Carpatia Divide 2019
Day #4 How I sang the bear song
The shelter was spacious, that was great – but there was too much moisture in the air. I had a feeling that water was everywhere and that me and my sleeping bag were completely soaked. The next night was going to be hard. I hoped I would dry out the bag in the sun. But that was long ahead of me. I ate my last panini from the petrol station and with new strength, I continued to Central Beskids.
Until the town Krempna it was asphalt and gravel roads. Pretty ordinary. No steep climbs, no insane mud, just a casual ride.In the morning I met some local farmers that herded cows onto pastures. One by one. I was stopped by a large group of sheep that were trying to cross the river. I saw eastern looking altars and churches. It was the exact type of countryside that I would imagine in this part of Poland.
When I arrived to Krempné the Ultramaron Magurski already ended. Fellow racers that passed here yesterday could eat some bananas at the aid station. I saw only tired runners leaving the place in their cars.
I was fast. I finally had a chance to use my aero bars and I pedalled as if I was at the finishing line. I felt a change of conditions and possibility to complete Carpatia Divide today. The nights were cold and wet and I didn’t want to go through it again. I couldn’t find any open shops. My food storage was almost depleted so I used my positive vibes as energy and prayed for a miracle.
My speed dropped down as I crossed Magura National Park. It was still muddy there, but it was drying out. It couldn’t change my good mood, because it was sunny and the landscape was beautiful.
As it was Sunday and regular shops were closed I focused on petrol stations. There was a big one in Dukla Pass That was my chance. Unfortunately my rivals were no less hungry than me. Staff told me they had no zapiekanka and only one panini. The spicy one. Hunger pushed me to try it.
Spicy foods are not a good idea on races. Or there was a special Poland ingredient in it. My mouth was so hot that I wasn’t able to eat it all. I had no other option than to trash half of my panini. At least I ate a full glass of deer pâté.
Then I saw there was Borscht being sold next to the petrol station. But I was in a hurry, didn’t want to waste any more time and I didn’t know how to tell them to give it to me very quickly.
The border route
I crossed the borders of Czechoslovakia at Dukla pass. Literally. There was still a sign from the old times. I came back to unpassable muddy roads. I slowed down to nearly walking pace. But it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t know if I learned how to pass muddy roads, but I fought with the hard condition bravely. With no fear, I pedalled through the large puddles and crossed larger and larger obstacles. Did Carpatia Divide teach me how to ride a bike? I was passing border stones one by one and I felt enough strength in my legs to make it to finish.
In these crazy conditions, I met a Polish guy on a bike. We had a conversation using simple expressions. I was curious about what he was doing there. It was not the place to have fun on a bike. I asked him if he’s using this path regularly. He smiled. He was just exploring these hills and he found this living hell.
It’s a real wilderness there. How did I know? At every crossroad there was a sign „Uwaga Medvedzie“. What does it mean? Warning, bears. I wasn’t afraid. It wasn’t the first time I was going through the bear land. And I think I’m a nice guy. Why would anyone want to eat me?
Fortune on the Beggar hill
It was good to be back to civilization. I didn’t feel good on a heavy traffic road, but I had a chance to grab my last food for a very long time. I knew there was a petrol station just before Kromancza. Unfortunately, it wasn’t looking good. They had such a small supply that I thought they were robbed. They had nothing! Well … I bought 3 croissants (sorry for anyone who was behind me, they were the last) and two Red Bulls. That was the nutrition that should get me to the finish line.
The road was crossed by the river multiple times. There weren’t any bridges, so I just pedalled as fast as I could and went through the water by momentum. It was fun. My feet got wet and they were already destroyed by a lot of walking. Especially my toes were very painful as I walked down many downhills.
I had a slow, but steady pace. It was a wide road to hill Beggar. At the top, I turned off the nice road and went to the forest singletrack. It was getting dark, but bears were still nowhere to be seen. I found a hot-dog that was lost by a fellow rider. For a moment I seriously thought about eating it. But I left it for deers and rabbits.
The singletrack was fun at the beginning. It was challenging, but not so much that I would have to get off the bike. Even the hills weren’t crazy steep.
The red hiking marker was infinite. The track was getting harder, one biker passed me by and I turned on the lights. It was still nearly 80 km to finish. The last part was so steep downhill under the cableway that I didn’t trust my brakes. My thumbs were killing me. When I saw the cottage I prayed it’s the end. I met Bartos on the stairs. He decided to sleep there.
Among the beasts
It was too soon for me. I didn’t want to stay there. The night was young. I knew I wouldn’t find any food or shelter later on. But my desire to finish was so strong, I continued to pedal.
Cisna was the last larger village on the road. Only forests full of bears were ahead of me. I stopped for a moment, put some clothes on and continued on a gravel road into the hills. It was a pleasant ride. I was quickly moving forward to Muczne. The last detour that was sat by the organizers helped me a lot.
I did one more stop in Smerek. My painful feet were a huge problem. I tried to use some patches, but it didn’t help much. The finish was close. I was going to withstand it.
I thought I already dealt with the fear of bears. What would they do on wide gravel roads? But there were more and more signs „Uwaga Medvedzie“ and my self-confidence was rapidly dropping. Why are they scaring people? It all changed when I had to turn to a forest singletrack. I fully embraced the panic. And I didn’t have a towel.
But what I could do other than to move forward? Sleep among the bears? Definitely not. Get back? NEVER! I never go back. That is why I bravely pushed my bike uphill and sang: “Bear, bear, don’t eat me today.” After 20 minutes I lost my voice. I already rode several hours without water and my throat was so sore. I turned up some music on Spotify and hoped that 20% of the battery would be enough for one night.
I put volume to maximum, but it wasn’t enough. The wind was blowing, trees were rustling and even I barely heard the music. It was getting worse and worse. I was going through the blueberry bushes. I hoped that bears don’t eat those…
The whole route of Carpatia Divide was tested by one guy one month before the start. He met a bear. In the daytime. Somewhere near Magura. And where I was going? To Margurka. Is it a different hill? Probably yes but at that moment, it was too similar to me. My imagination was working hard. And it wasn’t pleasant. I didn’t look around, just straight ahead on the road. Shadows were too scary.
From Dwernik Kamień it was a pleasant downhill. I was a little worried, I was going to hit a bear at full speed. But while I was tackling rocks and roots, I had different things to worry about.
Without fame and fanfare
I passed a mountain cottage. It was the middle of the night so I didn’t bother to try to find water there. I “enjoyed” the last muddy road and on the next downhill, I had a very strong Déjà vu feeling. I knew that place. But I never was that far in the east in my life.
The last hill. Tha last uwaga. The sun was rising and it blew out all tiredness from me. I was so fast…
I didn’t meet any bison as it was advertised in the trailer. But those are the reason why to accomplish the route again…
The last few kilometres were on an asphalt route to Muczne. It was nothing. I was at the finish line at 5:10. And it was a really nice feeling.
Funny story – no one was waiting there. My tracker stuck somewhere in Cisna and everyone thought I slept somewhere there. I didn’t know where to go or who to call. But I didn’t care, really. I wasn’t doing this to accept gratulations. I did it for myself. For fun.
I made a puffy jacket from my sleeping bag and I went to sleep. I was dreaming about bears … and bison.
Leszek arrived when I was sunbathing. He apologized for his absence and as compensation, he gave me a medal. Nice and bulky. The finishing T-shirt was nice. I had nothing clean to wear…
I sat for a few hours with other finishers. Then I went with Zbynek, his girlfriend and Krystian to Medzilaborce. I was very happy they took me there because I would have to pedal 100 kilometres to the closest train station.
And how difficult was it to find the train to Prague? Well … that is a completely different story…