Tahtalı Run to Sky
May 20th 2017
Run.Bo’s in the race: Aylin, Savaş (90K); Cem Ayhan (60K); Bike, Mehmet, Selman (27K)
Helloooo friends! Followers!
This is a special English edition for you!
As there are more and more trail running events in the calendar, better organisations are happening in Turkey, we felt we have some responsibility (as well) to do coverage for our friends abroad!
This will be the very first blog in English.
Here we gooo!
Pls feel free to write and ask questions if you have any. (firstname.lastname@example.org) We will respond back as soon as we can -for sure.
Why you should run Tahtalı Run to Sky (or other longer distances)?
Let’s keep it simple.
- This organisation is one of the 3 good established sky races in Turkey. (1.Tahtalı 2.Erciyes 3.Aladaglar) Tahtalı starts from 0 altitude from Çıralı (all races start downtown Çıralı), climbs up the Tahtalı Mountain summit (to 2.365m). 27K finishes at the summit (+2.650m). 60K does another loop downhill, finishes at the cable car ground level (+3.800m). 90K finishers also go to Tekirova and end at the start point in Çıralı (+5.000m). We have to say all 3 distances are pretty challenging and amazing in a different way. Tekirova – Çıralı route is also on the famous antique Lycian Way Ultra Marathon route. If you can run as long as 90K you should definitely do it. It will be tough yet unforgettable.
- This running route is on the ancient Lycian Way route. Highlights would be Yanartaş Chimera ancient flames, Beycik forest (one of the rare cedar trees), summit, Tekirova – Çıralı mostly single track path with amazing views, goes parallel to the sea (even have the chance to flow yourself to swim at Maden Koyu).
- Easy and cheap access to Antalya. Antalya is one of the main charter destinations, linked with direct flights from Russia as well as Europe.
- May is the best time to visit Çıralı (also Antalya). Weather is around 20-30C. Pretty mild. Spring rain is possible. Sea is crystal clear. Witnessing nature blooming. Also still off season, less tourist crowd makes accommodation plenty and affordable (20-40€ pp). Within this race, even in the shortest route there are 4 seasons, be prepared. Starts from summer, could end snowing at the summit. (As it did this year!)
- Good, boutique organisation. Director of the race is Polat Dede, he is known as a good mountain man, knows the area very well (lives in Antalya), he is a good hearted person, manages calmly, handles issues smoothly. He and his wife Zeynep’s energy makes this race special. (Polat also organises Kaz Daglari Ultra in December, in 2017 he will do the second one, with updated and better route. Check it out.)
- Award is extraordinary. For 90K man and woman winners the prize was a ticket to Eiger Ultra 101K! Organisation covers all costs to enter the race, accommodation, etc. Best prize ever in history.
- Running with elite athletes. Mammut is sponsoring the race, therefore elite athletes from Mammut Pro Team invited to the race. It was a great pleasure to meet Ildiko Wermescher and Csaba Nemeth.
- Route is clearly marked (both by organisation, also by the famous red and white Lycian Way paint.) You can trek anytime on your own on this route.
- Accurate race website and information.
Pros and cons?
Pros listed above. How about cons? There are small improvement needed areas.
- Transfer to Çıralı. If you are coming in a group, try renting a car, life will become easier. Otherwise, there are dolmuş services, last one from the top is 19:30, last from Çıralı is 19:00. If you arrive/leave later than this time it is better to hitch hike! (If organisation grows bigger, transfer arrangement could be an option with extra fee for future races.)
- Hotel base was at the suburbs of Çıralı. Next time we would choose to be closer to downtown.
Before we start…
I know this area very well. During 1990-2000’s, Kemer had been my top of the vacation list. My idea of vacation stands a good outdoor training ground for trekking and biking as well as a good base for sea and sun type of vacation. I walked the parts of the Lycian Way, before it was even marked (was than mentioned in printed foreign guides). However as tourism got mass, I started witnessing the nature being spoilt, orange trees torn down and turned into 5 star holiday resorts, camp grounds being removed (no one wanted the poor backpacker tourist anymore!), water from the mountains was piped (meant no more waterfalls!), more and more roads were created, meant more and more nature being knocked down. It was too much drama for me. After 10 years of consecutive travel to Kemer, I decided not to visit anymore.
For a while I did not even step a foot anywhere around Antalya. Until then few years ago, I re-discovered Çıralı. Contradicting to whatever we lost, Çıralı was still standing out of the mass crowd, it was protected well, locals were keen to resist to corruption, did not allow even government to destroy their natural treasures. This all stole my heart.
Çıralı is like a pearl in the coast. It’s all quiet, calm, hammocks, lemon trees, crystal clear waters, amazing walking paths, no night life perhaps, but really a superb place to relax.
3 years ago in May, we were again in Çıralı, having a long weekend vacation, we came across this Tahtalı Run to Sky organisation. It was the very first then. We met Zeynep then, asked how in the world anyone imagined to create such a difficult route to run. This was just too much! From 0 altitude to all the way to the snowy tip of the Tahtalı summit was just too much. We were running then, but short distances like 5K or so. Next morning we were present at the start, there were 50+ racers, mostly Russians or Westerners who were holidaying around and possibly decided when they saw the race banner like us.
Following year we skipped Çıralı. Our soul was there, but country was just not in such a shape to enjoy relaxing anymore. Too many security issues and threat made us to go elsewhere.
In the last year, we started running more trail and mid long distances (shortest ultra-trail distances). I felt ready to try this crazy race. I have to say, I would have thought it is more scary than enjoying. I imagined I would scrawl to the summit part on my 4 feet! Yet, it turned out all enjoying!
Arrival and before the race
My plane took off Istanbul at 16:00, yet I arrived Çıralı at 20:45. The journey from Antalya, Central Bus Station (via Kumluca minibus) to Çıralı (hitchhiking at the junction –of course!) took more than 2.5 hours.
Technical briefing was long gone, thanks to team mates, they were early enough, participated the meeting, forwarded all the important details to me. Çıralı was cooler than usual, needed a fleece to sit outside. Race day weather forecast was also very concerning, predicted heavy showers and snow at the mountain. We all thought it would be warm and sunny! I did not even have a proper waterproof lightweight jacket with me.
As I arrived to the Nerissa hotel (base for the race), I prepared quickly a drop bag (team warned that weather would be tough in the day, I definitely needed dry clothes and socks for the drop bag). I completed registration, received my race kit. We sat down chatting, planning, preparing for the next day’s race.
We were 6 people in our team racing for Tahtali Sky Run, 3 will participate to 90K and 60K course, 3 will for 27K. Fair enough. Evenly divided 😉
Longer distances start at 05:30.
27K starts at 07:00.
Aylin, Savas, Cem woke up at 04:00, had a quick breakfast, left the hotel around 05:00. I could not sleep after they leave. I was too excited to sleep! Left the hotel at 06:30, met with Mehmet and Selman at the start line. Took some pictures as usual. It was cooler than last night, I wasn’t sure how cold it would be during the race, hoping that I wouldn’t need more than I needed a month ago in Iznik Ultra (it was around 10C then!)
Countdown… Race starts!
This year the route thru Çıralı to Yanartaş was changed to back road (usually it was by the coast), there is less road traffic, a wise change for a start.
The first 3km was flat and on the road. Front racers ran at about 4-5 pace, unbelievable for such an ultra-race. I slowed down to my usual pace 6-6.20 knowing that this is only the start, I would need to save my energy for the uphills ahead.
I know the first 10K of the route to Ulupinar, ran and trekked before, so knew exactly how much effort I needed. The first climb is to the popular Chimera flames, by the ancient stairs. This first easy part is almost 1k, it took 10mins to be there. Good. For me this meant I started well. I couldn’t resist the view on my back, turned around and enjoyed for a few seconds than quickly continued the second part of the hill climb. The reward to getting to the top is to descent to the valley behind and this meant that I am almost to the first CP at 9K. I left behind many people in the front. Ran as much as I could. On the last flat to the village we were only 3 people running together. My target was to there before 1h30m. I left the CP at 1h27m. Filled my half liter water bottles, ate 3 slices of apple, some peanuts and some coke. I was ready to go. I knew nothing about after this part of the route. I am expecting less run, more climb, and getting tougher and tougher especially after the 2nd CP at 18.46K.
Weather is still very nice, cloudy-sunny, warm. The view is amazing. I am wondering if the mountain in my front is the mountain we will climb. Summit is not visible and grey clouds are sitting on top of it. (Later I realize that Tahtalı is not visible unless you climb and the few kms, it is behind all the mountains that I see.) After we cross the asphalt main road, head to the green mountains, the path turns into a smooth dirt road, I say “good morning” to farmers as I pass thru the little white painted houses. This part I pretty much run. Chat some people along the way. After 2 hrs, I arrive the 2nd CP. Now I am little worried. It’s been 3h30m and there is 9K, at least min 3 hrs ahead to the summit. Weather is getting more and more grey. It’s for sure it will rain soon. I have to move quickly. At the CP, I ate almost the same things (apples, water with lemon, coke, peanuts and some salty crackers) and hit the road. Until here I had my trekking poles short, but from here on, I know I will need them the most –these poles will carry me. I arrange them to 1.05 (10cm shorter than usual) and now I am ready to climb!
Just a little note: At the village central, beware of the cement road, my shoe stuck on the ground and just made me fell! It was very unusual. Also there is a very big tree (not be missed) at this point, take the time and enjoy the huge shadow, cold fountain water and cool down. It’s a good treat.
At the CP we are warned that just before the forest (3K ahead) there is a one last water source. I will go there as quickly as I can.
The view ahead is getting greyer and forest is under a thick dense fog. This forest is covered by huge cedar trees, very photographic. The water is in Tekin’s teahouse, we climb his territory with the help of a short ladder, I see his pretty wooden house, his hammock hanging, this should be heaven on earth! I sip the water and head to the forest quickly.
The climb is getting tougher but I continue as fast as I can. I pass few people more. Seeing how people in the front lose their energy, I decide to take an energy jel that I took as a precaution. I will need it. As I look at the watch time passes but km’s do not pass. I decide to stop looking at the watch.
At the end of the forest there is a tent from the race team, directing racers to the top, or the 60-90K loop. Guy in the tent says last 45ms to go! Hurray! I am almost there! It will be likely that I will get there around 6h15m! Ohh my god! I am climbing up like I landed on a different planet. Nothing is visible. It’s all white fog around. I just see the rocky narrow single track path. It’s easier than I thought. Lucky me! This must be one of the easiest summit climbs that I did so far in my life!
As I go thru the whiteness, longer distance racers come down and encourage me up as they say there is very little left, perhaps 20m to go. Snow fall gets heavier. Thank god the wind is still not strong enough. But I decide to wear my lightweight shell before it gets too cold. A while later I hear some music coming from the front, I realize I am really close. The whiteness suddenly disappears, I see the plain mountains! Amazing view! Last few steps and then the finish line! Done! A big journey, nothing like I can describe in words! This race is soooo special! In every way! Must try!
Next year I will come back for sure. But this time will do the 60K.
So see ya all in 2018, at Tahtalı Berg Sky!
Thanks to Polat and Zeynep Dede. It’s one of the best organisations in Turkey. Don’t under estimate the distances, it’s a tough one. Be prepared for any weather condition, take all the required equipment with you. Rules are there to protect you! Take poles, take even gloves!
Take this race seriously!
Written by : Bike Geçkinli