This article isn’t going to be a race report. I just want to share my race story with you. When you say report, technique, kilometer, time, minutes, weight, clock spring to mind. I think I am a little different from Cora who is very strict follower of rules. I begin my story…
I decided in March that I was going to take part in Lycian Way Ultra Marathon! Maybe this sounds strange to you but I immediately decided to run in the Ultra category. I wanted to try a different race category and a new challenge. I put the fact that I was going to take part in this race somewhere in my mind and I pretended to forget it. Of course i didn’t but I continued my life as normal. Not much excitement, nor fear. I’m going to Lycia in September, run and get back to Istanbul. That was that.
Races, Travelling and Smoke
Months passed. I run 80 km in Iznik in April. I run well. Then a gray period started, I experienced beautiful things. I went to Iran, organised a sports camp in the Aegean, immediately after that I went to Kackar Mountains. There, I run in Kackar Ultra and did trekking for 6 days, carrying our own tents and belongings. I went to Kas to run in DASK (Anatolian Mountain Marathon). In short, I was living it up. I lived through it but I didn’t feel like living it. I was in smoke. I visited beautiful places, travelled with people I loved the most but it was almost as if I felt nothing. I wasn’t enjoying it. It was a strange period. I didn’t even want to run. For the first time in my life, I didn’t enjoy 45 Km at Kackar Ultra. Even running was feeling stupid for me. My foot was bad. Even my body was telling me to stop running.
I went through the worst spell of my life in August. Nothing was going well. Not my morale, not my foot, not even my private life. I hit rock bottom and felt like I lost everything. I actually almost lost everything. But I gained something. Started feeling the life again. I was feeling more emotions aside from just being upset. Then I realised; only 5 weeks to Lycian Way Ultra Marathon.
Plantar Fasciitis and Training
I saw a doctor about my heel and found out that the reason for my pain was Plantar fasciitis. Despite hearing from other runners that it may take weeks to recover from this injury, I tried to keep my spirit high. First, Doctor Selim Mugrabi gave me hope. He said “Don’t worry, you will run, maybe slowly but you will run”. You can find all the details of my treatment in this blog post Runner injuries: Plantar fasciitis.
As I mentioned, I was beginning to feel good about things again. It wasn’t enjoyable and I was feeling sorry, very sorry but I accepted it. Despite all that, I was careful about my health. I was eating healthy, sleeping well. I started to gather equipment for the race. ASICS helped me with clothing and trainers. I had run with Asics Fuji Sensor 2 in Iznik Ultra. For Lycian Way Ultra Marathon, I was given a superior model, ASICS Fuji Sensor 3. I got colourful t-shirts and comfortable shorts. They were small things but they lifted up my spirit. The race had started to become real.
At the same time, I started training. Obviously I was late but I tried to do what I could in the short time (3 weeks). I filled my Raidlight bag with books and started running long distances. I run more than 30 km for three times. I run 36K and 30K over two days. Obviously this wasn’t enough when compared to other runners but I wanted to see the glass half full. To be able to run was like a miracle. I decided that I could train under these circumstances and I didn’t want to feel upset or panic. My moral wasn’t bad, and the foot was better.
Let the Adventure begin!
Weeks passed. Suddenly I was at the airport and the adventure was under way. The last 24 hours was hectic. I got a Swiss flag from my friend Monika Schmutz-Kirgoz who is the Consulate General for Switzerland. Ready meals I got from Benoit Laval, who is the CEO of Raidlight, came through after being stuck in customs for 6 days. Suddenly, everything was getting better. I had great chats with the girls. I was feeling the life again. The smoke had gone. It was like; the more I was thankful, there was more things to be thankful for.
I travelled and was feeling a little excited when I first joined the camp. I was excited and happy. There were a few unfamiliar faces. But it didn’t matter whether I recognised them or not. There were smiles in everybody’s faces and happiness in their eyes. Think about it; these people left their homes, families, their jobs and for a week they will live the race and the camping life. You need to be different to be here.
Categories in Lycian Way Ultra Marathon are Ultra, 6G, 4G, 20 km and a hard day. Each participant were given a large tent according to their race category. There were 6 tents for Ultra runners. Mine was number 3 and staying with me were Bakiye Abla, Aylin, Mahmut, Levent and Mustafa.
We had dinner with other participant on the first evening. I was a little stressed because I needed to decide what equipment to carry at the race. In the Ultra category, each runner carries their own food, equipment and clothing. We forget how to plan for essential things in the normal life as there is plenty of everything within easy reach. In Europe shops close for three days in Christmas time but in Turkey shops are open 24/7! I never fear from hunger but I was afraid of being powerless.
Foods and Supplements
Before the race, I was making a special pack for each day at home. Main meals, snacks during the race and suplements. Therefore, I now want to mention what I had eaten. Thanks to Benoit Laval, Raidlight CEO, it was easy to manage the meals. I was sent ready meals for six days. There was breakfast, two main meals and dessert for each day. Muesli for breakfast, Risotto, spaghetti, cheesy potatoes for main meals and apple-banana puree for dessert. You mix all that with hot water, wait for 15 minutes and your meal is ready. I couldn’t believe it but it was really delicious. That way, 1700 calories was guaranteed.
I had walnuts, almonds, dried tomatoes, dried bananas, figs, dates, bars and jellies during running. Supplements came as a courtesy of SportOne and vitamin.com.tr. As you know, I prefer a natural diet in my normal life, I even make my own kefir but, since running 250 km over 6 days is something out of ordinary, I was thinking of taking a few extras. I used BCAA everyday, once before the start and once when running, I had Glutamine straight after the race and before going to bed. BCAA and Glutamin helped recovery and I suffered no muscle pain. I think this was incredible.
On the eve of the race, I checked the packets I prepared again and took a few things out. I wanted to do lighten the load in my bag. I didn’t have a similar experience since it was my first time at such a race. Eventually, I gathered enough food, but my rucksak was a bit heavy. Next time, I am going to prepare a lighter bag. I succesfully went through the equiment check. Dropped what I wasn’t going to use and felt lighter immediately. First mission completed. Let the race begin!
Living the Moment
First night we stayed at Gemiler bay. Wasn’t a comfortable sleep with lots of dreams. Woke up a few times during the night, sat outside the tent listening to the wind. It felt like I was seeing the wind fort he first time in my life. Morning arrived, we were taken to start point after breakfast. It wasn’t the race that was about to start but a journey.
As I said in my first sentence, I do not want to give you a race report full of numbers.
I began to plan the race as days and sections. Not fully. My thinking is different; I am running now, breathing in and out. I am gonna run to the knotted tree, then I am going to walk up the hill with fast pace using my poles. For instance… or I’m going to have some walnuts in 20 minutes. Running long distances teach you to live the moment. The only thing you have is now and only now.
To think like that has made me feel good. Those who know me know that I always think about the future, always planning. What I came to realise when running was that the smoke I have been feeling for months was this. I wasn’t living Carpe Diem. I wasn’t feeling the now. That’s why I was in smoke. During the race we always live for the moment. We reach the camp in the evening. Shower, food, rest. Simple and real living. Seeing the moon, watching the stars. Sometimes felling the chill. Being part of the nature.
Going back to roots and the Old times
Following morning we go through the same rituals again and set off. We went back to roots. We were travelling like a warrior or a messenger. With goods. We didn’t have a paper map, instead we had a modern Garmin GPS. But the thinking is the same. Follow the road. Stop, look, think and continue.
The race follows the path of Lycian Way. We pass through the remains of Lycian civilizations. The best route of the whole week was during the third day. The section between Kas and Simena. I knew those places as I lived in Kas between 2008 and 2011. I used to go trekking between Kas and Ufakdere. I canoed in Kekova bay but I had never traversed the complete route between Kas and Simena. It felt good to complete the whole route after having done bits and pieces on it. Also, this section was very difficult, the path was full of stones yet it was the most enjoyable section for me.
I think this area was a favourite of my ex boss, the late Gokhan Ture. I remembered when running that the energy in Aperlai is completely mystique. Suddenly Lycian tombs appear from behind the trees, we go around them, continue on our way. Normally I run with music but I turned it off for an hour and listened to the nature, but it was not just listening to the nature, I was hearing the sailors, the women, the craftsmen who created the colour purple from sea shells. The time had stopped and I wasn’t running anymore, I was flying through history. It was an unforgettable experience. Despite a difficult section, I finished it off comfortably.
Reflection of Life
To take part in such a race is in fact a reflection of life. One day everything is fine, maybe it is difficult for others but you are doing fine, but the next day exactly opposite can happen. On the fourth day, an 11 km section is ahead of you. You may think that this would be easier compared to previous days (1st day 36 km, 2nd day 47 km and 3rd day 37 km). I was thinking the same. But this 11 km is pure pain. I was crying with every step, pausing momentarily before every step, hoping to delay the pain. The path was stony, I was actullay getting used to it, but my feet were in terrible state. Blisters were hurting with each step. I could’ve abandoned the race if this section was any longer.
I was so strong the previous day yet today I was weak. Left everything to how it was, accepted things. Yes Cora, you are not always going to be fine, sometimes you can be weak. Cry if you want to, yes I am bad, say it if you like. My friend Memnune stayed with me for three or four kilometres, we run together, chatted a little. It was good for me. Look, if you accept it, leave things to their own devices, than life will help you along. Thank you Memnune! I continued on my own, reached the camp and rested.
105 km section
The next day was a 105 km section. I have been a little scared of this section for a few months. But I was there now, no way to run. Ah yes, this is what long and staged running is all about. To start and to finish. No putting off, no shortcuts. Whatever happens, whatever comes your way, you will accept it and get on with it. We found out while waiting at the start that 6G and 4G runners had an accident. It was a road accident. The race had stopped. First anxious, then the good news filtered through. There were a few injuries but everyone was fine. We were told that we would set of at Midnight instead of a usual 13:00 start. It was good to rest, my feet recovered a little bit more, watched a breath taking sunset, spoke to my loved ones on the phone, did some meditation.
If you ask me how the following 24 hours was, I can’t give you a single answer. I was about to run more than 100km for the first time in my life. As always, I wasn’t thinking about the whole race but small sections of it. 10km, 30km, another 10km. I was going well. Naturally I was feeling tired at times, strangely, my body wasn’t tired but sometimes I was feeling sleepy. The total altitute change was 3000 meters. I can tell you that it was not a straight path!
I was descending from Musa Mountain around 3 o’clock. The path was narrow and I was going slowly. There were plenty of small turns, the thick forest was getting sparse, I was feeling the sea air. I was near Olympos. Bending down to pass a tree, I probably raised my head too early and hit my head on a thick branch. I hit it so hard that I landed on my bum. I saw blood in my hand as I reached for Arnica granules in my bag. Saw another couple of drops of blood, so I pressed the help button on my Arvento locator. I wanted to report my location just in case. The blood wouldn’t stop, looking at my face on the mirror, I saw that my face was covered in blood. I pressed the wound with first aid stuff I was carrying for my blisters and got up to walk again. I wanted to check if my brain had stopped working (sic!) and began talking to myself. I could still speak four different languages! Then I got signal on my phone and spoke with Ozge, Tolga and Serdar. Told them that I was carrying on and wanted to see a doctor but wanted to be alone as I was covered in blood. I didn’t want to cause panic.
Doctor decided that I needed stitches. As the camp in Cirali was only 4.5km away, I decided to run there to get stitched up. I run under the sun, crossing sunbathers on the beach, holding the wound and I reached the camp. We were at the 68th km of 100km race. Once the stitching had finished, I had something to eat and drink, gathered strength and set off again.
The Night, the Head Lamp and the Dog
It was a good job that I didn’t know what was waiting for me. It was the most difficult 30 km of not the whole week but of my entire life. 15 km there and back. First section was rocky. It wasn’t dark and the path was marked and visible. But progress was difficult. Suddenly it was dark and I was in a forest. The headlamp was on and a new adventure had begun. I had been running for 17 hours at that moment. The change was good for me. Somehow the time had stopped. To walk in dark and only with a head lamp, it was like watching from a ship’s window. Then I started to fall asleep. I am serious. I was so sleepy and fell asleep while running. It wasn’t long, maybe 2-3 minutes, 5 minutes at most but it was enough to get myself together.
The dirt path was ending. I was at rocks again. Changed batteries on my headlamp but the light was weak due to used up batteries, but it was enough to see. I was nearly there, maybe 50 minutes away. Arrived on a beach. Heard a dog barking. Thought it was on a leash. But the dog suddenly appeared ahead of me, almost panicking me. Switched my headlamp off, one last check of GPS and just set off in general direction, shouting at the dog to calm down whereas it was me who needed to calm down. I started climbing some rocks, fear setting in. I was alone, at night, with a dog nearby. When I switched the headlamp on again I realised that I was on the path! I was happy, the luck was with me!
I continued to climb as I wasn’t tired any more. This part of the path was like a climb. The light was fading and I had no spare batteries. I promised myself to take more batteries next time. It is incredible to think that I was running for 23 hours. This wasn’t a race any more, it was part of my life. I lived the last week running and even when you are at the races, life continues. But instead of going to work or drinking coffee, going to gym, you are running. When you are not running you are eating and sleeping.
Arrived at Finish Line
Slowly I saw the camp light. It was around 2am. I spoke with Gozde a couple of hours ago. She told me to call her as I got near the finish line so she would be at the finish line when I arrive. I didn’t call her as I thought she’d be a sleep and didn’t want to disturb her. I got the Swiss flag I had been carrying in my bag out and hanged it and started running towards the finish line. It was hilarious as there was no one around. The camp site was empty. I crossed the finish line, a volunteer recorded my time. It was over. I could run more. It was the first time in my life that I run 106km in one go. I run 250km in 5 days. I was feeling normal. Yes normal. Headed for the canteen tent, got myself a soup, asked for some cheese, sat down to eat it. Wasn’t very hungry nor was tired. No pain anywhere. Chatted with Ozgur Tektik for a while who was at the table and then I was alone.
Cora of a week ago would’ve started to cry, she would’ve share it on social media, send loads of messages on Whatsapp. I didn’t feel the need to do any of that. I took a shower and went to the tent to sleep.
Every staged race is a Transformation
As the race director Taner Damci says, every staged race is a transformation. I have less ego now. These 6 days has supressed my ego. As I was closing my eyes at the tent, I understood that I run this race for myself. Not to receive more love, nor to prove anything to anyone.
I didn’t prepare enough, I was carrying an injury, had a very tough time in the week before the race, I had stitches during the race, I had blisters all over my feet. But I started the race and completed it. Despite everything, I run 250km. Returning from the race, I slept for an extra day and rested for a whole day due to an infection but life continues. No muscle pain, kept my mental state normal.
Of course I lived through terrific and extraordinary experiences. But, compared to previous races, I was less upset this time. Old Cora would feel upset because the race had finished and she didn’t want to get on with her normal life. But this time I wasn’t upset much. Because, I can take part in another race like this. The life goes on. Great days are waiting for me. I will be upset sometimes. That’s life. But I am a little different. I am not just thinking with my head anymore. I think with my soul and heart. I am not stronger, on the contrary, I am more emotional and spiritual.
It’s impossible to finish my story without saying a few thank you.
My first thank you goes to Uzunetap’s big team.
– Göksin Ilıcalı, Argos general manager, without whose vision, such a race in Turkey would not be happening.
– Taner Damcı, il maestro, we didn’t always see him during the race but he was coordinating everything behind the scenes.
– Özge Doğan, who first believed me in March and told me that I could do it, her endless positivity and her beautiful energy.
– Özgür Çelikkaya, source of positive energy, always smiling, seems he never sleeps and helps you in everything.
– Field team Tolga Gozum ve Serdar Güyük, calm and professional in every situation, helpful and available in every situation and everywhere
– Doktor Hasan Onat, he fixed my feet and my head and motivated me
– Smiling and super volunteers Sevda Schiedlbauer, Gökçe Koçal, Karl Hideyo, Belit Tasdemir, Senem Anıl, Merve Eroğlu, Olgun Dogan, Yeşim Melek Şen, Aylin Onacak, Bilal Demirci, Gökhan Baysan, Ümit Beğce ve Zafer Düğenci (I am hoping that I haven’t forgotten anyone)
My tent mates, we were a great team: a legend and my friend Bakiye Duran, champion and always helpful Mahmut Yavuz, Mustafa Kiziltas who advised me like a father, calm and cool Levent Var and the powerful Aylin Savaci Armador.
Special thanks to Gozde, Memnune, Yonca, Kivanc. You were little angels, a little kiss at the start, a hug at the finish.
Even if I hadn’t eaten any food during the race to comply with the race rules (I was carrying my own food), I want to thank Kubilay Bozunogullari and the Elai Catering team. The gala dinner was especailly delicious.
I want to thank people who supported me from outside the race one by one.
My family and my father, before anything else. We started running when I was 3.5 years old. He gave me the passion for mountains and nature. My brothers Léo and Lauri, who are runners themselves. Their motivation on Whatsapp during the race was invaluable.
My dearest friends Timur and Birgul. You were always on my mind and always bu my side.
Monika Schmutz-Kirgoz, Swiss Consulate General, for the Swiss flag and specail support. Dr. Selim Mugrabi, making Plantar fasciitis better over a short time. Zehra Bural, Sanem Sever for Turkish story amendments and Kemal Parlar for English translation.
– Garmin Türkiye/Baytekin and Cem Bey and Oğuzhan Bey for Garmin Feniz 3 watch ve GPS device
– Asics Türkiye and Eleanna, Hande and Turhan for clothing and trainers
– BV Sport Türkiye/Spor Performans and Paulo for the compression and recovery clothing
– Benoît Laval, Raidlight CEO, ready meals and a few Raidlight products gifted to me
– SportOne and Vitamin.com.tr and Cem and Cem for sportsperson supplements
– Emre Tok, Raidlight Turkey
– Led Lenser Türkiye and Hayrettin Bey and Sinan Bey