The plan was simple – cycle through all the Polish mountains in less than 3 days. The reason was one of the longest non-stop ultramarathons in Poland – the MRDP.
On the one hand, 3 days is lots of time for 1100 km, but on the other hand, it’s 13000 meters of elevtion. That’s gonna hurt. Naturally, I thought over some strategies. Three days without sleep was much too long for me. So what was the strategy to be? Ride as long as I could, then think over the strategy again.
The Bieszczady were the first mountains on the route. There were lots of 10-percent-plus climbs. Here groups of cyclists broke up, even down to single riders. I like to ride alone, I save energy when I can select my own tempo.
It also started to rain, which wasn’t forecast. Currently the Bieszczady are changing from wild mountains into tourist friendly places. This has resulted in higher traffic. Descending fast on a slippery road full of cars is no fun. No fun at all…
I was leaving the Bieszczady looking at the first sunset on my route. The rain had stopped. This was precisely the moment that I cycle for.
Beskid Sądecki Mountains
I knew that the difficulty level increases here. I remembered that 2 years previously I had been shocked by one of the climbs. It was deep into the night (similar to the current ride), I thought that I was just reaching the top of a hill, my GPS device showed a righthand corner where the climb become 2 times steeper. This time I selected a softer gear and stood on the pedals. It didn’t help. I had done only 300 km, but I was exhausted. But I knew that very soon I would be in the flat valley of the Poprad river. I was caught by a big peloton. The cyclists were going so fast, like on a sprint to the finish line. It was too fast for me. I stopped at a petrol station for a coffee. Before sunrise I caught the peloton again. I even overtook them.
The highest peak on the route is here, as are the steepest and longest climbs. Additionally, the views in the Tatras are the most magnificent. I wanted to stay longer.
The second night caught me in Silesia. I wasn’t sure if I needed a rest or I could ride farther. Theoretically it was only 400 km. I would be able to do it in 24 hours. The decision was: do not stop!
It’s a flat area, I was riding in a small group of cyclists but I got sleepy. I stopped for a short rest at a bus stop. It was getting colder and colder but I could not sleep. I didn’t expect that. But it was perfect, 20 minutes later I was back on track. Only for a while though… The lights of my headlamp showed a crash barrier. The bridge before me was closed due to road works. There was no tarmac on the bridge, but there were also missing construction elements, through holes I was able to see the river. I didn’t think that I could even walk it in my SPD shoes. Suddenly I noticed that a cyclist was coming. Together it would be easier to cross the river. But he turned left just before the bridge and a short while later he was on the other side. How? There was a temporary foodbridge. I could make it out in the darkness. The miracle was that I had met a local cyclist (not from the race) at 3AM! Next day I heard that everybody during the night had crossed the river via the closed bridge. Nobody had found the temporary crossing.
The flat area had finished, my well-being was too. It was about 42 hours into the race. I couldn’t eat. I slowed down. But I overtook some cyclists eating breakfast. I was only able to eat my breakfast at about noon. That was in Kudowa (about 900km). I thought I would able to get to the finish before nightfall. I was sure I could not handle another night on track.
The hardest part was just before me (from Radków to Piechowice). It’s a region full of small climbs and descents. I could not ride my tempo. Furthermore, the roads were in very bad condition. But I was so close to the finish that I almost didn’t notice the difficulty. Only my knees hurt.
My GPS ran out of batteries, so I chose the wrong road. I noticed 10 kilometers later. My words were unprintable 😉
Close to the end
My legs worked quite well but my head did not. I had not slept for about 55 hours. I had trouble with map reading and navigating. Even on a road that I know so well I felt lost. I had never had such a feeling before.
After 58 hours I reached the finish line. I looked very tired. I was delerious. On the other hand, I was very happy and proud that I had made such a tremendous effort without sleep. My first plan had assumed 14 more hours of riding.
I spent the next day cheering on those who were still on the track. It was the first time, that I had been able to cheer, but I was not jealous that I was not riding with them.
Race Website: http://mrdp.pl/
The track was recorded with 5 minutes intervals, so the distance is shorter by over 100 km and I missed half of the elevation.