On Saturday, September 12, we competed in Poland’s North-South Marathon. We travelled from Hel to Zakopane, i.e. from the very north of the country to the very south. We covered over 1000 km in 71 hours. Ania was making her debut in ultra-distance cycling, while for Marcin it meant a return to ultra-distance after a break of several years. Marcin added the North-South Marathon to his completed Baltic-Bieszczads Tour and MRDP (Bike Marathon Around Poland).
I can’t lie and claim it was pure pleasure. We were blessed with beautiful weather, though – warm, no rain. Most of the route took us along local roads through villages. We saw sunrises and sunsets, mountains at night, and patches of fog.
One of the key issues when it comes to conquering ultra-distances (apart from form and being mentally strong) is clothing. But what should you take with you to avoid running out of anything, while ensuring you don’t carry unnecessary things with you? In September in Poland, it is often warm during the day, still summery temperatures, but the evenings and nights remind us that it is the end of summer and autumn is looming. So we had to be prepared for a short ride, but also for the cold at night. Rain was not forecast, well certainly not 3 days non-stop. We planned to just race through any light showers.
When it came to our tops, we mostly kept them short during the day. Ania sometimes wore a vest or arm sleeves. The jerseys worked perfectly. At night, we put on thermoactive shirts, cycling jerseys and sweatshirts.
We tried to make sure that the clothes we took on the road could serve more than just one function. A vest, which protects against wind during the day, also increases comfort during night mountain descents. The same goes for a light rain jacket.
We rode wearing short shorts, and we took leg warmers with us (Ania preferred long ones, Marcin ¾ length). Ania additionally had shoe covers (which she used). Ania wore a prototype of our cycling shorts. They would be undergoing yet another long-distance test. The side pockets are amazing over such a long distance. For 1000 km, I carried my phone in a side pocket against my thigh. I could easily reach for it at any time. In the other pocket on the other thigh, I just carried a mask, which was also within easy reach. What an unexpected option in this current age full of change!
Our women’s shorts now boast the option of detaching the suspenders, so that you do not have to remove your jersey when going to the toilet al fresco. This proved highly beneficial in the morning, when temperatures are at their lowest and pressure on the bladder made it impossible to ride comfortably. I didn’t have to undress in the cold in order to undo my braces and then pull down my shorts. I was warm and it was convenient. You have to make sure that the suspenders do not slip up too high, but it was still a lot easier since I did not have to take off my sweatshirt and jersey.
THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION
At the finish line, seasoned riders ask the ultra-rookies a very important question: will you be competing again? 80% say “no”. Of course, when a few days have passed, the body regenerates, and you feel satisfied to have completed the course, and in the following seasons, former debutants transform into experienced ultra-warriors.
So what happened with us?
Some cyclist at the finish line asked: “Will you ever ride an ultra again?”
Ania smiled and said: “Yes, are there going to be any more this season?