Engineering Manager | Trail Runner | Stockholm, Sweden

Vértes Terep Ultramaraton

This ultra distance trail race took place in Vértes, a hilly area lying some fifty kilometres off of Budapest. It was my second proper trail run event and the first that could be classified as an ultra distance. (Wikipedia says any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometres (26.219 mi) qualifies as an ultramarathon.) The official distance was measured at 50.6 kilometres with 1245 metres of height gain. The cutoff time was set at 8 hours with additional time limits for the aid stations.

Despite the summer-like weather of the preceding days a cold spell was forecast for the race day with a possibility for rain even until the last minute. In reality the sun started to break through the clouds even before the 9 am starting time and continued to shine all day long. My tights and long-sleeve T-shirt was okay for the start but I became somewhat overheated towards the end. With the knee-high compression socks I think, in retrospect, that I could have gotten away with wearing shorts and a short-sleeved T-shirt only. To be on the safe side I even carried a jacket in my backpack.

The first nine kilometres were known to me as we’ve run the course of the half-marathon race the previous week with Fanni in order for her to be familiar with the route. It was a definite advantage to know which uphill parts were steeper and how long they lasted. Afterwards the unknown trails were a little harder to judge especially since the itinerary was missing the height profile.

Up until the halfway point the course was the same for the marathon and ultra distance runners. The split occurred at the end of the village of Várgesztes. Surprisingly there was no crew member to guide the runners at this very crucial point which caused a bit of a confusion. Even though I remembered which trail to follow some marathoner girls tried to convince me to go the other way. Also it was quite a different experience to suddenly find myself absolutely alone in the woods. Up until that point I ran surrounded by people no farther than a couple of meters in front of me and behind. Left to my own devices it became important to look for the ribbons indicating the route as I could no longer rely on simply following the herd. This was the point I put on some music, too, to battle the oppressing solitude.

I didn’t meet any other runner until the third aid station save some locals who guided me when I entered Vérteskozma and both the trail markers and the ribbons disappeared. The crew told me that despite how it looked I was in fact in the middle of the pack. It was very encouraging to hear so I soldiered on.

I lost some time after that trying to send a sign of life to Fanni but realised that there was absolutely no cellphone reception in the area. The trail continued in some kind of crevice with a slight incline. I managed to keep a steady pace and took over some others who resorted to hiking. When I reached halfway to the next aid station I also managed to place a call to ensure I was okay.

I was quite satisfied with my performance mostly taking over people either by power hiking on inclines faster than them or simply being able to keep running instead of walking. The only people who took over me were ones we’ve kept switching places with depending on the conditions.

I didn’t spend too much time at aid stations just asked for a sip of coke then had my flask refilled at first with isotonic drink then simply with water. The first three times I had some slices of salami and cheese, too, afterwards I just drank. I had four gels with me I planned to eat every ten kilometres but ended up only having two. Fanni also supplied me with a magnesium and an energy shot (carb liquid). The former I drank halfway, the latter after about 30 kilometres instead of a gel. It felt easier to digest than the jam-like gels.

Despite the magnesium shot I started to develop cramps in the back of my right thigh for the last ten kilometres. Apparently I could have stacked up a larger dose of that instead of the gels. Other than the intermittent cramps the heat bothered me the most in the end where the route went through some open areas with direct sunlight. The last few kilometres I kept glancing back because someone was advancing on me which gave me a boost so powerful I almost caught up with the person in front of me.

I finished with 6:03:44, just a little over six hours. At the time I felt satisfied, however, today the official results came and it was somewhat disheartening to realise that I ended up only 81st out of the 106 that finished. There were only twelve women but nine of them had a better time than me as well placing me 90th out of 118 altogether. There is a definite room for improvement.