Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mountain run in Croatia

The first thing one notices when approaching the Dalmatian coast of Croatia by boat is the stunning mountain range that casts a backdrop for the beach-town of Makarska. One peak in particular - Sveti Jure at 1762m - towers above the rest.

I scanned the side of the looming rock faces from the boat for any sign of trails that may allow a runner access to the delirious heights of the summit. No visible scars from this angle, which I supposed meant that access would be limited to rock climbers, or from the other side. Still, i figured that It was worth investigating at the info centre anyway. Either way though, a mountain run of this proportion seemed unmanageable in the prevailing heat (32 degrees plus).

Initial investigations revealed that there was a track, which sneakily twisted and turned it's way up the mountain between rock faces and eventually connected with a road that ran to the summit from the other side of the range. The route was 24km return with over 2000 metres of vertical ascent. My only chance was to start early and beat the sun.

After seeing Alison off on her own epic adventure (a 1400m climb to a viewing point) I set off just after 5.30am in temperatures already reaching into the high twenties. The route was demanding right from the gate of our apartment, offering a daunting preview of what was to come. The first 6km of trail climbed 1430 metres from Makarska up to the Vosec viewing point. Even my rough gradient calculations had not prepared me for the actual shock of trying to ascend the trail at this ungodly hour of the morning.

Progress was slow, and on parts of the route my run was reduced to an off-balanced power walk on the unstable rocky ground (flashbacks of Carrauntoohil ascent). Nevertheless, before I knew it, the time was nearing on 7am and had reached the viewing point 1430m above our apartment. I was rewarded with brilliant views of the town and of the islands that lie off the coast (apparently on a very clear day you can see Italy!).

Perhaps more importantly, I could see the summit of Sveti Jure, which still looked disturbingly distant, considering how tired my legs were already.

If this were NZ, you would never see a road in remote and beautiful landscape like this. But unbelievably, some poor bastard had actually built a road up to the summit, and I was now running on it. This was finally something that my running coach might approve of, probably not though.

The view from the top was staggering, but as usual I didn't have time to enjoy it. I was in a race against the sun, and i was losing. No trouble though because I had a lot of descending ahead of me, so expected to make good time on the way down. This was confirmed when the ears started popping and the temperature started rising dramatically with the decreasing altitude. By the time I reached the apartment after approximately 3h10min running time, the temperature had climbed well into the 30s - siesta and beach time!


Three oat biscuits, 800ml water.

Ascent/descent: 2000 metres
Distance: 24km

Location:Biokovo mountains, Croatia

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