The North Face Cappadocia Ultra Trail 2015: When Your Best Run Starts at Kilometer 91

Short introduction for the broad international audience: My name is Sanja Kavaz. I am a long distance runner, blogger and race director of the first and only ITRA certified ultra trail race in Bosnia and Hercegovina. Hope you will  enjoy my review about the North Face Cappadocia Ultra Trail 2015 being my first +100K trail race.  

Credit: Gazivode Trail, Kosovo
“Move your hips as if you were twirling the hula hoop around your waist. Do not take any pain killers `cause they won`t help you. Stretch. Apply deep massage to the spot”.

Photo: 100 Miles of Istria, Croatia

These were the pieces of advice Ingrid, a friend and an excellent runner from Croatia, gave me after I sent her a message complaining about the pain I started feeling somewhere close to my right hip only 7 days before the Cappadocia Ultra Trail which was to be my first +100 K trail race. The pain came out of the blue! I stood up from my armchair one night and felt strange and unusual pain which stretched from my right hip to the knee. Two days later, I was not able to walk strait without feeling a sharp pain and could barely climb up stairs. I almost once called the elevator to take me only one floor up but then shook this idea off my mind since I always had an issue with people who use elevator to get one or two floors up or down.

“You probably have tight muscles which are pressing this nerve which goes from your back close to the hip. This is an injury that won`t make the situation any worse if you race with it. You just have to be ready to suffer!”. Ingrid made a long-distance diagnosis in the style matching the famous nutritionist Četojević who diagnosed Novak Djoković with non-celiac gluten sensitivity from his sofa 15.000 km away after having seen the tennis player struggling at the Australian Open 2010 match. I consider myself an experienced runner but in terms of injuries, before this, I thought one gets running injuries only when he or she slips, stumbles, falls down on trail, or twists their ankle while exercising. 

I do not know if she wanted to comfort me, encourage or make me smile, but she added: “And remember, it`s only 100 kilometer race… imagine if it was 100 miles”.

Prior to this pain, I felt strong and ready for my first +100K trail race. But when it appeared, I was crushed, insecure. To make the whole situation even worse, the top management of the agency I work for, decided to support me in this endeavor saying they were proud to have a female employee representing the agency at a 110 K trail race with more than 3500 m climb! What was I supposed to do? To call everything off? Or prepare myself for the pain and struggle? You bet I chose the second option! And stretched. Massaged the spot. Did the “hula hoop twirl”. Stretched, massaged, twirled hula hoop, repeatedly. By tomorrow, I thought I felt better. Still, I was not completely sure because I was afraid it was just a halo effect. Two days later, the pain was barely there and I could set off to Turkey without having a slightest doubt about not finishing the race!

Jahorina Ultra Trail Running Crew

Blogging about running, racing and being a race director myself, brought me into contact with runners all over the Balkan so it was easy to draft a crew of experienced runners to travel with to this race. Almost all of them took part at the first Bosnian ITRA certified ultra trail race my team and I organized in August 2015 for the first time and very supportive in terms of accepting to promote it at the Cappadocia Ultra Trail venues. We booked accommodation in the beautiful Royal Balloon & Stone House in Goreme, packed everything and travelled by two separate vehicles, one from Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina) the other from Belgrade (Serbia). For the first time, eight of us, had the support member, a colleague of mine who decided to join us on this trip and provide support of any kind we might need!

Cappadocia Ultra Trail Organizing Crew

Before we set off, there was a long list of things I had to check with the organizer because almost each of us had an issue with something: money transactions, on-line or late registration, etc. So I wrote these e-mails I tried not to be too long as I was able to put myself into their shoes remembering how it was prior to our race, explaining the situation, new developments and asking for their assistance. They were very supportive, responded to all my e-mails providing meticulous answers and suggestions. I apologized for being demanding, but on the other hand, I knew this way they would for sure remember my name among 1000 other participants who registered for the race. This proved to be true because each time I would approach someone from the core staff, they would recognize me or address me with my name. A friend of mine, a co-runner, was so impressed after having eye witnessed that I, being a girl runner and blogger from the Balkans, was not anonymous even in this far away land and among the runners coming from 46 different countries.

The North Face Cappadocia Ultra Trail 2015

It turned out that all my decisions about the first halfmarathon, marathon, trail and ultratrail race to run were very smart! Choosing Cappadocia Ultra Trail for my first +100 K trail race was as smart as running my first 65 K trail at the 100 Miles of Istria race this year in April. It took place along the hills and valleys of the Cappadocia region in central Anatolia. Cappadocia is a unique place famous for its fairy chimneys, rock habitats and churches carved into stone formations that have been shaped and pierced by rain and wind for million years. It is a designated UNESCO world heritage site remarkable not only for its geological wonders but also for the unique architecture of its underground cities and rich culture.

The Course and Markings

Most of the race route is inside the Goreme National Park near the town of Urgup which is the place of the start, transitional/mid point and finish line. The North Face Cappadocia Ultra Trail is a world-class running event which held three distinctive races: 110K, +3350m, 62K, +1850m and 33K, +900 m. Two ultras are awarded ITRA points. The course of the longest race itself was beautiful, the scenery amazing, and after my injury had completely disappeared, I felt that nothing could have stopped me from getting to the finish line at least one hour before the time limit! The 110 K race has a 22-hour time limit which makes it a perfect match for the elite trail runners and the amateur runners of exceptional fitness. The first part of the race route mainly consists of single tracks and dirt roads, which makes it easy and runnable. It does not only showcase the amazing and wondrous scenery that can be absorbed from the distance but it also opens these marvels to a runner by taking him or her along the narrow curvy paths, cracks, caves, passages. The second part is more technical due to the sections on loose rocks covered by thorny bushes. It also mainly goes along the dirt roads but its final section is partially in a riverbed. This part I mostly run at night time and alone. 

Credit: Trail Ferret 
The markings were almost perfect all the time. There were two points critical for me due to which I lost almost an hour and run additional 3-4 kilometers. After I climbed the final uphill around 92nd kilometer, I started running and passed by at least 10 other runners who were progressing slowly along the dirt road. I remembered Ingrid`s words that real running would start at the kilometer 91! I was so happy that it turned to be true! I was running and my heart was singing. I realized that if I managed to keep the desired pace, I could have finished the race sub 20 hours! Enchanted by this idea, I let my feet take me off the course and instead of heading to the checkpoint number 9, I ended up for the second time at the checkpoint number 7! That moment, the music which resounded in my ears turned into the disharmonious noise which for a moment scared me off because I did not know how I ended up there, whether I would be able to find my way back and make it to the finish line on time! After couple of seconds, I put myself together, checked the track on my phone and realized that I had to run back couple of kilometers in order to get to the point where I made a wrong turn. I found my way to the finish line and crossed it at 03:50, an hour and 10 min before the dead line.

My first +100 K race

Would it sound conceited to say that it was not difficult as I imagined it would be? I was not falling apart, the famous question why-the-hell-do-I-need-all-this-shit never crossed my mind, I had no pain, no blisters, and I kept all ten toe nails in place! Maybe it also tells that I could have moved my ass little bit faster along the course but running +100K for the first time, the only strategy I could have thought of was to run smart and stay in my comfort zone. As for the running shoes, I decided to wear adidas kanadia 5 which would give me stability and then adidas response trail boost which is very comfortable and wide in the finger area.   

Bloggers on the run

Apart from getting to know ultra runners form different parts of the world, I had the great pleasure to meet two of them with whom I share one more passion other than running and that is writing. Coralina Chapatte and Jean-Loupe Fenaux are a blogger and a web services editor, both specialised in endurance running, they write about their running experience and interesting races they took part in or would like to draw the attention of runners` community to. They both had successful career in their respective home countries being Switzerland for Cora and France for Jean-Loupe, but at one point they both decided to quit their jobs and start doing something more inspiring that would allow them to be free. Cora moved to Istanbul and nowadays runs a successful blog about running and acts as a social network manager for well-known sport brands while Jean-Loup swapped his financial reports he used to write for the financial news with reports from races and texts about running. They both are actually living the screenplay of a famous video which promotes nature and spending time in nature as prescription for all diseases with couple of contraindications which these two undoubtedly experienced.


My only objection which cannot be addressed directly to the race organizer refers to the dump sites which could have been seen quite often next to the course sections which were getting close to the neighbourhoods. We had the same problem at Jahorina Trail. Still, as organizers, it is up to us to talk about these environmental issues, raise the awareness of the local people as well as of tourists because very often garbage is all over those sites mainly frequented by them. Likewise, what I have least expected, and obviously it happens everywhere, runners also leave their garbage behind themselves. After they would have emptied sacks with gels, biscuits, and other stuff they had taken with themselves, they would just throw the rubbish on the course. I do not get it, why would they leave the empty sack of something they had carried along after they emptied it instead of putting the rubbish back into the backpack and throwing it into the bin. There are also runners who may be referred as more thoughtful. They would leave the rubbish next to the marking flag probably guessing that one who would collect the flag would also collect the rubbish. No! The organizer WILL collect the marking flags but in order to collect the garbage, they need to bring more people on the course with rubbish sacks to collect the waste along the whole course. Therefore, bare in mind that leaving rubbish behind yourself may cause you disqualification from the race. 
In order not to waste more of your time, I give you a short review of the North Face Cappadocia Ultra Trail 110, 2015 by providing a chart with following categories, marks and comments:

Race segment
Race registration
Simple, online. You get your account on the site. Optionally, you can upload the Certificate of Consent and Medical Certificate prior to the race or submit them in paper at the race center.
Start fee
Worth every cent.
Start packet
Beautiful North Face t-shirt. A small gift from a sponsor. Race Guide.
Communication with runners
Multilingual, on time, useful
BIB distribution
Without delay and mistakes
On time
Stunning, versatile, mostly runnable
First part of the course had excellent marking, the second could have been better
Excellent dinner at the opening buffet prior to the race, great refreshments along the course, hot meal after the race for all the finishers regardless of time they reached the finish line.
Finish line
You get a beautiful finisher`s medal at the finish line. The Ultra Trail finishers also received a North Face waistcoat as a gift. The finishers could also get a massage at the nearby Turkish Bath.
Kind, supportive, professional. At service.
Mid-point and drop bags
Enough space, food for everybody. Volunteers at service.
Tracking system
Almost perfect. The organizer tried to keep track on each runner on the course by checking them in after they had reached the refreshment station and checking them out after they would had left.
Visuals, photos and videos
Beautiful, unified
Closing ceremony
Missed it but according to pictures, it was great
Cool rewards, mainly gift-coupons

If you liked this review, please follow me on my FB page and share this post with those you think would be interested in reading it.

Race Center

Open Air Pre-race Buffet
Start/Mid point/Finish Zone, Urgup

60K and 110K started at 07:00
Refreshment/Control point 2
Raincoat Run
With Jean Loup, we ran a marathon distance together 
Jahorina Ultra Trail models, Zoran and Filip
Lovely Gordana  

Srdjan, The Kindest&Biggest Ultrarunner
Dragan, our representative at the 30K Cappadocia Trail

Vukashin, handsome and fust 
Mr. Rajko, our support
Post-race morning impressions in Royal Stone Houses, Goreme 

Big thank you to my crew, all the runners I met on the course and organizer of this beautiful race! Cappadocia, see you next year! 

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