Race report: Before he heads out to Zegama, Run247 columnist Robert Britton looks back at a successful race at the Iznik Ultra Race Series - Iznik, Turkey, April 19-20, 2014
Photos ©iancorless.com - all rights reserved
Everyday that I get an email from Ian Corless asking if I want to go run up and down mountains in a foreign country is a good day.
So far it's only happened once, but that was a chance for me to run the 42km race in the Iznik Ultra series in Turkey and I snapped his hand off when the opportunity arose. I didn't know any Turkish words and I thought it was high time I tried to learn a few, something which turned out to be a little more difficult than the race itself!
This article is a little late as it has been a busy few weeks with TransVulcania (HERE), Wings for Life World Run (HERE) and about 1329 flights and hours in airports around Europe. Now I'm at the inov-8 conference "modelling" a few bits of kit for a presentation, so now is Iznik time at the back! Don't tell anyone!
Having never been to Turkey before it was quite an adventure flying out there into Istanbul, an ultra of a journey to get there from La Palma, but somewhat easier for the other Brits coming over from Blightey, like fellow Team inov-8 athlete Tracy Dean, Jo Meek, Marcus Scotney & Stu Air. A miniature invasion with the aim of taking the victories in the 42k, 80k and 130k races.
Iznik is a region for ceramic tiles and olives and those where the prizes on offer, with the winner of the 130km race getting their body weight in olives. They breathed a sigh of relief when I went for the 42k as Marcus is only 55kg and I would have cost them another 15kg of olives... Only if I had won Marcus, we would have had fun!
The 130k started at 12:00am on the Friday night and Marcus was already half way through by the time we even started the 80k & 42k at 7:30, despite having also taken a detour along a main road just to make the race a bit more interesting for us watching. A huge 45 minutes behind at one point, Marcus showed a lot of grit and determination to reel back in the winner of the last two 130ks, obviously with those olives on his mind as he went on to win and set a new course record (HERE).
Unfortunately Stu Air was struggling with a niggle and unable to race the 42km, as his main goal of the Hardrock 100 in the States takes priority and he made the sensible decision not to join the party on the Turkish hills. Having spent a few weeks training in La Palma I was raring to go on the start line and gave an almighty roar as I trotted under the beautiful arch that made up part of the historic city walls and into the olive groves before the hills.
One of the reasons this race was a brilliant precursor to TransVulcania was the very similar, yet scaled down profile that went through the Turkish hills. The views were fantastic, with snow topped mountains on one side and an idyllic lake to the right as you moved easily over solid trails through villages, olive groves and farm tracks. The initial 700m uphill was a little softer trail and my inov-8 X-Talons made light work of the ascent, giving me a good break from the rest of the field.
What followed was a lot of easy downhills and runnable ascents that played to my strengths, allowing me to open the legs a little and push on, past local supporters with cow bells and goats, although I'm not sure running through a gander of goats (that's not the right collective noun but I'm going with it) helped keep the pacing steady!
The 80k race was hotting up, with Tracy Dean and Jo Meek exchanging the lead when the course suited each of their strengths, but the fast pace, heat and lack of technical downhill meant that it wasn't to be Tracy's day, with Jo breaking the solid CR record set by US World 100k champ Amy Sproston last year.
I can't wait until a rematch between these two at Lakeland 50, which should play more to Tracy's strength (as shown by her CR) but also with the added fun of Lizzie Wraith, Eddie Sutton and a bunch of other top UK female runners. Those girls are tough!
Back to the 42k and a very comfortable run saw me set a new CR of 3:08, a competitive time on that course but with plenty of room for improvement if anyone fancies a go? The finish line was a typical Turkish town centre with lots of old men sitting in cafés looking at us as if we had landed from space, mixed with cheering locals!
Photos © Robert Britton
The fun was not over yet, the following day there was a 10k race and I broke one of my own rules - rest is paramount - merely because I get really excited by racing any distance. Caner, the RD, informed me they had some 31:00 10k runners and a couple set off at that pace, so I settled into my own race running around the city walls and along the lakeside before, to my surprise, the leaders came back to me and I managed to get to town first and meet the local politicians. Tracy also made a come-back from the day before for the women's 10k. You can't keep her down!
The big presentation followed and the British were often up on the podium, jumping around and trying to spray Red Bull cans like champagne... Well that was just me and the faces of the photographers as I shook the can told me that maybe it wasn't my greatest idea.
Weighed down with enough Turkish blue tiles to make the bathroom look really lovely and enough olives to keep the Scotney clan fed for months to come, we were off, back for a cheeky night out in Istanbul, another thing I would highly recommend.
A huge thanks to Ian Corless for organising the trip, Caner Odabaşoğlu, the Race director and his fantastic team of Rabia, who looked after us, and THE BIG MAN, Emre, our Turkish driver who, despite not speaking a word of English and my not speaking a word of Turkish, had some great debates with us (he also took quite a liking to our Tracy).
A great series of races in a part of the world one might not usually visit, it is well worth a visit and my only regret is that we only had a short time to explore the surrounding mountains, archaeology and culture. And that I didn't have the bottle to spray the Red Bull can everywhere...
Photos © iancorless.com - all rights reserved
Click here to read Ian Corless' race report from Iznik, covering all of the races
For more information on the race and for full results visit: www.iznikultra.com
Robbie is a 100 mile runner who is a member of the Great Britain 24hr Running Squad and Team Centurion and likes to run ridiculous distances as quickly as possible.
To provide enough food to feed a monster running habit, Robbie coaches other ultra marathon runners through www.robbiebritton.co.uk and is also a member of the coaching team at Centurion Running. He likes to dabble with a bit of writing so that others can learn from his mistakes and enjoy the sport as much as he does.
Robbie is also a is a Profeet ambassador.
"Pain is inevitable, suffering is just part of the fun"