12 April 2014

Snow at last!

It is almost mid April and at last we got some serious snow on the mountains! In the 2013-2014 winter season we had almost no real winter in Brasov! It was the weirdest winter I remember. It felt more like  a long autumn followed by a very early spring, with just a couple of weeks in between that felt like real winter. Moreover, not only that the winter was unusually warm, but it was also very dry, with little snow on the mountains.

So this winter, instead skiing I did a lot of trail running. I almost declared the ski season closed, when surprise! Three days ago, suddenly, the weather got cold and wet. Down in the city it rained almost continuously for more than 3 days. Higher than 1000m it snowed. This morning I had my first and last real powder ski day of the season in Postavarul Mountain. 9 downhills through powder snow from the top of the ski slopes (1770m) down to Poiana Brasov ski resort (1050m). The upper half of the mountain was covered in 70cm of fresh dense powder snow, perfect for skiing. The lower part had about 40cm of wet and heavy snow, a bit more demanding for skiing.

It was a great skiing day! Here the few photos I took... the rest of the time I was busy skiing...
Waiting for the cable-car. It looks promising!
Through the wet window of the cable car
Big Powder, here I come!
On the top ridge of Postavarul Mountain
I wish I could see my trace, but the whole day was wet and foggy
Back home. The snow came down the mountain very close to the city
In the evening, a look back at the webcam on Postavarul... The weather seem to get better!

05 April 2014

Semimaraton Intersport, Brasov, April 5, 2014

In 2012, the first edition of Intersport half-marathon, was my first ever trail running competition. Back then I was into trail running for less than a year. Better trained and with more experience, I returned in 2013 and did it 20 minutes faster than the previous year, almost reaching the top 15% of the finishers! 

This year I decided to have a look at this competition from a different angle and I did not register. I am trying to reduce the number of competitions. Lately I tend to prefer slightly longer trail races in the 30-45km range and also with more elevation gain. I am not a very fast runner , definitely not a flatland runner, and this race is a rather fast one with only around 600m of positive elevation gain. This time I preferred to relax and enjoy the atmosphere, so I went on the route to take photos of the competitors in the half-marathon race. I know how much I enjoy finding photos with me on the Net after a race and I know that others do!

The competition takes place on the beautiful wooded hills around my home city Brasov, along the paths that I love and where I usually run. First 8.5km are a long uphill to Poiana Brasov mountain resort, along a winding unpaved forest road giving enough room for overtaking. From Poiana the trail returns to Brasov along  a beautiful single trail that follows the top of the hills until Tampa Mountain saddle. The start/finish area is just a couple of minutes from my house in Unirii Square (Piata Unirii, more traditionally called Prund). I could even see the finishing gate from my home and I listen "live" to the speaker announcements!

I did the race route twice earlier in the week and noticed that the trails were in a very good condition. The route was already well marked a few days before the race. Two huge fallen trees that were blocking the trail were cut and taken out of the way. In the previous years there were some serious mud problems. In 2013 part of the route had to be diverted to avoid a 500m stretch with knee deep mud. Following a very dry and warm winter, this time there was not a trace of mud on the way! Perfect conditions for a new best time of the race. The second time winner, Vitalie Gheorghita, finished in an unbelievable time for a 20km trail race with 640 meters of elevation gain: just 1:15:30! Actually it was 25 seconds slower than his own time of the the previous year. I would guess that the slightly longer time was due to some wet and slippery trail sections.
Vitalie Gheorghita, the second time winner of the race
The weather forecast this year was not good at all. In 2013 the weather was just perfect. In in 2012 the rain stopped just before the start of the race, but this year it was the other way round... the rain started just before the start. For the race day, the National Meteorological Authority issued a warning saying that the weather will get cold, wet and windy during the day. Although overcast, the morning was nice, quite warm and dry. Knowing that the weather can turn bad at any time I rushed out and did a 19km trail run session on the hills to Poiana Brasov and back. I ran partly along the race route, but my route had a bit more altitude gain, also reaching Tampa mountain top. From there I rushed home, in time to get some rest. I then grabbed an umbrella, some warm clothes and a camera and then I rushed up the hill to Stechil meadow, somewhere in the middle of the race route, the place where I took the photos.
With 700 registered participants, there was quite some traffic along the route!
The start countdown started a couple of minutes earlier than 12PM, the official start time. I guess that the rain that was just starting made everybody inpatient. I arrived in the square just as the last runners were disappearing in the distance. I knew that I only have 40 minutes to climb the 400m to Stechil Meadow. I arrived in time to prepare for taking the photos. As it was raining I did not take my best camera. Instead I took my little compact waterproof camera... So at least I have an excuse for the bad shots... I am really sorry that I missed a few runners! A few shots are also out of focus and some are not so well framed, but overall I am quite pleased with the results! Most jpeg files came out just fine out of the camera!

You are free to use any photo, as long as you give credit to the author. You can also contact me for a larger resolution version of the photo.

The umbrella was very useful as it rained almost all the time. I also noticed that while I stood taking photos for 1.5 hours, the weather got colder and colder. After an hour I had to put on my gloves as my hands started to freeze. In the morning before the race, the temperature in Brasov was almost 15C. By the end of the prize ceremony the temperature went down to 2C... Actually the weather was not too bad for running. The rain was quite light, most runners finished before it got too cold and there was almost no wind.
The start/finish area in Prund (Piata Unirii). The race route follows the hill tops in the distance
Overall, from what I could see, the 2014 edition of this race was again very well organized! Congratulations to the organizers and to all volunteers!

See you again in 2015!