more reasonable and should be within our reach. Anyway, the beginning of the race was quite intensive for me. Even though Michał was significantly faster I felt I was going a bit too fast and decided not to chase him. After the first hour my Garmin GPS watch showed 9.3 km- I felt it’s a bit too fast, but I felt good, the conditions were nice so I continued.

After 2 hours I did 18 km so slowed down a little bit but still maintained a nice pace, especially considering that there was a whole series of hills I had to ascend and descent and so on. At the 22 km point there was supposed to be the first checkpoint, but there was none… After two more steep hills and a final gradual descent I arrived at the checkpoint. Elapsed time 2:39:29, distance covered so far: 23.23 km. It wasn’t until much much later that I learned that Michał was there 15 minutes ahead of me, so he managed to build quite a lead.

The first checkpoint

Part 2 (Checkpoint 1 – Checkpoint 2)

Having refilled my soft flask with water and having eaten some salty crackers and half a sweet bun I set off slowly through Gdynia’s Mały Kack. At that stage I felt I might have gone too fast earlier and started feeling tired. I had to slow down and resort to walking more often than before, which resulted in a significant amount of runners overtaking me. I managed to increase my pace while going through Wielki Kack but then slowed down in Sopot’s forests. My average pace of this interval oscillated around 6.7-7 km/h. Around the 30 km mark there a nice stretch of flat tarmac followed by flat runnable forest around the Wielka Gwiazda hill (which hardly looks like a hill). This was followed by a couple of climbs that did me in and then descent to Spacerowa street along which a gentle uphill path was supposed to lead me to the next checkpoint. But this stretch just kept dragging on and on and sapping the remainder of my energies.

Dragging on and on- no longer so enjoyable…

Eventually, after 2:29:51 from the previous checkpoint I got there. My Garmin showed 41.11 km vs 42 promised by the organisers. Later it turned out that Michał was there around 20 minutes ahead of me, so he managed to increase his lead, but not so significantly on the first stretch.

Part 3 (Checkpoint 2 – Checkpoint 3)

I refilled my soft flasks (one with water and one with magnesium/isotonic), had a warming cup of instant red borscht, ate some banana and jellies and set off to conquer the next bit. This was was supposed to be much shorter than the previous ones and it mainly follows a couple of tourist trails that I am familiar with and where in the past I did a lot of walking and cycling. Not to make it sound so easy and rosy- there is a whole series of hills to climb and descend. Anyway, I felt better, and more motivated to push after the low moments before the checkpoint so I got into a routine of swiftly walking uphill and then running downhill and on the flats. Halfway through I ate my secret weapon- a double caffeine SIS energy gel which I think gave me a good kick. At one point something looked a bit odd with respect to which path we followed- later it turned out that the organisers shortened the route by around 1.5 km, so as a result the checkpoint was much sooner than anticipated- 12.37 km from the previous CP. My Garmin showing 53.48 km from the start vs 55 km promised by the organiser. Time- 1:49:19 from CP2 and 6:58:39 from the start. Roughly 14 minutes behind Michał.

Part 4 (Checkpoint 3 – Finish, Gdańsk)

At CP 3 I felt really strong and motivated for the final push. There was only 10 km left so I was convinced I should be easily done before 4 pm. After a quick refill at the CP I followed the route running for a while until the last big hill which I slowly ascended. This was followed by a long and gradual descent which I covered quickly. While approaching the next climb I saw Michał- he was roughly 200 metres ahead of me and at the top of the climb. I pushed hard, even running uphill a bit and after next 2 or so climbs managed to catch up with him.

Reunited with Michał

He was doing quite well and clearly the ice grips helped him maintain good speed, but tiredness and some pains were getting to him. Still, I managed to catch up with him more because of my fast pace rather than his slow pace which is something that tends to happen often, i.e. I tend to have strong finishes during which I strive to compensate for an earlier poor performance.

The last few kilometres we walked/run together, combating a series of very steep ascents and descents. With the last climb done we heard loudspeakers and the buzz of the finish line so we knew we were close. The last run down a long hill and we jointly crossed the finish line. I was 160-th with 8:27:33 while Michał 161-th with 8:27:34. The one second difference due to the fact that he crossed the start line ahead of me.

Done!

Eventually out of the field of 306 runners 297 made it to the finish. While enjoying that we’re done we saw Igor- he finished 8th with an impressive time of 6:10:36! The winner, Tomasz Baranow needed just 5:23:41 which gives an average speed of 12 km/h- something unattainable to me especially considering the terrain and snowy/icy conditions. Actually, even more impressive is the result of the first woman Dominika Stelmach who crossed the line just 6 minutes and 10 seconds after the winner taking the 2nd place in the Open category. Hardly ever the gap between the first man and first woman is so narrow, so she is clearly a top runner.

Fantastic atmosphere at the finish

Having collected our medals, taken in some calories and hydrated, Michał and I left the Finish area and we were done with TUT 2017.

Summary

I’m content after my TUT performance- my finishing time was much better than originally planned. Even though finishing at place 160 is nothing impressive I have no issue with that, perhaps I can say I am a bit hungry to improve upon it in the future. Three days after the race I felt fine, no muscle soreness or huge tiredness so again, the target not to knacker myself too much was achieved. Considering also that I slept only a little during the two preceding nights (on Friday early flight to Gdańsk, while on Friday/Saturday night at 2 am a trip to see a doctor with my daughter) I did not too bad. Most importantly I am happy I could run in the beautiful Tricity forests in a professionally organised event. I can totally recommend this event and I am pretty sure I will take part in it in the future.

Some numbers, a few comments and hyperlinks:

Stretch Distance (km as per  GPS) Time Average pace (min/km) Average speed (km/h) Speed
Start- CP 1 23.23 2:39:29 6:52 8.7 The fastest stretch
CP 1- CP 2 17.88 2:29:51 8:23 7.2 Considerably slower
Start- CP 2 41.11 5:09:20 7:31 8.0 Average speed still ok despite the slowdown in the second part
CP 2- CP 3 12.37 1:49:19 8:50 6.8 Surprise- I expected this would be faster than stretch 2, but was much slower
Start- CP 3 53.48 6:58:39 7:49 7.7 Average still not too bad
CP 3- Finish 10.01 1:29:04 8:54 6.7 Another surprise that this bit was the slowest- but that’s due to some very steep hills
Start- Finish 63.49 8:27:33 8:00 7.5 63.49 km done with an average speed of 7.5 km/h

Links:

Coming up next….

I hope this was a good read- I welcome both negative and positive feedback which will be used to improve my writing if need be. In the next post I plan to write about what ultramarathons are and how my ultra journey began.

All the best,

Marcin

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