The thing with enthusiasm is that it carries you along at a break neck speed until you hit that that reality check with a monumental thud.
As part of my bid to stretch my wings and do some new events I fell upon 100 Miles of Istria. It ticks a lot of boxes for me: something different and the opportunity to do another ultra out with the UK; another opportunity to run 100 and a trip to Croatia which we have never visited.
I quickly decided that it would be the West Highland Way +. The + being an extra 5 miles, (or not: more about that later); the additional 8k feet of climb; and depending on the definition the potential to be more ‘technical’. I have 2 Munros to climb (and descend) over the first night.
All fine thus far. I have a good handle on what I am taking on; or perhaps not. The reality check has kicked in and frankly, it’s a bit scary at the moment, but I have come over all ‘John Kynaston’ and created a monster spreadsheet that I am taking comfort in. The check points, cumulative and leg distances in miles and KMs, the cumulative and leg ascents and descents in metres and feet are all logged along with estimated pace, timing and stop times.
I am the first to admit I can be mathematically challenged, but it turns out 100 miles is actually a tad over 106.5. Ok, so the ‘Istria 106’ is not such a snappy event name, but that does put a slightly different spin on things for me; my West Highland Way + just became + +, and I am recalling the reason I did not enter the Cateran 110: tortoise + cut-off do not make for a good equation. However, even I should be able to work within a 48 hour cut-off, and let’s face it do I really want to be on my feet continuously for 48 hours.
Time to slip into OCD mode and some detailed planning, starting with my strategy and approach. The options being:
The latter two options require a degree of discipline that I potentially do not possess. Although I can hardly be described as a competitor I do tend to go for it in events and push to do the best I can, so there is a fair chance I would abandon the plan and push on to see how ‘quickly’ I could complete. What are the chances of sleeping even if I do take a longer break at some point? Zero probably. More thinking required.
Support: with plentiful check-points at regular intervals there is no requirement for support. It is up to me. Do I let Mr Sleepy loose with a rental car in deepest, darkest Istria? Perhaps not such a good idea as I conjure up a vision of him falling asleep at the wheel and driving off a cliff. I can self-support and he can wait at the finish (where our accommodation is) and worry about me running off a cliff instead; or more likely enjoying the sunshine, some sight-seeing, a few beers and some quality kip. Right let’s take a rain check on that one for now.
Nutrition and hydration next: which is going to be a vital component of a successful race. I don’t want a repeat of the WHW where a lack of calories combined with sleep deprivation had me stumbling across the Lairig Mor dizzy and falling asleep on my feet. Much rather a repeat of Glenmore 24 where proper fuelling and hydration kept energy levels even and sleep at bay enabling me to bag my 100 miles.
The event does not operate the type of drop bag system that I am used to. There is only a single checkpoint where a drop bag will be available. Other than that I will be dependent on what I can carry and the supplies provided by the organisers.
No or very few of staples and favourites are likely to be available: no cheesy mash, no rice pudding, and no fruit salad. I will be able to take some of my favourites with me and to carry in my pack and put in my drop bag but it will not be my normal plan/routine. Whilst I have run in and managed perfectly well in similar circumstances it has been shorter distances. I will need to adapt my nutrition and introduce a greater variety of foods and fluids to ensure that I can consume enough calories and fluids for the duration.
It is not only the food that I will have to think carefully about, I will need to be very smart in terms if kit. Just like in the Scottish highlands the weather can be changeable and harsh. Last year they had snow and blizzards in the mountains resulting in a number of DNFs and some cases of mild hypothermia. The kit I wear and carry will have to cope with everything from warm and sunny to wind, rain, snow and even blizzard conditions: a typical day up the West Highland Way then, but without a boot full of clothing to dip into.
One thing is for sure, this is going to be an adventure and a fairly epic one at that. Sometimes the OCD comes in handy.
The route takes runners North from Labin and then West over to Umag.