Friday, 12 June 2015

XII Bieg Rzeźnika - Butcher Run in Poland, 78km ultra in June 2015.

Poland… My homeland, which I left 8 years ago, following my heart, my passion and my dreams of big adventures. Since that time I’ve found home in Finland and I’ve had so many mixed thoughts about Poland on the other hand. Sometimes I miss it and in the same time I feel that there’s nothing for me anymore. Sometimes I think that I’m still too Polish for Finland and already too Finnish for Poland, that actually I don't belong anywhere. However, the truth is that I belong to both. What's more, I came to the point, when I see lots of great things about both and I feel a need to share them with others! Inviting Finns to Poland was a really big thing for me. I've already had many guests from Poland, but it's never worked to the other direction before. What can I show to the Finns about my homeland? 
Bieszczady Mountains, XII Butcher Run
Photo by Julita Chudko
First thing is that Poland has beautiful mountains that offer A LOT to runners and nature lovers. There are great running events all year round in the most stunning places, with friendly atmosphere, good organisation, cheap prices, delicious food and drinks, safe surroundings, comfortable hotels and cottages in nature. I’m on a mission to share it with Finns, as it wouldn’t be fair to keep such a treasure only for myself!

View from our hotel "Pod Źródełkiem" in Cisna on Butcher Run
My first proposition was Butcher Run – Bieg Rzeźnika, held for 12th time 05.06.2015, on the distance of 78km in traditional version, with about 3800 elevation gain and 100km in Hardcore version, with about 4400 elevation gain. There’s a special rule about the Butcher: it must be run in two-person teams, whether man + man, man + woman or woman + woman. Team members are to co-operate with each other from start to finish and the maximum distance between them during the race is 100m. The event won a price for the best ultra of Poland in 2014. It’s already a legend in Poland: there’s some magic in Bieszczady Mountains and Butcher Run that people want to go back there to do it again and again every year; every runner in Poland knows: you’re a real runner, when you’ve run the Butcher. A dream for many, difficult to achieve also because of very limited places, distributed in lottery. This time we were very lucky though, as the organisers promised 5 places for the teams from Finland.

Route profile of Butcher Run

Finnish Teams ready for the Butcher!
Teams from the left: Remi&Agata, Tero&Petri, Veikko&Outi, Antti&Pekka, Laura&Tuula
Our journey started on Wednesday morning, 03.06.2015, with flight from Helsinki to Warsaw and after that we had an extremely long bus travel to Cisna-village in Bieszczady Mountains. Routs in Poland, especially in the mountain region, are still in pretty bad condition and they go through every little town’s traffic. Average speed is usually like 60km/h, so it’s good to remember that travelling in Poland takes time and costs lots of patience. There was already 30C degrees hot outside and we were exhausted after the journey, but the beautiful mountain view from our hotel and the promise of a great run adventure kept the morale high. 

On a trip to a traditional honey bee farm near Cisna-village.
We had whole Thursday to visit the village, collect the bibs and running packs from the expo, rethink running tactics and drop-bags. The run was to start on Friday 05.06.2015, at 3:00 in the morning and 00:45 we were already walking from our hotel to Cisna- centre. There was bus transportation from there to the start line in Komańcza at 1:30. The little mountain village was filled with more than 1200 runners, cars, lights, emotions, chaos and live music at the start line. And then, at 3:00 we started our 78-km of adventure…

Friday 05.06.2015, 3:00 in the morning.
Agata&Remi, as Anaconda Team, waiting for the start.
There were 4 time check points with their cut-offs and 2 aid stations/ drop-bags on the route. The time limit for 78km (and also for 100km!) was 16 hours. The first 8km were an easy asphalt road, but in very nice surroundings. It was a pleasure to witness the morning sunlight coming into the forests and the river. After 8km we found ourselves in the forest route, which was turning into more difficult and technical with every kilometre. The climbs were still quite mild though. We passed first time check point at 17km (in 2 hours 42 minutes) and continued our way to the next one, in Cisna at the 32-km, which was also a drop-bag. Sun was already high and the village was full of people, cheering up the runners. We reached Cisna as the third Finnish team in 4 hours 59 minutes. We collected our drop-bags and trekking poles. The course felt quite easy until now, but from the route profile we knew that some steep climbs were waiting for us, combined with very technical paths, just after Cisna.

Trailbusters Team: Antti & Pekka reaching Cisna check point
Photo by Rafał Sadowski

Team Tuska: Veikko & Outi before Cisna check point
Photo by Magdalena Jagielska
Next 10km we were climbing almost all the time, but with elevation gain there appeared also stunning views of sunny Bieszczady mountains. At that point we still had lots of strength and our journey was a real pleasure. What’s more, we knew that there’s already half of the distance behind us. From Fereczeta peak (1102m, 46-km) there started very steep, difficult downhill and after that straight 6-km long route to another drop-bag and aid station in Smerek. There was already extremely hot on the paths, around 30C degrees and running felt quite tough for me. 

Petri at Połonina Wetlińska
Photo by Beata Smolińska
After 9 hours and 10 minutes of run we found ourselves at 56-km in Smerek. There was tomato soup, cheese bread, cola, gatorade and water on the aid station. It was really nice to eat normal food after so many energy gels and bars. It gave me lots of strength, which I needed for the last "half-marathon". Not a long journey to the finish line, huh? But those 21km were to turn out the most difficult part of the Butcher. Many people say that Smerek is the place, where real butchery actually starts.

Antti rocking the downhill
Photo by Andrzej Szczor
Tero on the steep downhill
Photo by Andrzej Szczot

Leaving Smerek we were to climb 5km on technically difficult paths, with more than 600 vertical meters, to reach three peaks: Smerek (1222m), Osadzki Wierch (1253m) and Chatka Puchatka (1228m). With lots of energy after the meal, the climbing mission went quite well, but at the end of it I could hardly run on the downhills. I felt pain in my right knee and ankle (not to mention the whole body!). What’s more, while running on the heights I could clearly see the last peak – Połonina Caryńska, which we had to climb, just on the last 8 kilometres before the finish line. It was just impossible to believe that it contains only 8km, as it seemed so enormous that I couldn’t even imagine that I’m capable of reaching in in the time limit!

Pekka enjoying the trails of Bieszczady Mountains
Photo by Julita Chudko
After a very difficult and painful downhill to the last aid station and time check point in Berehy Górne I understood that there’s only 8 tough kilometres left and we’ll be in Ustrzyki Górne on the finish line. I was ready to give everything during the last climb. I started it fast. I was passing by many exhausted runners walking the hill like zombies. Many of big men were almost crying of pain and fatigue, but I was determined to reach the peak. In extreme exhaustion and pain I was concentrated only on doing small steps forward… Up, Up! I turned around maybe 200m before the top and I couldn’t believe my eyes: there was almost  nobody behind me! All the big guys were still in the forest, far behind me! Reaching the summit I was in tears of emotions and pain, but all the difficulties of 72km of the Butcher I had already behind. Also, we were really happy to realise that still we have plenty of time to the 16 hours cut-off. The last downhills were not that technically difficult. We were flying down powered by positive emotions and every move was a step of pure joy. Finally, after 15 hours and 20 minutes, as the third Finnish team, we crossed the finish line of the famous Butcher Run!

Laura & Tuula at the finish line of the Butcher!
Veikko & Outi at the finish line, accompanied by their son Juho-Kusti
Before us came Trailbusters:  Pekka and Antti in 11 hours 30 minutes and Petri and Tero in 12 hours 46 minutes. 7 minutes after us Outi and Veikko appeared on the finish line (15 hours 27 minutes) and after them wonder women Tuula and Laura in 15 hours 50 minutes. I’m so happy that all Finnish teams did it without any bigger problems in the time limit, enjoying their run from start to finish line.

My parents Marek & Ewa before Little Butcher race
Next day was a Little Butcher race: 27km route on difficult trails with time limit of 5 hours 30 minutes. In the morning I accompanied my parents, who run the shorter distance. Both did great: my wonder Mom in 4 hours 27 minutes and my Dad just in time: 5 hours 30 minutes. During their run there were also kid’s races, which my 7-year old daughter Helena participated in. Also, in the afternoon there was an official closing of Butcher Run Festival. The Finns were invited to the stage and received thanks for the participation and a little Butcher-presents from the organisers. 

Antti, Pekka, Laura & Tuula giving a speech on the podium
As I mentioned at the beginning, this trip was really special for me. It was the first time I had an occasion to show my homeland to the Finns. I think everything turned out great  and it’s not only my opinion, as already some of the participants asked me to book the places for them for the next year’s edition of the Butcher. We had a wonderful adventure, great memories for the rest of our lives. 

Butcher medals
I really look forward to organise more trips like this in the future. Already, I have some plans for the October 2015 and I think about doing 2-3 trips to Poland during 2016. I organise also trips to Finland for Polish runners. In 2014 we participated in Vaarojen Maraton 43 & 86km in Koli, Central-East Finland, and this year in July 6 Polish runners are participating in NUTS Pallas 55 & 125km in far Lapland. Please, feel free to contact me if you’re interested in running experiences in beautiful Polish mountains or wild Finnish forests! Both are close to my heart and I’d be more than happy to share it with you. Here are the contact details to me:

Agata Wiaterek

phone number: +358445189323

Anaconda Team: Remi & Agata

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