Let’s get back on the day before.
Drive to Cheia.
Get the rooms for the crew.
One of them greets us with if only Ceausescu was still alive.
Settle in where I’ll sleep. I take the upper room in spite of the extra floor I know I will have to climb up and down after the
race run. I just hope it’s not noisy.
We go out and grab something to eat. Veggie pizza. I realize this is my second one as I also had the same on Thursday. Pizza this, pizza that, ok. As we stay in silence, I meet with a friend, we exchange friendly talks and after she hears what I am about to pull, she goes: the bears are getting more and more confident and started roaming the village as well. This is really strange as it wasn’t the case a couple of years ago!
I decide immediately to ignore her and tone it down accordingly, as I had done ever since I decided to do this (of course there are bears in the mountains, let’s just hope I don’t bump into one).
Try and get some afternoon nap. I wake up after around one hour. We start prepping the food for all checkpoints but not before he checks the valid to date on what I had packed.
This is expired one month ago, this two weeks ago, this 2 years ago.
We laugh on it as we know what a faulty gel can do to me.
Robert and Maria arrive – I am amazed they got there in time. Food is ready, Robert runs a quick check on it and we go out for more, real, food.
Right after dark, Alex and Antonia also arrive. We eat and run a quick technical meeting, going through do’s and don’ts and head to sleep.
It is a rough night – I keep waking up every 45mins or so looking at my watch, thinking if I missed the alarm. Word to the wise: I never, ever missed one single alarm in my entire life.
0500 – 0km
It’s happening, motherfucker! Buckle up!
Coffee. Water. Recheck the course on my watch. Shower. Gear up. All systems go.
0550 – 0km
Go out. Nobody. Not even a single living soul. I truly believed that at least a couple of idiots would pull the same stunt: act as if the race was still there and still run it.
This gives me a little boost of confidence that I might be able to win it. You can’t come in second if you’re racing alone.
0600 – 0km
I have set an alarm for the past half year at 6am to constantly remind me that this will happen. And it is finally here, the last alarm of the season.
0612 – 3km
It’s still night but not as cold as expected.
Last year I remember shivering at the start, now it’s a bit warmer. Perhaps last year I waited for the start a little longer. I cross the national road as I exit Cheia and enter the woods.
Within the first 500m, my biggest fear comes to life.
Mama bear and 3 cubs right in the middle of the trail. I panic and on the spot decide she only sees a bright light from my headlamp and not a running breakfast.
I back away, hoping this will be my only encounter with wild animals. I take a route I never did before hoping eventually it will lead me back into the course.
It goes from bad to worse and then to plain nothing. I have to go 3km into the wild woods, searching for the way back into the course with the help of my GPS.
I have a GPSMAP 66i from Garmin, two clicks later and I have a new course set on its display. Probably I could do the same on my watch but this is easier and I have live tracking on it so people could watch over me.
Eventually, I swing back at it and head towards the first check point, 50minutes behind schedule with an extra 7km added already.
0740 – 13km
George awaits me wondering what the fuck happened.
Orange juice, water, food bag.
All systems are functional and I feel confident I can make up the difference. As I head towards the next CP I think about last year and mentally compare segments.
Was I running this part? What about this one? I remember for sure here I got overtaken.
Last year there wasn’t much running going on in the canyon part due to sandy soil but I was now able to average some running on it. Nice.