Artisan of trails

Me voila again at the starting line of UTMB. Last time I stood here dates back in 2012. The year when the race got shortened, due to a stormy, bad whether.. And I am countering back the years. TDS in 2011, CCC in 2010 and my first year in Chamonix, 2009, when I fell in love with “those” mountains. The year I did not finish the race. I was simply not capable to do it.

7 years passed and I felt the first time that I can safely and surely be a finisher of UTMB if everything goes well. All trail experiences gathered, spirit and body matured enough. I applied in confidence for the lottery and was lucky enough to get drawn to start a race that is on all the ultra trailers’ wishlist.

Packed in the back of the peloton, we are waiting for Vangelis to gives us the final battle signal. As the old time “guerriers” leaving for the war. I don’t particularly like this music. To be diplomatic. It doesn’t thrill me as it does for others. I find it pretty sad, oldish in a way, just giving a sense of depression. All not that sad. Should rather be a great adventure to begin. As a French guy next to me says to his friends right after the start: “que notre grand adventure commence!”.

Albeit I miss this feeling a bit. This sense of awaiting for the adventure. Though I did everything, completed a full scale of preparations. Even if UTMB was not the main race of the year. This was a week-long relay of a 3 men strong team to run across Hungary, 400 km during 6 days per person. But that’s an other story to tell.

I’ve been to different races in different countries. Beside the usual ones in my homeland, I did the BVG Trail in Italy, the Vipava Ultra Trail in Slovenia, Dolomiti Extreme Trail in Italy. I got injured in May and then again after the cross Hungary relay.

So at the starting-line I’m rather preoccupied if I can do it at all. Uncertainty, a sense of anxiety, worry. I feel a strange something. Something as this whole thing would be a work to complete. I feel like to be a craftsman. An artisan of trailing. With no big conviction.

Walking out of the start zone makes no difference to my state of mind. There is too much hype in and around. Almost feel like at the New York City Marathon.UTMB and its accompanying races have always been major trail running mass events, if not THE event of  the international ultra trail community. Though it used to have a certain charm. Now the mass event has remained, but the charm has disappeared leaving the room for some sort of fiesta.

We are slowly jogging out of the city. I am in the back end, like sardines in the box. I pretty much know the first 40 km. Ran this segment in the 2012 UTMB and during the Traversée, a 210 km long team challenge we did in 2014.

During the past days and weeks I found and read Lao-Tze and his Tao Te Ching. Not on purpose though, but it became step by step my mantra during this long roundtrip. I kept coming back to sections on fears, hatred, and the composition of full. A feeling of emptiness came progressively. Just doing my thing, I progressed step by step and felt this sense of emptiness. But the emptiness had no negative impact on me, had no negative ‘aura’. And not a positive one neither. It was just a plain emptiness as is.

’13
Favour and disgrace would seem equally to be feared; honour and
great calamity, to be regarded as personal conditions (of the same
kind).
What is meant by speaking thus of favour and disgrace? Disgrace is
being in a low position (after the enjoyment of favour). The getting
that (favour) leads to the apprehension (of losing it), and the losing
it leads to the fear of (still greater calamity):–this is what is
meant by saying that favour and disgrace would seem equally to be
feared.
And what is meant by saying that honour and great calamity are to be
(similarly) regarded as personal conditions? What makes me liable to
great calamity is my having the body (which I call myself); if I had
not the body, what great calamity could come to me?
Therefore he who would administer the kingdom, honouring it as he
honours his own person, may be employed to govern it, and he who would
administer it with the love which he bears to his own person may be
entrusted with it.’
’63
(It is the way of the Tao) to act without (thinking of) acting;
to conduct affairs without (feeling the) trouble of them; to taste
without discerning any flavour; to consider what is small as great,
and a few as many; and to recompense injury with kindness.
(The master of it) anticipates things that are difficult while they
are easy, and does things that would become great while they are
small. All difficult things in the world are sure to arise from a
previous state in which they were easy, and all great things from one
in which they were small. Therefore the sage, while he never does
what is great, is able on that account to accomplish the greatest
things.
He who lightly promises is sure to keep but little faith; he who is
continually thinking things easy is sure to find them difficult.
Therefore the sage sees difficulty even in what seems easy, and so
never has any difficulties. ‘(Tao Te Ching, translated by J. Legge)

Surely however, not all this 170 km, the route from Chamonix to Chamonix was so spiritual. The first 20 km was just profoundly and simply painful, selfish and negative. I did this craftsman stuff with no motivation at all. I just wondered what a hack I did here. I simply wanted to quit. At 20 km. No kidding.

Then I received a text from my girl, my woman. Suddenly that changed it all. And that was not a certain motivation I (re)-found.. on the contrary. What I got, was a gently push toward a relief from the forced, nervy and permanent search for motivation. This has launched me on the path of a well disciplined trail of a 171 km with a spirit of empty emptiness.

I ran through the night, hiked so many beautiful mountains and “cols”. I have had problems. Couldn’t swallow a bite of anything. But I knew it’s gonna be over at a certain point of time. And until that, I’ll continue my journey. To put one foot in front of the other. A great commonplace is that ultras are about the ability to solve problems. The faster, better, more sustainable you solve your problems, will you finish earlier and in better conditions.

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Soon, the only 25-30 km that I did not know from the whole UTMB course will come to an end. But as a gift I presumably got, I had one to the most special Saturday mornings of my life. With a cooled down temperature, a freezing dawn, a hallucinating sunrise, I ran into a sea of clouds over 2000 m. So freaky, so good. Un samedi matin pas come les autres.

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Courmayeur at half way: a long break. Bertone, Bonatti, probably one of the most beautiful places to run on Earth. Always having Monte Bianco in sight. Arnuva, the so deeply feared Grand Col Ferret.. All passes so fast. As time in normal life. I remember my first and second CCC. A friend who died since, an other one moved to Australia and lost from sight. And a friend submerged into work. Nice chaps at a time. I dedicate these parts to these mates and I smile.

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La Fouly comes. I lay down on a bank for 10 minutes. It’ so f. hot outside. My face burns, I need a little siesta, the first time I feel a bit tired. I hear the speaker saying that the winner of UTMB has just crossed the finish line in Chamonix.. Me, I have 60 km to go. But I don’t have frustration, no hatred or anger. I have an inner smile. Not a zen type one, or mannered. Just a smile, not even visible.

IMG_3593.JPGNext stop is Champex. I surprise myself with a pretty good running pace. I get into conversation with an Icelandic guy, he comes from a land I definetely want to visit and run one day. At Champex, my teammate waits for me. He is of a great help, a professional and a rewarded coach, he knows how to serve.

From Champex on, still, I’m running. Directly into a storm. It’s gonna be night soon, but the thunders are so lighty, I just delay switching on my headlamp. Runners are palpably afraid around. Some are even screaming when thunders hit at full speed.

No worry, it’s gonna be over. I count the seconds passed between the lighting and the crash. The difference is growing. No worry. It ‘s leaving.

Then I still have to descend from la Bovine. It’s all muddy a.f. I literally skating down. Falling at almost every 200 meters. Painful, slow, tiresome. I changed shoes in Courmayeur, I did not expect rain and mud. It’s a street running shoe with a flat sole. Any question?

I almost quit at the next refreshment point in Trient. But discipline prevails. Oliver is there, so I can change the fully wet clothes to new ones. Then the storm is over. I peacefully hike la Catogne. I like this col. It doesn’t hurt, it’s smooth and it prepares you for the last big battle: la Tete aux vents. This one is though, a real reward at the end. The fastest km is around 15 minutes. But still my taoism stands. Though I’m questioning myself for how long my suffering will last. This is a tricky, ‘unrunnable’ part of the course. I’m walking, lumping, ambling along. La Flegere, the last point comes so slowly, seems like it takes ages to arrive to the station. I’m finally there and start the last downhill. I have a pain in my knee, in my back. I have stomach problems too. My digestion is as fast as a Formula 1 race..

But nothing can push me out from my mental balance. I run through my favorite café, la Floria. I know it’s gonna be over soon. The sun is slowly rising. I arrive just before day, 36 hours and 17 minutes later than I started this journey. No euphoria, but a sense of satisfaction. A work completed. Handcrafted by legs, spirit and mind matured in happiness and failures of the past years of trails and life.

And my love and thanks first go to Moni who supported me during the long past years and all the others who believed me and made possible that I became capable to be an UTMB finisher.

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Prisoner of the past

Big things starting shot is in the pipeline. Two weeks to go. Feeling under pressure, even stressed. Not positively though. 

These moments make me think over myself. Becoming a prisoner of the past again. Not something helpful for somebody who fights with loneliness.

As a child, I remember to have prefered playing alone. No conflict in sight. Just being comfortable with my emotions. 

That being said, I am not a team player. I have never been. I found jobs, hobbies that fit my individualism. Running is a perfect example.

No dependence on others. Just being in my own world. Playing alone.

Here is why a relay is difficult. A team challenge. Though that is why it’s a challenge. For another reason. 

Being a team member means ‘giving’. Something I am more talented for. There are people who score better in ‘receiving’. These are usually the ones who achieve something no matter of what the others think and no matter of the means.

I am perhaps not that kind. But convinced that I could be cool too.

everything’s not lost

an injury again. just realized that my last post was also about non-running. when everything is shining and all is great, life is pink, I don’t feel sharing anything.

contrary when I have problems. no person to talk with, live? maybe. or too shy to tell? lonely in mind? don’t know.

an injury which seems to have a greater impact on psycho than on the knee actually. though it’s feeling being hurt. or does it only feel in your brain? everything  is in your head. I wish I could shift this. fix it. I’m just loosing my faith in running. in me. my ability to fix it. I know it’s temporary, but this is scary. should dispatch this fck anxiety. which so much prevents to get over on it. does this come with aging? I can’t remember being anxious as a child. except before tests or repetitions when in school. but this has just flew away when passed. anxiety is the sneaking demolition man.

so dependent on running. should let it go for a while. perhaps just days, weeks max. to re-find my personality without running. sometimes I just can’t recall what my life was without daily and mediative physical exercise.

I should re-find my balance. to get back on my feet strongly. solidly. to return on my spiral. change direction. upward. release my problem. be strong and fight demons in me. disregard them rather. life is for living. everything’s not lost. stop refer to songs.

hajrá. forza. allez.

 

Association of Anonym Runnerolics

Sometimes we simply forget what is all about. These days, we seem to loose the stable and reliable control over our day, even to get it totally puzzled. The lack of this, you know.., you name it… results in an endless roaming – psychically and often physically – without objective, depression in worst case. Ridiculous in a way.

I’ve had a pretty tough injury a year after I started running which prevented me doing my favorite physical exercise for nearly 3 months. A complete disaster. I never want this time back again. Not only for the true missing of running, but to never ever experience such a painful and direct dependency on “something” so strongly.

In the last days, I got the flu from my kids and was unable to run. For 2 days. 2 long days. Even more, I had to stay in bed for almost a whole day. A premiere in the last 15 to 20 years I believe. Back to slightly normal, I worked a bit, but was rather going round and round in the house without having a goal, aggressively and gradually hating my inactivity. Though I would have a tons of other things to do. Do the years delayed housework, reading the tons of books I stocked for “in case”. Spend quality time with my family. (Although being sick is not the right moment). But losing the guide-line, the “organizing principle”, I just delayed them again. Because I was impatiently waiting to get back to “normal” mode. When I could delay it again.  Patience. A key wisdom of healing. There are parts of life when you practice without difficulty and others when you are simply a horse against your age.

Sad, really sad and scaring how my hobby invaded and then left a painfully deep fingerprint on my personality. When torn out out from it, against your own will (injury or sickness), you just simply feel to be a half a person. Disgusting dependency that people struggle to get rid of.. in other parts of life.

Time has come to found the Association of Anonym Runnerolics.

We’ll organize candid gatherings where we will all confess our weaknesses, will eat bad GI food, list our delayed tasks and for what we did not have time at all.

 

 

 

Success

Recently I had the privilege to listen to a lecture on the Science of Success by Albert-​​László Barabási.  According to him “In spite of all the claims to the con­trary, suc­cess is a col­lec­tive phe­nomena: You are only suc­cessful because many of us think that you are”.

Barabási took the sport as a starting example to show how performance and success correlate while they differ in other sectors of the society. In sport, things look relatively simple. If you perform well, win medals, beat records, you are successful in the eyes of the society at large. Performance and Success go literally hand in hand. This is surely not the case in other fields of life. The community as such plays a decisive role to determine the extent of success of a performance other than sport. And this community has now different common features, most of them relating to media and technology. And these are the most influential ones.

Given that fingerprints of suc­cess are spread around society and leaves detectable, mea­sur­able, and pre­dictable traces, sci­en­tists – such as Barabási – can now examine “one of the most desir­able traits of the human experience.”

The lecture took me to think over the example of sport and get directly to running. While the community plays and ever bigger role both in work and private life, people increasingly tend to turn to an individual discipline which is running/jogging as a sport. I feel sometimes walking down the street that this century will be booked as the century of jogging in the Annales. Is this – beyond the much more obvious reasons (which is simplicity, affordability, time for intensity, prevention etc.) a result of a will to be measured only on the basis of performance? Is this an evasion from the often fake or false assessment of the community where your success mostly depends on factors you are not mastering?  Is this a normal and natural counter reaction to the over influencing community? We do run in community, post photos, tracks, paces. We’re social animals after all. But at the end, your results is only yours. Nobody can run instead of you, with your legs, lungs and heart. According to a popular and not less true stereotype, running is a very effective way to deepen and practice self-understanding, an active meditation. Thus turning to running is a recognition of the fact that the community doesn’t help your self-knowledge, or more to say, could rather derail it to the extent that you have to be on your own to clear your eventual dilemmas or even identity issues.

I am not preaching for an anti-community attitude here, just posing questions and see in the spreading of running a certain aspiration for a performance based assessment in a world where Krisztián Berki  and Krisztián Berki equal in success score.

The performance oriented approach is even more detectable in long distance running. There you don’t have to win, or beat a course record. It’s “enough” to become a finisher to gain recognition thus success, be it internal or external. Equality is an other feature of running and especially of long distance. There is no doubt that there is no difference at the starting line. The distance is the same for everyone, stopwatch is the same, time passes similarly for a manager, for a bus driver and for the elite runners.

As my first coach told me: in running, we’re all equal. You get measured by time. And what can be more objective than time?

 

 

 

Tranquilizing vampirism

Ultra runner. I always hated this..name..?  Just a word without meaning. Does not signify anything. It’s purely plain. You can’t see what’s behind. Just like coca-cola light. Could mean anything and nothing. But if you have never tasted, you can’t guess how bad it is. 

No parallel with running.

A runmate told me the other day how fast I am for an ultra runner. Who’s the ultra guy here?- I looked around.

I’ve never considered myself as an ultra runner. The ideal type running on roads, wearing sunglasses, pretty conentrated on himself, bronzee, looking deep into the distant horizon.

I am a trailer. Not even an ultra trailer. I just feel myself home in nature. Combined with exercise, long lasting if can be, discovering neverlands, gives me an even deeper satisfaction. 

I like to be outside, it’s calming me down. Helps shifting off the focus from me, not to conentrate on myself. An other typical disease of ageing (strange how this two words interlink..). A magnet which pulls me into closing. A bad habit I want to get rid off. Instead, should I focus on others, those outside energies. Those being on the trails for instance. 

Could be seen as vampirizing the nature. But yes, I take this on. Perhaps this is why I prefer not coming back to already tainted lands and I am in constant search for new races, trails, challenges. To sniff out their full green blood for once.

Anyway, here comes my calendar to exercise my secret metier. Cross our fingers.

BVG Trail in April. Because there is some meat left out there from last year.

UTH in May. Because I deserve it.

Dolomiti Extreme Trail in June. To taste new flavors.

Kek Tura in relay. To feel the force of solidarity and to make sure that running is not an individual sport.

And UTMB to crown it.

BVG Trail még egyszer

BVG Trail Lago di Garda

Kérem szépen a főnök kezdte. Írta, hogy az jó lesz. Mi a padavanok bólogattunk. De azért kétségeim voltak nekem, a legkisebbnek. Március végén nem korai ez a 75 killa, 4500 d+?

De le lettem nyugtatva. Pisszentve. Ráadasul a társaság is jónak ígérkezett. Speró, Flóra és Boszi Ildi is becsattant.

Barátok. És a barátságon túl. 🙂

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Limoneben szálltunk meg. A rajt odébb volt egy fél órával (?). A szállás szuper volt, rajtunk kívül még egy óriásbusznyi bajor nyugger csopi foglalta el a hotelt. Kilátás a tóra az erkélyről, pazar. És nem is drága.IMG_3433

A szálláson űszőmödanszé, nyitott. Csekkoltunk. Merthogy kb. 24 fok volt, így márciusban.

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Na de lóugrással pattanjunk a versenyre.

A meleg nem túl sok pozitív előjellel kecsegtetett, de Pató Pál úr nem foglalkozott azzal.

Flóra átkocsizott minket a rajtba Ildivel, aki a rövidebb távon indult. Előfrissítésként letéptünk egy két narancsot az utcán tujaként növő narancsfákról. Nagy csalódás. Keserű. Mint a verseny lesz később.

Nem túl népes rajtmezőny. 2. rendezés. Egy valami viszont feltűnik. De gyorsan elhessegetem. Az indulók 95% bottal van felszerelkezve. A maradék 5% a magyar kontingens. Szőrén üljük meg ugye a lovat.

Na tehát, az első harmincas maga a mennyország. Könnyű középhegységi környezet, sok aszfalt, dózer. A lefeléket döngetjük, együtt a magyar team. Szinte diktálom a ritmust, a fiúk lobognak utánam. A lefeléknél masszívan befigyelnek a 4 percen belüli km-ek. Oli próbál meglépni párszor, de nem hagyjuk. Elég rohanósra sikerül, de akkor még nem sejtek semmit.. 30 kilihez, ha jól rémlik 3 órán belül érünk bőven.. Nézem az órám, hoppá mondom mindjárt beérünk, lassan féltáv. Kedves helyi nénikék árulják a frissítő portékát.

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De a meleg lassan kúszik fel és elkezdődik a verseny. Sok kis piszok meredek emelkedő, nem hosszú, és sok az aszfalt is, de kifuthatatlan. Egy rángatás az egész. A lefelék is rövidek, a felfelék is.  Azt sem érzem hol vagyok, csak mint a pók a falon rohangálunk le s fel. A lábaim is nehezülnek. Nagyon hiányzik a bot a felfelékben.

Elkezdődik az igazi terep rész. Technikás, szűk ösvények, rángatós le s fel az is. Nagy nehezen kijutunk egy-két csúcsra, szép a kilátás, de már robogunk is lefele. Komolyodik a terep, a lefelékben sok a köteles rész, biztosító emberrel. Vízesések, kis sziklamedencék. Nagyon szép.

Én közben szépen eléhezek és elszomjazok. A koratavaszi meleg odacsap. Görcsöl a lábam, olyan óvatosan lépkedek, mintha tojásokon járnék. Le kell ülnöm többször, sőt feküdnöm is. Húznak el mellettem a sporik, teljesen kivagyok.

Egy ponton Flóra vár, bíztat és méltatlankodik miért nem haladok :).

Ezt már csak egy fáradt “szánjmármeg” mosollyal díjazom.

Jönnek még az emelkedők, kisebb hófolt is akad még. Vonszolom magam és magam előtt a kajánul vigyorgó bajorokat látom.

Még egyszer leülök egy csúcson. Úgy csinálok, mintha csak fotóznék. De csak azért, hogy ne hívjanak rögtön orvost, pedig komoly mentőszemélyzet vizslat a ponton.

Az utolsó lefelében aztán totál K.O. Egy görcsben elesek, de szerencsére egy mögöttem jövő túrázó felsegít, és visszanyomja a lábfejem. Közben hörgök.

Egy darabig mögöttem marad, nagyon hálás vagyok. Ha élve lejutok innen, akkor még visszajövök ide, mondogatom.

Aztán leérük a tóhoz, onnan még 500 méter, befutó egy kis sportpályán. A srácok éppen visszaérnek a szállásról, lezuhanyozva, átöltözve, üdén, frissen.

Kisebb depresszióba esek, de egy-két pizza oldja a hangulatomat.

Megúsztam épségben ez a fontos.

Aki nem esik el, az sosem áll fel – szól a dakota közmondás.

Röviden, sportszakmailag.

Kis g@ci pálya, sosem hagy élni, rángat, b@szogat.  Az első 30 aránytalanul könnyű a második feléhez képest, ami veszélyes, kitett szakaszokból, technikás lejtőkből áll, hiába max 1400-ig megy fel ha jól emlékszem

Ha nincs meleg, akkor meg hó van.

Sohanincs jó idő, mindig esik az eső.

Azért lehet, hogy visszamegyek..

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