The following entry was made more than 6 months after the race. It has been fact checked with some of the people involved but it is subject to my own perception of time and space. Don’t hold me accountable to the last drop.

Since I started trail running and going into the mountains, the Transylvania 100 race had a certain panache, something able to shatter anyone that would dare not to take it seriously. It takes place roughly around the end of May in the Bucegi mountains and the weather has been less than ideal every year. Runners are rained upon right from the start and until the finish line, a real suffer fest considering you are climbing abit (the 80k goes up to Omu peak, 2504m; the 100k goes up to Omu – twice).

Some technical data from their website:

Category: very difficult ultra-marathon
Distance: 81 kilometres
Elevation gain: 4910 metres
Start: 05:00 am (Bran Castle)
Time limit: 25 hours

Viorel Adam, a guy I met at 321sport and that has taught me a lot about mountain runing in my infancy once did it back in 2017. It was a shit show especially because of the rain – no matter how many jackets you change and how performant your GORE-TEX is – it’s a real struggle.

I signed up for it back in 2019 as a training race for the upcoming Ciucas X3 in September but due to heavy snowfall in the week prior, the course changed and got roughly 64-65k in the end. I did not get any snow spikes for the ice (as per their mandatory equipment) but I recall clear as the blue sky telling myself man, should have gotten those spikes by the time we got to those exposed patches.

I remember running in some new shoes from La Sportiva Crossover 2.0 GTX which seemed like a really neat choice at that time. Until they weren’t. Remembering being dry, a little water was picked up, and from there, it was only downhill. Not only the water kept pouring in (either from my waterproof pants) or from the sweat itself, it was just a bad call. And they were also heavy as fuuuuck. Got to km30 in front of Razvan Chelu and couldn’t wait but change my socks (back then I carried socks in my backpack!!!) then changed them again at km 40 at my drop bag. One thing led to another, just swore to myself never again in GTX footwear. Better to drain the water and keep the soles comfy (funny thing is these shoes actually helped me a lot for my Rapha 500 attempt in 2021, while we traveled to Brasov, they were the only ones that managed to keep me dry).

2020 was off the table with COVID in full swing.

2021 was a bad year, barely managed to wrap my head around things (hence bonked at Tryavna #neverforget).

2022 is such a mental fog. I remember leaving our place in Brasov, Laura and George sleeping in with the plan for them to follow along a little later. George did the 30k. Laura met me at Bolboci (km40, dropbag assistance). Something was already off that morning leaving with plenty of time to meet Razvan Gugila (R.G.) in Bran. Left from Schei area in Brasov and drove to the city’s borders when I get pulled over. The policeman asked for my papers, told him they’re in the trunk. I get out, go to the back and he asks me: aren’t you a little cold? seing me in 12 inch shorts. Then it hit me:

Fuck! The overpants!

Every race has a list of mandatory equipment: trail running shoes (yeap, they specify that!), wind jacket, rain jacket (some races even specify how it has to be built, what kind of stitching, how many Schmerbers are enough), warm / cold weather versions of the kits etc. The overpants are the most common item and managed to forget them.

After a while of racing and a while of running you come to a point where you stop carrying bloatware (remember the socks?), look a little to your headlamp weight, perhaps stick with just one headlamp and one extra set of batteries instead of two headlamps – some shit like that. You optimize your pack based on your skill and knowledge and most important, based on your race plan. If you know you’re gonna spend two nights in the woods, don’t go out with just one headlamp with 50% battery – that’s stupid.

One thing was sure: those overpants were NOT something to leave behind considering what was ahead.

-checkpoint mafia

-2022 stop at Bolboci

And just like that, my morning went from zero to hero in record time. The little time was to spare went into ashes. Came back home, took the pants and then started driving again to Bran but now 25min late. Finally arived in Bran, picked up R.G., went to the start line, took a breath of fresh morning air and process:

Four! Three! Two! One! Goooo!

A race recap from 2022 would be of no service to anyone. I can remember some of the keypoints and I surely remember meeting Laura halfway through it. Then remember at Moieciu getting into the aid station and looking for my team but there was no sign of them.

Huh! Must have misunderstood. Eat a little and leave. While I leave, Laura and George just come in and tell me I’m more than 40mins earlier than I should have been at that checkpoint. Lucky me.

After 2019 I had little to no desire to come back to Transylvania 100. It was nice but nothing to die for. However, in the beginning of 2022, Bogdan asked if I’d do it again and we could go run it together. As a part time idiot but full time retard with no self control and just looking for something to kill me, I immediately said yes! . Unfortunately, he got injured early into the season and we had to part ways. Could have post-poned my race tax to 2023. Could have just not show up at the start line but… where’s the fun in that?

Ran 2022 alone looking forward to 2023 where we could actually run it together.

Leaping forward to 2023, we manage to get together in Bran. Laura could no longer come but George did by Friday night as technical support.

Travel to Brasov by Train. Get a haircut. Run some local arrends. Meet with Robert and his mother. We chat a little. Life seems like a Bob Marley song:

Sun is shining, the weather is sweetMake you want to move your dancing feetTo the rescue, here i amWant you to know just if you canWhere I stand

Bob Marley – Sun is shining

We part ways and set out to meet Bogdan and head towards Bran. We check in our hostel. Not great, not terrible. I know I’m a little picky the first night but considering my state for the 2nd night, anything will suffice.

We get into town, go to sport expo, get our BIBs, nothing special, everybody wondering of how the weather will hold up. Check for a local place to have some pizza, dine in, tune out and just chill.

George joins us. We set back to our hotel and start planning bags of food and dropbag and whatnot. We zoom out for the night.

Saturday, 03:45, my alarm goes off. Go time. I’m once again chill as hell and looking forward to our next adventure laying ahead. I can feel a little tension from Bogdan but just settle for just his way of pre-race blues, he’ll get over it once we set off. Have a light breakfast and set for the start line. Get at the front of the pack right away and realize we still have a couple of minutes to spare.

I don’t get to think a little too much of it and this tall, muscular, ready-for-war equiped guy comes right up to me. Thinking this is not the place nor the time to pick up a fight with my haters but if it comes down to it, it’s his funeral.

The dude comes up to me and blabs something. He’s so well built and I start to ask myself if I even stand a chance at a 1 on 1.

Maybe if I sucker punch the fucker is my only chance.

I take a second and think that it might not be the case, lean my right ear knowing damn right my left side was ready for a full-on boxing match.

He comes closer and tells me he follows me on social media and he really looks up to me.

My heart crumbles. I’m a idiot. I shake his hand, thank him for his kind words and go back in my shell.

The gun goes off. 5 am. We start running.

Start → Cabana Malaiesti, 13km, 1450m+

We depart from Bran Castle. The course takes two sharp rights then sets off into the village. It’s still night. My headlamp is off. There’s plenty of light from the light posts. There’s plenty of light from the other runners. We turn from tarmac to country road but feel little to no dust coming into my nostrils. No caughing, no fog. I look ahead and see just a couple of guys within reach. This is too fast, where’s the rush? I tell myself but hold it steady. We start climbing. My body is online and I feel light. I see R.G. going shoulder to shoulder with me. We salute each other and wish each other well. We enter the woods and the first climb comes. Decide to wait for Bogdan as there’s plenty of course to go, no need to go that fast.

He catches up to me with Peter and Florin along. I will name them The Blues Brothers from now on due to the musical bond we’ve set on this climb. Bare with me.

I salute all three of them and crack some light jokes about where’s the rush and all that fuzz.

We start climbing. This first climb is highly runnable but it seems as a bad idea to do so that early into the race. There’s plenty of running to go, hold your horses I keep telling myself. Seing The Blues Brothers power hiking their way up the slope I see no reason not to follow along and hold it steady. Spirits are running high, the race is still early, we’re just warming up.

Every ultra has its anthem. This one, for no particular reason, my brain decided to set it to Mihaela Runceanu – Fericirea are chipul tău. I sing the chorus for them as we can all face the going got a little tougher.

It’s runnable until it’s not.

We share this climb up Tiganesti Refuge and it was indeed easier doing it together. We then set appart and continue with the rest of the pack. I can eat, drink, the sun is up, everything’s spot on.

Get to Malaiesti Cabin and decide to wait again for The Blues Brothers and Bogdan.

-highly runnable course

Cabana Malaiesti → Vf. Omu, 4km, 700m+

-highly runnable course

I enjoy the morning sun and the view. For the first time I regret not carrying a smart phone. Man, this is awesome as I look up the mountains and what lays ahead. After a while, The Blues Brothers catch up to me. They’re looking great and I dwell a little about joining them further on but decide to hold for Bogdan knowing it’s highly runnable from here on. We part ways and this will be our last encounter until the finish.

Bogdan finally reaches the CP but he’s not looking great. He’s a little tired, a little pale, a little off with everything. However, none of these matter, the thing just started and we cruise along up to Omu trying my best to cheer things up. I play the fool all along and settle with another runner along with us. Not judging by the looks but by the breath. The dude’s grasping waaaay to hard for air so early into the race. The effort is too intense, he’ll DNF by the next CP.

Unaware that the wrong carcass was being looked upon.

We keep pushing, the climb gets steeper but still hike-able. I’m scared of breaking my poles into the snow as the carbon gets very brittle especially when cold. Back in 2022 I’ve seen with my own eyes two guys that broke their carbon poles on the climb to Omu – even if they had another set waiting for the at Pestera, still not cool.

Bogdan is rapidly deteriorating and I get the weird feeling that the worst is still yet to come. If he’s not doing great here, above 2000m+ shit will most likely hit the fan. He doesn’t talk that much anymore, he doesn’t react to jokes (good or bad), things are not looking bright. Let him carry his cross and set adrift. Fly by Omu checkpoint and then wait for him again.

Just a couple of minutes later, the realization dawned that this might have been the first critical error.

Even if the slopes are snowy and the temperatures above 2500m+ were well under 0 °C with soul-sucking gusts of wind, still wait for him. Nah, it’s ok, just a couple more moments and he’ll be here. Just a couple more moments. But the moments came and went, runners passed and still no sign of him. Knew for sure he did finish the climb and there’s no other way down. Even if he’ll DNF, there’s no ride from Omu, he still has to reach our next checkpoint, Pestera.

Moments felt like minutes, minutes like hours. There is no protection from the 12-inch shorts and wind jacket. Crawling behind a rock for shelter, consideration is given to opening the survival blanket. Later, the realization comes that it’s easier to proceed onward and wait at a lower altitude. My feet are frozen. I start shaking as my body cools down. Set a cutoff for another couple of minutes, if he doesn’t come, i’m out.

Within tens of seconds to spare, he finally shows up but dead more than alive. We start chatting and light jogging the downhill, he doesn’t feel good – the high altitude got to him.

Because I’ve had so much still time, my body temperature was still way below my target. Set apart once again and push a little harder so that I can get underneath the clouds and warm up a little. Couple of kms later I have my break in the weather and wait once again. Runners pass, fast runners, slow runners, all sorts of runners. The morning is looking great and I’m still looking forward for the day ahead. He catches up to me, slightly better. OK, now we can start running and head towards Pestera checkpoint. We chat and he keeps telling me how off he feels but I ignore him and put it on the fact that he has high altitude sickness.

Nothing but a scratch, there’s still a lot of race ahead.

CP Pestera.

Altitude: 1650m

Dist. from start: 26.2km

Elev gain: 2450 m+

Elevation loss: 1580 m-

Race time: 5 hrs, 28 mins

We arrive into Pestera checkpoint and I see one familiar face, one dude from Adidas Runners but have no clue what his name is. He knows me, helps me with my flasks and offers me some hot soup. Try eating some but it seems pretty tasteless and settle for some olives, chips. Not that happy about our progress but it’s an adventure we both set out to and we still have plenty of time to finish it. I just hope he can still wrap his head around what’s laying up ahead considering we’re not even halfway through it.

He follows up shortly into the CP.

-I’m (…).

-You’re what?

-I’m (…)

I don’t understand much of it and take it as he was just nagging.

Pestera → Piatra Arsa, 15.5km, 750m+, 920m-


We share a friendly hug and let him be. The realization sets in that race just started and this was my perfect warm up. Take on a simple mantra for the next hours: everybody hurts, keep moving and keep quiet.

From Pestera the climb up to Piatra Arsa is highly runnable but only manage to power hike my way through it. Manage to pass one girl, wish her all the best and hold it together. Pass Piatra Arsa and after around 1km on the downhill realize I’m dead lost. My HR was at 190 and couldn’t think clearly. OK, time to regroup. Find my way to the right course and hold on to my mantra hoping he’ll soon catch up and it was just a bleep. Still couldn’t see him but could have sworn he was just a few minutes behind. Bad thoughts started creeping in, what if he is seriously ill? What if he needs me? What if I could have pushed a little harder to help him out?

It didn’t matter. What mattered was seing runners in front of me getting closer and closer. Catching up to them. Then leaving them behind.

He’ll catch up, he’s a big boy!

Piatra Arsa → Bolboci, 15.5km, 750m+, 920m-

Kept pushing thinking only to get to Bolboci in one piece and not fully shatter my liver. Already twelve white Maurtens in and a little afraid to have anymore even if they gave me a much needed energy boost. Stick with the black ones and keep pushing. There are some rivers you need to cross. No matter how hard I tried not to get my feet wet, I failed and ended up facing the truth: better take them in full swing than trying to avoid them. End up running for a while with a dude and a girl. We share a few words but nothing fancy. Think the dude was hitting on her. Talking about timing.

Couldn’t wait to meet George at Bolboci and have my drop-bag with some in-house hot soup and fresh shoes. But to my surprise, getting in I see both George and Bogdan.

-a few moments later I found out there shall be no running buddy

I’m shattered. My brain is foggy. Hungry but want to throw up. Tired but eager to go. In such a weird mental state that I don’t even have the time to process how he got there, tell myself that he’s just a stronger runner and he knows better.

Eat my soup and complain about the pasta in it.

We just got here, you’re earlier than your target time George blabs while taking care of my backpack

Have trouble eating my long lusted soup. The pasta is crunchy and the water is warm-ish but not enough to be of any use. Can’t complain though, suck it up and move on.

Munch on the pasta long enough to turn it into some some sort of biscuit porrige and wash it off with cola.

I leave the CP still dizzy but happy we regrouped – I could use a companion right now knowing damn right from both 2019 and 2022 what a shitshow of a segment we’re facing to Moieciu de Sus checkpoint.

We stray away. We run shoulder to shoulder. A couple of hundred meters in I can’t stop but notice Bogdan has no running vest:

-You left you vest in the checkpoint!

-What vest? 

-Your running vest! Go grab it, I’ll wait.

-Dude, I dropped out at Pestera.

Death before DNF. So he has chosen death. A while back. I was racing alone since Pestera, driving myself into the ground meter by meter thinking of waiting. Life is a funny thing indeed.

Grateful for not knowing about his dropout before reaching the checkpoint, might have chosen death as well. But he somewhat managed to save me.

Bolboci → Moieciu de Sus, 18.9km, 880m+, 1325m-

Came to the realization I was all alone on this segment which scared me the most. Hate this segment back from the past years. I am tired, food doesn’t go in as it should. Hidration feels futile. Start the climb with a girl right up my ass. She’s jogging the flats, powerhiking the uphills. Keep going back to my mantra: everybody hurts, keep moving and keep quiet. We finish the climb and go out the forrest, leave her behind feeling a little joy that there’s some distance in between us.

But pushing so hard has taken it’s toll. Now death is up my ass. See no point in continuing. My sub 14hr target time has faded away. Feel kicks in my liver everytime my heart rate went above 140bpms even though I stopped with the caffeine gels. Called Cristina, had a chat from my prison phone. It was a shitty connection but her voice helped a lot.

-prison phone

Somehow manage to get to Saua Strunga knowing damn well three things:

a/ the 80k meets the 50k course. Some of the 50k runners are still actually running. I can pick my pacer out of them

b/ the weather for the next hours turned sour. Nothing to worry but enough for the unexperienced to stray away by simply watching the weather. The 80k runners have the possibility to switch to 50k just a few kms down the trail, might win some places by others simply giving up this shitshow

c/ there’s plenty of downhill running from here, the worst has passed

The 50k pacers are extremely helpful. They’re runners from the last 3rd of the pack or even the last quarter. Average looking Janes and Joes fighting their own battles. My strategy works like a charm: their pace is ideal to keep my mind in the game, some 80k runners tap out for the 50k and the downhill is there as known. Meet some tourists on their way up the mountain, get some intel about the runners in front of me, wether they were running or not, were they happy, talkative, strugling, limping etc.

Such intel is always good not necesarily to attack but just to keep my mind in the right spot. But it’s also good to help one attack.

Rain begins just as lower altitude is reached. It’s pleasant, it washes off some of the built-up salt on my face. Just hope I get to Moieciu after George and not viceversa.

Moieciu de Sus → Poiana Gutanu, 8km, 720m+, 80m-

Get into the CP. My brain is still foggy but somewhat happy of the amount of running pulled off from the last section. George comes into view, and to my surprise, Iluc and Sabina are there also. I’m amazed, asked George if Iluc was actually there. But there he was with his unmistakable smile. Try and keep a strong posture but George knows me better – he can see I’m suffering. Then I start to complain about the next climb and how dead I am and how much it has shattered me. Out of the blue Iluc goes:

Can I come?

Can’t believe my ears. Just willing to die and in look of any sort of pacers instead of the trees and there he was with that dumb smile, well rested and with little to no problem to do the next segment together. My only fear was of his new road shoes and the amount of dirt he’ll get onto them but he seemed cool about it, the least of his problems.

Thank Sabina for letting him out to do this and we get out thinking of how not to get caught while having a pacer. Think to myself if I get another runner along, it’s still a pacer and take that as a enough reason to proceed. We get up and light jog our way out of the checkpoint. Keep thinking man, this is easy, I can go on for years after having my checkpoint and seing my crew.

Man, this is easy.

Until it wasn’t.

The climb started. Iluc was blazing the uphills, I could barely walk. Struggled to keep pace. Everybody hurts, keep moving and keep quiet.

We talk bullshit but somewhat manage to advance our way through it. Prior to the last checkpoint we try and avoid any issues with the organizers. He sets off way in front of me and settle to not know each other in case anybody asks. I get to Poiana Gutanu checkpoint, he takes off just as I arrive but nobody seemed to give a rats ass about my pacer, my plan or anything like that. They just looked after me, asked me if I was OK and carried on. Once again, we meet with the 50k course and stay together until the finish.

-Iluc at his end

Poiana Gutanu → Finish, 12km, 350m+, 1200m-

After leaving the checkpoint, we regroup just a couple of hundred meters later. We’re jogging lightly, I’m tired but somewhat happy it will be all over soon. We share once again the course with the 50k runners, I have plenty of pacers. Just when I thought this couldn’t get any better, I see a dude hugging a tree on a downhill. To my surprise, it’s Florin (a colleague from 321sport Thursday’s track sessions), munching his way through the last bit of his 50k course.

We let him know how fucked he is as we will finish this together. He tells me his quads have blown up but then again, after almost 13 hours of constantly telling myself everybody hurts, keep moving, keep quiet his words had next to no impact on me. And we set off for the finish, easily passing runners, hoping I’m pushing hard enough so I can overpass any 80k runners along the way. It was not the case and I’ll find out after the finish line The Blues Brothers and R.G. teamed up and packed together for the finish line. They finished just 9 minutes ahead of me.

-Florin blazing his way through it

-a few meters from the end

-at my end

-The Blues Brothers & Razvan Gugila at their end

-the end


Transylvania 100 is a nice ultra and it’s a great opportunity to run in the Bucegi mountains so early into the season. For 2024 I won’t race the 80k again with Istria and Lavaredo so close to it but there’s always an easy 50k or even 30k to get the legs moving.

Stay safe.

Lightroom filters by George Noroc.

Death before DNF!

P.S.: I asked Florin of a few words of his experience, below:

Transylvania 50k – km 45: tired, sweaty, questioning life choices. Still 7km to go and just 25 minutes to meet last year’s time. Not a chance! So I decided to take a proper snack break instead of swallowing a gel while running.

As I was calmly standing in the woods, I heard a familiar voice:

“Who’s this?”

It was Ergo, running the 80k race!

-“Cool! Let’s cheer him on.” I said to myself.

But right next to me, he said: “Why did you stop?! Go, run!” I felt like a student caught unprepared by the teacher.

I joined him and Iluc fearing the cramps will appear, as in any race before. I thought they’d leave me in the dust after a few kilometres and I could peacefully hike to the finish. But no! I was a prisoner: Ergo in front, Iluc behind. We reached a muddy section and Iluc, though wearing asphalt running shoes, was breathing down my neck and casually filming us! There was no escape!

So… I pushed with them. Between jokes and encouragements, I forgot about fatigue and the possibility of cramps. I was even curious how many kilometers I could endure at this pace. And where did this energy reserve come from?
We successfully tackled the last obstacle (the stairs in the castle courtyard) and crossed the finish line.

Many times after the race I’ve thought about how I managed to run the last 7km at the same pace as the first 2km. Clearly, the limits were only in my mind. And the mental limits come before the physical ones.
This lesson proved valuable in the following races, where each time I felt like giving up, I imagined Ergo appearing out of the blue, saying:

-“When you feel you can’t anymore, you can a little bit more.”