Transylvania 100k 2017 - Race Report

Report by Wayne Sara

Where does one begin explaining this one? Well, ever since The Plague last August this was top of my list. It’s unexplored and a place I probably wouldn’t have chosen to visit for a holiday but I’m so glad I have. Romania is stunning. Its capital city, Bucharest is a gem. So clean, friendly and cheap and with transport so easy you can go wherever you please for pennies.

On our arrival on Wednesday 17th May we found ourselves quickly exploring and enjoying the refreshments and delicacies of Bucharest. This was just a short overnight stay as we were due to travel up to Brasov by train the next day. Staying in Romania is cheap, accommodation is amazing, 4* I’d say but the rooms are huge and have it all. Breakfast is included and boy don’t they feed you and all this for less than £40…….. take my word for it! It’s good and I’m fussy.

Our travel up to Brasov started first thing on Thursday morning literally running to the station with Jon almost missing the train. But thanks to the friendly train guard we finally hauled him aboard…thank god he wasn’t entering the Race. The price of train travel ranges between £4.60 – £11 single for a 114mile journey. Trains are in good condition and actually probably more comfortable than our own.

We were joined on our journey by a runner from Devon. She’s been there and done it so it was a massive help that Vicky was able to purchase our tickets in advance and also be of help on our travels. So from the flatlands of the south out of the ground you see the emergence of the Carpathian Mountains…at this point I’m drooling with anticipation watching the mountains grow taller and taller.

After a short stop and a quick meal in the lovely town of Brasov we were off again to the coach station for our final trip of the day down to Bran. With Bran being just 18 miles away it was only 30 minutes until we pulled up in the square right outside the Castle…finally it started to sink in. Seeing the start line and signage, the heart started pumping and anticipation for Saturday grew.

We booked ourselves into our accommodation at The Transylvania Inn and what a lovely welcome we had. Asking if I was here to run they offered to open the kitchen up early and to give us a lift down to the start line. Amazing, the worries of breakfast were solved instantly.

Friday was Registration day! Oh and a tour of the castle. A special place but I was there to run!

Registration was easy, too easy really. Not a Mudcrew check I can tell you but friendly all the same. The only added bit of information was about a slight change to the route that we were told was nothing to worry about…I thought “we shall see about that!” So with number, shirt and goodie bag collected I headed back, running of course, to loosen my travel legs.

My Friday evening was sorted. Pasta was, well a child’s portion…so a trip down to town to the Italian for further fill up followed. Oh my days I was stuffed! But it was what was needed as there was some serious climbing ready for me come the morning.

The alarm clock rang out at 3:50am and it was time for breakfast before we headed down to the start line for the 4:45am deadline.

Conditions were fine, in fact shirt and shorts for me. To the sound of AC/DC ‘thunder struck’ we were off! Yes, the first mile taking us to our first climb. So from 450meters we began our climb to the summit of mount Omu that stands at 2,505 meters . Before this at about mile 8 we made our first checkpoint. The views even here were amazing after a fast and technical descent over snow, rock and mud. They looked after you just as well as you are back here with food a plenty.

Then came the big ascent…I loved every minute of this one. You’re not able to run it though. You’re climbing now and up into the clouds you go. With snow underfoot and getting steeper I grew more concerned about runners ahead of me losing their footing and taking me out. Fear not, it wasn’t long until there was rope. Now this was a help but my hands were freezing. Thankfully I think the adrenaline of it all soon sent warm blood to my fingertips.

It wasn’t long until I was up on the summit where it was cloudy and windy so the coat was on pretty quickly. At this point visibility was near Zero and mistakes in direction were happening. A well marked course in good visual conditions was soon turned up on its head and it wasn’t long till I was off on one and traversing an icy snow sheet with no idea what was up or down.

With a scream of someone disappearing down the mountain and into the clouds below I thought it was time to head up…yes! Flipping hell there it was…the trail. So, I followed the trail with two other runners, eyes firmly down on the GPS trying to find our way to the next checkpoint. Well, we did find our way…or so we thought. It happened to be the route we should have gone up after a short loop that took you down from the summit to about 1,500 meters before taking you back up to the summit again. Darn you, I missed the fast descent I was so looking forward to and took the most technical route. Luckily for us we were allowed to continue and headed back up the way we came.

With a bothersome wait before we were allowed to leave the next checkpoint I was fortunate enough to join forces with a fellow British runner. This was just the tonic I needed as I felt a bit rotten at this point but spirits were soon lifted and the climbing began again.

Back up to the summit we went and the snow and hail stones awaited. With the fresh mountain springs I was filling the water bottles with dehydration was not an issue and with it being tough for me running up at that altitude it was a steady plod to the summit. At least I wasn’t getting lost. Ha! I had already been this way so it wasn’t possible. Passing other runners arguing amongst themselves Matt and I forged forward to summit and begin the long descent down.

This was mile 21 and there was give or take 6 miles of descent. Viewing runners slide down the snowy slopes on their backside we decided to go the more conventional way. The further we went the more runnable it became but there was a surprise in store…thunder and lightning and a proper storm! Amazing! By this time I was flying down the trails to the next checkpoint at mile 28 where we picked up our drop bags and had a well earned cup of coffee.

From there it took us past the town of Busteni on muddy trails. I mean proper mud. I was on my arse a couple of times. We began to climb again, up to 2000 Meters. It felt like it went on forever. We made it…the next checkpoint was reached and it felt amazing to see the top. It was very much like Dartmoor up there, gently rolling and included 7 stream crossings and an alpine descent to a reservoir where we picked up the road for a mile before our next checkpoint.

After some pasta and yet more coffee we were off. Mile 38 up on the Garmin and we were headed up hill. We picked the pace up at the top of the climb. With the stunning vista our eyes were constantly off the ground and it wasn’t long until I stacked it. Fear not! There was no time for bleeding and the tape was out. I was soon on my way and up with Matt again. The hills kept coming and the time was ticking, it would soon be dark.

I loved this part. The sun was setting as we made our way down the mountain and into an alpine forest. I was off! Again I was looking forward to this part but with more rain falling I was slightly more cautious this time. We safely made it to one of our final checkpoints out at mile 53 where we were told we had only one small climb left…yeah…all of 850 meters of it! There was a slight change to this route due to a storm they had a couple of weeks prior so they thought it would be nice to send us up a little higher. We were told it was well marked which it was but not with reflective tape. We teamed up with a couple of European runners at this point and it helped having the extra eyes. At this point we were 10k from home with one checkpoint left…10k of hell!

We were informed that runners in front of us had removed the reflective markers so the marshals had to head back up with what ever markers they could find. Otherwise we left the checkpoint with less than 10k thinking the worst was over and with the other two runners deciding to take a break we decided to make our move. Yeah right, let’s have some more mud and a good 700meters of downhill scrambling for good measure. That final 10k probably added a good 3 hours to the overall time. With a few choice words and encouragement from Matt we made it down and on to the lanes and rather bizarrely ended up catching the other two runners who must have found a short cut.

Well that was it, we upped the tempo and pressed on for the finish. After all we didn’t want to lose to some sleepy Europeans.

With one last muddy bank to slide down and civilisation beckoning we were nearly there. A short run around the castle and 23hours later we crossed the line at 04:05 on Sunday morning.

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