Long Over Due Race Report: Adventure Sky Run

Descending From Musala

Descending From Musala

Over a month ago I ran Adventure Sky Run a 55km run starting in the sky resort of Borovets and ending at the Central Mountain School in Malyovitsa. This year was the second edition of the race and my second time running it. However the first year I ran it only the first 35km were the same and then it ended near Rila Monastary. I was happy that I was familiar with the first 35 km of this race but knew the last 20 km would be difficult.

Adventure Sky Run profile

I failed to mention that along with 55km this race include 3500m+ of climbing. The route attains a maximum altitude of 2925m (9596 ft) and maintains an average altitude of 2224m (7296 ft). The majority of the trail through the first 35km is very manageable. The climbing is consistent but never steep for more then short stretches. We were lucky to have much better weather than last year and I only experience a brief shower in the afternoon.

Musala Pathway

Musala Pathway

The race kicked off at 6am and after a short 1.4km on road you take just on a trail that quickly takes to you Musala Pathway. This is hardly a single track it is more like a dirt road. This road also functions as a ski run in the winter for the Borovets resort The trail climbs continually with short steep sections and the occasional short flattish section. After 7.2 km you come to a gate in front of the Markudjik lift at this point the you’ve already reached over 2100m in altitude and you now are back on single track. For the next 2km you climb through low pine trees over wet and sometimes boggy ground. This section ends as you reach Hizha Musala. The trail continues around the lake and up the the steep red blazed trail. The same trail I climbed in Rila Run. The climb to the top took about 2.5 hours without overly stressing myself. After a small issue with my phone and a few refreshments I continued on the course (Thus why i only have pictures from the first section of the course).

Me rocking the necessary Trail running Facial hair

Me rocking the necessary Trail running Facial hair

The section from the summit of Musala to the next aid station at Djanka is only 7km but I think it is one of the most beautiful sections on the trail. There are a series of descents and climbs along the sometimes narrow ridge allowing beautiful views to the east and the west. The descent in Djanka is continually steep and weaves through pine bushes. Leaving from Djanka it was good to keep in mid that the next aid station (at Fish Lake Hut) was 15 km away. The trail climbs again through bushes but offers some great views. After crossing a short plain (and missing an awesome picture of some horses) the trail climbs again reaching the peak 2.5km after Djanka. From here most of the next 9km is runable. Starting with a slightly rocky downhill and continuing across a series of meadows. At around 27km there is an opportunity to refill your water at a spring and I did as it was warm. shortly after the trail climbs up a grassy slope with a series of false peaks. At 32km you reach the first technical section fo the course, a short rocky down hill over loose rock. Shortly after you arrive at the last descent into Fish Lake Hut, its steep trail full of switchbacks but after the first section offers an opportunity to open up the taps.

Saddle below Voden Chalet 41.5 km

Saddle below Voden Chalet 41.5 km

After a short stop I headed out onto the unknown section of the trail. The trail hugs the western coast of the lake and quickly returns to the forest. There were sections of muddy and boggy trail unlike the alpine sections earlier in the race. It was during this section that the first rain drops fell. After a short climb the trail descends to a river crossing and you leave the forest. You are back in the open as you climb a grassy slope dotted with trees. Here it started raining, consistently at points, ruining my visibility and putting me a bit of a negative mood. As you reach the top of the climb you have a brief respite along the ridge. The trail continues just below the ridge line over some stick rocks before a short and steep descent. I was able to run down the trail with a pair of other runners which helped me get out of my funk. The final descent into the last aid station was stunning, I wish i would have figured out my phone issue.

Popovokapski Preval 2525m

Popovokapski Preval 2525m

After a quick break and chat at the final aid station I decided I would head out hard and try to put some distance between me in the group behind me. The trail immediately climbs however it was in the open. I made good progress up the trail, as it continued to climb. I noticed that I was starting to bridge the gap to the group in front of me. As we crested the last climb I started to catch people and continued to chase after others. At the top of the descent you are met with a fixed rope situation for about 200 meters as to your right is a serious drop off. This whole section is very technical, the steep downhills are only interrupted by beautiful mountain lakes. The rain tried to return but managed to hold off. Eventual I reached Strashno Ezero (Scary Lake) and I was back on familiar terrain, as I passed here a few weeks before during Malyovitsa Sky run, although on a different trail. The trail continues to descend eventually very steeply along a stream. The race makers cut off near the ending avoiding the main trail and crossing a short boulder field, where i successfully did not die. From here it the descent follows the main trail down to the mountain school.

Crossing the Finish Line

Crossing the Finish Line

I successfully finished the race in 11 hours and 57 minutes breaking my 12 hour goal. Now that I am more familiar with the terrain I think next year I can do better. I was overall happy that for the last few kilometers I could run and didn’t have to force it too much. I cannot say enough about the organization of this event. The course was well marked and the aid stations with stocked with everything you could need and more. I look forward to participating in this race for years to come.

Next up, Sofia Marathon (Half) this weekend for sure there will be more to come on that. I promise to do better at updating you in the future and the site too.

Pirin Skyrun Vertical (almost) Kilometer Race Report

Its been too long since I wrote one of these. Ive been meaning too but life has gotten in the way. A quick update, I've been running a medium amount, focusing more on getting in more vert, June worked out to be 158km (98.2) with 4996m (16391 ft) of climbing. In July my plan is to push both those numbers a bit further with the only for sure race on the horizon being Rila Run (21km 2000m D+).

On to more important things....

Pirin Skyrun Vertical Kilometer is part of a weekend of activities including a 10 & 34km skyvruns. The location as the name implies is in Pirin National Park which is located near Bansko, Bulgaria. The races are organized by the same team that puts on Trail Series events. 

The start line at Banderitsa Chalet

The start line at Banderitsa Chalet

 

This was my first Vertical Kilometer, the race was set to start at 9:00am so that required a very early 5:30 departure from Sofia to make sure I was on time. The weather in the proceeding days has hardly been encouraging with a solid week of seasonably cold temperatures and rain in the lead up. On the drive down I also encountered a fair amount of rain as well. The check in process was quick as some people stayed in the area before had and there were only about 20 of us participating. During the race briefing there was a quick shower and we were informed that we would need to bring jackets as it was 5℃ at the top and windy.  

Vihren in the clouds

Vihren in the clouds

The start line was located at Banderitsa Chalet (Хижа Бъндерица). The trail lead quickly into the forest and after the first 200m the relatively flat running was over.  The first kilometer was the easiest of them all with only 182m of climb through the towering pine trees. As you pass the one kilometer mark you climb steeply above the tree line. The trail goes straight up a steep, washed out trail with lost of tennis ball sized rocks. As you top out this section you're 1.8 km from the start with total of 382 m and the next challenges appear across the meadow. At this point for me a quick rain shower passed, as you start the next climb you've just passed the 2km point aka the halfway point. The trail climbs steeply to the left over a series of long switch backs which brought us to a quick snow crossing then back to the climbing.  After negotiating a few tricky rock jumps and at 2.7km you've arrived at Biouvac shelter Kasana (заслон Казана) at 2445m altitude . To your left Vihren's marble peak towers above you (in our case it was partially in the clouds.

The Finish line

You now deviate from the principle trail and climb steeply to your right up the flanks of Kuleto. Quickly the trail steepens, yes thats possible now averaging 45%+ over tufted grass and rocks. Just below the end of the this steep portion we were inundated in clouds somewhere around 2600m (8530ft). As you return to normal 20% grades the grass begins to disppear. It was here at 3.6km where the race ended this year. We were just 400m and 140 vertical meters short of the Peak Kutelo, but the weather condition made continuing too dangerous. 

While this was my first vertical kilometer it was not my first race at these altitudes. However I have to say this was the first time I really noticed the altitude. The combination of the altitude and the steep grades really made the difference in my case. I entered the race only with the intention of enjoying myself and as another excuse to go to the mountains. From that point of view it was a total success!

I hope to update this blog more often so if you've made it this far, keep on my case to write more. Plus I also hope to make a short video (perhaps in Vlog format) showing you my vertical kilometer experience.