Po, po, pod’me & the near DFL

I earlier in the year I had to commit to a family reunion and in Slovakia on June 20th.  I was excited to go as it had been 3 years since I had seen everyone.  The last time I was there running the Ponitrianska Stovka (Ponitrianska Stovka Photos) to earn points for CCC at Mont Blanc.

However,  I was pretty bummed when I went looking for race in the area and I could only find those on the same date as the reunion.

But, then in a last ditch effort I searched again and found Non-stop Beh 50k.

After my DNF at the Causeway Race and my serious lack of hill training I was just going to take this race in stride.

I luckily have a very enthusiastic uncle that studied the race course thoroughly and gave me two drop out areas, where he could easily pick me up.  So I was set if another DNF was in my future.  He also told me that this was the same route at the second half of another 2 person race I had hoped to do last year.  So I was really excited to be able to experience that course.

The race along the beautiful low Tatra mountains.  I was very excited to go running in that area.  Even happier that the 35 degrees Celsius weather had passed.

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Race day started like every race, too early after a sleepless night.  Up at 5:30am and on enroute with my mother, cousin and uncle driving to the shuttle bus in Banska Bystrica.  At the site I said my goodbyes and assured them not too worry and hopped on the nearest bus.

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Another hour plus to the Trangoska race start.  A quick pit stop and stuffed my face with a banana and duo nutella stuffed roll.  Yum!

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Finally it was 9:30am and we were off.  Straight up hill.  Ofcourse!  It was fun to see us all running..at first.  But that soon ended and I settled into a as strong hike pass as I could muster up this beautiful mountain.

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Unlike some North American races there are no cute signs encouraging to you to go.  However, there are some great treasurers that one can only find in Europe.

Such as this sign:

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Translation: Wood for Stefanicku (cafe) 1 piece of wood=1 free tea at the cafe.  As I paused to take the picture I contemplated taking some wood. But as I told the runner with me,  I’d be more tempted if they gave me a free beer.  🙂

After 8kms of climbing I would have surely dropped the wood quickly anyway.

Another thing about Slovak races that is different, there is no flagging tape you just better know which trail you are suppose to take.  I was lucky this time and didn’t get lost.  However, I know a few people that did as local tourists pointed me in the right direction twice while saying they had seen others go the wrong way and come back.  Boy was I thankful for them.

Much like the Causeway the cut-offs had changed.  Which worried me as I was coming up the 3 hour mark and it didn’t look likely that I would make the 3.5 hour cut off at 21kms, despite having done the first 10km is faster than expected time.

As I approached the aid station now close to 4 hours into the race, the original cut-off time, but now almost 30 minutes over the new cutoff time a volunteer walked towards and said “You better run.  Time is up.”  Ouch! What the heck did he think I was doing.

At the aid station they tried to get me to stop and eat, but I just wanted to know if I could go on.  There were already 4-5 people waiting to get taking back to the finish and I knew there were at least 10 behind me.

A volunteer asked how I was. I said I’m fine, just slow up the mountain but good to keep going.  He nodded and than we started running together.  He ran with me for the next kilometer explaining that I was the last one.  They would definitely not let anyone else go after me.  I said that I was fine with that, but I didn’t want to keep the aid station people waiting.  If I would be well over the next cut off I would call them to let them know I was getting a pick up.  We agreed and he turned back and I pressed on.

Now it was a wonderful, fun, rolling hill runnable section and I started to pick up speed and embraced the fact that this would be my first DFL.  Dead Fucken Last.  I loved it!  Strangely it felt great knowing I wasn’t being chased but was doing the chasing.  I was almost disappointed when I passed my first runner.  I would no longer claim the DFL titled.  However, as I continued to pass runners I felt invigorated and just wanted to see how many more I could get ahead and stay ahead off.  Now I was being chased again.  Damn!!! I had to laugh.

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There was a huge decent to the last aid station before the finish and one where the cut off was 6.5 hours.  I was cutting it close again.  Unfortunately, as the decent seemed to go on forever and passed the expected kilometer mark I was getting concerned I had taken a wrong turn.  But how?  I eventually caught up to a guy ahead, who was also concerned he was on the wrong path.  Then anther runner came up behind us and assured us we were corrected.  So with that confidence I bolted down to the end.  Missing the cut off my about 2o minutes again.  Fortunately, the aid station guys didn’t even flich and said to go ahead.  I grabbed some dark chocolate and waved a thank you to them and good bye to two runners resting and deciding whether or not they would go on.

That brought he toll of those I passed to 7 male runners. I was pretty happy with that.  But I still had to make it to the finish before the official cut off of 8.5 hours.

No more pictures.  Okay, maybe just 2. One of the last brutal up hill and of the fabulous view it provided.

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I was feeling great as I spotted the town below and knew the end was be near.  But still cutting it super close.  I was I entered the town people were walking about and yelling “PO! PO!”  And more ” PO! PO!”  I couldn’t figure out what that meant, until finally someone finished the sentence, ” PO! PO! Pod’me!”  Let! Let! Let’s go!  And I did!

I spotted my mother on the bridge going over the road and followed her up.  Yelling, “Which way?”  Cause again, no flagging tape and I had no idea which hotel I was running too.  Yikes!  I passed her as she pointed where I should go. Then I spotted my cousin and uncle, who started running.  What?  I now I have to out run you, I thought.  I did, thankfully.  I did a massive side jump in the air as I passed the finish line completely elated in a time of 8:33:14 and not DFL, 4 more racers came in behind me.

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Post race recovery, trampolining & food!  Plus a massage and pool time too.  🙂

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