a great combination.
It had been five years since I visited relatives and friends in Czech Republic so Jo and I decided it was time to see them again.
Two months would be a long time without competitive running. After checking the Ultra Calendar in Europe, I discovered two interesting races : “Trans Moravian Masochist 100 mile Trail Run” and “24Stundenlauf” or 24 hour road race in Worschach, Austria. In spite of being only a week apart, I entered both of them.
The flight with Emirates was one of the worst I had ever experienced. The problem was, that the stopover was in Dubai, 14 hours from Melbourne. Jo and I were cramped in the middle seat, hardly any leg room and on the top of it there was no room under the seat in front of me to stretch my legs. Next to me was a huge Arab taking a quarter of my small space with his elbows, sleeping most of the time so the chance to go for a walk around the cabin was very limited. I was never so sore, not even after 6 day race in Colac! A stopover in Dubai was most welcome and gave a chance to stretch our aching limbs and backs.
From Dubai to Vienna was fortunately less than 6 hours so we arrived relatively fresh. Jo’s sister and our friend met us at the airport to drive us to our hometown, Hodonin, only 120 km from Vienna. We had a very busy schedule ahead of us, apart from enjoying reunion with our family and friends.
The first was school reunion to mark 50th anniversary of matriculation from the Dairy Technical college. It is hard to believe how time flies! Some of my fellow students have already passed away. There were many of those attending I had not seen for 50 years! It was very enjoyable, I had to talk a lot about Australia and my life since I escaped in 1969 from Communist Czechoslovakia, occupied by the Russians. Memories, memories.....
The first race was TMMTR. Details about the race can be found on http://ultramarathon.czechian.net .
Only seven runners were on the starting line at 2 am. The 100 mile race has time limit of 30 hours. I did not see any problem completing this and a week later running 24 hours in Austria. How mistaken I was! I expected hilly terrain but what I found was more less a mountain run with some very steep sections on what could be called only as goat tracks. However the worst part was the weather – temperatures around 37 deg C during the day and drink stations 15 – 22 km apart! I carried only a small bottle and there was nowhere to find drink between them. I had never had a DNF in my life but
after completing 97 km (in fact it was well over 100 kms since I got twice lost and had to run extra kms) I was very tired and realized, that I could finish this race within the time limit, but would have nothing left for the following week. It was a hard decision to have my first DNF, but eventually I convinced myself that it was the most sensible thing to do. Only four runners completed the race. I can understand, why they call it “Masochist”
When I finally stopped at the check point in Račice, I was completely dehydrated and drank quickly three big glasses of water. It was highly carbonated and immediately I felt very sick. Had to sit down and fainted for a few seconds. Fortunately I recovered from it quickly and was OK again.
Now it was time to get ready for Worschach. Phil Essam after great effort found out that the Age 65 – 69 World Record for 24 hr road race was 174 km. Based on previous runs I thought I should be able to do it without too much trouble. But by the middle of the week I came down with a bad bronchitis – the same thing as I experienced during last Colac. It was the day before race when I took the last dose of antibiotics and felt very ordinary when with my brother Josef and wife Jo arrived in Worschach. It was a beautiful afternoon and we pitched up our tent for hopefully a peaceful night. But suddenly all hell got lose. A very intensive storm hit the town. All the barriers, erected for the race, the platform and everything else set up for the next morning were flying around. We packed out tent just in time and spent the night sleeping in school on a bare floor. Did not get much sleep and our bodies were pretty stiff by the morning. But the poor organizers had to dismantle all they had built with so much effort and had to start rebuilding all again as soon as the storm was over. By morning everything was back in its place.
In the morning the town came alive. Caravans and tents set up around the whole 2.3 km road circuit, bands playing, a real festival atmosphere and beautiful countryside all around. Between the organizers and runners some 2,500 people involved, not counting the number of spectators. Apart from individual runners there were many relay teams each consisting of up to 10 runners. After the race started at 2 pm, the music, the cheering and singing never stopped for the full 24 hours. It was unbelievable, something I had never experienced before. It is a race I would recommend to everyone to take a part in. ( www.24stundenlauf.at ) The next race will be in 2009.
Just before the start I heard Yiannis Kouros’ name mentioned but did not see him anywhere. He arrived after the race had already started. It did not take him long to hit the front and stay there till finish. I was really pleased to see him again. I think he was pleased too to see someone he knows, especially
since he had no support and therefore Jo and my brother could offer him their assistance which he gratefully accepted and used. I feel very privileged to know personally the greatest Ultra runner the world has seen.
Apart from Yiannis Kouros I did not know anyone else so it made me very happy, when my good Austrian friend, Ultra marathon runner Franz Tockner suddenly appeared. He made a special effort to travel there to say hello to me and give me some encouragement. I met Franz first time during the Spartathlon ultramarathon in Greece in 2000 and since then we are keeping in touch. Thanks Franz for coming!
My attempt for the world record was doomed from the start. The temperature around 38 deg C, the bronchitis and tired legs from the race the previous week all worked against me. At the end, I was happy to cover 162 kilometers, winning my age group and set up a new Australian age record for 24 hours and 100 miles, though I have not applied for them yet.
The rest of our holiday was – well, holiday. Visiting a lot of friends, traveling around the Czech Republic, discovering how much has changed since the fall of communism in 1989 and lots of parties!
Czech Republic is a country worth visiting. The old buildings have been beautifully restored, the nature has recovered from the devastation caused by the ruthless exploitation by the communists and the old traditions brought back. There are growing numbers of tourist attractions, including medieval pubs, western towns and of course lots of festivals including traditional costumes, dances, crafts, beer and wine festivals to name just few. And it is still relatively cheap. You can buy dinner for under $10, half liter of beer for a dollar. Even Australian wine in the supermarket can be bought from about four dollars.
We enjoyed our stay very much, however were happy to be home after spending 38 hours traveling. The next day was our granddaughter Samaras’ 18th birthday. We survived it too, but it contributed to our jet leg lasting whole week. Now I have to rebuild my physical fitness after about six weeks of partying and having good time with very little running.
Vlastislav Skvaril, Burnie, 12th September 2007