The beginning of 2017 came with some adversity for me. An annoying achilles injury coupled with lyme disease and subsequent round of antibiotics left me on the shelf for a few weeks right as my motivation was returning. Just as the training started, I had to take nearly a month off. In planning my 2017 season, I knew I wanted UTMB to be my main objective. The challenges of January wouldn't effect this ambition but for the fact that I needed a 6 point race early in the season in order to even be eligible to make the UTMB start list. The 100 Miles of Istria in Croatia was the logical choice among few options and the race - new to the UTWT circuit - genuinely got me excited. Needless to say, the achilles problem came at a pretty unfortunate time.
In talking with my coach, Jason Koop, we acknowledged the lack of other realistic qualifying options and came to terms with the fact that Istria would likely be a sub-optimal performance. Luckily, about 8 weeks before the race, and with the help of local bodyworkers, I shook the injury and finished the antibiotics with just enough time to tackle a short but substantial block of training. Instead of easing my way back into it, I made it clear to Koop that I intended to get down to business post-haste. Though the zero-to-sixty approach carried some risk, my body responded well and I was able to put together 6 of the best weeks of training I've ever had. The result was that I arrived in Croatia with good fitness, ample freshness, and high motivation - a recipe for success.
The race itself was incredible. Starting on the east-side of the Istria Peninsula, in a town called Labin, we runners worked our way north through the coastal mountains before cutting sharply west towards the finish line in Umag, on the western edge of Istria. The course is an aesthetically pleasing coast-to-coast, point-to-point route traversing the whole peninsula, popping through several seemingly ancient cities and villages along the way. It was a real treat. The first half of the course features more climbing and technicality than the second half, but the entire course is beautiful and engaging.
I ran alone pretty much the whole way and enjoyed a wonderful, drama-free 18 hours of solitude. The only real issue I faced was an unchained guard dog that attacked me in the middle of the night, about 65 miles into the race. The exchange only lasted about 5 seconds but the angry and territorial yellow lab took a good chunk of my rear end as a souvenir. I didn't realize the extent of the damage until many hours later when the sun came up and Harmony noticed the substantial piece of fabric missing from the back of my shorts. Needless to say, at the finish line, after 18 hours of running, I was less than excited to have multiple medical professionals attending to my bare ass. Once the wound was addressed, I had to get rabies and tetanus vaccinations for precaution. In hindsight, it was a pretty hilarious way end an awesome day out.
I really can't recommend this race highly enough. The host town, Umag, is a beautiful and sporty place replete with charming qualities, including nice bike paths for pre-race taper jogs. The weather was ideal, and the food and accommodations were inexpensive. The course is well marked and set up to be incredibly convenient for crew. I relished the ability to see Harmony 11 times over the course of 105 miles. For people coming from the USA, it's a perfect early season destination race with great pre/post-race vacation opportunities. Race Director Alen Paliska and his team put on a great event that I'd love to return to. This is a great addition to the UTWT calendar.
All in all, I'm happy with my race and have a number of takeaways to apply to UTMB preparation. I think the biggest lesson was just how important it is to be motivated and fresh. I've been doing this long enough now that just 6 weeks of training can be sufficient so long as I'm enthusiastic about my goal. It'd been nearly three years since I last finished 100 miler and I'm excited to build off this race towards UTMB.
Thanks for reading!
- TNF Endurus TR trail shoes
- TNF Warp Knit sleeveless tee
- TNF Long Haul shorts
- TNF Japan racing vest
- Red Bull buff, visor and drink
- Compressport crew-length trail socks
- Julbo Aero sunglasses
- Lots and lots of Clif shots, blocks, and bars