#260: Učka Trail 2022 for Sebastijan

Such a wonderful people…

I am talking to Elvir, the race director and for the umpteenth time I am thanking him for yet another wonderful Kvarner Trails event, furthermore saying how special the people here are. Elvir answered in a soft voice that this is run by the family. Those people there, regardless of their role in the organization, are family. Longtime friends who truly love each other. With all the problems that arise, they solve it as the most harmonious family and it doesn’t matter if it rains or shines. This weekend was especially difficult for them because they lost one of their own – Sebastijan Rubinić. When I spoke to Elvir just a few days earlier, he told me how Sebastijan tragically died in the week before the start of the race, and I know that it was extremely difficult for everyone there to concentrate on the race when there is pain and emptiness in their hearts due to the loss of a dear friend. We stand at the start and I watch one member of the organization during a minute of silence for Sebastijan, just before the start and I see her in true sadness. Sun glasses couldn’t hide it. At that moment, she represented all of them, all those family members who make sure that we runners enjoy the combination of nature and running as much as possible, while experiencing difficult personal moments. I wanted to hug her then, really, because I would like to hug all those wonderful people for whom I hope I am at least some distant relative who loves being part of this wonderful story. I hugged her at the end. I was so lucky.

But everyone knows that the show must go on. And so it was. Impeccable organization despite difficult circumstances. Učka trail has 3 versions of the race: 16, 31 and 42 km. Last year I went for 16K, changing the race at the last minute from 31 to 16 because of the second race, a week later. This year it’s the same story, but now I’m not changing anything. I’m going for 31 because I want both races in Croatia from the Golden Trails National Series SLO-CRO. So be it. And I’m so happy about that because Elvir has been telling me for a while that it’s the most beautiful race. Of course I believe him and I don’t. I believe him that it is beautiful, but at the same time I know that they are all beautiful. Green and blue. Surf and turf! The green of beautiful Učka with a view of Kvarner and its blue sea. Although I enjoyed the shorter race last year as well, I honestly have to say that the views from the glades of Učka towards Istria inland as well as the Kvarner Bay are something special! They will take your breath away! Yesterday, after the rain, the sky cleared and the views were endless. If it wasn’t a race, I would probably sit down and stare into the distance for a quite some time, trying to figure out which cities I was looking at and whether I could see all the way to Zavižan. Wonderful!

The sketchy forecast offered really different weather scenarios, but the start was bathed in sunshine. The race that starts from Mošćenička Draga along the waterfront from where it goes to the lungo mare all the way to the steps towards Mošćenice is a gentle warm-up for what follows. It’s probably the hardest part of the race and it’s actually great that it’s right at the start when you’re still fresh. Stairs that go endlessly, followed by a single track all the way to refreshment somewhere at the seventh kilometer. After that it’s “easy”. In fact, by then you’ve passed the steepest part and everything else actually goes much smoother. I don’t know how it is in the 42K race, but 31 was quite solid and without any crises. Martina and I ran another race side by side and I can say that it suits me because I have someone to chat with. It’s something like a trip! Like going out with friends. It’s just that you drink the beer at the end, not at the beginning. The climb to the first refreshment point is also the most difficult part due to the exposure to the sun, so besides the quadriceps begging for mercy, and the lungs and heart wondering what is going on, the sweat drips down as if it is raining, because you notice that the sweat is also dripping from the people around you. But it all pays off in the end.

Učka 31 has it all! A promenade by the sea, steps, soft ground, wide meadows, clearings and forests, forest and some asphalt roads, a passage through a small drainage tunnel, steep single tracks through grass or a creek bed and meadows with stone nuggets. And more. I know that nowadays it is difficult to put together a race calendar because almost every weekend several races are held at the same time, but there is a reason why people return to this race, as well as the others in the Kvarner Trails series. Maybe I’ll decide for the next one to be 42. I’ll just try everything. I know that 31 I can do. And that it doesn’t kill me but brings joy.

And the finish line? At the finish line, everything is tracked and every runner is a greatness for himself. At least to the organizers. And you again have the feeling that you are entering the finish line of the UTMB, even though this year the number of people along the final walk was lessened from the last year. But the organizers make sure to make up for all that because they know in advance who is coming (a chip sensor approx. 300m before the finish line allows them to do this) so they have enough time for proper announcement. Martina and I ran to the finish line again, as we did in Risnjak, and I’m thinking maybe it’s time for some kind of team race in which I follow her pace. She trains, I slack off. And then she drags me to the finish line like on Risnjak Trail. But this time I was up to the task, which is probably because she was sick and not because I was in a good mood. Although I was. Congrats to Martina for the third place in the W35 category on Učka trail 31K and overall fourth place in GTNS SLO-CRO among women. It was worth going to all four races in the series. Hats off, especially because of the rivals.

Never the less, the goal actually speaks mostly about the race because it’s like you’ve arrived to some kind of family party in its most positive sense. A lot of people know each other, and even if that’s not the case, it is very likely that you will be greeted by someone you may know or part of your team or crew. This year, we missed Maja and her smile at the finish line, but she kept an eye on Vita, who is too small to be part of the crowd. Vita is a 10-week-old Belgian Shepherd. But at the same time, we had a real little show from the other Maja (Urban), the one who won at 42K race and at the finish already classically entertained us with her wiggle. And then a swim in the sea and a slight cloudburst, which we mostly observed from the “VIP lodge” at Dario Mišković’s terrace just above the finish line area. Thank you Nataša and Dario for the wonderful reception and hospitality. I am also looking forward to the closing of the season in Malinska in November, but most of all I am looking forward seeing people that grew on me. Nature is always beautiful. The Kvarner Trails team knows why are having those races at these locations. But people… every refreshment offers, in addition to fine food, a real miniature socializing with volunteers who always delight me. But they take stun me when telling me “but you’re at home”, which probably alludes to my blog in which I quote famous Croatian singer Gibonni: People, I’m at home! They recognize me. Me. And I cannot be more humble and more insignificant. But they don’t recognize only me. They recognize many as most return to these races and the family continues to help make everyone feel awesome at the race! Thank you Kvarner Trails. See you soon and I love you so much!

This photo says it all – the most humble and friendly thank you for yet another wonderful experience, for hanging out, for friendship and see you soon.

Some photos were take from Kvarner Trails’ facebook pages, they are marked with their logo and I do not claim any rights to them.

You can find this article in Croatian as well.

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