Wow, what an experience, Oravaman delivered on all fronts, it truly has everything that makes an event great from my point of view. I can honestly say I wont forget my week in Slovakia in a hurry. Once in a lifetime comes to mind but hopefully I can go back next year. I hope I can do it justice with this blog and hopefully this will be an race report with a slight difference.
It was actually around this time, a few days after the race (2015) that I came across the Oravaman triathlon. With over 2400M of ascent on the bike, 1000M on the run, all off road and visiting a mountain top it promised to tick all the boxes for me, it was clearly hard, extreme, possibly the hardest half distance in the world. I then came across a film, I have never seen a film like it from a race before, the love for the event and what it represents for the community in which it takes place was instantly clear and I knew I had to race it.
Check it out, see what you think -
So a quick email to the race director Peter and the date was in the diary, this is where the Oravaman experience began, in the year before arriving in Zuberec I made new friends because I would be taking part in the race, they offered help, advice and we got to know each other. Oravaman was becoming more than just another hard race and when we finally arrived in Slovakia this really began to show.
The thing with Oravaman is, it truly is a celebration of the beautiful yet challenging landscape in which it takes place, it is a chance for the local communities to welcome visitors from around the world or cheer on friends and local heroes competing and it also brings people together in a way I have never experienced in a race before. Everyone involved just wants to make your day as a competitor as special as possible and they want nothing more than to see a smile on your face. Just watching the event come to life over the days leading up the event was amazing, the sense of community and family grew. This seems to transfer across to the competitors as race day approaches and goes by. Like all good races it is special and has its own unique character that has to be experienced to be believed.
I am going to keep the race day brief but after the last few months of frustration and disappointment, Oravaman was just what I needed to remind me how much I love this sport and what it gives me in return for the efforts in training. Condition's could only be described as epic, wind, rain and cold for race day after a weeks perfect weather in the lead up. The swim had a huge headwind blowing between the middle 2 buoys at the first turn, it was rough to say the least but I had a good swim for me, coming out inside the top 30. I lost time in transition faffing trying to get a top on the headed out onto the bike. The wind and rain continued, it got pretty spooky at times, I had 2 crashes on the descent from Huty, hitting the deck as the road felt like glass due to the surface water, wind and a polished surface. I was relieved to hit the final 12km climb to T2, which also has the steepest part of the course (14%) for the final KM, I felt pretty good and knew I had paced the hills on the bike pretty well as I pulled away from some other competitors, but my quads started to cramp on the last KM. The run felt brutal, but is up there with the best I have done in an XTRI or anything off road. 95% off road with single track, forest trail and a brutal climb underneath a ski slope leading to a fast but rough forest trail descent. My quads screamed but I gave it everything and knew this at the finish.
I had no idea what position I had come in and honestly stopped worrying as soon as I got on the bike, today was about coping with what mother nature threw at us, getting to the finish line in one piece and knowing I gave it everything. It was far from a perfect race but like I said, Oravaman is more than a race, its a celebration and it reminded me the of reasons why I do these races. I felt so alive after the finish it was unreal. For those interested here is a link to the results, all things considered I was happy to come in in 9th position in such a strong field after the day we had had, but if I had come in 50th I would still have been happy.
I had the 3 course home cooked traditional Slovakian post race meal and a pint of Kofola, chatted with other competitors about the day we had just experienced, met up with my new friends and chatted then headed to bed completely spent. The awesome after party with live band carried on till late despite the rain and mud, no one seemed to want to let it stand in the way of a good time but why would they after the conditions on race day? :)
I hope I have done the race some justice with this report but I do not think you can truly appreciate how special it is unless you experience it. With short course and relay options as well as the full distance it is attainable for most, so check it out, I promise you will not regret it!
Bude Ako Nebolo as they say in Slovakia, "Like never Before"! There is plenty more to come this season so stay tuned!
I have to say a huge list of thank you's for this one and hope I mention everyone-
Peter Pala, race director for your help, kindness and efforts to make our visit so special.
Mark Wilkie, for welcoming us, showing us around and introducing us to the real Slovakia, legend ;) (Check out Marks chalet, perfect location for a training camp, skiing or just a chilled getaway)
Tina and family for your support out on the course in the pouring wind and rain at the top of the hill!
The staff of Penzion Prebisko for amazing food and accommodation for our stay.
The volunteers of Oravaman, Mountain rescue and the local police service for keeping us safe and making the day so awesome.
All the amazing competitors and new friends I made.
The town of Zuberec and all other locals who lined the streets to cheer us on.
The country of Slovakia for being so amazing!