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Dream Trek Summer Edition 2019

Friday the organizers put up the post about the event, which is in Romanian but includes plenty of pictures, though oddly enough not the group shot from the start, so I guess I should finally get to the part I skipped in the previous personal post, starting when I left, at 8 PM, and minutes later realized I had forgotten that thing to put on my arm to wipe sweat with. Didn’t come back for it though, so I was there well before 8:30 PM, when we had been asked to arrive, I think spotting the few who were already there at 8:23 PM, and also spotting and grabbing a 0.10 RON coin as I was walking towards them. Then I just sort of stood around for a while, but used the time to rearrange my things, putting the energy bar and garlic in one pocket and the flexible water bottle in the other, closing each pocket with two safety pins, and leaving only the other things in the bag I held in my hand, with rubber bands around it just to be sure. Actually used all four rubber bands at first, but one broke as I was putting them back on after taking them off at the first scheduled stop and I just used two after that, leaving the third remaining one as a spare, like I had three spare safety pins as well. None of those were needed though, even if at least the safety pin I opened most often when we stopped got badly bent quite a few times, since I could straighten it well enough and it didn’t snap.

After we moved to the area where we were supposed to gather, where there was a stage as well, I grabbed one of the protein yogurts offered by the sponsor and drank it, then went to the toilet, looking for one on the floor below, and got back just in time for the start of the warmup, which I did take part in, albeit rather hesitantly. It was 9:40 PM when, after taking that starting group picture, the 75 or so, maybe up to 80, of us got going. We couldn’t run at first, being in that mall and needing to get down to the ground floor and exit it first, but after that we could get going and I was part of the group that was breaking ahead, eventually, I think at Obor, needing to make the first of many stops to wait for the others. With nothing arranged with the authorities, we had to run on sidewalks and wait at stoplights anyway, but it wasn’t just the light that we had to wait for, and when Radu, who can be said was the organizer, finally caught up, leading those others, he said we were going too fast and the rest couldn’t keep up, and that we should stay with the group if we wanted music, but also repeated the route and told those who wanted to go faster to wait for the rest at that first scheduled stop, at a club in Charles de Gaulle Square. This call to stay with the group followed by being asked to at least wait for the others at the next planned stop, including the locations selected for group pictures, would be repeated multiple times until Carol Park, where those of us who could do better were released to a greater extent, and someone who had stayed with the larger group until that point said he had gotten quite upset at those of us who kept pushing ahead, but the others were pretty much walking a good part of the time, a fact made obvious by calculating their pace.

I seem to remember reaching that club at 10:43 PM, and since we had been scheduled to reach that place at 11 PM, that stop was a long one. We were offered water, apples and more protein yogurt, the yogurt being poured into small plastic glasses, making Radu remark out loud when he also reached the place that they had been saying something about not using plastic, which had in fact been the case and the reason why the participants had been required to bring something for water. But what we brought was just used for the water offered by this group that organized the event, while the sponsor continued to use piles of those glasses at the second and third refreshment stops as well, and there were yet other, larger, plastic glasses for what I gather was iced lemonade at the second stop, and I saw a few other larger plastic glasses used as well, though I’m not sure who had brought or offered those. Either way, I went to the toilet there again, then a talk about nutrition, focusing on proteins, took place, and during that talk the little girl who also took part at least in that first part of the event was munching from a bowl with various kinds of nuts, so after it was put away in the room where the water and apples were offered after the end of the talk and I saw someone else grab a few from it, I did the same before we finally left, I think at just about 11:30 PM, after taking another picture and wearing glowsticks, which we had been given before exiting the club. Another guy helped me put mine on my wrist after I had been struggling with it for quite some time.

Since Radu led us away but it was again just those of us who were faster who were quick to follow, the others taking their time even then, while we were waiting he led us around that first area with flowers at the entrance of Herastrau Park, and I will insist on using that name for it, so that added another little bit, though perhaps only about 100 meters or so, to the distance covered. Then, as we went almost all around the lake, some of us again went way ahead, and I was in that group. It was a much smaller group than it had been before that first planned stop, however, at least after we ended up running in the dark, the light carried by one of the two who were leading seeming to be the only one, so there were seven of us maintaining that pace as first, but as first one and then another dropped back, they couldn’t see where they were stepping and stopped to wait for the rest. Then, since I gathered that the second one to drop back and stop and one of those still ahead were together, he and one other guy soon stopped to wait for her, leaving me to run in the dark, led by two people I didn’t know. And since I was uncertain of the route and had no idea how well they knew it, at a fork in the path I stopped as well, waiting for the others to catch up. However, once we were back together and we reached areas where there was some light again, the same five of us pushed ahead again, finding those two waiting on a bench as we stopped close to the exit. A couple of others, who had ended up between groups, arrived some time later, and we spent a long time waiting for the rest, voicing our frustration at their pace and one even leaving then, saying he’s getting bored when they’re so slow.

Coming out of the park at Arcul de Triumf, even the group had to wait for quite some time for the last few, who were said to have stopped at a confectionery, though I don’t know whether that was a joke or not. Another group picture was also taken, and then we kept going to the second planned refreshment point, at a club in the Old Town, stopping for pictures in a couple more places on the way, Radu announcing the next such stop each time, so those of us pushing ahead would know where to wait for the rest. And we arrived at that club more or less together, at 1:35 AM, just five minutes ahead of schedule, leaving again close to 2 AM. On top of water and protein yogurt, and I’m pretty sure also apples, though my memory is playing some tricks on me when it comes to that, we were told we’ll also have iced lemonade there, but I guess there wasn’t enough of it and by the time I realized where to go to get the stuff, there was none left. So I made do with the other stuff, went in to go to the toilet, saw the line, went back out to reapply the lotion against mosquitoes, then went back in and could go to the toilet and wash my hands just in time, getting back out as the rest were getting ready to leave. Can’t find myself in the picture taken there and I’m pretty sure I really am not in it, as it was likely taken while I was at the toilet, or waiting in line for it, or maybe even applying that lotion.

The part between the second and third refreshment points was rather uneventful, going most of the way around the Palace of Parliament and then, after crossing through a bit of Izvor Park, using the sidewalk next to the river meaning narrow sidewalks and little room to pass. Even so, there was some waiting to regroup when we entered Izvor Park, and Radu again asked us to take it slower as we’ll run along the river in order for the guy taking pictures to be able to do so. And I did try to do that, letting others get some way ahead and ending up sort of in between groups for a little while, before eventually giving chase. There were some other places where we had to stop and wait, but since we were again on sidewalks, stoplights went some way towards keeping us closer together.

The third refreshment point was at the entrance of Carol Park and I reached it at 2:40 AM. However, I can’t say that it was reached 20 minutes ahead of schedule, since the schedule listed it at 3 AM, but after the park, and according to something Radu said, the original plan included ten minutes of going up and down the stairs in that park. Either way, on top of water, apples and yogurt, we also had protein bars there, and since there were two kinds, I took and ate one of each… And I’m uncertain whether I took “only” a few of those glasses of yogurt or a bottle as well. It was getting to be a bit much though, and the fact that both the bars and the yogurt were sweet was making me slightly nauseous as well, but I knew I needed the energy, especially since I dreaded the stairs that were to come. However, after a guy worried me by first asking about the route after that point and then, after I quickly answered and also mentioned that the refreshment point was supposed to have been after the park, said that he wrote that schedule and even he doesn’t remember it anymore, Radu called for a “technical meeting”, since the pace and the exhaustion of those not pushing ahead made it clear that we won’t be able to complete the planned route together. But, as he was trying to work out a shorter route, someone, possibly even that guy who had supposedly written the schedule, said that we should just give it a shot, since we had covered 28 kilometers already, so only had about 12 left, and he hesitantly agreed, saying that we should “honor the stairs” by just going up, down and then back up again, and then push the rest of the way, with shorter breaks. It would appear that this was a first, as the planned route hadn’t been completed in either 2017 or 2018.

It was about 3 AM when we got back to running, heading straight for the stairs and, as planned, going up, down and then up again. I tried to time myself on those stairs and I think it took me 2:22, but I was mainly focused on the woman ahead of me, watching how she ran on the way up the first time, then staying close on the way down, almost falling at one point and barely managing to avoid it, and then applying what I had noticed to get past her without exhausting myself too much as we went back up. Then we waited for the rest to catch up, Radu pointing out that there were some toilets and a public fountain nearby, and some did use the toilets while I just used the fountain to splash some water on my face and wash my hands before eating two of the three cloves of garlic I had with me as we were getting ready to leave again. Noticed that we were much fewer by then, commenting out loud that we had “rather halved”, though I didn’t count. Another guy who was next to me said that indeed plenty had left by then.
Soon after leaving Carol Park, we entered Tineretului Park, with Radu leading the way at first, but soon dropping back again to stay with those who needed a slower pace. Before doing that, however, he told those of us pushing harder to keep going around the lake while he’ll lead the rest on a shorter path, having this conversation while running, at first seeming to have a hard time finding someone who knew the park well enough to be able to lead this group. But eventually it seemed to have been sorted out, and somebody produced a light as well, so we could keep going once we got to the dark areas, without worrying about the rest anymore. I think there were about 15 of us in that group, or maybe not even 15, possibly even closer to ten, not sure anymore, but the pace was good and it actually felt nice, running through a park, not worrying about other traffic, not wondering whether anyone in my group knew the route or worried about going against the organizer’s wishes anymore.
Despite taking that longer route, when we reached the exit we still had to wait for several minutes for the others, and then there was another brief discussion about the route, Radu saying that those who can’t do much more should just go straight to the National Library, where we were supposed to finish, and that doing the whole thing would require pushing awfully hard and there is a way to cut that route short as well… Even though we had less than eight kilometers to go, actually closer to seven now that I check, and it was only 3:55 AM when we got going again. But there was the fourth refreshment point ahead as well, as we’ll reach Unirii, so I said that we should get there first and then decide, and I guess there was some agreement on that, though it wasn’t actually stated as he hurried to lead us away, this time staying with those of us pushing harder and really pushing us. I do believe we were 14 or 15 and it was the first time I struggled, feeling that this pace was a bit too much, at least at that point. I obviously wasn’t going to be able to keep that up all the way to the end if that was what he had in mind, but I could hold on to the back of that group and he seemed thrilled when we had to stop at the stoplight at Unirii, saying that we were an amazing group and it had been like a sprint for bonus seconds in the Tour de France. No idea why he associated running with cycling…

I seem to remember reaching that fourth refreshment point at 4:02 AM, and that’s pretty much what it works out to as well, considering the distance and pace after leaving Tineretului Park. Seeing as it was where it was supposed to be and the schedule listed us as reaching it at 4:15 AM, I was expecting to be able to recover after that sprint and was waiting calmly for those offering stuff to get ready, since they weren’t yet. However, Radu quickly said that those who want to go straight to the end can take their time and then just wait for us there, but there’s no time to waste for those who want to keep going, prompting quite a flurry of activity. So I went to have my water bottle filled and drank it quickly, also kept grabbing pieces of apple as I was passing by the guy rushing to slice them, and when Radu said we’ll leave in two minutes, I think at 4:09 AM, I just took a bottle of yogurt, and I’m uncertain about this but I think a protein bar as well, straight from the back of the truck, since they hadn’t managed to take them out yet, stuffing myself with it or them as fast as I could, and others did the same. There was a bit of a tense moment then, as Radu asked for someone to lead those wanting to take that shortened route he had mentioned when leaving Tineretului Park, only to University Square, and an older man who had been running in circles around the slower ones and when we were stopping and had apparently also commented a lot offered and Radu refused him, saying he doesn’t know him and he talks too much, prompting a bit of an exchange between them which Radu impatiently cut short, naming the person who had held that talk about nutrition for that “position” and saying those of us meaning to complete the entire planned route will need to stick to five minutes per kilometer, 5:30 at most, and do it all in at most 50 minutes, so there will be no waiting for anyone who can’t keep up.

I couldn’t understand that, as it was 4:12 AM when we got going again and we had no more than six kilometers left, so it wasn’t a question of getting to the end at 5:30 AM, as originally planned, but even getting there in those 50 minutes he mentioned only required a jogging pace, eight minutes per kilometer. But there was no time to say anything and I had to give everything just to hold on to the back of the group, 12 of us being there at first, becoming 13 as a girl caught up when we had to make a brief stop at a stoplight, saying that she didn’t know whether she’ll keep up at that pace but ending up being able to after all. One more guy tried to follow, but after getting close when we briefly had to stop that time, he fell back again and at the next such stop Radu said there’s no way he’ll keep up and didn’t wait again, so 14 tried, but we never really were 14. However, it was at such a stop, at 4:18 AM, as we were getting close to University Square, that I said the pace was unnecessary and Radu replied that sunrise will be much earlier and we should get to the finish around that time, not at 5:30 AM. But we were going too fast even for that, and he agreed to at least go down to 5:30 per kilometer, and then likely slowed down even more as he struggled to get the speaker to work, so I could keep up somewhat better. It was still too fast to go like that all the way, but it at least meant hitting the wall somewhat later, as if I’d have had to go all the way to Romana Square at the original pace I knew I’d have had to pretty much walk after that.
I seem to remember seeing 4:28 AM at Romana Square, but I’m uncertain whether we reached it at that time or, perhaps more likely, that’s when we were leaving, after taking a group picture there as well, though this time Radu took it, the photographer who had followed us on a bicycle having apparently said at that last refreshment point that he couldn’t keep up anymore, since I heard Radu ask him to take one last picture of us at Cocor, so just some 200 meters after Unirii, before turning around to wait for us at the finish. Either way, one more guy left then, so we were down to 12. Also, we really could almost walk from that point and still reach the National Library at 5 AM, since we only had a little over three kilometers left, and I said as much.
Well, we didn’t walk. The pace was slower, but I was pretty much out of energy, which really hit me after we passed by Gradina Icoanei. It was then, in fact surprisingly late, also considering all the yogurt, that I also started to feel a certain pressing need, but it still wasn’t as bad as I expected. The exhaustion was the worse problem, so it was just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and somehow holding on to the back of the group, taking advantage of any brief stop made when crossing a street and feeling quite relieved when Radu asked us to go slower and form a tight group for another picture that he wanted to take of us actually running, the guy who was at the back of the actual group, as I was a few steps behind by then, actually turning and seeming to mean to say something before changing his mind as I pushed with some energy I didn’t really have anymore to draw level. And there was also the fact that a girl, I think the one who had said that she didn’t know whether she’ll be able to keep up, stopped to buy herself a bottle of water from a store and Radu asked us to go slower to allow her to catch up, and he and at least one other guy fell back, so for a while I wasn’t last anymore. Also remember Radu pointing out some toilets and asking whether anyone but him needed to go, then saying it’s out of the question to make us wait for him of all people when the others offered to do so, so while I don’t think he dropped back for long enough to do that, I guess it’s not entirely impossible, if he was really fast and then really sprinted to catch up again.
Thanks to this reduced pace, I was still holding on at 4:49 AM, when we were some 500 meters from the end, Radu actually saying 400 meters then, and either finally realizing or perhaps merely finally admitting that we’ll get there too soon. However, instead of either getting there a bit sooner or pretty much just walking that last bit, he asked whether we wanted to do one kilometer more and while I said I’m pretty much done, just that guy who had turned to look for me at the time of that last picture seemed to pay attention, at least in the sense that he looked at me and again seemed to want to say something. Can’t say I noticed what, if anything, anyone else said, but I guess most agreed with the suggestion and just got going right away, continuing on Matei Basarab all the way to Traian instead of turning on Mircea Voda, and all I could do was struggle to somehow keep up. Did manage to say that this extension was rather messed up when we briefly stopped at a fountain and I splashed some more water on my face after others drank, but a girl just said that “we voted”, as if that was supposed to make me be able to keep up any better. I mean, even if being part of this group can be said to have implied agreeing to Radu’s stated goal of completing this last part of the route in 50 minutes, so reaching the finish at 5:02 AM, it hardly seems fair to just change the goal like that on the spot, so close to the end.
I did try, and I guess I’d have just about managed it, squeezing out some final drops of energy for those remaining 200 meters or so, if it’d have indeed been just one more kilometer. However, I see that the route was extended by some 1.3 kilometers, and after we turned and Radu shouted that we only had some 500 meters to go, I really hit the wall, so those were some very long 500 meters for me, as my pace suddenly dropped to about half of that of the others and all I could do was struggle to still somehow put one foot in front of the other while watching them drift away. Did also notice that same guy, who was again at the back of the group and actually dropping a few steps behind the rest, turn to look towards me a few times, and I have no idea whether he said anything to the others, but they stopped at the last stoplight before the National Library and I could catch up again. There were just seven of them there though, eight including me, and since I heard Radu shout that it was red and we needed to wait I assume that the first four went ahead, since I’m quite sure all 12 of us had kept going on this extended final part of the route and I highly doubt they had decided to break from the group at a later point. But, either way, on top of being one of at most 11, since Radu had led those taking the shorter route through Tineretului Park earlier, to have completed the entire route, plus this added part at the end, I don’t know how but I somehow found one more sprint in me there at the end and managed to finish ahead of the other seven. It sure hurt, but at the same time, it felt quite good.

It was 5:01 AM when we reached that place, where the others were waiting for us, so we also managed to complete this final part of the route, including the added portion, in just under 50 minutes. I also tried to keep track of the actual time spent running, stopping my stopwatch whenever I stopped, however briefly, and it listed 3:57:44 at the end, but that should be seen as a rough estimate, since there was always a question about the exact moment when I should stop it or start it again, there were short distances covered while walking, without starting it, and there were also a couple of moments when I forgot to start it and a couple of others when I forgot to stop it. Tried to make up for those moments, stopping it again later if I had forgotten to start it or starting it later if I had forgotten to stop it, but those were obviously more very rough estimates. So let’s just say I covered that distance in about, and probably just under, four hours of actual running.

Once there, we did the stretching exercises, which hurt even more, and when at one point Radu said that we’ll hate him for the next one but if it won’t hurt so bad that we won’t want to see the next day it means we’re not doing it right, I wasn’t exactly joking when I told him not to worry because we hate him already. It was, however, quite funny when he had us squat and a guy next to me said that he remembered that position from certain other locations, I added “especially after all that yogurt” and another guy said that if he’ll have to stay like that much longer he might get other ideas. There were comments about changing underwear as well, but not sure whether also then or earlier, and there were of course plenty about how we all smelled.
Some 40 people were there at the end, maybe 45 but that included a few who didn’t actually run, and there was a draw for a Garmin Forerunner 45 then too, just those who had registered ahead of time being entered, so not including anyone who just came directly, in case there were any who had done so, and only those who were actually there being eligible. As such, the first name was discarded, the person in question not being there, but the second was indeed there and she won it. As for the rest of us, after taking the final group picture, we ended up grabbing more protein yogurt and protein bars, as well as pieces of apple. The sponsor had brought quite a lot of their products, a table being filled with what was left, with a few more boxes full of those bars around it as well, and Radu said he’ll get upset if anything’s left, so I grabbed four yogurts and four bars, and an older woman actually got a full box of bars after a guy told her more than once to do so as she was looking at the few left in the opened boxes. I also grabbed several more pieces of apple… And ate most of them right there, before realizing that my hands had been on the pavement during the stretching exercises and putting the last two away, at first meaning to wash them if I’ll find a bathroom at the metro station but failing to find one and only eating them after getting back here, which I did at 6:15 AM. Also ate that final clove of garlic after getting back here, though it’d have been more useful around Gradina Icoanei, or perhaps before that, right after leaving Romana Square.

Radu’s tracker lists 38.3 kilometers, and since he did take that shorter route through Tineretului Park, those of us taking the longer route covered even more, but I’m not sure how much to trust it, since it seems to go all over the place and some other data is quite obviously wrong. Still, the route was supposed to have “about 40 kilometers” and we extended it by more than one, so it was probably still just short of a marathon, but not by much. It was indeed covered in a very long time, with plenty of breaks, some of them long ones, especially until we got more serious, starting in Carol Park, and with a lot of yogurt on top of the water and apples and bars that would normally be consumed during such a run. I was actually a bit nauseous because of all of that, but I’m sure it also helped a fair bit, especially when I did it while being so unprepared, just learning of the event on Monday, actually signing up Thursday and taking part in it Saturday night. But it was at night, when I function a whole lot better, instead of in the morning, on next to no sleep and also without being able to take a shit first, as the “official” runs are. Did carry some of the things I had with me for no reason though, as the only things that were useful were the flexible water bottle, the metro card and that lotion, which did indeed keep the mosquitoes off me while others complained a fair bit, though I’m not entirely certain that I did need to reapply it, so I might have gotten away without that as well. Since dad was still awake when I got back, I wouldn’t have even needed the keys.


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