Plans have changed a lot this year and I wanted to find a good long hilly run as training for an upcoming event. Searching the web I found a mention of a new mountain race in Poland, in the Krkonose Mountains, called Chojnik marathon, 46km, 2200m ascent.
I drove down Friday after work, getting there around 11pm, at first I couldnt find the village, then I struggled to find the race HQ.. eventually I saw the start line and parked up, spending the night in my tent in 2 foot high grass.
The race started at 9 and it was a lovely sunny morning, from 6 am I was lay out on my thermarest sleeping and reading my book, relaxing ready for the race. I felt tired but I'm in a 6 week block of 90-100 mile weeks so that was expected. The start is always daunting at new events, you are trying to work out who's a threat and everyone looked scarily fit..
I always keep to myself before a race and don't really get caught up in the hype and bullshit at the start line, as the pre-race briefing was in Polish I skipped that.. it turns out he was explaining the course was different to the one advertised and the one on the map I printed out... I ran with a bumbag, we had to carry a phone and ID because of the border. There was 5 food stops, now 4, with plenty of fruit and drinks at each one.
The start was fairly quick, I sat in third an two guys went ahead, it climbed pretty quick and I felt good, it was a few minutes up then a quick descent, where I dropped a place and then a steep climb where I got my place back, already I'd noticed my descending was shite. On the next flat section I caught the lead pair and we ran together up the first major climb of 1000m. The two opened up a gap, but I felt good, comfortable but didn't want to push too hard. The hill must have been about 10% gradient, very runnable, some steeper sections. Despite not having run on a hill in months I felt good climbing and this continued all day.
The temps had now dropped and thunder filled the skies. In the forest it was muggy so I was topless for most of the race.
I followed the two as we climbed over a col, into the Czech republic and a long 3 mile traverse with a final short climb to the highest point on the race, around 1450m elevation. In the cloud I could no longer see the leaders but when I popped out they were gone. From the vantage point i could see a good few km and noone was in sight.. I thought I'd slowed but it turned out they'd missed the turn.
The route was flagged, but only sporadically, but all major turns were flagged, but often only once, so if you missed one you were gone. On this long descent I lost quite a bit of time but I was careful not to get injured. We then entered a technical river bed, covered in moss, wet rocks, roots, it was awful. Soon enough, as I expected I heard foot steps as the lad behind caught me as we approached the third food stop. I soon opened up a gap and as we ascended the 2nd major climb I opened up a good gap which was my aim as I knew he'd catch me but I felt confident if I could stay in touch I'd get him on the final climb to the hill top finish at Chojnik Castle.
This second climb, in the pic below, was steep, walking steep, but we climbed fast, the map showed we had a short traverse then descend right.. as it was the new route went the other way along the ridge, and then down left after a good few K more.. I was a bit thrown here and at the next col, unsure of the route waietd for the lad in second, as I now realised we decending the way up, which wasn't on the map I had.. this was the new route. The long 3 mile descent was very quick but non-technical so we ran together to food stop 4 and for another few km. Then on the latter climbs I really started to push and he fell back. It was then a final quick descent before a short steep climb to the castle, even at the end I felt strong on the climbs so that was pleasing. Getting the win in 4:11.. I reckon sub 4 would be comfortable if I'd have known the route, running a race blind is a gamble.
Great race, well organised, nice prizes, full support and for an on the day price of 160 zloty, around 35 quid, its quite reasonable.
Photos below of the race and finish off the race Facebook page.