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Transylvania 100

18-May-2019 Bran Castle, Romania


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Trail Race Race Terrain
100KM / 62Miles
1 Day

Alternate Distances: 50KM/31M

DIFFICULTY Race Difficulty Advanced  

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Elevation: Very little change < 500 metres. Benign running terrain, not technical.

Suitable for: First ultra runners completing a marathon or doing regular long distance running in the last six months.


Elevation: Increase of up to 1000 metres

Suitable for: Runners who have completed at least one ultra distance race (or similar event) or are doing long distance running (>26 miles) regularly, with elevation shown.


Elevation: Increase of up to 1500 metres

Suitable for: Runners who have completed several ultra distances or similar events, or are doing long distance running regularly, with elevation shown.


Elevation: Increase of up to 2000 metres with some challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity or heat) and or technical terrain

Suitable for: Experienced runners who have completed at least regular ultra distances in last 12 months, or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races may be subject to evidence of recent qualifying race participation and recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements.


Elevation: Increase of up to 2000 metres with very challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity, heat or at high altitude) and or technical terrain.

Suitable for: Very experienced long distance ultra runners (min 3 years’ experience) or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races is often subject to evidence of recent qualifying race participation and recent medical examination certificate. Purchase of specialist kit is often recommended for these races.

Endurance - Multi-activity

Type: An ultra distance race including at least two of the following activities such as running, swimming, cycling, kayaking, skiing and climbing. It may also include different climatic conditions (eg ice, snow, humidity, cold water, mud or heat).

Suitable for: Experienced multi-skilled athletes who have trained for the different activities included in this event. Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements and any specialist equipment required such as a wetsuit, skis or a mountain bike.

Global - Virtual

Type: A virtual race which can be run at any time shown on the dates shown, on any type of terrain in any country.

Suitable for: For runners from beginners to experienced as you choose your own course and challenge based on the guidelines and options set by the virtual race organiser.

Review Transylvania 100

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09:49 11-08-18

On Saturday the 19th of May 2018 I completed the Transylvania 50k ultramarathon in over 14 hours! Twice the time it took me to do the Maurice Mullins, Wicklow Way ultra or the Kerry Way Ultralite! That’s 14 hours on my feet, running, climbing, walking, scrambling, hiking and literally sliding on my ass to get to the finish line. A relentless forward motion, stopping only briefly at aid stations, or to just stop and take in the vastness of the Transylvanian mountains all about me. This was no ordinary 50k…if Carlsberg could do 50k ultras they would have done this!
So why is it extraordinary? Well its in Transylvania!!! The Carpathian mountain range, home of the infamous and legendary Vlad the Impaler and inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It starts and finishes in the shadow of Bran Castle…where Mena, Count Dracula’s wife is said to have thrown herself from the highest window to her death far below. It’s the land of Bears, wolves, wild boars and Lynx…of vast forests and towering majestic mountain peaks. It has it all for a race that captures the imagination with the promise of a truly epic experience.
The race started at 7am on a chilly morning. It’s safe to say that I was more than a little apprehensive shuffling at the start line…just look at the ‘I’m going to be mauled by bears’ look all over my face in the start line photo! On top of that I was worried about some dental pain after a wisdom tooth extraction only a week before, I had being taking ibuprofen for the pain and was hoping the pain would hold off but also that it wouldn’t give me the skoots during the race on top of my already dodgy stomach. Basically, my bowls do not agree with this running lark and they tend to revolt whenever they can which is a literal pain in the arse! I had visions of running into a not so friendly Yogi bear while looking for a strategic place to poop!
So here I was, yet again, having signed up for something that scared the ***** out of me (ha! Apologies for all the scatological references!) but also excited me in equal measure. And really, who do I think I am signing up for stuff like this? How very dare I? I’d heard the stories of how tough it was from previous participants, I saw the expressions on their faces when I announced my intention to sign up. A terrible runner, super slow, can’t get up hills…afraid of heights…BUT…my super power is that I’m as stubborn as hell and I just keep moving until I get there. And that’s what I did.
After Vlad himself started the race…(some dude in a Vlad costume but a nice touch) we’re off leaving Bran castle behind…not backing out now…let’s get into it and enjoy. The trail starts a gentle climb past fields of pretty Romanian cows and traditional wooden houses slowly winding up steeper and steeper trails through the woods. We gain 2k metres in the first 10k but I was expecting the climb so while it was tough I didn’t find it quite as tough as the climbs during the Marathon du Mont Blanc. This time though I had poles to help with the climb and I have to say I’m converted…I pretty much hated everyone using poles in Mont Blanc but here, they were essential and a real-life saver.
Continuing the climb and the woods are cool and enticing with warm pools of sunlight filtering through the leaves and I’m enjoying myself and the light rain that has started to fall. As we get higher, there are small clearings that give glimpses of the views to come above the tree line and I can’t wait to reach open mountain to see what awaits us. And when we finally break clear of the trees…it’s breathtaking..I can see it in my mind’s eye as I write, I can see it again in the photos but it doesn’t really capture the immense beauty…words are not enough…you have to feel it…experience it in the moment..through your every sense…letting it seep in through your very pores until you are just there like the rocks or the trees, the moss or the wild flowers…you belong..you are part of it..and for that moment, as you stand and take it all in..there is no need or want, there is just that moment of being alive. And then you move on, enticed by the trail and the need to see more, experience more…these are the moments of joy. The deep pinks, blues and purples of the wild mountain flowers, the winding trail, the rain now falling heavy now light, the hail stones that bite, the staggeringly beautiful and brutal jagged peaks rising above the clouds…the mysterious fog, the claps of rolling thunder and lightening flashes that seem almost conjured up by Dracula himself…and you half expect him to appear out of the fog. All of this adding to the sense of drama and adventure. I have to admit to feeling pretty spooked when I found myself alone with the fog at times quite dense with little visibility…and the thunder loud about me and at the same time it was exhilarating. This is how you know you are truly alive, mind and body! The only thing to do was to keep moving. And that’s what I did, traversing snow covered gullies one foot at a time, using my poles for balance for if you slip here…well…you’re pretty much fecked! It was ***** scary but there was only going forward. It was very cold now so quitting was not an option…and it never even occurred to me as an option. I did slip and slide on my ass on one of the smaller gullies and it was terrifying…you have no control and you realise how easy it would be to die here…how strong the mountain is and how insignificant you are…how fleeting your existence and how easily it could be wiped out. I managed to somehow dig my feet in and get upright again…but you don’t stop to process what just happened, you keep moving, focusing on one step in front of the other…the only thought is to get to that finish line for then you can rest.
After ascending to over 2000m there is a steep, technical descent to the first aid station and into a warm sun filled valley where horses graze peacefully and all seems idyllic. I stopped gladly here to fill my bottles, eat some banana, cheese and a square of dark chocolate. Leaving not long after, keen to keep moving and happily enjoying myself. Climbing again up out of the valley I look up and see some dots moving up a steep snow filled gulley and I wonder if they’re people…I get closer and yes they are unmistakably humans…could they be runners? Are we ?..surely not….but yes…we are going up there…well oookaayyy then…sure lets keep moving and we’ll see what happens when we get closer…that was my inner dialogue. I wasn’t even that surprised or frightened…I wasn’t going back or quitting so the only way was forward even if that meant going up the scariest climb I had ever seen! So I kept moving and when I got to the base of the climb…I still kept moving, no hesitation…I just started to climb…no looking down, no looking up, just look at where you put your feet into the previous person’s footsteps and dig your poles in for grip and balance. You couldn’t hesitate here or stop or freeze with fear, you had to keep climbing and just focus on what your body is doing…it was intense…my life depended on my ability to keep focused and keep moving. Twice the guy above me on the snow stairs lost his grip and started to slide towards me….he would have taken us all down like skittles had he not been able to right himself each time. But even then the fear didn’t overtake me…I continued on, moving my feet into the next foothold, digging my poles in…continuing this motion and so slowly nearing the summit where I pulled myself up the last few footsteps using a rope and up over the ledge!! I made it!! Disbelief looking down at what I had just climbed, seeing other runners still far below…..holy crap!!! I did THAT!!!! I just had to stop and take a photo to show my girls what their mother had just done…I wanted them to see what’s possible…anything is possible!! But I was soon ushered onward by the volunteers here…afraid that we would block other runners climbing up and also, it was pretty cold at the top. So back to the trail again, holding this particular experience to ponder and wonder over later…. and on into the fog.
The trails that followed wound down the mountains, on technical trails and some lovely grassy downhill runs…with intermittent rain and hail, a brief moment of sunshine and then more heavy rain. The rain didn’t bother me but I did get pretty cold on the climbs as I was moving slower so I eventually put on my rain pants to keep my legs warm and stopping briefly at a mountain hut in the fog, I put on a long sleeve top. My hands were so cold I couldn’t zip up my jacket again so a Romanian runner who got the gist of my sign language kindly obliged. I found that language was never a barrier as we were all experiencing the same things we just got it, and often a shared look was enough to communicate a feeling or an experience and we’d find ourselves laughing or smiling without the need for words. And we helped each other out, across snow fields, finding the next marker in the fog…or the best place to cross the river…and some checking are you ok, have you enough to eat or drink..kindness from strangers yet not strangers…fellow runners..and fellow humans. Out on the mountains, we are all the same..
I was loving the race until about the last 15k which had a few sneaky, steep climbs thrown in and then the endless steep downill through the woods we had climbed up hours before only now, after all the rain, it was a sticky, oozing mud slide, impossible to stay upright in. By now my left leg was pretty sore and it felt like my IT band was acting up so I couldn’t run a lot of the downhill where I had hoped to make up some time. So I focused on moving as fast as I could using my poles to stay in a rhythm that kept my pace up. It was hard going, slipping and sliding, almost like skiing down at times…and most of this time I was on my own…which I don’t mind…I tend to sing to myself and have little chats about things I see around me…and telling myself to keep moving. Up ahead I spotted two girls so I made it my goal to speed up and pass them out which I did spurring me on through winding, undulating lanes, with more mud and cow *****e. The light was fading fast at this point and there was the most beautiful sunset over the Transylvanian hills that I just had to stop and take a last photo forgetting one of my poles as I did so. Feck, feck and feck running back up the lane to fetch it…giving out to myself for wasting time. Darkness fell as I entered yet another forest…I held back a sob here as I had thought Bran was closer, I had seen lights and houses and heard the faint tinkling of cow bells…surely the finish is just beyond. And so here I am, running through a forest in the dark in Transylvania!!! And if Dracula himself jumped out in front of me right now I would tell him to get the ***** out of my way I’ve a finish line to get to!! I was so determined to get there that I didn’t want to waste time to stop and take my headtorch out of my pack. No…I kept moving, finding the markers in the gloom…and finally hearing voices, I slid down the last muddy hill on my arse as volunteers lit the way for me. The relief…I was here…almost…just a bit of road…Jesus these drivers will feckin kill me…which didn’t last long before turning in and up to Bran castle on a dark winding path…and then…the finish….I found some last tiny bit of energy to run across the line…and I was there…Bran castle smouldering in the dark behind me…I could at last stop… a last smile which turned out to be a grimace for the camera……. and all the emotions of the day came rushing over me in a huge sob…I found myself embraced in the biggest hug by a wonderful Romanian lady who hugged me and kissed my cheeks like I was her child….and it felt like coming home.

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