#168: Hahlići 2021 – back to basics… and then some (English version)!

Plans from 2020 have been moved to 2021, so my great desire to run all four races from the Kvarner Trails series seems quite doable. This weekend was marked by so many races all over Croatia, and if I would have to single out some that would be the Absolute Biokovo Challenge , where Danijela sat on the podium, if I understood it correctly, and that underground race across Medvednica – Traversa, where many of my friends gathered, both as runners and as support. There are also some for whom Traversa was not enough, so they warmed up with Reversa first, as Dinko Bažulić called it. Congratulations to Petra. I went through Sljeme’s Traverse and I don’t even know how and where the energy came from, but it seems that the training is going great and the result is visible (for all who are interested, read the article about this adventure on her blog). Maybe one day… you never know. 50K was too much for me!

In general, my experiences with Hahlići, for which I can say I belong to the veterans’ group after the third appearance at the finish line, were always phenomenal. The view from Dražice towards the Grobnik Alps is always impressive. Especially when you arrive the day before for the bib pickup, and the sun bathes the slopes. But honestly I never came to the race in the morning without clouds above the hills… until now! And I actually hoped to finally experience Hahlići without rain, hail, clouds and wind. Conditions on Hahlići change incredibly fast. Miraculously fast, so it happened that we went into a storm and we came out on that beautiful mixture of clouds and sun with a beautiful view of Kvarner bay.

Beautifully sunny this time! Yes, there were a few clouds because that was the forecast, but let’s be honest, the sky is more beautiful when there is a little bit of everything. My buddy Andy and I went for race bibs distributions and check in, I cast an eye on Solomon’s stand (because I can’t help myself), said hi to the race organizer out of curtessy and respect and we went for a quick coffee (and everything that goes after coffee). Vanja and his friend Jelena came soon, so we briefly but cheerfully exchanged a few sentences, recalling some stories of me pacing Vanja in few races that eventually ended in his favor. The race is about to start and the temperature is around 15 degrees Celsius, no wind so it will get warm very quickly. In addition to first aid, I also put a rain jacket in my running backpack because I had already gone through freezing in Hahlići before, so just in case. It’s not heavy and I won’t dramatize about a couple of grams. We are in a great mood and can’t wait to start. Andy starts in the second group and I start two minutes later in the third (due to pandemic measures). At the start, they announce that the trail has been slightly changed in relation to the gpx trail due to the water level of the river that had to be crossed. I didn’t download the gpx because I know the trail is always well marked so I didn’t bother with it. But when we turned off the road onto the trail, it was as if I had forgotten the way we had gone for the first two times because certain landscapes were unknown to me, not to mention how surprised I was by certain verticals which we very quickly began to climb after the dry waterbed we ran through. Technically demanding so the running is limited there. Of course, you can’t always have single trails laid out. The verticals were something like Horvatove stairs (Medvednica, Zagreb), but without the fine stones you can safely step on. Almost the same, right?

So, after coming out of the first woods came the meadows. Something beautiful, and the view goes out in all directions. The more you climb the view gets more spectacular. Of course, if you are not in a cloud with hail like we were in 2019 when Robi and I rode Hahlići Trail together. Skole was there then, whose smile we were slightly missing this year. Robi wasn’t there either, but Andy and I were a really spectacular duo – the American & the bloggerThere was only one of each in this race as far as I know. Either way, ascending Hahlići is not a runny thing, at least not in my case. I was caught of guard a bit with the steep section at the beginning, but I didn’t want to overwork myself at the start because I knew that the trail had been changed and that compared to previous years, another four kilometers and some 400m+ of elevation had been added.

We reach refreshments (drinks) somewhere before the ninth kilometer, I take in water and isotonic and continue towards the top at the tenth kilometer. So that last uphill we used to go down in previous years and it’s actually wicked steep ( there’s a photo above where you can see the slope in front of my nose)! The sun was high already, warmed us up well and I know the downhill over the meadows is coming now and that’s my forté, what I’m good at. If nothing else better than most and something I quite enjoy. And I actually rushed down. A mixture of grass and gravel so you don’t actually know for sure how strong will your foot lock on the surface because grass tufts are like little stairs when you run down! It’s crazy. The views are phenomenal but if only I had time to stop and enjoy them because I had to manage all my focus on how not to f…k myself up. I think I had enough of that for this year. But since we were passing by a herd of horses I just had to stop and take some photos. Many have done so and Hahlići with their meadows are known for having semi-wild horses everywhere. That’s just amazing. I stopped, but only briefly as I continue to lightly run downhill overtaking many who I am pretty sure will retaliate in the same fashion as soon as we go uphill, which is not one of my best sides. And so it would be. I had my own pace, but people have been catching up with me. It’s getting hot and I don’t enjoy it at all. Almost at the very top of the climb, I meet Romeo and Matko who caught up with me or I caught up with them, so we outpace each other back and forth actually to the very end because as soon as the downhill showed up, I would get closer again and passed them. I look at Matko and think to myself “I know this guy”, but I don’t know from where. At one point, he shows me two horses at the top of the hill and asks me to take pictures of them, that is, to take pictures of him as well, but that he will find me on Facebook. I tell him who I am, and he tells me we ran together already that Anti-cener with Nedeljko Vareškić. The six of us! And look where we meet again. Phenomenal. That’s where I’m starting to feel hungry! What hunger, for God’s sake? Where did it come from? I even had a breakfast (a shake) which I don’t normally do. Basically, I took out granola (the excellent one, paleo by Filip inspired by the inputs given by coach Željka Šaban Miličić) with dates and peanuts so that I can somehow come to my senses and not fall into an energy deficit. I go slow and chew on during the uphill. I could hardly wait to climb to the end of the climb and go downhill over Kolci, and in the meantime Andy passes by and I overtook him again on Kolci with a phenomenal view of Kvarner, islands, Učka peak,… a rain cloud that shakes it’s content a little to the north. Miraculously. F…k everything, I slow down and take a look at that beauty and a few photos. I’m pretty sure I won’t have a podium waiting for me at the finish, unless they introduce the category of middle-aged bloggers. Maybe I have a chance then! But unfortunately we can’t stand and admire for too long because this is a race after all. In fact mostly with the rest of the day where both Andy and I have to “run” back to our families.

Most of the photos from Hahlići Trail from my facebook account

I leave Andy again and run downhill, but this time I feel like I’m not quite myself. My legs do not respond as usual on the downhill. I outpace Romeo and Matko again, so we find ourselves at a refreshment station where there is a real abundance. Dates, cheese, dried figs, apples, wafers, bananas, oranges,… drinks… really great! Real food! If someone had made Turkish coffee, I would probably have sat there at the ridge and said: see you when I see you! As I actually ate almost the same things a while ago, I tried not to overdo it, but I still exaggerated a bit. A slight uphill starts and then only downhill with a few meters up every now and then where I walk! I’m walking?! So what’s wrong with me? My legs don’t seem to be mine. This added elevation and mileage seems to have done its thing, but I’m shredding trails as far as it goes. I don’t see anyone behind me, but it’s all deceptive because we didn’t start at the same time, so the difference is easily compensated. My fists are swollen like hobbit feet. I don’t understand what’s going on at all. I’ve had these problems before, but mostly when I don’t have poles.

Poles!! I just bought new Masters folding poles for this year’s trail season at Keindl Sport. And I was thinking at the start whether I should take them or not. I looked around, scanning runners, their constitution, equipment, clothing, sneakers and trying to draw a parallel whether they are taking poles or not. Basically, what I saw was that it’s very personal because there was a guy that didn’t have even a drop of water on him. And so I left the rods nicely tucked away in the trunk… next to the telescopic poles. It’s not like I have only one set in the car. What a fool! There, I said it. I’m such a fool. I should have taken them. I needed to unload part of the uphill movement from legs to my arms. And it cost me. It did. The last 4 kilometers, two of which on the singles through the pine forest downhill (beautifully smooth for running otherwise) were actually strenuous, and mostly all I was focused on was not to fall and get injured. I’ve had enough of that. The last two kilometers are meadows and asphalt. And that’s where Matko arrives, and Romeo narrows the gap and they both end up having better times. Totally deserved. I was running to the finish line in the stadium with an intermittent run – walk style, I put on a Salomon mask that I grabbed as a special souvenir, and Vanja, my running buddy and blogger too, takes a photo of my grandiose crossing of the finish line. The expected time was sub3 , but still 20 minutes over that. But I’m done. Learned something. Enjoyed it a lot and struggled a little. I am looking forward to returning to Hahlići because it is one of my first trail races, if not the first (honestly I don’t know). Great race, great atmosphere, great crew.

At the finish line I get to see some people I know through social networks, and at the same time some people who read these lines of mine and they tell me how much they like what I write. Thank you! Sincere thanks! It’s nice to hear that. So many times I have the feeling that no one is reading it so I am always pleasently surprised. I went to the restroom to push my Frankfurter-like fat fingers under cold water to soak a little. I have to figure out what’s with that, but i have this feeling someone already told me that using the poles may help. After a few photos with the crew at the finish line Andy and I went for lunch (took the veggie option), sipped mineral and alcoholic-free beer (being responsible while driving) and chatted briefly with Vanja and Jelena who also finished their race. A beautiful day, a wonderful event and a wonderful place. Have you already heard me saying that I want to return to Hahlić? But until then, Risnjak 30K needs to be done, Učka 31K and then the speed in Malinska at 24K. To name a few. In the meantime, some wishes, such as the race on Premužićeva in June (not a race but a challenge)…but a man can dream.

You can find this article in Croatian as well.

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