Vipava Valley, Slovenia, the weekend from Friday, 29th of October to Sunday 31st, 2021.
The event was postponed several times from the original time on the last weekend of April 2020. Then I entered for the 100 K distance, called The Centurion.
It's a 103 kilometers long trail event with almost 5,000 meters of vertical climb.
This weekend it was time to go for a walk in the Vipava Valley park, finally.
My personal goal was to have fun all the way. The time wasn't important since this was not a race, at least not for me.
The events started in Ajdovščina at 23:30 on Friday. Here's the start area inside the Ajdovščina castle.
From Ajdovščina we were running to the source of river Hubelj and continued along the tarmac paths. Soon we started to climb. It was relatively warm at 7 degrees in the middle of the night. I dressed cautiously in a long-sleeved winter undershirt, long-sleeved running vest, long thighs, my brand new running gloves, a hat, and a headlamp.
It was very hot very soon. The arrival to Otlica, kilometer 13, already Saturday at 1:45, where the first aid station was, was a welcoming intermezzo in our climb up the hill.
Fast forward and we are at the third station below Mala Gora, kilometer 32 at 6:40 am. In between were the mountain tops of Kovk, Veliki Golak, and Čaven. I was actually running for the first 20 kilometers and had a great pace. Then the real difficult climb started and my pace dropped to a hike. The higher we got the colder it was. Fortunately, the wind was not strong.
Veliki Golak was the highest point on our journey with almost 1,500 meters above sea level. To be honest, reaching these tops was an anticlimax because you couldn't enjoy the view. It was like:
"OK, we are at the top now."
"OK, we go down again."
During the night, when we were climbing up the slopes, I often switched the side of the trail because there were big pools of slippery leaves and we were searching for secure footsteps all the time.
Yet, this station was great. Loud rock music, even louder volunteers, excellent pancakes. Marvelous.
Then it was out on the trail again. The rocks were loose, the leaves were plentiful. You really had to judge carefully every step you took.
7:10 am, finally the sun peeked above the ridge behind us. It was beautiful dawn. Luckily, I reached the top of Kucelj, kilometer 33, at the best possible moment to enjoy the view.
I took several photos and savored the moment. A fellow runner from Pordenone, Italy, commented: "This is why we came here." True, so true!
We continued at a leisurely pace toward the northwest following the narrow path below the main ridge. The trail was technically demanding and didn't want to bring us down to the valley at all.
At 8 am I allowed myself another longer stop to enjoy the view.
On the next part of the journey, the path was carved in the rock, literally. To the right, the cliff and the ridge, to the left the valley and the drop.
Standing at the edge and looking down to a drop of at least 800 meters. It was lovely.
Good morning, world. This is why and how we are alive!
Moving on I noticed a church on a hilltop below the path. Vitovlje. It was 9 am.
The path lost its cliffness effect yet it was still technically very demanding.
20 minutes later I was already at Vitovlje aid station, kilometer 41. It was the first time limit check with cutoff at 12 hours into the run. I was well on the safe side with 9:50 needed for almost a marathon distance.
Yes, they had pancakes too. And delicious coffee. I took two cups of it, sat at the bench in front of the ex-church, and savored the view, this character included.
Moving on and descending into the valley. It was high time to come down to the lowlands.
Another 20 minutes later I was amazed while looking back up, at the rocks we came from and passed by.
The dullest stretch began here. Running and walking by the wine yards with nothing special to report on, passing villages, reaching civilization and asphalt, running by river Vipava, ... It all went by in a breeze.
At 11 am it was time for another steep climb. It was short and pleasant yet the steepest of the trail so far. Surprisingly in the woods and not high in the mountains.
At 11 am, I stopped and sat on the log blocking the path to ponder whereupon I was and whether I wish to continue. I checked the map to realize I was minutes away from the next station at Preserje, kilometer 56.
11:30 pm. Station Preserje above the steep climb. It served at a station for both 100 K and 10 0miles runs. For me, it signified the end of the road. A long time ago, at kilometers 25 I started pondering the issues of whether I will push it to the bitter end or should I rather DNF in style?
I realized then, as the proven ultrarunning saying goes, the first half is in your legs while the second half is in your head. Isn't it so, @rthelly?
Well, I reasoned like this:
- there are another 47 kilometers to the finish and I will arrive in the dead of the second night on the trail,
- there are 24 kilometers to the next drop-out possibility at the Podnanos station,
- I already did 56 kilometers and climbed 3,000 meters and was on the road for 12 hours,
- I don't need to prove anything to anybody, myself included,
- I simply wanted to come to the finish area in Vipava during the daytime, to enjoy time with my family and friends, to have a beer in good company.
So I DNF-ed with an easy heart.
The shack where the aid station was was formerly a biker meeting point with many wild parties I guess. The collection of empty bottles is proof enough.
I took another cup of coffee, ate some bread with tomatoes, drank a lot of tea, took a mattress, put it outside on the ground, and enjoyed a nap under the warm sun.
This is how I waited for the van to bring me and three other DNF-ed runners to the finish area in Vipava where my family already waited.
The elevation profile graph shows that it was a lot of climbing indeed. Climbing includes descending too which was a bigger nuisance for my bad right knee. I am afraid to run down quickly for two reasons:
- you can never know when the rock under your foot will turn and surprise you,
- you don't know what's hidden under the heaps of leaves.
This is the Karst regions we were traveling through. A lot of stones and rocks and generally demanding paths to thread on. Some parts of the trail were particularly annoying. For example, at least four kilometers long and winding down mulatiera road, Rocks and stones and stones and rock where you had to judge every step you took. Mulatieras are high mountain roads built by Italian army forces during the Big War. They were crazy for those.
The map shows half of the loop that I did. 56 kilometers, 3,00. meters of climb, 12 hours of run, and hike.
The conclusion? It was a great day overall. Lovely trails, always friendly volunteers (thank you, thank you, tank you), beautiful views, many paths I walked on for the first time, some great yet brief conversations with fellow runners from Slovenia, Italy, Holland, Czechia, a very pleasant afternoon at the finish, 56 kilometers done. A fulfilling day.
Oh yes, since the start was at 23:30 I was awake a lot. From Friday at 7 am to Saturday at 10 pm with two power naps squeezed in. Around 39 hours of being awake is a lot and not healthy!
As for the unfinished business. The next Ultra Trail Vipava Valley event is in May 2022. I already entered for the 50 K event! The start will be at 8 am and this time I promise you I will finish it and still have enough time to party on. The trail will be the second part of the one I didn't continue on Saturday. In a way, it will be a 100 K run in two parts :)
Thank you for following my ramblings :)
The @pinmapple spot marks the Vitivlje church which is featured in the cover photo.
Proof of Run on Strava
All the physical activity data that I display in my @exhaust and @actifit reports is gathered with the help of Coros Pace sports watch and displayed with Coros app.