Before I finally make my way back to the secluded surf spots of east Asia to surf some waves after more then two years of dry land, there was one more event that I absolutely did not want to miss before my return and the start of the winter season. The RedBull Planica 400 race at the legendary ski flying hill of the Gorišek brothers at Planica. This is how it went.
I will be honest. I am not a competitive guy. I had my share of competitions when I was still training skiing, tennis, and tae kwon do. I even managed to get a nice share of medals and titles but it was not what drove my motivation and got me into extreme sports.
I was never interested in beating other people. I was interested in beating myself and motivating friends to join in on the adventure. Contests, like the old Freeride Battles at Kanin and the various fun shred battles at the openings in Austria for me are more a thing of fun, camaraderie and bonding with friends, then dicking contests on who is the fastest, greatest and ahm… has the longest… My goal is to have fun with people I love and like. That is my approach to any competition.
Now in it`s forth edition I knew the RedBull Planica 400 event already. It always looked fun. In previous years thou, I never had the time to check it out. Mostly because this is the time of the year where flight tickets are cheap and I can afford that getaway to Indo surf life. This year thou I was still here and talking to Jan and Krištof on a evening a good month ago it did not take much to quickly convince me to take part too :).
One of the reasons, next to having fun with your friends, is probably also that I am physically in a condition now that allows me to pass with a reasonably ok time. All the height meters over the summer with my trusted Salomon Speedcross CS shoes have got to count for something right.
In our group Jan is the fittest of us three. He had made it into the finals a year earlier already with 7 mintues and 13 seconds with Krištof, the youngest, trailing just close behind and missing the final for a few seconds. I am the oldest and usually trail a bit behind Krištof. With that In mind I did not set to much of a goal. If I made it in under 10 minutes I would be happy.
The whole race runs the length of 400m with an altitude difference of around 225m. You start in waves of 72 contestants who have to finish in a capted max time of 15 minutes. The top from each wave go into the final, plus a few wild cards. The final sees these running up again for the winner to take a nice cash prize.
As the final week before the contest approached I did not want to leave it all to chance. Talking to Krištof on Monday we wanted to do a bit of training for the whole thing went down. I figured we could run up our local Smokušk mountains steep part a few times and time ourselves. Jan was just planing a bike trip on the suunto movescout app and wanted to leave. My SMS arrived just in the nick of time for him to join as well.
I picked both guys up. Then, when I wanted to go straight on the crossing to Smokušk Jan said: “Are we not going to Planica.” Yeah why not do the real thing :P. So 30 minutes later we were at the base of the giant ski jump. A short warm up later we started our test run. As usual rest days are for suckers 😛 I had not rested for 3 days doing everything from running, trails, mountains and climbing. My feet were reasonably tired. Add to that a bit of an odd left ACL pain I did not think I would have an ok time.
Jan took off and was up in no time even taking a break while I kept pace with Krištof to around half the jump. After that I started loosing ground. When we arrived at the top I had made it in around 9 minutes. Well that was already better then my goal.
Happy about it I got a little bit more motivated. After a greek brand beer back at the car I thought to myself. Could I make it close to the final. Race day would answer that!
7am. Time to get up. I threw all my stuff in the car and off I was. Picked up Krištof and Jan. It was raining. A lot. The radar image was really bad. Would the race even start?
At 9am we were at the registration. We picked up our goodies packs. Some ice power for later. Food cupons and Frutabella for energy with the obligatory shirt and race number. I had 527. The guys were in group six. It was still raining. Since the briefing was two hours away we decided to get a bite to eat at Kranjska Gora. Cheese bread, bananas and chocolate. Then I got a text from my boss. Yay work. I guess reminders from the ‘grown up world’ have to pop up… I was a bit bummed out by that.
When we made it back it was almost time for the briefing. We were packing stuff up and quick. Since I did not take any additional backpacks I cleared out my big photohog Dakine bag. Put everything in there I would need to change and also my fancy Katadayn water bottle… that was not closed. While I was putting up my running shirt it slowly cleared it`s way into my backpack and my cars side chair. Yay. This was going well.
After a quick clean up we were at the tent listening to the briefing. The weather was still looming and the organizers decided to cancel the final. Only time would decide this year. A good hour and a half away from our runs we started our warm-up. We did the same thing we did on Monday. We rand two short ups into the Tamar valley. Jan did three. I was feeling ok. Things were good.
We killed some time before the start by visiting the Salomon booth. Since Salomon is my sponsor for my winter stuff and I use their running shoes I wanted to check out the new Speedcross 4 shoes.
I also met Miha from Salomon and he showed me the new Suunto Spartan smart sports watch. Nice and light. Display well readable in the daylight. I hope to test it during the season 🙂
Then it was almost time to start. While waiting I sipped a RedBull with Krištof. Probably not the best idea. Before our group was called up a camera guy came to me and asked if I could wear a wrist Gopro. The edit for the event will be completely made with GoPro footage. Being a filmier and not to eagerly ambitious I said yes. I thought at least if I don`t get a good time I can be useful for something 😛
Then it was time. We were called up. Krištof was playing my personal photographer this time. I hoped to do the same for them both too. Then bang. We were off.
The start went ok. I did not give full power and gradually increased my pulse. So far so good. Then the steep part came. That became a problem. My shoes were slipping a bit and I had to use my hands more then I liked. I was loosing ground. I had fallen in the lower middle until we reached the jump off. My pulse was ok.
But there is a crucial tactical thing to consider I had not in our test run. The in-run of the jump becomes full of people. So passing then is not easy. I managed to pass two guys but then got stuck in a long snake. Damn I thought while passing the 20m mark. By that time the in-run incline reaches the maximum steepness and approaching the end of your power it becomes hard to push for the finish. So I passed but did not know my time. I thought it was somewhere around 9 ish.
I walked off my high pulse opened a can of RedBull and quickly started descending the jump to be able to photograph Jan and Krištof too. When I reached the side the commentator said that their group was already half way up. Damned I thought. I wanted my friends to have cool pics in action too :(.
I decided to do something else. Cheer them on the last 20m. I already saw Jan coming up in the leading group. He was in forth place. A guy passed him and Salomons Miha was next to him. The last 20m would be quite the battle. I heard the speaker say that they were quick. On the last 20m as we cheered. He activated his last reserves and passed Miha. It was really close. I turned around and already saw Krištof. His time would also be great. He pushed the last meter and passed. We had all made it to the top.
While our runs were going down the sky had cleared. I talked to Marko the main organizer from RedBull. Shade that they canceled the final. As it was standing now Turkish Ahmend Arslan (as in Arslan no seki) would lead the before the Slovenians Simon Novak, Nejc Kuhar and Luka Kovačič.
When we came to the bottom I still did not know my time. After using up our hard earned food coupons the unofficial results were declared. Jan was 38th with a awesome new best of 6.44.3. Krištof did a great 7.57 and was 103 and I did a 10.21.4 putting me in 310th spot. I was not satisfied. Sure it was somewhere in the middle but I thought that I might make the race a bit better then the training. I missed my 10 minute mark. That will have to be improved next year. Sure I might not have as much time to train as Jan does and life has been kinda stressful lately but still. Next time I will have to focus better. I will be back for sure :P.
Even thou the day was kinda mixed for me it was great to do a competition again. Seeing a lot of people I have not seen for a while and even make myself a bit useful by filming my run with the GoPro. For that it was definitely better to be somewhere in the middle. POV shots with just grass at the front are kinda boring right 😛 The weather might not have played along but it made it all a bit more interesting. What do you think. Did any of you guys take part too? How did you fare 🙂 Let me know in the comments !