Alanya Ultra 2019 (EN)

What Happened in “Alanya” should not stay in Alanya
– a Short Story of AUT’19 –

Alanya Ultra Trail (AUT) is becoming a legend among other trail running organizations in Turkey. Although it’s only 3rd year, I honestly believe that very soon it will be one of the best national trail running event.

Well, let’s get started with Alanya… Alanya is located in the southern part of Turkey, a Mediterranean holiday spot, close to another major tourism capital, Antalya. You may either directly fly to Gazipaşa Airport (GZP) or to Antalya Airport (AYT). AYT has direct flights from major cities in the world and GZP with fewer flights, mostly domestic flights from major cities in Turkey. The organization provides paid hotel transfer to Alanya from both airports, which you may register from your personal page.

Alanya is a lovely holiday town that offers more than just sea and sun to travellers. The weather is warm enough to enjoy one of the most fascinating beaches (Cleopatra beach with turquoise waters and it’s whitish sand) in Turkey. Houses, historical sites and museums. Alanya’s iconic landmarks would be the Red Tower and the Medieval Shipyard. Alanya also is a ground for outdoor activities, mountains behind Alanya makes a perfect trail running ground, tandem/paragliding is available, many triathlon camps are organised here. Also, you may witness 4 seasons in one day if you ever decide to run AUT in March, summer at the sea level and some snow at the top of the mountains.

AUT offers variety of courses for different runners’ appetite; Alaiye 15k/+945m, Keykubat Mountain run 28k/+1600m, Taurus Mountain marathon 48k/+2690m and AUT 72k/+3720m. This report is solely about AUT 72k.

If you ran AUT 1st and 2nd editions previously, consider yourself experienced to handle 3rd edition, and feel confident that you will also get this one easily… forget about it, you are totally wrong! Edition 3 requires a complete different mind-set. First of all, the course has been vastly changed compared to previous editions, especially uphill sections. Simple math, total mileage is increased from 66k to 72k and time limit is decreased down to 14 hours from 15 hours 30 minutes. These changes may seem to have a slight difference on the difficulty level but believe me considering AUT’s technical trails it makes a huge difference.

Why you should run in AUT?

  • To practice on a highly moderate technical trail,
  • To test your limits against high altitude and uphill with tight cut-off times,
  • To run on a course that passes through ancient Yuruks paths,
  • To run on ancient steps that are used as passage for centuries,
  • To witness one of the most beautiful landscapes of Turkey,
  • To experience four seasons in one run,
  • To see Alanya from fascinating paragliding take-off spot,
  • To run/walk on soft sand against amazing sunset view,
  • To lose yourself running along ancient castle walls,
  • To pamper yourself with the best volunteer team,
  • Finally with local currency being so low against western currencies, makes the whole organisation cost cheap and affordable.

Now it is time to go back to the day before the race. I flied from Istanbul to Gazipaşa and hop on the transfer bus, most of the runners were on the same flight. After settling down to my hotel room, I headed to Cleopatra Beach to meet with Alime (IG: Onewaytickettoizmir). Weather was around 20 degrees; seawater was a little bit cold but warm enough to swim (all you need to do is to risk losing one of your kidney! Ahahahaa!). We spent some time drinking coffee and swimming but mostly talking.

Red Tower (Kızıl Kule) is the registration office of the event, where you can collect your race kits. Race briefing and pasta party is being organized close to this famous city symbol. This area is well organized and error free so you will easily handle the procedures. Do not forget to bring your mandatory equipment with you, as you will need to show them to collect your race bibs. In the registration kit envelope there are 2 race chips, come in the form of a transparent tape. One is behind your bib number, the other in the form of a tag, to be attached on your race bag. Both of these you need to have them on you during the race. You may find all information required regarding the race in the web site with a little effort. Also, before you arrive, the organisation keeps updating and reminding by email in two languages, Turkish and English.

Also, if you arrive early enough to Alanya, pls check out the Shake out Run event (details announced thru social media IG: @alanyaultratrail, happening normally in the evening, just before the technical briefing. It is a good way to meet new people, conquer the Alanya castle route prior to the race and of course start having some FUN!

As Turgut (IG: kozantt; my beloved friend, roommate, runner buddy and the one I leave my life in his hands while running) will arrive around 11 p.m. we spent some time with Alime and Haluk (IG: runtoalive) walking under full moon and having an entertaining conversation regarding previous races. Around 11 p.m. it was time to go to back to my room to prepare my backpack and make final arrangements. Finally, after Turgut arrived we decided to have some rest, as we will be waking up early in the morning to have our breakfast and show up at the start line around 6:30 a.m. Race starts at 07:00am. However, this silent, quiet city centre became a beast after mid-night. Loud music in the bars and discos around echo on the walls of our room, people are chanting and cheering and we could all hear in our room! (note: before you fix your accommodation, pls read review of the hotel, make sure does not have a night club under!)

After having a light breakfast, we went to the start line and met with Alime around 6:30am. We were all excited and impatiently waiting to start the race.

Unlike last year, race started from the Red Tower, (it was then at the Lighthouse where front runners could pace before headed up to the hills of the castle). First surprise (of the many more to come) hits us at the very beginning of the race! Hellooo Alanya Ultra Trail!

The first section before the 1st CP, goes on the narrow cobbled streets in the castle, then outside at the foothills, until you are at the very top, then a trail path to Damlataş cave cable and all along the Cleopatra beach 2K on the asphalt road. When the route leaves off to the right say goodbye to the beach and the city, greet and wave the mountains. Then we hit the first water CP (Lunapark). Next stage after the CP is the banana field, a 150m long route inside the banana trees, don’t forget to pose and smile as it’s always a good spot for photographers for a good shot. Where are we? Did we land on a tropical island or what? Alanya landscape offers so much!

We need to cover another 7 km to reach CP2 (Paşaköy) but elevation gain in between is around 1000m with a time limit of 3 hours. Therefore, Turgut said, “Let’s take it easy”… we both remember from last year that this part can be exhausting if you try to go faster than you can handle. However, we managed to reach there just above 2 hours. We were glad to be ahead 1 hour compared to cut off time of the CP, although had no idea what was waiting for us ahead. Climb up to CP2 is mostly on the steep rocky hills, then follows smoother single track paths in a forest. Partly passes thru Yuruk’s ancient stone stairs and paths.

CP3 (Kuruçay) was 12 km away, having a time limit of another two hours. 12 km distance is the longest one in between the CPs and we need to run uphill and gain another elevation of 800m. However, this section also includes some downhill. So once again, our weak spot on running showed itself, Turgut and I are good at uphill but downhill is a real headache for us on contrary to other runners. Eight runners passed us until we reached CP3. Nevertheless, we managed to complete this section under 2 hours so we were still more than one hour ahead of the cut off time. We quickly refreshed, pulled ourselves together and got ready to start the next challenge. We were aware that time limits would be the real challenge in this race, for that reason we would not want to spend too much time at the CPs. CP3 was busy, as 48k runners are supposed to split from 72k runners from this point. From here onwards we should be moving to the highest point of the race. All we need to do was to cover another 6km in one hour to reach CP4 (Çakıllıca) and gain another elevation of 500m. Polat Dede at CP3 warned us that it was not going to be easy climb and he was damn right. We could not breathe and even talk while moving up to that steep hill. I remember Turgut saying “are we going up to that tower over there?” and I replied, “Come on, no way!”.

But of course that tower was where we were heading to. Along the way, we met one guy from the organization and he was cheering us saying “come on, you guys seem to be strongest runners that I have ever seen today”. That made us wear our big smiles and asked back “how much left until to the top?”. He said, “three more kilometres but it will feel like ten”. :). Unfortunately, he was right. Last 2 to 3 km was the hardest one. It was really hard to move over the rocks. Breathing was painful. Our legs were like stone and it was getting harder and harder to take another step. We struggled, trembled, slowed down but we did not stop. Finally, we made it to get to the top in 1,5 hours, just 30 minutes before the cut off time. We were feeling great, but we were also aware that our time advantage has been mostly disappeared. We were also aware that this is not the end; we did not even complete half the way. Anyway, we were at least glad to complete 2/3 of total elevation gain.

We had another two-hour time limit to cover 7 km to CP5 (Parkorman). As this section was not present in edition 2 of AUT, we had no idea what to expect. Soon we understood that we could not run all the way down as there are steep slopes and some sections are really technical. It took 1 hour 20 minutes to cover that distance and we were about to collapse as we reached CP5. We were lucky to find there soup and a meal like pasta, cheese and bread, they really help us to pull ourselves together. I remember saying that it was the most delicious sandwich I have ever eaten. I guess from that point we started enjoying the pain.

CP6 (Mahmutseydi) was the second longest distance, 11km, in between the CPs with a total time limit of 10 hours. The CP was located in a village and once we got there, we had covered cumulatively 50 km. We were still more than 1 hour ahead from the cut off time. We had a great conversation and our confidence was re-built again. Maybe for the first time we realized that we would be able to see the finish line on time.

CP7 (Paşaköy) once again, seeing the same guys waiting for us after 8 hours and 47 km in the same place with smiling faces was priceless. I can heartily say that one of the best thing that organization managed to achieve was having wonderful, brilliant and perfect volunteers. It is not enough to tell just thank you. In their absence we would not be able to go that further.

Now it is time to mention the hardest part of the race, time limits. From CP 7 to 8 you need to cover 10 km in one hour. You have ran 59 km, you are tired, exhausted because you pushed too much to come there and if you couldn’t save enough time up to CP7, there is no way you can achieve this section in 1 hour. From here, it’s all downhill run on some technical terrain, it is even hard to go even with fresh legs. Therefore, it took almost 1 hour 30 minutes for us to get to CP8 (Lunapark). I know many people who could not get there on time. It is really pity.

Now between finish line and where we were, Cleopatra beach and Alanya castle was standing. We were aware that we would be walking on soft sand for 1k. Another surprise has hit us, expected 1k of beach, turned out to be 2k! It was mentally tough to walk while most of the people were drinking beer, eating and relaxing on the beach enjoying the sunset. Even, some people cheered to support us which increased our strength a little bit. When we got to Damlataş, we were bored, but focused, tired but determined. At that point, sun went down completely so we put our headlamps on. Endless steps, up to cable car station then to the castle walls climb route has started. This part is mostly steep and single track. Once you are inside the castle, streets are winding up and down to the Red Tower. This section is completed at minimum 30-40mins. It took 13 hours 30 minutes to complete 72k/+3720m, just 30 minutes before the time limit. You know what, the moment you see your friends and volunteers holding medals with smiling faces you forget everything you went through.

Despite the difficulty level of the race, despite the tight time limits I can sincerely say that the organization was perfect. The route was perfectly arranged, cleaned and served. CPs were perfectly decorated. Volunteers were everywhere, their hospitality was legendary. Route marking were almost perfect (reflectors were missing at some sections), start and finish line was well organized.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank once again to everyone who contributed to make this event happen. I do also want to thank Turgut Kozan, for always carrying me to the finish line with passion. Thanks to Team Run.Bo for their support before, during and after the race. Special thanks to all our friends who called, texted and supported us in so many ways, we really appreciate it (we could not mention all the names otherwise we will need another three pages).

Conclusion; everyone should open a place in their agenda to come this lovely place, taste and test this beautiful, yet difficult course for a lifetime experience.

Fatih – Turgut
Edited by Bike

Race Review by Points

For other pics and race report in Turkish, click here.