In the heart of Europe, where the mountains whisper tales of adventure, the Europe Trail Cup emerges and unifies the spirit of trail-running enthusiasts across Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Italy, Bosnia, Serbia, and Macedonia.
Born from a shared love for the untamed beauty of Europe’s diverse landscapes, Europe Trail Cup is more than a series of events; it’s a journey that unites trail enthusiasts in a mix of culture, camaraderie, and competition.
Each race in our series paints a unique picture, from the majestic peaks of the Pieniny, Julian Alps, Malá Fatra and Dolomite mountains to the sun-drenched trails in the Balkan, welcoming runners to immerse themselves in the excitement of discovery and connection.
Lace up, embrace the challenge, and let the adventure begin!
Both ultra events of Big Bear’s Ultra will be again the part of Slovak Ultra Trail League in 2024. And again as the penultimate event in the league calendar. Ultra Kras 55 in April will make a debut in 2024.
There is probably no runner who has not experienced unpleasant pain during sports activity. Whether it was a muscle strain or an inflammation, that’s when many of us often reach for the well-known “vitamin I”, i.e. Ibuprofen, Ibalgin etc. After all, it is logical that if our muscles/joints/tendons ache, inflammation has probably occurred in them, and if we take a painkiller that also has anti-inflammatory effects, we can’t do anything wrong.
First of all, it is necessary to realize that inflammation is not immediately a bad thing for us, which must be stopped at once by administering the above mentioned antiinflammatories. When running, microtears naturally occur in our muscles as a result of muscle contraction. The microtears automatically stimulate an inflammatory response, signaling the body to deliver the nutrients needed to initiate the healing process. And this is where the issue with antiinflammatories is.
Several studies have confirmed that when taking the drugs like Ibalgin or Ibuprofen during sports activity, they suppress the protein bonds that occur in the muscles after intense exercise.
What does it mean?
By taking an anti-inflammatory drug, we prevent inflammation from starting the healing process in our body. In addition, if we continue sports after taking the medicine, we increase the risk of long-term damage to the intestines and kidneys (this applies mainly to endurance sports).
So how to approach an injury? Complete the activity at all costs? Or approach the injury with humility and choose the path of the natural healing process in our body?
For us, it is definitely the second option. Save your medication until you really need it. Giving the body natural rest and regeneration is the best choice for us. If you are looking for a way to prevent muscle, tendon or joint pain after a heavy load, choose natural anti-inflammatories such as turmeric, berries or green tea.
Think twice the next time you want to reach for anti-inflammatories before, during or after strenuous physical activity, just to get rid of unwanted pain. Not only will this temporary “patch” not help you at all, on the contrary, you will slow down your recovery. Try to focus your efforts on the source of the pain instead and work on it!
Big Bear’s Ultra does not support the use of anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibalgin, Ibuporfen, etc. during ultra runs. Although anti-inflammatory drugs are part of the first-aid kits at the control stations, if it is necessary to administer them to the participants, the volunteers have instructions to withdraw the participant from the race and classify him as a DNF.
This article first appeared as a blog post on endu.run blog
I was always fascinated by the views of mountains and hills surrounding my hometown. After moving back from Hong Kong I started to re-explore the long forgotten routes. And one day while standing at the vantage point offering 360 views around the town I started to wonder if there is a sensible way how to connect all the mountains around into one round the city loop.
After playing around with a map for a while I figured out a loop. Some sections I knew, some needed to be checked out. Some I could check out right away, some sections had to wait till the snow melted in the mountains… The general idea was however set. Date for trial run announced. Small group of people signed up for this run. All was ready. And so in late July, in the middle of the hot hot summer, 17 of us assembled in Budatín for the fun run to test the route of the future BBU100+ race (hopefuly).
After a short briefing we set out few minutes later than the planned 6am. Few hundred meters along the bank of river Váh and then quickly up the hill for the first climb of the day – Dubeň. Everybody still fresh and chatty so before we knew it we had this first 300+ meters of elevation done. Pace seemed a bit fast to me but the air was still cool and legs fresh, nothing to slow us down 🙂 Quick downhill, a bit of road and then we had second climb up to Straník. Only about 200m of elevation but rather steep. The kind of a hill that nobody really noticed on 8th km but one that would be a proper pain after 100km … Anyway, we were on 8K only, so nobody really noticed and we had the first 2 climbs behind us.
A relatively easy runable section followed – bit of road, bit of trail, some through forest, some through the fields, a bit up a bit down. Happy days. It was starting to get hotter though…
Soon we reached 20km mark and the first village – Lysica – where we had our first refreshment point – local store. Some drinks and off we were as the next shop stop was only 5km away in Belá. Only 5km but for me it was necessary to stop for drinks again as the biggest climb of the day would start right after. The shopping stop in Belá took longer than we hoped. Our perfect timing matched the peak Saturday grocery shopping hour …
Eventually we made it out of the shop and back on the route. After the village we rejoined the others who skipped shopping and were cooling down at the river. It was now getting really hot … And heat was getting obvious on those open fields we had to cross before reaching the next valley where the climb would start.
The trail through the valley followed the river for a while. We stopped several times to cool down. There would be no water for quite a while …
The climb itself although long and rather steep at places went quite well. We were in the woods sheltered from the direct sun. We were quite spread out now. Four guys were quite ahead, behind them was a bunch of 5-6 of quite spread out but within the sight of each other. Our bunch re-grouped at the Sedlo na koni trail junction. From there we quickly crossed a bit of a forest and soon we were on a narrow and not very runable singletrack through the blueberry fields. Fresh food 🙂 It was now getting close to noon and hot, really hot… There was a spring on the way but not much water in it …
Luckily it was only about 2-3km to the upper cable car station where another refreshment station was awaiting. Here we met some of the guys who were running ahead of us. We took our time – because it took time for all those beers and soft drinks to be served. Properly refreshed we set off for the summit of Veľký Kriváň, the highest point of Malá Fatra and the highest point on the route.
All was still good here and all the way on the ridge to Malý Kriváň and a bit beyond. But soon after Malý Kriváň I started to feel the heat. The sun was strong, air was hot and stuffy. The kind of conditions that usually bring some storms later on… This was where the first mini crisis hit me. I was moving rather OK but I felt week in the legs – the feeling I remembered from those hot runs during Hong Kong summers. Only cold sugary drinks and dips in some water pools could have fixed this. And there was no such thing up on the ridge…
I suffered through the technical rocky section between Priehyb and Suchý. The downhill from Suchý, although still technical, was much better though as I knew a mountain cottage was awaiting bit down the the hill – Chata pod Suchým and there cold drinks and food… The drinks went down well, the food not really. Nice tempting cake was staring at me from the plate and I could barely push a half of it down to my belly. In that heat the body refused to eat, liquid diet it was then … Beer, kofola, water… The first rain of the day came while we were resting here, it lasted the whole 2-3 minutes … Anyway, about 47km done, time to continue the descent – about 700m of elevation loss over some steep technical terrain was awaiting.
Surprisingly I was feeling great here. One reason – cooler conditions. A thunderstorm was passing on our left. The soundtrack sounded ominous but all we got were benefits – a bit of a drizzle, a bit of a breeze and cool half an hour …
Before we made it down the sun was on again. Once the sunshine hit me on the flat dirt road it felt like if someone had flipped my OFF button … We were not yet at the half point mark and the first thought of giving up crossed my mind. The heat was pretty unforgiving…
Soon we were in the village though and my own retirement thoughts disappeared when we met the early leader who had to abandon due to stomach issues. I had no real issues (yet) other than the heat induced lazyness. I hoped that the break at Strečno with cold drinks from the kiosk will do the job.
Then an unexpected bonus – my sister showed up with bag full of goodies. Some sweet drink went into my drink bottle, can of Radler into my backpack. And beer, Kofola, coffee and some water down to my belly. I was ready to join the others for the next monster climb – Minčol via Špicák. Here we have already formed our group of 4 – me, Jaro, Peter and Zuzka – group that would stay together for the rest of the route.
The climb via Špicák is a tasty one. Probably the “best” way to go up from Strečno 🙂 and that’s why I included it on the route 🙂 . I did not feel too bad though. The heat was gone, some clouds appeared, some breeze cooled us from time to time. The climb though felt much longer that I remembered it. The blueberry sections were neverending… Eventually we emerged near the WWII canon and soon we had the top of Minčol in our sight. But as we were approaching the top we heard a really loud thunder. The storm was very very near and we were at the very very top… No time to take the obligatory Minčol photos. We quickly continued downhill and took shelter in the dip between Minčol and Krížava. While waiting out the storm here we had time to finish those cans of Radler we carried with us from Strečno. Jaro checked the radar on his phone. It looked all clear, storms moving away, nothing new brewing. Time to move our asses quickly, We wanted to clear the rest of the ridge before some next storm shows up.
And we were doing well. There were no storms ahead, we were moving quickly. We reached the junction below Krížava and turned right towards Turie. Only a bit of the ridge remained, small little bump at the end of it and then downhill to the woods.
But as we were getting close to that final bump (we would need perhaps 5, at most 10 minutes to clear it) I noticed really dark skies to our left. Still quite far but very very dark. Within few minutes those dark skies were all over us. And the lightnings started cracking right above us. Pretty electrifying atmosphere… We quickly gave up any hopes of clearing that little bump and ran down the side of the mountain looking for shelter away from the ridge. The place we found looked safe enough. No idea how much time we spent there, 20-30 minutes maybe ? We had no data signal there so we could not check the radar. The only way was to wait till the heavy rain and clouds pass and with it hopefully also that massive storm.
It eventually passed and we could continue. It looked pretty nasty behind us. But ahead the skies were beginning to clear and rays of the setting sun were making their way through the thinning clouds. It looked like the rains are over and pretty nice summer night is ahead. How quickly can things change, literally within minutes …
It was a pretty steep and fast descent towards Turie but mostly runable. Legs were working as their main nemesis, the hot sun, was nearing the end of its shift for the day. But before we reached Turie and the local pub we still had Čipčie to climb. A hill that I simply could not omit when designing this route 🙂 .
It is a short but very steep climb, around 200m of elevation gain. At this stage we had over 70km and 4000m in our legs. It was still daylight, just, but under the trees the headlamps were needed already. Legs were still fine but some rest on the bench at the top came handy 🙂
The run down to Turie was quick. It is about 500m drop over a bit more than 2.5km, so pretty steep. But somewhere down there a pub was still open 🙂
The break at the pub was a bit longer, this was the last place we could expect to find open till almost the end. So we had some beers, soft drinks, some salty snacks. Water refills and off we were. The final about 40km and 2000+m elevation remained.
Few km down the road and then there was one of the specials – river crossing. Only ankle deep water this time but wet feet anyway. At least the water was at pleasant temperature. And then we started another climb.
I did not find it particularly difficult probably thanks to all that fresh energy after the last stop. It seemed that we made it to top in no time. Short run on the ridge and quick stop for water and refreshment at the spring.
Little exciting intermezzo a bit later. Out of nowhere zillions of some bugs or flies appeared and started to attack our headlamps. It was like running through a hailstorm but instead of hail there were some bugs hitting my head and face. I ended up swallowing a few… Few gulps of the sweet drink I had in my bottle helped but surely there are more pleasant sources of protein than this …
Lucky these buggers did not bother us for too long. Soon a steep downhill and there was a special refreshment point. Although this was a self support run we arranged 2 places at the final night section where we had friends waiting with some water, soft drinks and in this case also some watermelons and beer.
After all those bugs I had a craving for beer but once I opened one it just would not go down. I ate some watermelon and drank some Pepsi instead but here were the first signs that something isn’t right…
Once we left our friends and ran towards the next climb I felt OK. But just as we reached the final steep bit towards Budzogáň I started to feel weak and uneasy in my stomach.
Once up there by the Budzogáň rock I had to sit down and rest. I could feel I am out of energy but at the same time stomach was sending out clear warnings that no food is welcome … After few minutes I decided to give a try to one gel. I took one Overstim.s gel and carefully mixed it with water in my mouth before very slowly swallowing it. I could feel some protest brewing in the belly but it did not last long. After a minute or two it looked like the gel will stay in and I was able to go on.
The energy boost was obvious and the next section up to Žibrid was pretty OK again. So was the technical downhill to Patúch, I felt fine. But once the next brutal never-ending climb started my problems were back. I was moving on empty and stomach was not well … All I was willing to risk were small sips of diluted Kofola from my soft flasks. It was better than nothing but obviously not enough for what was ahead…
The next 15-16km over Strážovské vrchy and Súľovské skaly very the toughest I have ever experienced on any 100km+ run … This was the first time I would likely have to abandon not because of some issue but because I simply could not move any more … I had to take frequent breaks and although I am sure the others were also not at their freshest I was obviously slowing the other 3 down. I am really glad we were moving as a group because to be in this situation alone, in the night, would not have been much fun …
I am very familiar with this area but this time every climb seemed 3-times steeper and 3-times longer than I remembered… At one of those rest breaks I downed another gel against still protesting stomach, this one also stayed in. This energy helped me to make it to the next impromptu refreshment point at Hričovské podhradie. The not so mountainous but hilly and brutal section was behind us…
Some water, some sweet drinks, some zero alcohol beer and refill of our bottles. But mainly a decent longish rest. Last 14km and final few hundred meters of elevation ahead.
This rest helped. We had a steady climb up behind the village towards the forest and then nice runable trail through the forest to the next village. After the short climb when entering the forest trail I told to somebody that this forest will surely again be 3-times longer than we remember it. Surprisingly even though I was in energy preservation mode it passed much quicker than I had expected.
From Ovčiarsko there is only one not that big climb over Hradisko and then down to ŽIlina.
We continued in steady pace up the hill. Once the climb was behind us we started running and it felt good. What did not feel that good were some nasty insects biting. This section however passed quickly. It was daylight again and we were running downhill to the city. There would be the Shell gas station and from there only about 5km through the city to the finish.
That Shell station was the final rest point. A time for breakfast. After all those issues over night I could not resist a hot dog, coffee and big bottle of extra magnesium mineral water. I knew that if I eat and drink all this I probably would not be able to run the final bit. But I did not care. I knew that now I will make it even if I have to walk the rest. And I really needed to eat. The hot dog went down fine although it took a while. Once well fed we set off for the final stretch. We knew that the first 2 guys already made it to finish. The four of us left the Shell station at the same time but soon each of us picked his/her own pace. I planned to walk only. Then when everyone else started running I felt like running too. Legs were in agreement. A sore ball of my right foot (from some late errand mess in the shoe) voted against. Brain agreed with the foot. So I mostly walked through the city, jogging few steps here and there, enjoying the final minutes of this monster loop around my city…
Finally I was back in Budatín finishing this 118km 6300m loop. Job done, the loop CAN be done, by 7 out of 17… I have done some crazy stuff in the past but this was one of my toughest experiences on trails …
Now time to get to work on the official inaugural edition, 2023 will be here in no time …