Advendure goes … to an adventure – Transylvania 100K 2017!

Από 05 Ιουν 2017

...Previously on Dracula prefers blood than energy drinks!


An unexpected call, right after midnight, breaks the silence while Theoharis is sitting on his armchair reading a novel. Hearing that his friends, Troupis and Tsogkarakis, are in grave danger he decides to travel hundreds of miles away, to Romania, to solve this mystery! The only clue he’s got is an ultra-trail race in the Carpathian Mountains, the “Transylvania 100K”!




“Dracula prefers blood than energy drinks!” – episode 2.


Theoharis Lezpouridis: Candidate victim,

Dimitris Troupis: The guy doing intervals,

Dracula: As himself,

Giorgos Tsolakakis: Professor Van Tsolakakis,

Michael Weishaar: The German guy who lost his cap and almost lose his trekking pole and his skull cap,

Adrian & Adriana Plosnita: The locals.


Bran, Romania, Saturday very early in the morning, outside Dracula’s castle.


…….tout….. ……..tout…….


- (Me): Come on, why doesn’t he pick up the phone? What is he doing?

- (Troupis – breathless): Hey, Theoharis, everything OK? How are you?

- (Me): Dimitris, I’m here, where are you?

- (Troupis – out of breath now): I’m in Pefkias forest, Xilokastro, doing intervals. It’s much cooler at this time of the day!

- (Me): Are you serious? You told me to come to “Transylvania 100K”

- (Troupis): “Transvulcania”? That race was two weeks ago, what are you saying?

- (Me): Dimitris, no, not “Transvulcania”! “Transylvania 100K”, in Romania, underneath Dracula’s castle! You’re totally confused! You’ve messed the bear with the hair, the brush with the grass, the stick with the... Whatever…

- (Troupis): Dracula you say? I bet that he has deceived you! I don’t remember saying anything about an ultra-trail race in Romania. This is, surely, his trick! I bet, again, that he even changed his voice to fool you…

- (Me): So, what do I do now? I‘ve travelled half the “Iron Curtain” by car to be here!

- (Troupis): The only thing I can think of is “RUN”!

- (Me): OK, that I can do! See you.



Without further delay I opened my car’s trunk and dressed up properly for the occasion. Running shorts, compression t-shirt, long-sleeved top, waterproof-windproof jacket and trousers, gloves, hat, backpack, foil blanket, emergency whistle, compass and gps device, map, head torch with spare batteries, a first aid kit, water, food and finally suitable shoes for the next 100 kilometers. I was almost done when I saw my trekking poles and my shoe snow-spikes inside the car. Normally, I don’t use any of them when participating in ultra-trail races. However, that moment I heard a whisper, out of nowhere, saying “Take them… Take them…”. I felt goosebumps so I only grabbed my trekking poles quickly, without second thoughts. The “invisible” voice did not specify what to take with me so I chose freely the ones that suited me the most. 


Inside the courtyard, of Dracula’s residence, there was a huge rock with his castle built upon it and a big arch welcoming all of his candidate victims… I mean the runners! Among them I noticed the Greek Professor Van Tsolakakis, distant cousin of Professor Van Helsing, who was here to face the Count, driven by his hatred for vampires!


Suddenly, I felt a cold wind behind my spine and my heartbeats rose like an ambushed animal’s. I turned back my head and it was then that I saw him! Dracula, wearing his human form of Vlad Tepes, was staring at us. Although he was silent, you could tell by his eyes the thoughts he made, “Welcome to Transylvania 100K. You shall only leave this place on a stick!”. It took me a couple of seconds to overcome my fear and realize that everyone else was running scared and I was sitting still. Nevertheless, I found the strength to move my body and this is how it all begun. I cannot recall any memories after that moment. Running all the time is the only thing I remember. Hopefully, I was carrying my camera with me so now I’m able to tell you what a great adventure this race was using all the photos that I shot.



It was not dawn yet, but all the runners were heading towards the mountains. Soon, the road became a forest trail and after a couple of minutes that forest trail became a single track, underneath tall trees, that went all the way up! All the runners are nothing but blur images of themselves in these photos, so I don’t know if it’s the photographer’s fault or if they are haunted by ghouls.



It had been a while since we left Bran. We didn’t know how high we were due to this dense forest of fir trees that surrounded us.



Every now and then, the race course lead us outside the tree-wall only to witness the spectacular views of the mountain! These were only the first miles of the race and I couldn’t help but wonder what else I was about to see.  



“Transylvania 100K” course lead us above 2.000 meters altitude. Now, dry, alpine meadows and cold winds welcomed us while snow and mist appeared as we went higher. All together, with the storm that broke out later on that day, would trouble the runners for many more miles and even force the organizing team of the race to send the last athletes of the 100K race follow the 50K course. Wise decision!



The first checkpoint was located in Malaiesti, which was a small plateau beneath high summits!



I left the refuge making happy thoughts and plans, in my mind, of the moment I’d finish the race. However, I could never imagine what I was about to cope with when climbing to Omu summit, at 2.500 meters altitude, the highest peak of the race course.



In a blink of an eye, all the happy thoughts turned into agony as I was ascending. There was no track and I could only follow the footsteps of those in front of me. The mist just made everything worse reducing visibility and I almost got hit twice by falling rocks. Still the hardest part of the climb was yet to come. The last few meters were very steep so we could only make one step at a time, despite the fixed rope there.




When I reached Omu peak I could only hope for the mist to be gone sooner or later. Probably later because I was going to spend a lot of time wandering inside the fog searching for the red-yellow tapes. I remember, now, a fellow runner blowing his whistle and me yelling back at him so that we both knew we were not alone and lost. Soon after that I met a Romanian couple (a real one, husband and wife), Adrian and Adriana, who both agreed when asked to join them. A little later we met Mike from Germany who was still wearing his cap and would almost lose his trekking pole when he fell down a snow slope. 



Along our way to the next checkpoint there were lots of young fir trees, a small lagoon and a little river with fresh, cold water! The mist was now gone and we could see once more this magnificent scenery around us.



Pestera checkpoint, right in front of me, was the place where the last runners of the 100K course would follow the 50K course in order to avoid the storm and the harsh weather conditions. The rest of us still had a long way to go… 



As we headed to Omu peak, for the second time, I noticed some bizarre rock formations and also Mike who was happy because he had not lost his cap! Yet...




In this photo you can see the famous Romanian Sphinx in Babele plateau (Babele means old women in Romanian language-don’t ask me why). The Sphinx is not the one with the white cap in the center of the picture!



Again, the four of us had to face very bad weather conditions as we went higher. Mist reduced visibility so we had to consult our gps devices a lot of times. Moreover, our noses had become red and I could only assume that the cold wind was the one to blame. There are no photos from that part of the 100K course due to severe cold (even with gloves on)! Instead, I’m posting some photos of our way down to Busteni checkpoint when my heart started pumping blood inside my veins again.



Despite some tricky parts with rocks and stones on the way down, our little group entered the dense forests of the Carpathians once more.



The heavy rain that started a few minutes ago wouldn’t bother me at all. Pine trees here, fir trees there and beech trees, as we descended more, seemed like paintings from the same painter! I was mesmerized by this wonderful scenery!



Busteni checkpoint and drop bags for most of the runners. Not for me, though. Lately, I prefer carrying everything in my backpack. Guess I need to think of this issue twice…



Mike and I decided to switch our fellowship of Adrian and Adriana with a herd of sheep (up, right photo). We were not very far from Busteni and it was pouring cats and dogs as we went up.



It’s was a fact! We were soaking wet and Mike lost his cap.



The next checkpoint was located in Piatra Arsa (means burned rock), 2.000 meters above sea surface. There was no time to rest there due to the risk of hypothermia. Five minute break for snacks and off we went. This is the second time I’ll post some photos of our way down, after Piatra Arsa checkpoint, when I managed to move my fingers again! Vast, alpine meadows and streams, formed by melting snow, drew this sad painting. Sad because I felt depressed due to the weather. If I was in Greece, I would go swimming in Halkidiki! What was I doing there?



It has been a while since we left behind high altitudes and alpine meadows. According to my opinion, we were heading towards the most beautiful part of the 100K course. Bolboci Lake got bigger as we got closer and it was, truly, a unique sight to see! The next checkpoint was on the opposite shore of the lake and in order to reach it we should cross the dam first.



The sun was about to set. A few more photos and then darkness!



Another 20 kilometers until finish line. These were the hardest kilometers of the race because gps-batteries emptied, there was a point where someone cut all the reflective tapes and we got lost repeatedly, there was mist inside the woods and mud all over the place for the rest of the course! I almost forgot to add fatigue and drowsiness in the list.


I finished the race together with Mike after 23 hours! For some reason, each time one of us slowed down or stopped the other one was waiting patiently. Thanks my friend!



It was Sunday noon, the sky was clear, the sun shined and I was together with my wife and some good friends! Nothing could remind me of the adventure I had a couple of hours before. Perhaps, only Dracula who was going up and down his castle, with his “ego” wounded, giving prizes to all of us who managed to beat him!


On my way back home, I made some thoughts that need to be heard! First of all, if somebody wishes to register for the fifth edition of “Transylvania 100K”, next year, he must think of this very well! The race involves high altitudes and sometimes, like 2017, very harsh weather conditions which can lead to serious danger or risk of injuries! This is NOT a game! Before saying goodbye to Dracula, I discussed with Andrew Heading a lot of things regarding the race. He assured me that they will fix everything that went wrong this year. Except the weather of course.


There was no briefing for the race this year but next year there will be three different briefings the day before the race. Marking the course only with tapes is another problem that needs to be solved. They (Andrew and Marius) thought of using paint but the management of Bucegi National Park is against that solution. All the volunteers were flawless during the race but still very few. More of them can fix problems like showing the right way in crossroads, when tapes are missing, and drop bags with personal belongings, something that was not possible this year due to the lack of volunteers to keep them safe. Speaking of volunteers, the race’s website was not up to date with the times and checkpoints of the runners by no one! My wife and friends were not able to know if I continued my race, if I stopped or where I stopped (please fix this).


Furthermore, Andrew and Marius think of changing the starting time of the 100K race because most of the runners finish between ten o’ clock Saturday night and seven o’ clock Sunday morning, just right when everyone is sleeping! Unfortunately, the date of “Transylvania 100K” can’t change because during the months of summer a lot of sheep herds are out to eat. This means that there is great risk of getting bitten by large shepherd dogs despite the fact that weather conditions would be probably a lot better! Last but not least, safety measures for all the athletes must be the first priority of every race organizing team! Meaning that whoever applies for such ultra-trail races, like “Transylvania 100K”, must fit certain criteria of orienteering with compass and map, as well as basic knowledge of alpinism and mountain trekking, besides good physical condition. A lot of us think that we have superhuman strength! News flash, we are not super humans and most of the times we value ourselves very high!


…….Midnight. Outside the Bulgarian – Greek borders……..

My mobile phone rings and the message “Troupis calling” is displayed on the screen.


Theoharis Lezpouridis

Photo-shooting: Myself!  


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