Mount Erciyes, Kayseri – Turkey / 06.07.2019
A Thorny Day
written by: Dylan Netter (@gezi_and_d)
“An expat living in Izmir who loves the outdoors, Turkey and is usually running with a smile on his face and a little dog chasing behind.”
Racing. Sometimes you race to win. Sometimes to just finish and survive and always to have fun. If not, you are doing something wrong.
The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Robert Burns.
Sky Erciyes was that type of race for me and I found myself not ill prepared for the distance but certainly for the prickly thorns and heat.
Many ultra marathons are fast and/or have fast sections to make up ground. Not the case for me for this one. I made the mistake of going out slow thinking I could turn up the speed later on in the day. Nope, not a chance for me for this one.
At first glance the race seemed pretty easy. Run around a mountain. It’s not like I had to go up and over it. How hard can it be? Pretty FN hard.
The course started with running up the downhill mountain bike trail. You know the one designed for bikes with lots of suspension and cyclists in helmets and full body armor. Essentially, a course designed for speed and the easiest way to create speed on a trail, make it steep.
I’m sure it’s a super fun course to fly down. Unfortunately, we were tasked to run up it.
The views during the day are what made the course. City and civilization at the bottom and on the horizon and barren wilderness and mountains looking up.
I love racing. It forces me to go out of my comfort zones and isolate my strengths and weaknesses. And always during an ultra, I find myself having to solve a problem on the fly.
For Sky Erciyes, my nutrition and endurance was where it needed to be. I was steady and strong all day long.
My socks not so much. For long races I always, except for this race, use a new pair of socks. Socks are not a piece of equipment to worry about really unless they fail.
Problem one: Big toe came through the sock.
Solution: Stop and switch right for left and vice versa.
I have mentioned that we were seeing beauty all around us all day.
Well maybe that’s not exactly true. It was certainly when I looked up at the mountains and the birds flying over or out towards the city and lake but I don’t think I was awed by the beauty when I looked down near my feet.
Runners run. That’s what we do. We spend years perfecting our stride and where are heals and toes should be. Not the case when running through and over thorns. Better approach, crying baby. Just stomp your feet down and pull up flat. I learned this on the fly and will never forget my new skill when running on thorns.
For most of the day every time I pulled up toe forward like I have done millions of times, I was rewarded with a thorn in the mesh of my shoe that would works its way through my socks and into my feet. Four times I had to stop and search for sneaky little prickly thing causing me so much pain.
Ouch! And thanks Atil, said with sarcasm and a smile on my face. After all, we don’t sign up for ultras because they are easy.
The section between CP 3 and 5 can be described with few words. Hot, dusty and hot. At one point I almost started complaining to myself about the heat and then quickly remembered the long cold winter and spring that just finished. I was grateful for the warmth.
For me, there is always a point in an ultra when I realize, this is pretty cool and I’m going to finish this thing. It happened this time on the final climb when I met a goat herder named Hasan, I think, who spoke English well. We had a quick laugh and I was off again on to the final ascent of the day and CP5.
The ultra community would not be what it is without some of the characters that are connected to it. At CP5 I was met by the always smiling and cheerful Polat Dede who was eager to help me refuel and send me on my way to the finish.
Turns out the joke was on me. Most of the time ascents are rewarded with descents are easier and less taxing. At this point it was only 12.5 km to the finish. I was there in my mind. Easy sailing right? Hahaha. Wrong.
The finaly was two sadistic jokes interwoven together.
First was the view. Have you ever seen something far off in the horizon and thought it was closer? That was the lake. To our left was Mt Erciyes. It had been there all day. A rock never wavering.
From the start finish line there is a lake that takes five minutes to walk to. When I first saw it to my right, I was excited and rejuvenated. I was close.
I was wrong. It was like a mirage always moving farther and farther away until two hours later I made some headway.
During those two hours I suffered. Imagine hands coming down a mountain. The down side is rocky and loose and the upside is covered with thorns just waiting to prick. Up down intervals for two hours and then the finish.
I was happy when I signed up.
I was happy at the start.
I was not liking Atil for a few hours but when I finished injury free dancing down the finishing straight and was rewarded with 8th overall and a cold beer from Atil, all was forgiven and forgotten.
Are registrations open yet for next year?
Dylan 10:53:09 (Overall 8/23, Men 8/19, Cat 5/10)
Savaş 12:05:13 (Overall 12/23, Men 11/19, Cat 7/10)
Bike 04:45:22 (Overall 39/56, Women 5/10, Cat 2/4)
Ersavaş 03:17:16 (Overall 10/56, Men 10/46, Cat 5/18)