Alaiye Short Trail,
2 things into one. It’s like a dream come true. This is the 4th time we meet with our beloved Alanya Ultra Trail trails and the German rocket Moritz is also here in Turkey once again, at the AST start line! Twice we have witnessed him beating course records at Cappadocia MT. His training logbook in Alanya prior to the race have whispered us he is coming back even stronger than before. We love this strong and fast guy, so down to earth, such a good athlete, always exciting to watch his Strava records. Perhaps these pandemic times did not allow us to drink a recovery drink together, until next time we promise we owe one!
Prost auf dich der Tahinmann! Kappadokien wartet auf dich!
Alanya instead of Almanya
-Participation in the Alanya Ultra Trail (Turkey) during Covid-19 times-
I was wondering whether I should travel to Turkey for a race due to the current restrictions. Due to my chronic asthma illness since childhood, I am considered a high-risk group and can expect a potentially more serious course of Covid-19 disease! In the end I decided to do it. On the one hand, because I have known the competition organization for a long time from the Cappadocia Ultra Trail, consider them to be very competent and they had promised to take proper measures (mask requirement in the entire event area, at refreshment stations, at the victory ceremony, in the start / finish area; also distance rules and block starts). On the other hand, because, like all other passengers on my flight, I had to show a negative PCR Covid test in advance and register online. In addition, I kept my distance on site as far as possible, always wore an FFP2 mask in public spaces and spent 10 days almost alone. It should also be mentioned that I am now a professional athlete and that this is the way I earn my money. Why should exceptions only apply in football?!
A quick decision
Actually, my plan for March / April was to prepare specifically for the Innsbruck Alpine Trail Festival, to which my new main sponsor adidas TERREX had invited me, and to finally visit my family in Germany again. The training was successful as hoped, but a trip to Bonn was absolutely out of the question.
Necessity made inventive. I looked around for the possibility of a training camp and heard that my teammates Ekaterina and Dmitry Mityaev were going to run a race in Turkey, the Alanya Ultra Trail. A fact-check of the entry requirements showed that professional athletes with a negative PCR test (not older than 72 hours) are allowed to enter without quarantine. The same conditions apply to the return journey. However, the test can then be a maximum of 48 hours old. After consulting my sponsor and briefly contacting the race organizer, it was clear that I would be there at the start just a few days later.
It is strange that you are not allowed to travel to your own home country to see your family, but an intercontinental business trip is possible. So Alanya instead of Almanya!
It was a long time since my last competition. In November 2019 I was fortunate enough to take part in “Oman by UTMB” and raced over 53 km and 2.600 m+ in this beautiful country.
That meant 16 months without any competition experience. 19 months had even passed since the last time I was the first to lift the finish banner with great satisfaction. The rituals and preparations are of course still engraved in my brain. But first you have to find the rhythm again. Fortunately, the nervousness, which I dearly welcome, came a few days beforehand and uncertainty gave way to curiosity and anticipation.
This feeling is simply irreplaceable for me and as a competitive athlete you certainly get into a kind of dependency on it. For me, the anticipation of a competition and the short moment of the start are immensely important. Both are actually significantly more important to me than a podium finish or victory.
So, when I had the negative test result in my hands two days before my departure, I knew that the abstinence would soon come to an end. The way back to addiction. An addiction that I declare to be mine, but one I do not judge over. Insofar as competitive sport does not purposefully promote my health, it can still be justified much better than alcoholism or tobacco consumption.
Last minute preparation
What was I thinking about before this race? Well, basically the same as usual. “I would like:
• ..to have all the information I need (route characteristics, start time, weather)
• ..to be pleasantly nervous the days before
• ..to sleep at least eight hours the night before last
• ..to have breakfast three hours before the race
• ..to approx. get up from the toilet with relief two hours the race commences
• ..to get off to a healthy start.”
In this case, I also spent a few hours looking at the approximately 1.5 km stretch of beach that we would run on. A tough part since it’s towards the end of the competition, when the legs are slowly going numb and the mental stamina has long since taken over. Running on sand has never really been one of my favorites. It also challenges the tendons and muscles in a completely different way. But as it turned out, the race should become exciting right there.
Finally, adrenaline again!
Last Saturday at 9:07 a.m. (due to different starting blocks and distances) it finally started.
I had all the information I needed, including the fact that medium-sized turtles were on the single track choosing it as a sun terrace, representing real stumbling blocks. For at least five days I had been on the nervousness level of Angela Merkel shortly before her press conference on the fifth change of Covid 19 measures within a week. After all, I had slept a total of eight hours within two nights (shoutout to the talkative Russians in the adjacent room). At exactly 6:05 a.m. I put in the last slice of toast with banana and honey. I had even successfully run to the toilet four times and was now at the start!
The last hour before the start really went by in a flash. The excitement was immense, the warm-up program went well, and the selfies with my Turkish and Iranian friends from recent years (2x participation in the Cappadocia Ultra Trail in Turkey and 1x on the Geopark Trail in Iran) bridged the rest of the way. I stood for the last 10 minutes right next to the start; applauding the participants of the 28-KM distance; actually, even being in the middle of the racing action myself already.
Visualization is a big part of my race preparation. This time it was no different. And moments before the start, I imagined how about 90 minutes later I would be the first to cross the finish line. Of course, that doesn’t work every time. But still it has often helped me to get 100% of my individual power out of myself. And what else could I potentially ask for?!
The start itself was pure adrenaline.
Up, down. Up, down. Up, down.
The route, 17.8 km long and with 850 meters of altitude gain, was quite fast, though sometimes surprisingly technical.
The fact that the 28-km runners took to the route shortly before our start made the first small mountain, which consisted practically only of single trails, a slalom run. Coupled with the crazy feeling of finally running a competition again, my heart rate was at 160 within a minute (182 is my maximum heart rate).
After only two KMs there was a clear cut and two more KMs went over asphalt to bridge the route to the real mountains. I had been warned that there was another runner who would make my life difficult. But at this point and a pace of about 3:30/km I thought I was safe.
The second ascent was steep and started on asphalt. A short time later I switched to single trails again. There the temptation was too great and I turned my head for the first time to check the situation. Of course, how could it have been otherwise, my competitor Mustafa was exactly five meters behind me and looked pretty relaxed. I hadn’t even heard him. So, his running style and breathing had to be pretty calm and elegant. Damn it!
Over the next seven to eight KMs we ran head-to-head at full throttle after a friendly, but also brief “Hello. My name is.. . Good luck.” Uphill I was mostly in front, downhill I let him take the lead. Downhill is known to cost more energy for the purpose of navigation, otherwise a fall becomes more likely. So, I was able to relax a little and follow his surprisingly sizable legs (at least for a mountain runner in the national team).
After we had grinded through the second mountain together, we went flat again over asphalt before the beach section was about to hit us. Mustafa was still sailing disgustingly elegantly next to me and I was already imagining how to celebrate my second place. But as fast as he was on the mountain and on the asphalt, as soon as we had to step on the sand, he suddenly retreated, inch by inch. When it was back to the trails and the last small mountain, I had a lead of about 20 meters. That doesn’t sound like much, but it gave me the time to make use of an extra turbo in the thicket of bushes without him being able to see me and react. Because of that it was possible for me to more than double the gap within a short period of time. What I had planned as a tactical move in the lactate tangle more than paid off. Mustafa was suddenly gone and I now had to fight mainly against my own fatigue and the of course still existing but invisible opponent behind me.
These are often the most difficult moments. When you are heading towards your goal, you run completely to the limit, you are even in the lead, but you also know that nothing has been won yet. The last 100 meters to the top, my legs were completely dead. But once I was up on the top and I still couldn’t see my opponent on the previous 100 meters, I was sure that I would bring this one home.
There is nothing better than being able to enjoy a victory over the last one or two kilometers. You allow yourself to give 2% less and thus you’re able to think clearly again.
My injuries of the last two years came to mind, the fact that there were hardly any competitions last year because of Covid-19, and that this feeling of absolute fulfillment cannot be taken for granted.
The last 100 meters were pure joy.
Not just # 37
For me this win was number 37 in my running career. But it was definitely one of my top 5 experiences. I have seldom felt the weight, that fell from my body, so intensively as I crossed the finish line. It’s a shame I won’t get you experience this again very often. Or maybe I’m lucky!
Moritz auf der Heide
For Moritz’s post in German about the race in Alanya, please click: https://michael-arend.de/BlogPost/rennen-zu-covid-zeiten
For previous Team Run.Bo race reports in English and Turkish, please check the links below.