VMK Attempt (Východokarpatská magistrála)

About 2 weeks into the TTNV challenge I received a message from Silvo asking me if I am into some multi day stuff. The idea was to follow the red trail from Ubľa on Slovak – Ukraine border, then along the Polish border to Minčol some 240KM away. After some very short period of thinking I decided to join. With that in mind I took the last week of TTNV easier and more less rested my legs for 2 weeks later.

The first challenge was to pack for the journey. There are very limited options when it comes to refuelling on the way so no matter how hard I tried with all the food, equipment, sleeping back etc the best I could do was about 7kg heavy backpack + water. And included were for the very first time since Andorra 2019 my poles.

We started on Thursday evening around 8pm from Ubľa after about 2 hours long drive from Košice. The plan was to do the first about 30km section and then spend the night in the shelter that hopefully would be somewhere there.

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Tri týždne na vrchol – Three weeks to the top – 2nd edition

Three months ago sometimes, in January, just for fun, I joined the virtual challenge Tri týždne na vrchol (Three weeks to the top). Three weeks (21 days) long climbing challenge with very simple rules. Accumulate as much elevation as you can as long as each activity has average speed faster than 5km/hour (12mins/km). It did not go too well for me. My very first activity was nice, over 1600m, but thanks to treacherous winter mountain terrain it was too slow. So it did not count. I slowly clawed back the deficit, made it to the lead after a week or so. But then on day 13 (lucky number 🙂 ) I slipped on invisible ice, landed backside on a root and could barely walk for 3 weeks after that. Game over.

So when the second edition was announced I decided to go for it again. Of course there is that competitive part of the challenge but for me it was mainly a personal challenge – see what I can do, how high and far can I make it in 3 weeks.

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Štefánik Trail solo challenge

I never had chance to run this officially 140km long race in the past. May date was simply not working for me while I was still in Hong Kong. I signed up for the 2021 edition though. However as the 2020 one was cancelled due to Covid situation a virtual challenge was announced. Without thinking too much I signed up. All I needed to do was to run the whole route in one go anytime between June 15 and Oct 15. What could go wrong, right ?

Well quite a lot actually 🙂 . My intention was to go totally solo, on my own, without any pacers or support. Having been back for only couple of months I would not even be able to organize the support. It was much simpler to just rely on myself. This however meant to carry all I would need with me, including most of the food, quite a lot of water as well as some basic change of clothes for the train ride back home. Once I started to research the route it became clear that the logistics of food and beverages will be the main challenge. There were few places early on where getting some drinks and snacks was possible. Very few… And whether I would be able to buy something depended on what time of the day I would get there. I found online where in theory I should be able to get some water from springs along the route. I could only hope that the info was accurate and up to date.

My trusted UD backpack never carried as much stuff as this time. I could not believe how much I could actually fit in 🙂 . I had with me about 10 energy bars, pack of figs and dates and some home made rice balls mixed with salted dry seaweed. Three soft flask (2 filled from the start, one extra for later when more reserves may be needed) and one more flask with filter in case I get desperate. Then the usual primary headlamp with spare power and a back up headlamp, power bank, first aid kit, stronger waterproof jacket (I deliberately picked hot and sunny days with no rain forecasts but one never knows in the summer…), change of clothes, sports towel, sunblock, headband for the night, money, phone, route plan with potential F&B points. On the train they gave me a bottle of water. I decided to take it with me too just in case (what a wise idea it proved to be…). Poles I left home. Haven’t used them since Andorra last summer and I realized that life is easier without them – one less thing to worry about 🙂 .

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2020 – Malofatranska Stovka (MF100)

This is a weird year. When it started I was still in Hong Kong, preparing for HK4TUC and contemplating whether I should or should not cancel my registration for the 3rd Ronda dels Cims attempt (due to condition of my post-Ronda shoulder still not ideal). Six months later the world is (still) a mess, Ronda is no more, I am no longer in Hong Kong, international travel is pretty much non existent and I joined for the first time ever an ultra right in the backyard of my youth.

Remembering some hikes many years back and after few memory refreshing training runs in the hills around I had no doubts that this one will be a tough one.

I picked up my bib as instructed the day before but selected the sleep home/early morning taxi option rather than sleeping bag in the gym at the start.


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2020 HK4TUC attempt

298km and over 14,500m of elevation gain and loss covering all four major Hong Kong trails – MacLehose, Wilson, Hong Kong and Lantau in reverse direction.


I did not make the decision to attempt the Hong Kong Four Trails Challenge lightly. It took me several years to finally get enough courage to even consider it. Few test runs on MacLehose early last year generated enough confidence in being able to complete the first trail without having to push too much and within the cut off. I took the plunge and in July I applied. Andre responded fast – I was fully committed.

I had a good base from my training for Ronda Dels Cims. After brief recovery period I started my final preparations for HK4TUC in September. The training went generally according to plan except for the cancellation of my only planned ‘training’ race – The Raleigh Challenge – Tornado. The only other setback was my shoulder – the injury from the fall at Ronda did not allow me to do proper strength and core training – but I had to work with was available to me.

About 2-3 weeks before the challenge I felt to be in the best shape I was in a very long time. I was ready to go. I could only hope that I do not mess up anything in the final 2 weeks.
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2019 Ronda dels Cims – It did not get any easier the second time…

170km, 13,500m of elevation gain/loss in Pyrenees. Race that goes around the whole Andorra but extends to neighbouring France and Spain here and there – can say the route is bigger than the country.

I failed to finish this in 2018. Mentally exhausted with no desire to continue I stopped after the first drop bag station at Margineda… But a day later still in Andorra I decided to come back and try again in 2019. I signed up once the registrations opened in December. My preparations begun much earlier though with the whole season planned with the sole goal – Ronda dels Cims. Formosa Trail, UTMT were both races selected solely to bring my ultra confidence back. I made several changes in my training and added weekly gym sessions for strength and mobility. And although due to some niggles my training did not go 100% according to the plan I felt quite ready for the challenge. And mentally I was surely there this time.
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Big Boar’s Backyard Challenge

I did not plan any races between UTMT in January and Ronda dels Cims in July. But this Big Boar’s Backyard Challenge sounded like something that could spice up my Ronda training. Concept is simple – nutcases assemble and run 6.7km more less flat loops. New loop starts every hour and who is not ready to start the new loop is out.  The one who is the last one left out there is the winner (provided he/she completed at least 24 loops/100 miles). Everybody else DNFs 🙂 .

I did not specifically train for this. It was purely part of my training. I did not even taper. The event date felt on my hard training week and I followed my usual training routine up to Wednesday (20km run). Thursday was a rest day but also a day when I developed some cold – runny nose mainly. I did not have the best sleep as a result but I still felt to be in a reasonably OK shape for Friday. My plan was to do at least 50km as a minimal training distance and after that just keep on going as long as all is well without risking any injury. I promised myself to stop if I feel anything “weird”.
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2019 Ultra Trail Tai Mo Shan


I had few reasons to sign up for this race:

a) I wanted something new, a race in HK I haven’t done before

b) I wanted to do a 100 miler before my second attempt at Ronda as a confidence builder

The month ahead of this race was a big mileage month for me. It started with 100+km race in Taiwan and by the end of Dec I had accumulated 400km of quality mileage. I tapered down few days before UTMT but it was much less aggressive tapering than what I used to do.

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