21 Nisan 2016 Perşembe

İznik Mountain Ultra Marathon 50K Report 2016

What is İznik Ultra? An ultra marathon that takes place in İznik, Turkey. For a better explanation than mine, here is the link: 

İznik is a very old settlement in northwestern Anatolia, historically known as Nicea or Nicaea. The city is surrounded with ancient walls, towers, gates and ruins of mosques, baths and ancient houses which have been relatively preserved. The history of the city dates back to Ottoman Empire, Byzantine period, Roman period and even further. Even some ecumenical councils were held here in the early history of the Christian Church. İznik is famous for its world-wide known chinawares and ceramics.

Piri Reis's Galleon from http://www.iznikcinievi.com/

If it is your first time in İznik, it is strongly recommended to wander around the city center and check the local stores selling ceramics, olives and ornaments while visiting the historical tourist attractions. 

The photographs used below are taken from the event's website. The crazy girl with a pink half cap may be the author of this blog!!:)) It is not clear in the photos but after the race i have spotted a sticker on my half cap. It was a Granny Smith apple sticker?!? I have no idea where that came from but I ran 50K with it on my cap, i am such an unconscious fruit advertiser :)))

So, this race has several options like 5K, 15K, 50K, 80K and 130K. The runners in fact  run around some portions of Lake İznik whose view from air is below:

The İznik Lake

Of course, runners do not just run merely around a lake for God's sake, who am i kidding? The terrain involves many difficulties such as steep hills, narrow paths, paths right in the heart of forests and creek crossings. In short, the path is technical, i mean hell yeah technical, especially the 50K part, which is also the last part for 80K and 130K. 

So, I ran my first 50K here last weekend in 7 hours and 34 minutes. What an experience for me!!! At the finish line, I felt such an enormous self-esteem that i might have grown taller several inches, which would be nice if it were real :))) 

They took us from İznik center to Narlıca, the start of 50K so that we could run back to İznik center. There were many people around, people chatting, hugging each other, drones flying above us and an unlimited amount of selfies taken for sure. Immediately, i started to chat with people as well. During race days, i can not believe how chatty i might become. In front of us, there were the villagers staring at us as if we were astranauts from NASA. Actually, each year they are getting more and more used to these weirdly dressed running people struggling to finish insane kilometers. Soon, it was time to gather for the start. I had no excitement at all, i was just happy, very happy much like a jumping puppy. I do not know if it's from the vitamin D from the sun or the happy crowd. But at each start line, all i feel is stupidly pure joy far from any kind of stress at all. 

I started very slowly, which caused a huge pile of runners ahead of me. We ran uphill a little. The truth is i do not run uphill in general. I only run uphilll when i spot a photographer :)) There, i must have seen one. 

Some crazy runners

Meanwhile, i saw many people gathered waiting. I realized that the path down was so narrow that people had to go one by one. It was a bit boring to wait that line since many of the runners ahead of me seemed to be a bit inexperienced for the difficult downhill path. I don't know where that arrogant thought of me considering myself more experienced! came from, from boredom probably :)))

Thankfully, I could reach that path and on the way down a rock rolling down hit my calf. To the surprise of people shouting above to warn me, i had no pain at all. But my new pink BV Sport compression calf sleeves had gotten dirty!!! It is difficult to be a woman sometimes :))) I had to deal with the truth that they would get dirty and even worn out sometime, I pulled myself together and went on :))). The whole path for the race was very carefully signed with reflective markers. However, some of the villagers, especially one of them called the village idiot, loved collecting them. While we were going downhill on the narrow path, one mentioned that we should be more careful on following signs, i happened to mention this fatal hobby of the village idiot, which we had been told during prerace briefing. Suddenly, one man behind me claimed that the village idiot in fact could be suffering from autism and we should be more cautious while talking about such people. He kept on talking like that for a while. Actually, i had no idea that the village idiot could be suffering from autism and probably neither did he. But he could have a friend or relative in that condition, which could cause him to be more sensitive. Besides, the last thing i would want would be to tease autistic people or people with any kinds of such sufferings. I promised myself not to mention village idiots to anyone forever and kept on moving. 

I kept on to run nice paths. It was like a festival of different tones of green colors that my eyes kept staring at. Thank Godness, the 50K race did not involve any water crossings unlike 80K or 130K. Since i was wearing Gore-Tex Asics Fuji Trainers, i felt lucky for this.

The first CP was at Müşküle, a nice village whose inhabitants consisted of elderly women, men and children giving runners cheerful high fives. They kept giving us sincere invitations to have a cup tea. Even one of my friends told me that he entered a village home and took his time there to eat a slice of homemade pizza and to have a refreshing drink during the race :))). I love those women... 

Helpful funny pretty cheerful villagers ready to offer us tea or give us high fives!!

The volunteers were incredibly helpful and equally motivating. I felt as if i were a Formula 1 racer at a pitstop. There was a nice selection of food supplies, from very salty apples to bananas, cookies, chips, etc.   

A representative sample for the food served at İznik Ultra CP's (actually how i saw it :))

I kept running downhill and walking whenever the path got even slightly steep till i made it to the second CP, which was Süleymaniye. Süleymaniye is another nice village. The third CP was at Derbent, the third village we passed through. The three CP's were all great both in terms of volunteers and food supplies. 

While i am running, i usually think of funny videos, movies, etc. In my most recent runs, i have been remembering scenes from a Turkish movie called "Tosun Paşa", one of my favorites. Therefore, others sometimes notice me smiling for no reason but i can't help it :)

Other than the fun stuff, i check when to slurp a carb gel or to take a salt tablet. In this race, i might have taken more salt tablets than necessary. I could hardly recognize my hands. If only they were green, one could tell they belonged to Shrek rather than me. 

While i was running to the third CP, i came across a runner who was singing alone loudly and by heart literally :))) I was running behind him and heard him finish a couple of songs. He suddenly turned back and insisted that i should sing a song, too. Oh my God, he wasn't joking at all. I had to sing!!!. I was ready for steep hills, i mean ready to walk but ready:))), i had prepared for long miles but no, not a bit of preparation for singing. Besides crows have brilliant voices when compared to that of mine!!! But an ultra runner must cope with every situation on the terrain, so i took a deep breath and started singing a local song. But i changed it a little to adapt it to ultra running. He was rather shocked to hear these weird lyrics but at least he could recognize the song. At that time, I had completed my ultimate challenge, I could sing!!! Normally, i can't even sing to myself, but there i was singing loudly even with a stranger right beside me! After the race, we became friends with this guy and he told me i was a cheerful running companion. I thought he would ask me for some compensation to repair his damaged hearing ability. But no, he was a gentleman :))) 

Until the third CP, he kept on performing different attractions such as racing with village children and collecting fruit from the trees. As i was following him, I did every crazy thing that he did and had alot of fun :))) It was a great pleasure to race with the kids. It was difficult to tell who got happier, me or the kids. We had raced for only a couple hundred meters with the kids but my calves started swearing at me. Anyway, it was worth it :)

I passed the guy telling he would catch me anyway and kept running. I met many nice people on the way to finish line. I saw a couple of girls running ahead of me. When i see women running faster than me, ahead of me, I get happy since trying to follow them gives me extra motivation. The more female runners in a race, the luckier i feel. There is no point in getting a good position among very few runners. And i always keep in mind that every race is a training. So the more amount of good runners in the race, the more they contribute to our training. 

After the race next day, the event area was very crowded and equally full of activity. There i got my new running shoes, my Salomon Mantra's, which i am wearing right now :) Yep, i admit it is uncanny to wear sport shoes at home but they are clean and they look great (for now:)))

I also had time to chat with many experienced ultra marathon runner women. One of them was the famous "Bakiye Duran", the first and according to me the most powerful, the most durable, the most humble and by far the best ultra marathon runner woman of Turkey. She told us a couple of stories, which we listened our mouths and eyes wide open :))) She also complimented me, something i wasn't ready for :)). Instead of saying "Thanks", i told some weird stuff while trying to mention her strength and courage. But i am sure i sounded like a weirdo !! Soon i realized that and told myself "WTF are you talking about you wacky, just say thanks and shut the f.ck up!!! Anyhow she responded back still politely and i promised myself to just thank back next time a talking legend compliments me :)))

As for the mistakes that i have done during the race, the first is that my bag was bigger and heavier than necessary. I could have found a smaller bag that could also contain all the mandatory equipment. As a second thing about my Raidlight Olmo 8, the bottles are located at sides, which cause chaffing on my elbows while running. I should find a way to keep the bottles at the back, it shouldn't be too difficult :) Another mistake i did was taking too many salt and magnesium tablets, way more than necessary. Although there were many fountains with drinkable water on the path, i didn't use any, another obvious mistake :) Anyhow  i had alot of fun and i was able to finish as 8th among all female runners, a miracle had happened for me :)))

As a summary, i would recommend every ultra runner to experience this unique adventure, the İznik Ultra some day. I am sure you would never regret it :)))

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