A Niche within a Niche (Rila Run Race Report)

I originally meant this post to be up before I participated in Rila Run this past Sunday, but you know how things go sometimes. Rila Run, is a 21km mountain running race from Samokov (970m) to Musala (2925m). This will be the second time, in as many races, that I have run a race purely focused on climbing. The first was Pirin Vertical Kilometer a few weeks ago.

This course offered many interesting challenges beside the 2000 meter total climb. Much of the first half of course is was very runnable with the course alternating between single track and forest road. At about the 8,5km mark the course followed a paved road until the 10,5 km turnoff where things got really serious. From there the course climbed directly up the ski run Yasterbetz 3 which forms part of the Borovets Resort. Over the next 4,0 km we would climb about 850 meters straight until we reached the high Yasterbetz Gondola station. The climb was almost full exposed to the sun, which would turn out to cause some issues for me later on in the race. As you come to the top of this middle climb your objective finally comes into sight as Musala peak appeared in the distance. The next 3 km was slightly down hill on the path to Hizha Musla and required a fair amount of dodging tourists. From there the final 3 km caves the remains 600 vertical meters to the summit.

When I ever I participate in these climbing centric races I am impressed by how quickly some people are able to cover steep terrain. Unfortunately I am not one of those quick people. My experience yesterday was compounded with nutritional and hydration issues. Those of you who know me know, I am not a fan of the heat and yesterday the race conditions were very hot. None the less I struggled through and with the support of some my fellow participants I made it to the finish line. I was happy to finish because now I can check this race of my list.

The more I run mountain races the more I understand where my sweet spot is. I really believe I excel at races that are 30-50km in length with average of about 500m of climbing per 10km. In addition for Rila Run I did enjoy the race and was lucky to meet a lot of nice people who I look forward to seeing out on the trails. My one thought on the race would be, why not start it earlier than 10 am. I felt that a 10 am start for a race of such difficulty was strange given it puts participants in the middle of some of the most difficult conditions. But those are just my thoughts. Hope to see you all out on the trail!