When I was researching races for 2016 I came across the Podbrdo Trail Running Festival in Slovenia and entered straight away. I had always wanted to visit Slovenia and the route look beautiful. It was only later when I went back to inspect the website in more detail did I discover it was also to host the World Trail Running Long Course Championships. A fleeting thought of ‘what about trying to gain a place on the GB team’ was soon quashed by ‘don’t be stupid you’re no mountain, fell or hill running’. The qualifying race was the 3 peaks race in Yorkshire and was won by true fell and well known mountain runners so that confirmed that thought. However, I was looking forward to learning from the National teams and their skills in such a race if I could keep up!
After Transvulcania I was looking forward to a race where I could stretch my legs out on the trails. On my first training run on Dartmoor after a disappointing 11th in the 74km race I managed to sprain my ankle. Really annoying but that’s life! I started on the old routine of cross training, lots of ankle rehab and after 2 weeks or so I tentatively started running again. I also continued to cross train and probably over did it but soon picked up a cold virus so had to rest up for 5days. My lead up to this race wasn’t great but I was determined to enjoy it. I headed out there with the remains of a cold, a vulnerable ankle, two blisters on my feet and a sore back (weight squatting session where I somehow doubled bounced and jarred my back) but a big smile.
We (Jon and I) flew into Ljubljana airport and caught the bus into the city. My first impressions were one of a clean and friendly country. We then caught the train straight out into the hills past Lake Bled to Jesenice and then swopped trains heading through the mountain tunnels to Podbrdo. I had booked accommodation through the race website and we were to be staying in a local woman’s house. The house was delightfully located by a river at the foot of the mountains. It straight away made me smile even more and the fresh air combined with the views was so relaxing. Our hosts were so welcoming. We got to sample true Slovenian cuisine and hospitality.
The initial descent was technical and I had to have a firm word to myself about being such a lame descender but the path soon became gravel tracks and roads and I could pick up pace. It was steep as we travelled down to Hudajužna at 361m. At about 28km I started walking and essentially did not start running until the top at 1590m at Porezen. That 7km was so steep on one section it was roped. As I started running past the ski lift station at the top I got overtaken by the chasing female. She descended like a true fell runner (fellow Brit) in a flury and a blur. The last descent over 7km was 1000m and this certainly tested the quads!
The race was superbly organised and well marked. I enjoyed its challenge, finishing in 5hrs dead and coming in 2nd overall and first in my age category.
I was delighted to find out the that team GB had come in 3rd (women) (and it was won by Brit to boot) and 2nd (men).
On arrival back at our local accommodation after the prize giving we enjoyed a glass of wine and a moment to savour in the beautiful location with our hosts.
The next day Jon raced like a demon coming in 11th and first in the over 50’s. It was a 12km course climbing 800m. I tried to keep up to take photos but he soon saw the better of me.