IRONMAN - The way to my fulfillment

If you want to learn the world, you cannot just remain standing.
You have to face it, set out for it. The journey is not only a way of learning the world and life, but also of learning about yourself 


The call of the mountains

The attraction of the triathlon

The fascination of the trail running

My way to Ironman

A dream come true: Ironman Regensburg

If it is October, it’s Piatra Craiului Marathon

I was not alone



August, 1994. I open my eyes and for the first time I rush to the window, open it and enjoy the fresh morning air which somehow takes away with one hand all my useless thoughts and blesses me with the other hand with courage and energy for the day to begin. Though the air mercilessly penetrates the flesh of my body, it is not as present as my impatience is. I thought that if I breathe some fresh chilly air I will calm down, but now I know for sure that I will keep being inpatient until we reach the mountains. Today I am supposed to set out for my first mountain hiking together with Dad and Mugur, my old friend. Thinking of this, I automatically find a place for my emotions which stop troubling me but instead make this hiking more special. For it is not just a hiking tour, no, no, our plan is to walk the Fagarasului Crest from West to East.

Yesterday evening we went through the equipment list once again: tent, sleeping bag, isoprene mattress, backpack, boots, rain coat, running shoes, thick socks, thin socks, T-shirts, pullover, gloves, cap, sun protection, food (bread, canned meat, meat pie, green peppers, canned vegetables, jam, honey, cookies, bananas, water),    pocket knife, fork, towel, soap, toilet paper, map, camera.  

Dad took the map and started marking with arrows the entire route that we are supposed to walk:

First day: Sibiu – Sebeşu de Sus – Suru Cottage – Suru Peak – Avrig Lake
Second day: Avrig Lake – Negoiu Peak – Lacul Bâlea Cottage
Third day: Lacul Bâlea Cottage – Podragu Cottage
Fourth day: Podragu Cottage – Moldoveanu Peak – Valea Sâmbetei Cottage
Fifth day: Valea Sâmbetei Cottage – Sâmbăta Abbey - Sibiu

In Sibiu we start by train and when we get off the train we go on to Suru Peak. I had already realized what a wonderful day this was when I opened the window, but now in the middle of the day we enjoy the nice weather outside and feel motivated to pause more often. We do not enjoy only the weather outside, but also the fact that we are together, we talk a lot, laugh and feel lucky about having nature as a common passion. So we deeply enjoy nature, but we do not forget that we are hiking and constantly keep an eye on the markings.    

After the ascent on a trail that very much resembled a path taken from a fairy tale like the magic endless trails, we reach Şaua Suru. Before I stop walking, I throw my backpack in the grass and slightly press my shoulders trying to reduce the pain I feel  and which was caused by the straps of the backpack, much too heavy for me. However this does not work, the pain is still there, I close my eyes wondering why we are torturing ourselves like we do? Dad is approaching me, looks at me and tries to cheer me up and finally succeeds in his attempt of making me enjoy the wonderful sight, admire the surroundings and especially to use my soul to take pics of the mountains that invite me to conquer more of them.   

We continue our way half an hour later and, forced by the load of the backpacks that becomes increasingly heavy, we have to pause more and more often. At some point, out of nowhere, there is this young man outdistancing us, walking alone, much faster than us, with just a small rucksack on his back and imagine this walking with his hands crossed at his back as if he were strolling in the park. He greets us and asks where we are heading to. We say, we are going to Avrig Lake. He smiles and says it is not a long way to there and then “see you there!” A couple of minutes later he disappears from our visual field whereas we feel the need for a new break.

Shortly before it gets dark we finish pitching the tents by the lake and after dinner I go together with Mugur to the tent of the solitary young man. We say to thim that we were impressed by the easiness of his climbing the mountain and he tells us that he has been coming from the Retezat Mountains, he crossed on foot the Parâng and Cindrelul Mountains and that he was now going home to Zărneşti. We, who had done so intense preparations just for a few days, are amazed at hearing Lucian’s words who soon after recommends to us to go into the tent “so that the cold does not get to our bones!”

I try to fall asleep but I cannot ignore the rain that can be heard louder and louder in the glacial bed of the lake which makes me think about the different obstacles encountered by Lucian on his long way from Retezat to Zărneşti.

The next day the fog is so thick that Lucian’s tent, which is located merely 30 m away, can hardly be seen, but we are happy to see him come to our tent and proposing us to accompany us taking into consideration the wether forecast for today.

After only 15 minutes from the departure, before reaching the crest under Scara Peak, in a pretty dangerous area, with the rocky wall on the right and the cliffy valley on the left, Dad’s backpack touches the rocky wall and he loses his balance and his temper and his cap falls about 3 metres in the valley. Lucian has no problem in descenting and fetching the cap and then explains to Dad that on that spot he should step on his left foot so that to have his face to the wall and the backpack to the valley. I can see Dad is rather scared. He closes his eyes for some seconds and then he stands up, picks up his backpack and little by little we leave the cliffy valley behind us.

We have a tough time in climbing to the Negoiu Peak and feel somehow embarassed that Lucian has to wait for us, but at the same time we feel grateful to have him close. On the Negoiu Peak Dad admits suffering of acrophobia, that he is happy we have reached the tallest peak of the today route, but most of all that we are now starting the descent. Not even the Strunga Dracului can arise his fear as the chains on which he has to hold tight are very well fixed.

Soaking wet we reach the Lacul Bâlea Cottage and decide to go down by aerial tramway til Bâlea Cascadă and from there to continue our way to Sibiu. We give the food we did not consumme to Lucian and say goodbye to each other not forgetting to make an exchange of our home addresses hoping to see each other for a new hike.    

When we started our way on that morning I experienced mixed emotions, I was anxious to get there, but later on while on the mountain I became even afraid, lacking self-assurance in a mountain environment. Now I know that if the conditions are appropriate for something to take place, that something will take place with not so much effort. When conditions are not appropriate, all efforts are going to be useless. Hence above knowing the mountain there is the step on which you get to feel the mountain, perceive the mountain like a Living Being, you feel the call of the mountain or on the contrary you feel its rejection.  I followed its call and the mountain gave me the appropriate conditions and the chance to learn its secrets; it also gave me the chance to meet one of its friends who was to become one of my friends, too.

I will always be deeply grateful to my new friend: the Mountain.     


Bâlea Triathlon 1995

July 1995. One week ago I passed by a bicycle store and there was this poster that I noticed:

Bâlea triathlon

1. swimming 700 meters in the Colun Dam on the Olt River,
2. cycling 35 km on ascending trails up to above the Bâlea Waterfalls, at the entry in the Bâlea bucket,
3. running 2 km on ascending trails up to Lake Bâlea.

Reading the components of the competition, I decide right away to participate.

One day before the competition I kept asking myself different questions that in the evening turned into huge emotions. I was very nervous especially about the swimming event, I was not sure if I can cross the Olt River. I know very well that I do not have a specific swimming style, that I completely lack the training for this component of the competition, in other words one evening before the competition I become aware of the fact that I am not a good swimmer, all I know is how I can keep myself floating at the surface of the water.   

Once at the start line I can only hope that at some point I will come out of the water alive and kicking and I will fully enjoy my first cycling tour on the Transfăgărăşan. I do not even realize when the start is given and alongside with other 40 participants I jump into the water and at the same time in the world of the triathlon.

A couple of meters further away I notice I have become the last one. The majority of the participants are performing the crawl, others the breakstroke, popping out their heads only to get some air. I do not even have eye-goggles and I am not going with my head into the water, which makes me advance very slowly, but offers me the possibility to see how the distance between me and the others becomes bigger and bigger. I am at half the swimming distance and I have already clearly seen how all of the participants left the water and started the second component of the competition on their bikes.   

On my left I can see a rescue boat approaching me and one of the organizers is saying to me: “Come on, hold the boat, we will drag you to the waterside...”  I look at them, stretch my arm and grab the rim of the boat and feel how a feeling of relief is overwhelming me that I can now stop swimming and at the same time a feeling of shame that I was not able to finish by myself the first event of the competition. As the boat approaches the riverside, I can recall the words I had heard from a participant just before the start: The real triathlon involves 3.8 km swimming, 180 km cycling and to close with 42 km running, that is a marathon. It is known as the Ironman.”  Now, it appears clear to me that I cannot swim not even 700 metres so it appears clearer than that that I will never be able to finish an Ironman competition.

I get out of water and though the organizers say to me that I was eliminated I get ready for the cycling event to Bâlea. If I came to here, why not going on after all? I am perfectly aware of the fact that I cannot catch up with the others, so I do not hurry. I am pedaling on the edge of the main road which is pretty crowded and am happy to turn right on the more peaceful road that crosses the village Cârţişoara and then goes up to Bâlea. I take a first break shortly before starting the actual ascension, a second one at Bâlea Cascadă and a longer one beside Poarta Geniştilor. I stretch myself on the stone parapets and admire the wonderful scenery. Suddenly I realize I have had half a chocolate bar...

At the first very tight curve the route for the cycling event ends and from here there is the last event namely running up to Bâlea Lac Cottage. In this curve I can see one single car: the car of my friends that accompanied me to this competition. I ask them where the organizers van is that was supposed to take our bikes to the finish line. They tell me that 20 minutes before when they got here there was no van! I give them my bike and grab a sandwich and two bananas from the car. I can hardly walk for pain and do not even think of running uphill. I pause often and enjoy the beauty of the glacial bucket.

I get up the hill and my eyes look for the finish line. However I cannot see any participant or any sign indicative of the finish line. On my right on the stairs of the Salvamont hut I can see a man whom I ask if he knows where the finish line is. His answer is somewhat unexpected:

-      Have you participated in the triathlon?
-      Yes, I have...
-      Congratulations, you are the last!
-      Thank you. Are you one of the organizers? Do you know when the awarding ceremony is?
-      It was one hour ago...

I share the joy of having finished my first triathlon with my friends who congratulate me and say that even if I was eliminated having finished this triathlon is a great achievement. I tell them that I am happy myself about having participated and finished the competition and promise to train and prepare more in the future. It is not a promise to my friends, but to myself that proves my passion for my new love: the triathlon.

This day is very important to me because I was allowed to get to know a sport event that seems to have been especially for me, in other words I can fully identify in it and it gives me exactly the satisfaction I have been searching in my free time which starting today I will dedicate to the triathlon. 

The Trophy Romanian Iron Man 1999

3 July 1999. The friendship between me and Lucian has grown over time like a bamboo seed that will be produced within the span of 5 years, during which the roots grows in the soil and nothing can be noticed outside. Given this I was very much surprised to get a postcard one month ago reading:   

Hi Tudor,

I saw you on the participants’ list for the Bâlea Triathlon last year!
Congratulations for your participation!
On 3th of July I will organize a triathlon in Zărneşti.
I would be happy to see you at the start line.


So, five years later I met Lucian again. We speak just a little bit, he is very busy with the organization and I am nervous thinking about the distances that I plan on going today:

  • swimming 1.5 km in the Codlea Lake, near Braşov;
  • cycling 80 km on the route Codlea – Vulcan – Tohanu Vechi – Bran – Moeciu – Fundata – Tohanu Nou – Zărneşti – Gura Râului Cottage
  • and last but not least, running 15 km through Prăpăstiile Zărneştilor to Curmătura Cottage and finish Gura Râului Cottage.
I know that the distances are not those of a “real Ironman”, but the fact that both the cycling route and the running route involve big differences of altitude, is a solid ground for the organizers to name this triathlon “The Trophy Romanian Iron Man”.   

Today I only swim the breaststroke and quite often have my head under water. I am one of the last participants to get out of water but I succeed during the cycling event to outdistance some participants. I succeed in going the entire distance with no break and when I get to the transit area (cycling – running) I am very well spirited. I leave my bike in the special designated area and head to the food point. I take a glass of water, drink half of it and when I leave the rest on the table  I hear a lady say: “Drink all of it, you are dehydrated! Come on, have one more!”  And she gives me another one which I drink up, obedient and well behaved as I am. I start running, but I cannot keep the running pace because I can feel the water in my stomach heavy like a stone. I try to say to myself that if I walk a bit the pain will disappear and then I will be able to run again. So I walk through the Prăpăstiile Zărneştilor and keep walking up to Curmătura Cottage. Other runners are running by but I do not have the energy to run and I decide to start the descent slowly and carefully to the finish line. I am glad I finished the whole route, but I am sorry that because of “one glass of water” I was not able to run... 

The Trophy Romanian Iron Man 2000

15 July 2000. Today I feel better trained than last year! In spring I run more, I climbed a couple of times by bike up to Păltiniş and I even was at the swimming pool a couple of times.

I hold the flyer of the competition in my hand. I very much like the two mottos on the front page:

Some people are beaten by the nature, some by their own limits, but all this helps us better understand ourselves and the environment.

I have endless trust in people, in their capacities. There is no thing we cannot do, there are only things that we have not learnt yet to do.
                                                                                      Reinhold Messner

The route this year is longer than last year: 2 km swimming, 80 km cycling and 20 km running. The weather is beautiful, but the lake water is very cold as a result of the rain in the last week. I can see around me some participants wearing neoprene suits that only cover the chest and leave the arms and legs free, but I can also see lots of others that only wear bathing suits. I go into the water to get used to the low temperature (I heard somebody say the water temperature was 14°C), but I cannot stay too long. I hope to get used to the temperature during the competition...

I only swim the breaststroke and do not dare any more to put my head under the water. I put it a couple of times at the beginning and I instantaneously felt my brains freeze! So I am advancing rather slowly. There are others like myself, too, so I no reason for panic. At the end of the lake, when we turn around, we have to come out on an approximately 10 meters long pontoon for the organizers to see our number written with a marker on the leg and arm and then we go back in the water.

Now I came out onto the pontoon for the last time. I only have one round of the lake, that is 400 meters, and then I am done. I run on the pontoon, I see my number is recorded and then I get closer to the edge of the pontoon. The first time I jumped directly into the water, but now I am very cold and think it would be a good idea to stay a little bit to get warmer. I crouch on the pontoon and look at my toes: they are blue! I cannot believe it! Is water really that cold? I turn around and I can see close by another participant trembling with cold and rubbing his legs: they are blue, too...

Now I know it for sure, I am not going back into the water, no matter what. I go into the sun and start putting my cycling suit on. I wait until all participants come out of the water and start the cycling event. I mix running with walking during the last component of the competition and make it to the finish line. If I had also made the last swimming round, I could have said I finished an Ironman competition...

 All I can now say is: I participated in an Ironman!

Germany: the triathlon and the marathon at their best 

I came to study in Leipzig, Germany, where my entire attention is dedicated almost exclusively to daily activities: courses and seminars and then hours of lecture in the library. 

One in a while I jog through the park. Every time, no matter if sun or rain, Sunday or Wednesday evening, I meet other joggers. I do not know if this is only “in” or if the joggers do it for the fun of it, anyways I like it and I admire the perseverance and discipline of the Germans in terms of outdoor activities.

One day running through the park I see a poster:

Leipzig Triathlon (1 July 2001)

I am like a kid in a candy shop when I read that membership to an association is not a must and that anyone is welcome to take part. I know very well that I am not trained, so I register for the short competition called by the organizers fitness: swimming 0.7 km, cycling 20 km and running 5 km. I am impressed not only by the excellent organization, but especially by the great number of the participants: 242 participants. For the long competition, the Olympic competition, there are 255 participants. On this occasion I find out that starting 2000 the triathlon on the distance 1.5 km swimming, 40 km cycling, 10 km running became Olympic discipline at the Olympic Games in Sydney.

I finish the fitness event in 1 hour and 15 minutes, in my now characteristic style: I am one of the last participants to come out of the water, I catch up during the cycling event and struggle to run during the last event. Being enrolled in the fitness class I have the time to watch the participants in the Olympic competition. I cannot believe my eyes when I see Lothar Leder reaching the finish line in 1 hour and 43 minutes. I can hear the commentator saying Lothar Leder is reaching the finish line, the one who back in 1996 was the first to finish an Ironman competition in a time below 8 hours”. I cannot believe my ears. How is it possible to swim 3.8 km, pedal 180 km on a bike and then run another 42 km in a time below 8 hours? I am impressed by the energy and the way in which Lothar tells how he got prepared for this competition and I decide to train more seriously so that to be able myself to finish one day a real Ironman competition.     

I understand that if I am pretty good at cycling, I am bad at swimming and that the beakstroke style is useful just to keep me floating at the surface of the water. I start going more and more often to the swimming pool and I can see some progress. The problem with an Ironman competition is its last component: the marathon. And it is not only the 42 km running per se, the challenge is to run that distance after an intense effort of some hours in which your energy is drained swimming and pedaling.   

So I reckon it is necessary for me to first finish a marathon to see how I feel afterwards and only then I can better understand how close I am to the Ironman. But my common sense says that before a marathon I should run a half marathon so I register for the

Dresden Half Marathon (21 October 2001)

The organizers made available to low-budget participants a sports hall. So the night before the half marathon I sleep together with some other 60 participants in a huge sports hall, each of us on his isoprene mattress and in his sleeping bag. I am impressed with the mutual respect among the participants, they all speak under their breath and after the lights are off at 11 p.m., which was well known in advance, there is a perfect silence that betrays the tension every one of us is struggling with. There must be some other runners like me, at their first participation, some other wishing to break their own records tomorrow. The next day all of us head to the start line. Indicative of the very good organization is also the fact that we do not need transportation tickets which are included in the participation fee. 

I plan on running in my own pace and I enjoy the route of the competition which starts in the city center, crosses a park and then follows the course of the Elbe River. I reach the finish line in 1 hour and 31 minutes time and spend the rest of my time visiting the historical center of the town Dresden.    

This result makes me confident that I could finish a marathon so I register for the Leipzig Marathon scheduled to take place six months later on 28 April 2002.

During the Dresden competition I saw more participants running wearing a watch that measures and displays the pulse. I buy such a watch myself and it is going to become for me a mandatory accessory both during my training and especially during the next competitions. I start recording the pulse values before, during and after each training session. I read more and more on the internet about training programmes for the participation in a marathon and I buy myself a specialized book: Triathlon – Training mit System, which becomes “my Bible”. During the training sessions I notice that I am rather the constant effort type: I start running in an easy, warming pace, then I speed up and keep the speed and by the end of the training I find myself running rather slowly for a couple of minutes. I usually run in the evening, alone and I almost always know one day before that I will train so that my training becomes part of my weekly programme.

I start becoming more and more aware of what, when and how much I eat. The most important meal for me becomes the breakfast: fresh juice, honey and cereals become the staple foods which I somehow eat like a robot. I prepare the juice depending on the season: in winter I take more citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit and lemon) and during the rest of the year season fruits. I usually have the cereals with warm milk – so that they can soften faster and they do not feel like a stone in my stomach – combined with half a banana in small cut pieces, grapes or strawberries. I plan on training two times during the week, usually tuesdays and thursdays, one hour each in a pace that I can enjoy, and at the weekend 1 hour and a half at the most.

After some months of training I can notice that if I run in a pace of 1 km/5 minutes – that is 12 km/h – by the end of the one hour training I feel good and I even have more energy and vitality than before the running. At this pace of running, my pulse varies between 140 and 150 strokes a minute. I calculate that if I run constantly at this speed, I can finish the marathon in 3 hours and 31 minutes. At the half marathon in Dresden I run almost 14 km/h, which means 4 minutes and 20 seconds for one kilometer, so my objective at the first marathon is not only to finish it safe and sound, but also to run constantly at 12 km/h. But I also accept the variant, in case at some point I feel I cannot take it any longer, to reduce the pace so that I can finish it with no problems.   

I am at the start line. I am nervous. I have a look at my watch and I can see the pulse rising. My heart is not beating constantly at all. It varies between 80 and 120 strokes a minute. I don’t understand what is going on! I feel rested and I had breakfast 2 hours before, like I always do prior to an effort. The music in the start area is very loud, I can hear, without listening, the commentator speaking incessantly and I look at some runners around me that are calm and unperturbed watch to the gate that marks the start line. When I pass under the gate I can hear a long beep – meaning that the electronic chip for time recording is being registered – so I start my stop watch. I run very carefully, watching more the feet of the runners in front of me and only at km 3 I look at the watch again and see that 16 minutes from the start have lapsed. I speed up the pace a little bit and I can see how the pulse varies in the range 145 – 155 strokes / minute. I keep the same rate and pass km 21 after 1 hour and 45 minutes, which means that I run the first half according to the plan namely at 5 minutes for one km. The pulse stays ± 150. I smile and think it would be fantastic to be able to continue at the same rate.         

Between km 21 and 30 the pulse starts rising and varies around 160. I feel good and I focus more and more on my breathing: I inspire 3 times through my nose and then expire 3 times through my mouth in the pace of my steps. At km 35 I feel an increasing pain in both knees. I think that I only have some km to go and keep the same pace. During the last kilometers my watch say around 170 strokes/minute. I do not worry. I have read that the maximum frequency is calculated according to the rule: 220 minus the age. That is I could reach 195 strokes/minute at the most. The last 2 km seem to me endless, but the applause and the encouragement coming from the public standing on the edge give me wings and undo my pain in the knees and I stop the watch after 3 hours 28 minutes and 55 seconds from the start. 

I am glad I finished it well, I get my medal and participation diploma while I feel how the pain in my knees becomes bigger and bigger. I can hardly get home, take a hot bath and then I fling myself on the couch. I fall asleep and when I wake up 2 hours later I feel my muscles blocked. The aching muscles and the pain in my knees  destroyed my programme for next week...

The situation of my physical state after the marathon showed me that I had not trained correctly: I should have run more often and longer before the competition and during the competition I should have run at a lower pace.  

Middle of May, 2 weeks after the marathon, I resume the training sessions following the schedule below:

Monday – rest
Tuesday – 60 minutes of running
Wednesday – 30 minutes of swimming
Thursday – 60 minutes of cycling  
Friday – 30 minutes of swimming
Saturday – rest
Sunday – two hours of cycling, followed by 30 minutes of running

My objective during this time is the participation to the Olympic event within the Leipzig Triathlon (7 July 2002): 1.5 km swimming, 40 km cycling, 10 km running.

Like always I get out of the water among the last ones, during the cycling event I catch up with more participants, but this time during the running I can see the results of the training sessions in spring for the marathon: I run without any problem and finish the competition in 2 hours and 22 minutes. It is still true that during the last component of the competition I run behind a German girl who has a very nice style and a constant running pace. I am very satisfied with the result and can say that this was the competition during which I really discovered the pleasure of participating in such events, of enjoying every minute spent in the water, on the bike or running. I have not had a certain target to reach, just to pass the finish line. The constant training strengthened my body and allowed me to notice and to enjoy the atmosphere and the energy created by the participants and the public that is supporting us from the edge of the road. For the first time the joy was bigger than the effort.

 On my holiday I get to Romania and take the chance of participating to the triathlon organized near Sfântu Gheorghe (01 August 2002). I cannot not notice the differences between the Leipzig Triathlon and the one in Sfântul Gheorghe (number of participants, the absence of the encouragement from part of the public), which does not hinder me in enjoying the competition. Still my joy is interrupted by acknowledging the fact that during the last 7 years (1995-2002) there has been no development of the triathlon in Romania.  


Piatra Craiului Marathon 2006

14 October 2006. In the last period I focused on professional activity. I finished my studies and starting 2004 I have been working with a private company in Bucharest. I have run once in a while, I have gone on some bike tours and swum only during the summer holidays. However, I participated every year in one competition (Leipzig Triathlon – 2003; Graz Half Marathon – 2004; Sighişoara-Mediaş Marathon 2005) having only in mind to participate and find the motivation to find the time for sports at least one or two times a week. The ideea of participating in an Ironman is becoming more and more a nice dream, a target more and more difficult to reach.  

But again Lucian is the one who, without having a clue about it, brings me back to reality by a mere phone call: “Hi Tudor! How have you been? How is your physical training? In two weeks time I organize a mountain race called: Piatra Craiului Marathon. I am inviting you to participate!”  I don’t have to think much about it and I immediately see my name on the participants list. I have been planning on running on the Piatra Craiului Crest for a long time, but so far I have not found the time to. I do not care that I am not trained, I am very happy about being at the start line together with other 45 participants.   

Because of the dense rains the competition was postponed by one week which I was very glad about because it gave me the time to do some more training sessions. I am forced to promise to my parents that I will not run the entire distance, namely the 40 km. “You think I am insane? I’ll run around 10 km and then I’ll walk till km 25, to the check point at Plaiul Foii. Don’t worry, I cannot run the entire route anyways! You know I am not trained! The most important think is to participate, right?” 

Shortly after the start I am one of the last runners but this does not bother me at all, taking into account that it is anyways rather unlikely for me to get to the finish line. The weather is very nice today and I stop quite often to take pics. I do not take any pics while running so as to avoid stumbling and hurting myself.

The more we advance, the bigger the distances between the participants, at times I am running without seeing anyone in front or behind me. Only in the sectors in which we have good visibility I can see how far ahead the runners in front of me are.   

After 2 hours and 46 minutes from the start I get to Şaua Funduri, the highest point of the route. Even if I have only run 15 km, I feel exhausted and sit down on a rock. I am happy I am in this wonderful place and take some pics, have an apple and a banana and 20 minutes later I start the descent. The fact that the organizers have put cords in this area in order to help us when descending, stresses the idea that the area is very dangerous. I look around and I see I am alone, I cannot see any other participant. I feel somehow afraid, but overcome the feeling when I hear a man say: “Congratulations! Be careful!” One single encouragement coming from a worker of  Salvamont, the mountain rescue brigade, changes my fear into safety. 

I do the rest of the route more walking that running and get to the finish line after 7 hours and 48 minutes from the start. My joy cannot be described in words and I still have the energy to think about how the second edition next year is going to be  ...

Olympus Marathon 2008

10 July 2008. I have just got a phone call from Şerban who told me that he posted on his blog ( some lines about the Olympus Marathon 2008. I start the computer and read:

I am looking at the city lights of Litochoro glimmering in the hot night. A little bit further above I can see the majestic silhouette of the Olympus Mountain. You can hear the soft rush of the sea and it seems that time has stopped. As always there is this lump stuck in my throat that makes me unable to swallow and my stomach aches with nervousness.   

But there is no time for dreaming; together with my father, Tudor and some other 500 runners (most of them Greek), we pack in the start area near the ruins of the Antique town Dion for the countdown that announces the start for the Olympus Marathon. The start time is chosen not accidentally to coincide with the sunrise: 06:05. And here I am just before the event for which I have strung together hundreds of kilometers of training and given up numerous hours of sleep.  


After all these emotions I am running and struggle hard with the thoughts that seem to have gone mad. I am really prepared for 44 km? How am I going to resist the altitude range of over 3100 m? Should I not better run slower to save resources for later? Am I going to stick the 10 hours term? I hope I will not be one of the last ones and to make a fool of myself!!!

The first 6 km are easy because we are heading directly to the Olympus Mountain on an asphalt road that ascends little by little, but soon we are entering a path that follows a narrow tunnel through the dense forest that covers the foot of the Olympus Mountain. A last look to the blue sky and then we make a row, breathing with difficulty, silent and focused and having our foreheads all sweat. We are walking, running, jumping over rocks and valleys, sliding on leaves and detritus, holding on trees and ignoring the beats of our hearts that went crazy. We are getting higher and higher, leaving behind some food points and about three hours from the start we reach 2000 m altitude, from which we have am eagle eye perspective. We can see the ruins of Dion, where we started, the sea is shining like a mirror in the light of the sun and the light mist renders the scenery a fairy tale atmosphere. Or maybe it is not the mist, but only my sight blurred by as a result of the effort… I am not spending much time thinking about it, my neurons are too busy trying to convince the muscles that they can stand another 700 m of ascending running, after having already put up with 2000.

Soon the slope becomes softer and we reach a crest with breathtaking views, we climb a bedrock threshold using a cable, we pass commiseratingly by a runner that screams with pain having his muscles blocked by cramps, we run by a lake with some horses grazing on its banks, a last tight path and here it is the Apostolodis refuge, the highest point of the route! The fog hides a part of the impressive scenery that opens in front of us. The Mitikas Peak above us is not accessible for us, runners, so we run around it respectfully on a tight curve ...

When I read Şerban’s lines I remember every second of the race. My story however differs from Şerban’s in what the descent is concerned. While he ran the whole route, me, less trained, I struggled to climb to the Apostolodis refuge from where I descended having just one wish in my mind: to finish the route within the 10 hours term of the competition. I enjoy the scenery and the last kilometers seem endless, while the route is a permanent up and down trail. At some point I meet Mr. Chiurlea, Şerban’s father, sitting on a rock, exhausted. We got to be friends during the second edition of the Piatra Craiului Marathon in 2007 when climbing to the Diana refuge I lacked the energy and he kept cheering me up saying I could do it, that I was young and powerful. At that time just looking at him I felt my energy reservoir being refilled so that I was able to follow him up to Zărneşti, where we crossed the finish line together. Now at the foot of the Olympus Marathon it is my turn to cheer him up and I am happy that we are running together to the finish line where we get after  9 hours and 50 minutes from the start. The happiness of all of us who have crossed the finish line among the last one is complete.

Piatra Craiului Marathon 2010

2 October 2010. I have participated in all editions of the Piatra Craiului Marathon and I have made progress from year to year:

2006 - 7 hours 48 minutes,
2007 - 7 hours 47 minutes,
2008 - 7 hours 22 minutes,
2009 - 7 hours 10 minutes.

My plan for this year is to finish under 7 hours and, in case I succeed in doing so, to register in 2011 for an Ironman competition.

It’s Friday evening. I get early enough to Casa de Cultură in Zărneşti to pick up my participation number. I meet Lucian and we exchange some words. He tells me that tomorrow it is going to be cold and that I should take some gloves and a cap with me. The technical meeting starts. Lucian describes the route and the sectors that are especially difficult. I follow him very closely, but one though bothers me: I do not have any gloves and cap with me! Lucian then says that right before the start there will be a check of the compulsory equipment What if he does not let me start without gloves and cap?

I go together with Sebastian to look for a restaurant. As usual before a competition, pasta is our best friend. When he hears that we order pasta, the waiter asks: "Excuse me, what is going on today, why is everybody ordering pasta?" I than notice that around us there are other tables where the competitors also ordered pasta! 

I cannot fall asleep! I keep thinking about the gloves and the cap! Why didn’t I just take them with me? I read the ALERG magazine and I finally fall asleep ...

It is Saturday morning, 8 o’clock. I get to the centre of Zărneştiului and start walking in the area of the start line. It is pretty cold, but it is not raining. I wonder how the weather is in Şaua Funduri? I look at other participants. They do not have gloves, too. Oh, yes, some do have! Even caps! I meet Adi and I know that he is very well prepared. He is a member of the national team of mountain running! I can see him wearing a cap and I ask him expecting the worst: "What do you think? Is it going to be cold? Do you think I need gloves and a cap?" His answer is a relief: "I will run in a T-shirt! But now just before the start you’d better get dressed to keep yourself warm!" Dear Adi, you have no clue how thankful I am to you! 

I still have to pass Lucian’s check:
Hi Lucian! I have number 356.
Hi. Good luck!

I passed! Now the nightmare with the gloves and the cap is over. Now I look around and I am happy to see how many runners came to the Piatra Craiului Marathon. I have heard there are more than 450. At the first edition in 2006 there were just 45 of us. And this fantastic! 

10, 9, 8 .... 3, 2, 1, START !

All I wish now is no rain and a safe finish. Each step is very important so I need to be very careful! I start slowly. Lots of people from Zărneşteni are standing in the door to see us. Most of them look at us, do not say anything and I do not event want to think about what they are thinking...   

After 30 minutes of slow running on the road we start the beautiful ascent in Indian row via Măgura.

In the area called La Table I get again sad, like every year, at seeing how the cleared forest looks like...

From the sheepfold Grind to Şaua Funduri we have a long ascent. But I know, I need one hour. This time there are more of us and we ascend silently one after another. I get to Şaua Funduri after 2 hours and 39 minutes from the start. Last year I got here in 2 hours and 53 minutes. This means that I am doing well. I have caught up those 10 minutes that I need for not exceeding 7 hours.

And here is the most difficult sector. I have to be even more careful! We descend with the help of the cord one after each other and I remember the first edition when I was alone in this area.

Around the Marele Grohotiş I have the first Liquid SPONSER Energy Plus and then before the descent to the Spirlea refuge I have a bar of SPONSER High Energy. I get to the refuge which is at km 20 of the route after 3 hours and 53 minutes from the start. From here to Plaiul Foii I know I does not take me more than 30 minutes. I feel good and I run with no stops.

What a joy at the food point! I find grapes, bananas, apples and especially warm soup. I have two glasses of soup and pour about three glasses of warm tea in my Camelback. I speak with Sebastian who tells me he has muscle cramps. I tell him I feel well and that I am on schedule to finish in less than 7 hours. I start and look at the watch: 4 hours and 25 minutes have lapsed. Last year it took me from here to Diana refuge one hour and from there one more to the finish line. This means that I could even finish in 6 hours and 30 minutes!?! That would be incredible!

I have just started the ascend to Diana. It is a long ascend, through the forest, that seems endless. But I am cool. I know I need one hour up. Ten minutes have passed and I start leaving other participants behind. I like my pace. I feel good. Another 45 minutes gone and I reach Marian. He tells me he does not feel well, he feels dizzy. I slow down the pace a little bit and we start talking. I tell him that I liked the magazine that I had read in the evening before and he tells me about his experience as an editor. We also speak about the competitions that we would like to participate in and this is how we get to Diana refuge. 

I look at the watch: 5 hours and 20 minutes. I get down running. Marian is a little bit behind, but there is a girl that is running too close to me. I tell her that if she wants to pass by I can let her do so. But she does not want to, she tells me instead that she would rather follow my pace while I feel some sort of satisfaction that she does not let me slow down. I run by Colţul Chiliilor and do not stop at the last food point. At some point I can hear Marian say: "Come on, Tudor, I recovered!" I am glad to hear so and keep running. We get together close to the road that comes from Plaiul Foii. We run in parallel and for the first time I feel pain in my knees. I feel like stopping but I see Marian running so nicely and force me to follow him. One kilometer to go and my watch shows 6 hours and 8 minutes. Incredible! I keep Marian’s pace and we both pass the finish line after 6 hours and 15 minutes. When we enter the straight line tha people start clapping their hands and I can see Cornelia who is shouting "Go, Tudor, go!"

Marian thanks me for keeping him occupied during the ascent to Diana and I thank him that he stayed with me for the last kilometers.

I congratulate other and am congratulated by other participants. I know some from other competitions, some others I have met during this marathon. Some have just finished their first mountain race, some others have a huge experience and extraordinary results. I find out that Adi was the first to cross the finish line, I congratulate him and on my way to the pension I fully realize that I finished in less than 7 hours which means that next year I will participate in my first Ironman competition.  


Daimon Sport Club

1 November 2010. A month has already passed since the Piatra Craiului Marathon and I still cannot believe how good my running result was. Today I am decided to register for the Ironman competition. I d not even think about participation in some other place that Germany. I know that here organization is perfect, that there are lots of supporters at this kind of sports events that cheer the athletes up and I know that for me the applause and the atmosphere on the side of the road are of great help. It does not take me too much time on the internet for registration for  Ironman Regensburg 2011. Date of the competition: 7 August 2011 which thus becomes the milestone for the count down. I count the months, weeks and days and suddenly my training programme takes shape. I smile when I realize that there are nine months until I have the chance to fulfill my dream.    

I take a swimming pass for an Olympic swimming pool for one month with three accesses a week, Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays. I don’t like that the programme for the public is only in the evening between 20:30 and 21:30 and that usually it is very crowded. I am not well trained and swim rather slowly and I feel that I am a pain in the neck of the others who have to swim by me. On the other hand if I choose other lines for people who swim for pleasure I feel that I am not moving forward because of them. I do not get angry at them, I just have the feeling that I cannot find my place and think about looking for another swimming pool for next month.   

In December I do not swim at all, I run a couple of times and spend my vacation skiing. In January I go have a look at more fitness clubs until I get to Daimon Sport Club. I feel that the atmosphere in the club suits my style and I take a pass starting February for 6 months. I start to go swimming in the morning, three times a week, from 7 o’clock so that after one hour of training I can take my time to get to the office. For the first time my rhythm of everyday life changes completely. I become more and more aware of my diet, I have my breakfast when I get to the office, before starting the working hours, I start having lunch at the same hours and have a nourishing snack (banana, cereal bar) to the end of the working hours, two hours before the evening training (running or cycling) on the days on which I do not swim in the morning. During the training I usually make a constant effort, I do not like breaking the rhythm. At least once a week I do fitness exercises for the strengthening of certain muscular areas, especially in the lumbar and abdominal area. Beyond the diet and the training programme I am well aware of the necessity of a stable sleeping programme so I settle 10 p.m. as fixed sleeping hour. In this way I come to train between 5 and 9 hours a week.

Running to support a humanitarian cause

11 February 2011. Nothing is more beautiful and nothing makes more sense to me than running for a humanitarian cause. Both in order to enhance their visibility and have more and more participants at the start line, the organizers of competitions in Romania started to dedicate especially running events to humanitarian causes[1].

On occasion of the Bucharest City Marathon - 17 October 2010, Ro Club Maraton held the charity project 42 for a chance. During the event money was raised for the purchase of a piece of medical equipment that was donated to the Intensive Therapy Unit for Newborns within the Marie Curie Hospital Bucharest. 

In order to make this charity event more visible, a number of 84 Romanian and Italian amateur athletes making up 42 teams ran the marathon, half marathon and the relay race wearing t-shirts reading „42 for a chance”. In February 2011 the closing event of the campaign took place at the Marie Curie Hospital, as well as the press conference, followed by a visit of the ward where the equipment purchased was put into operation. Personally I was very touched by the babies hospitalized on this ward and I had an extraordinary feeling of joy and happiness that I was part of this charity event.

[1] Crosul Casiopeea – running dedicated to the fight against breast cancer; Maratonul Speranţei Terry Fox – running dedicated to cancer fight and raising money for cancer research; Crosul Aripi Deschise – running dedicated to children suffering of blood cancer, limfoms, thalassemia, chronic hepatitis, as well as dialysis patients.

Cluj International Marathon

10 April 2011. For my training for the participation in the Ironman Regensburg, the Cluj International Marathon was the first important test. My plan was to run in my pace, but to not exceed 4 hours.

I ran the first part of the marathon together with Sebastian speaking and even laughing a couple of times. I like meeting friends that I first met at some competitions. I got to be friends with Sebastian during the Eco Marathon 2010. We speak a lot about how we train and about our future plans. Sebastian tells me that he trains for Half Ironman Oradea and I am impressed at the progress he has done in swimming.

We reach km 21 after 1 hour and 45 minutes from the start and at this point I think for the first time that if I can keep the same pace up to the end I will finish the race in 3 hours and 30 minutes, close to my personal record that I established in Leipzig in 2002. I like the idea of improving my record and I increase the pace a little bit and I run a couple of kilometers alone. At some point I hear somebody on the left say "Bravo!". It was Voichiţa on the bike as a happy volunteer, but because I had not heard her come I startled and I admit she scared me. I think that mentally I was far from Cluj!

At km 37 Vlad, whom I had met during the Piatra Craiului Marathon in 2010, is outdistancing me. He is a bike volunteer as well and he offers me an Isostar gel from the organizers. I tell him that I am trying to finish the marathon in less than 3 hours and 30 minutes and that I can bet this gel is going to help for the last kilometers to go. He tells me about the organization of the first edition of the Apuseni Marathon that shall take place on 25 June 2011. My thoughts start wandering through the Apuseni Mountains while my feet go deeper and deeper into the asphalt of the streets in the city of Cluj. 

During the last kilometer I get lost in the crowd of the runner of the popular race of 6 km and reach the finish line in 3 hours and 29 minutes. I am happy about repeating my personal record after 9 years, especially taking into consideration that the Cluj route also includes a pretty long ascent unlike the Leipzig route which was perfectly flat.  

Eco Marathon

7 Mai 2011. It has become a habit for me to participate in the Piatra Craiului Marathon in autumn and in spring in the mountain running called Eco Marathon. There is a big crowd at the start line. For the marathon event there are 280 runners and for the popular running more than 400. 

For the first 20 minutes from the start I run slowly and then I increase a little the pace and think that during the first ascent we will all see what it means to run together with other 700 participants on a trail on which you cannot walk but in an Indian row.    

At the first check point I meet Hiroko of whom I know that she runs very well, but especially that she knows how to save energy for the final part of the marathon. So it comes to my mind to go in her pace and I finish the first loop in 1 hour and 37 minutes together with Şerban who is coming from behind me. I run the first part of the second loop together with Şerban and Daniel, both boasting much better results that me at previous competitions. I am impressed with Şerban’s project of crossing Romania running, starting in Constanţa and arriving in Oradea, and on this occasion I find out about Daniel’s plan of running half of the route, up to Braşov. I admire them and admit to myself that I am not prepared for such a challenge, neither physically, nor mentally.

I feel good and on the crazy ascent on the 5 km road through Cheile Grădiştei a second mad idea occurs to me: to try to run as close as possible to Şerban.

I can run during the entire route and I am happy I also feel good during the descent to Moeciu where I get after 3 hours and 37 minutes, shortly after Şerban and before  Hiroko. But thinks look like they are going to change on the long climb at the beginning of the third loop...

My legs are becoming heavy, I can hardly go on, I look to the ground because I cannot see Şerban anyways, while Hiroko runs by me apparently with no problem. I try to convince myself to keep at least the same pace. I lift my eyes up and Hiroko is gone, too. 

I can hardly climb the trail in the area of the former Guţanu Hut and think that from there I only have seven kilometers of soft descent through the woods. I start running but I cannot find an enjoyable pace considering that the pain in my knees is getting bigger and bigger and my muscles are communicating to me "if you do not stop now, we are going to block and you will see you will not be able to make one single step more!" I think that it is only some kilometers left and that soon I will have a hot shower and then I will have some pasta and some warm tea... and I get to the finish line. I look at the watch and I cannot believe it: 5 hours and 55 minutes. 

Even if this was only the second edition of the Eco Marathon, organization was perfect. I like the atmosphere very much and the fact that the route implies three loops and thus the runners have to pass more times through Moeciu where they can enjoy the support of the people who have come to support them.

Asphalt-free Triathlon

11 June 2011. Today I will try out for the first time my new neoprene suit. Considering the 3800 m distance that I am supposed to swim during the Ironman competition, the neoprene suit is a must. So I am one of the participants in the competition called Asphalt-free Triathlon, in Vama Veche, consisting in 3 events: 0.9 km swimming, 10 km running and 35 km mountain bike. The start is very crowded. We still do not know what distance we will swim. The sea is very cold, about 14 degrees, and I feel like to swim in my neoprene suit. If I had not planned on participating in the Ironman, now I would have swum in my bathing trunks. Swimming in the sea is much different of swimming in the pool or lake. I try hard to perform the crawl but the sea waves force me to perform more the breaststroke. I do not get a chance to get used to the water temperature because I finish the swimming event. What is special about this competition is that, contrary to the classical triathlon, the second event is the running and the cycling comes last. The running route is very nice, it goes both a trail in the grass and through the sand on the shore of the sea. I like it that on a sector of 2 kilometers on our way we intersect with the guys that lead the event and on our way back we intersect the guys that run behind us. We greet and encourage each other which proves to me once again that even if we compete against each other participation and living the race at its utmost is more important than anything else. I notice for now there are ten runners in front of me, the first being as expected Ciprian Bălănescu, Romania’s triathlon champion. It has rained a lot during the last couple of days which explains why the water of the sea was so cold. The wet grass and the ponds on the running route prepared me for the real challenge: the cycling route. After about 2 km of pedaling we get on a dirt road and at some point I can see more and more participants on the road side trying to clean the dirt stuck on the wheels of their bikes. Having the experience of the competition called Prima Evadare (First Escape) 2010, where the conditions were similar, I stop, detach the brakes at the front wheel and plan on not changing the gears any longer. Last year I saw lots of chains and speed shifter broken as a consequence of the mud. So I move forward trying to stay on the traces left by the other bikers, I enter every pond I meet and try to go as much as possible on the grass at the roadside. But at some point my rear wheel becomes stiff. I get off the bike, I lift it up onto my left shoulder with the rear wheel facing forwards and while cleaning off the mud on the wheel with my right hand I run carefully struggling not to slip. I keep telling myself that it is important not to stay. I get on the bike again, pedal a couple of times and the rear wheel blocks again. I put it back on my back, I run, get on the bike, pedal, lift it and put it on my back, I feel how I get full of mud from head to toes and at some point I see Ciprian on the side of the road and call to him: “Come on, Ciprian, what are you doing?” I do not understand exactly what is going on, he was the leader, now I leave him behind. I do not have any clue on how I am doing. There are lots of participants around me, both for the short event and the long event which I participate in. After some kilometers of excessive mud I get on an acceptable road that is more of a gravel road. Ciprian is outdistancing me in high speed and I do not even try to keep up him him. I go in my own pace and when I think the difficult sector is over I find myself flying over the handle bar and landing in the grass. I had not noticed the big stone in the grass on which my front wheel stopped. I get up, realize that both myself and the bike are fine, I get on the bike and continue pedaling. When I am close to the finish line I drive through a field of bloomy poppy flowers, I stop to grab some. I am happy to pass the finish line and I am amazed to find out that I was the third to finish in the general ranking and the first in my age category. I cannot believe it, it is the first competition that brings me onto the podium, they congratulate me and I congratulate them, but Roby is the one who makes me the happiest of all: “Congratulations for the entire career...”  How is it possible that me, who does not have any notable results, gets congratulations for the entire career? “Thanks a lot, Roby, I wish to you as many nice competitions as possible!”           

Half Ironman Oradea

18 June 2011. The same before running a marathon I ran a half marathon, now before going for an Ironman I want to run half the distance of an Ironman competition so I register for Half Ironman Oradea (1.9 km swimming, 90 km cycling and 21 km running), this being the only competition of this type in Romania. Even if it is just the second edition, the Oradea competition is very well organized both in terms of the route and of the volunteers that impressed me through their dedication for each participant. The swimming and cycling are no problem: I get out of the water after 50 minutes and need for the 90 km of cycling in 2 hours and 58 minutes. I start the running, but the high temperature becomes a problem. I can feel I am dehydrated and am happy to come across the food points. The volunteers start recognizing me and as I get closer to them they already reach out their hands holding pieces of oranges and when I pass by them they pour water from a bottle on my back. At km 14 I feel something which I have never felt before during a competition: I am hungry. Now I stop at the food points and help myself with bananas and cookies. I realize I have not had enough food during the cycling event. I should have eaten more energy bars and drunk more beverages. I finish the competition in 5 hours and 38 minutes and I am glad I have made now that mistake in terms of food, so as not to repeat the mistake in Regensburg.  


Sunday, 7 August 2011. One day I will absolutely never forget.

It is 6:50 a.m. and I can hear the commentator say 10 minutes til the start. I wonder if I have trained enough ... if I have put in the three bags – white for swimming, blue for cycling and red for running – all that I need, if I have eaten and hydrated appropriately in the last couple of days, but most of the time I think about saving my energy so as to be able to cross the finish line safe and sound.

One day before I had picked up my participation kit, checked my equipment and taken my bke and equipment bags in the start area, more precisely in the swimming-cycling transit area. I am impressed about the perfect organization: at the entrance to the transit area they check both the technical condition of my bike and the way my helmet is fastened! Knowing that it probably would rain during the night, the organizers gave us plastic bags to cover our bikes with and as the sun has just risen they recommended to let the air out of the tyres so as they do not explode as a result of the heat under the plastic foil!

The commentator announces one more minute until the start... I feel I am getting nervous. I look around and see men and women older than me and who appear to be very calm. They must have already participated in such competitions. They must be nervous, as well... I hear the sound of the start shot and here I am heading together with some other 2000 participants to the first event of the competition: 3.8 km swimming.
Are we all going to finish?

I am not nervous. I am one of the last to go into the water and I start swimming in my own pace.

I get out oft he water after 1 hour and 31 minutes. I have swum without my watch and it makes me happy to see that I perfectly met the time estimated by me.

While I am putting the cycling suit on I can hear the commentator say that about 90% of the participants have come out of the water. I can see the transit area almost empty and I remember my first triathlon: Bâlea Triatlon 1995. At that time I had to swim 700 m, but at half the distance I was the last guy in the water while all the rest were already riding their bikes. At that point, one of the organizers approached me on a rescue boat and told me: “Come on, hold the boat, we will drag you to the waterside”  Then I thought it was impossible for me to ever finish an Ironman competition...

The cycling event was dominated by rain. I hydrated constantly and took care to have some food at each food point. I pedaled carefully, especially when descending, for fear I might slip, but also in order to save my energy for the marathon event to come. 

I finished the 180 km distance in 6 hours and 24 minutes, a time which I am very satisfied with considering the rain and the hill I climbed effortlessly during the 90 km first round and which posed a more of a problem during the second round.     

We leave the bikes one beside another in the order of our arrival. There are already lots of parked bikes, but also enough empty spaces. 

I start running... I feel my legs are blocked... I run slowly and hope the pain will go away... I try to find my pace... or at least a pace that can make me feel good... Lots of people on the side of the road... Lots of people on the road...

Only four rounds 10 km each to go... For each round we get a band of a different colour. So I know how many kilometers the athletes around me have run. I notice that the guys running their first lap and wearing only one band on their arm still have enough energy and a good running pace, while the runners with three or four bands are visibly exhausted, lots of them can hardly walk. 

At km 15 on the right I see a runner vomiting, on the left another one sitting on a bench and holding his head. After some other 10 m I see an older man lying in the grass and two doctors around him and a stretcher... I can hear the sound of an ambulance... I feel how my heart starts beating harder and for the first time I am afraid I could faint... or have a heart attack...

I slow down and focus on breathing: I inspire deeply through my nose and expire lightly through my mouth. I do not stop. I continue running slowly and try to imagine I am jogging through a park.

The food points are placed in a 1.5 km interval. This makes me run for the next glass of water, orange, energy drink, banana... Often times I run without thinking of anything. I don’t even know the correct name for what I feel right now: exhaustion or ecstasy, pleasure or torture, concentration or trance.

Even if I have already run the running route three times, the last round seems to me endless. It seems as if the distances between the food points have grown and the small unevennesses in the ground which I did not even feel at the beginning seem to have turned into hills. I think about having climbed the Olympus Mountain and Piatra Craiului so many times and the climbing there was much more difficult. Just for these ascending sectors I replace running by walking. When I start walking I feel an immense pleasure and a complete relaxation which then turns into an obstinate denial of the running. My whole body is rebelling and would rather have a cool bath in the Danube that seems a small river; but you know what they say: mind over matter, so my mind orders to my body to enter the running mode and I reach the finish line after 5 hours  and 3 minutes of running and after 13 hours and 14 minutes from the start.    

I get the medal and then I am called in a tent for a medical check. I lie on a bed, I close my eyes and feel how a tear is rolling down my cheek, I am overwhelmed by a feeling of fulfillment, of endless satisfaction as starting today Ironman is no longer a dream, but a memory. Soon I am told that pulse and blood tension are ok.    


Piatra Craiului Marathon 2011

1 October 2011. Compared to the previous year, in 2011 I ran very well at the Piatra Craiului Marathon ... but only up to Plaiul Foii (km 24). Here is my evolution during the six editions: 


hours : minutes
km 11
Stâna Grind      
km 15
Şaua Funduri     
km 20
Refugiul Spirlea 
km 24
Plaiul Foii         
km 25
Refugiul Diana 
km 41

I think about how quick time is passing ... The family of the Piatra Craiului Marathon grew every year, from 45 participants in 2006 to almost 500 in 2011.

The experience gathered by the organizers during the six editions is obvious: everything goes just perfectly, starting with the online registration, picking up the numbers and equipment check at the entrance in the start area. After all we are supposed to run in the mountains and it is important for the organizers to know exactly how many participants were present at the start line and if they are equipped appropriately.  

The tension at the start line increases gradually as we are approaching 9 o’clock. The music before the start introduces us in the running atmosphere...

As opposed to the previous editions, I start in a more alert pace. I know that just before the ascent to the Măgura village we will move in an Indian row and will be forced to borrow the pace of the forerunners. Only when getting to the road we will all have the possibility to resume our own pace.  

I enjoy my pace and am happy to run quite long alongside Şerban. I look at how he is running and cannot recall to my memory how he crossed all Romania running ( I get to Şaua Funduri after 2 hours and 25 minutes from the start, 14 minutes earlier than last year. I think it would be fantastic to be able to keep this time difference til Zărneşti so that I can finish the six edition in less than 6 hours! 

While running I have a sip every now and then out of the Camelback. Every one hour I also have a SPONSER gel. I get to the Spirlea Refuge in 3 hours and 30 minutes, 23 minutes earlier than in 2010 and I feel that a final time of 6 hours is feasible. I have two glasses of water at the food point and go down the valley to  Plaiul Foii. After a while, however, I feel the water in my stomach heavy like a stone. The same feeling like 12 years ago during the Trophey Romanian Iron Man 1999. I slow down and hope I will overcome this.

I get to the earth track, I start speaking with another participant and forget about the stomach ache. At Plaiul Foii at the food point I meet a few friends, I have a glass of warm soup and refill my Camelpack with energy drink. I take a banana, an apple and some grapes in my hands and start the ascent to Diana. I know this sector very well, I know it seems endless, but I also know I can climb it within one hour at the most. 

Shortly after I realize something is not alright this time. I can see Marian outdistancing me and then I try in vain to keep up Silvia’s pace who passes by me too easily. I admire them for a little bit and then look to the ground and focus on my breathing and every step seems more and more difficult... I reach the top after 1 hour and 10 minutes and sit on a bench happy. Right beside me there is another runner visibly exhausted and wondering:“Why am I torturing myself as I do?”  I smile and answer to him: “I keep asking myself this question, it’s been 6 years now, and here I am, coming back each time!”      

I run slowly to Colţul Chiliilor and feel that I have less and less energy which I can explain by the fact that I lack the training which is specific for mountain races. I leave the forest and am happy to see an ocean of flowering autumn crocuses. I grab some and hope they will give me back the energy I lack. I look at my watch and realize I cannot finish in less than 6 hours which makes me relax and enjoy the sun and the wonderful autumn scenery. I realize that comparing my result each year and trying to improve is not likely to trigger in me any feeling of fulfillment. The comparison only brings ambition. I start fighting, forcing and cannot just be myself any more. In my search for meeting targets I risk missing the beauty of the places I encounter.


19 November 2011. It is Saturday morning. I park the car in the yard of the  Poiana Neamţului Hut and start running slowly to Bârcaciu Hut. I feel the cold air (minus six degrees) biting my cheeks, but I look to the cloudless sky and am happy to live this wonderful day.

After a first relatively abrupt ascent I go over a bridge and keep a moderate running pace. The silence of the woods is somehow overwhelming and I cannot hear anything but the swish of the leaves that wait for the snow to cover them.   

Shortly before getting to Bârcaciu Hut I am happy to see the Făgăraşului Crest embraced by the sun, but become sad at the sight of the cleared forest.

I have a warm tea in the hut and tell to the hut keeper the route I want to run. He tells me that the route is ok and asks me “why are you running?” and adds: "wearing running shoes on the mountains?"  I assure him that if I get to dangerous sectors I will be very careful and that I am ready to come back on the same route taking no risk.

I leave behind some ice areas but I suddenly stop at the sight of a clear bear footprint.

I touch it and realize it is covered by a thin layer of ice which means it is not fresh, so I continue to run, I cross the Râul Mare river, frozen, as well, and get to the lower glacial threshold.

Only the beauty of the semi-frozen grass makes me stop now and then. 

On my ascent to the second glacial threshold I notice a tilted cross which reads:


"From the steps of the mountains, from the paths trodden by playful chamoises, outlives the memory of the dear friend met when the roar of the wind, the alarm of the peaks, the grunt of the deer, the jumping of the trouts desperately scream"

I leave thinking about Nicu and while I see more and more chamois footprints on the path I start to understand more acutely the tragedy of his disappearance at the mere age of 28.

I cross an ice area of about 1.5 m and have no choice than to go deeper and deeper in the snow on the daring slope on the higher glacial threshold.

The wish to get this year 2011 to lake Avrig which is situated in 2011 altitude makes me continue the ascent even though I still have in mind the hut keeper’s question "wearing running shoes on the mountains?"

The scenery of the frozen lake, covered by a white layer of snow, leaves me breathless. If I did not have the cold, I would think I am looking at a painting.

I look to the Scara Peak (2.306 m) with no snow on it, I know I will reach there and I can’t wait to feel the warmth of the sun rays.

I move on through the snow and stop before an abrupt valley ... and realize I do not have any other support than my feet. I cannot see any rock, branch of a tree or at least some grass to hold in case I slip on the snow. Unconsciously I find myself thinking about what could happen if I slip...

I look at the phone and I have no signal. I have to make a decision: I go back on the same route, facing the cold and the snow, or I go on for another say 15 minutes and reach the dry and sunny side. I close my eyes and the prayer Our Father comes to my mind. I get the feeling I am not alone and move on slowly, step by step, leaving the dangerous area behind. I suddenly realize this is exactly the area where my father, 17 years ago, lost his balance and his cap fell in the abyss. That day Lucian was with my father, now I am all by myself, that day it was summer and foggy, now autumn, snow and cold, that day the route was secured with chains, now they are missing completely, that day we had a backpack full of food, now I only have some cookies and no water in the 1.5 liter bottle I am holding, that day there were more of us, now it’s only me ...   

I get under Gârbovei Peak, I eat a handful of snow to quench my thirst and start running slowly in order to warm up faster. I feel the warmth of the sun rays on my back and feel the entire tension inside me perished, the entire anxiety and all worries I have ever had. I experience a state of perfect satisfaction, my mind is blank, I do not merely know who I am and where I am, I have the feeling that the nature around me is an extension of my body. I live in the present, there is no past, there is no future. I am all here now. This moment is everything. Now is the only time, here is the only space. I feel so close to the skies that I can feel how the wind blowing from the front and my breath become unite as if one single element.  

Before starting the descent to Bârcaciu Hut on the route marked with the red cross I stop, wipe off a tear and while looking to the road I climbed I cannot but be grateful to the Creator of these marvelous landscapes.     

At Bârcaciu I am welcome by the donkeys that are employed for transportation purposes and then I deeply enjoy the delicious bean soup.  

While I go down to the car I remember moments I will hardly ever forget:
wearing running shoes on the mountains?, the bear footprint, Nicu’s cross, the ice area, the abrupt valley and the sector without chains, and I cannot but be thankful to the Mountain for having been indulgent with me even if I have not respected its well known rules: season appropriate equipment and presence of other companions.

I close the window in my room, I lie down onto the bed and close my eyes. I do not know what in particular, the snow or the sun, the solitude or meeting the mountain dwellers, the fear or the courage is responsible for this feeling ... of fulfillment. Probably meeting myself because this time I have not only discovered new mountain landscapes, but also new landscapes of myself. In less than a second I revive the whole route and hear the hut keeper ask me:

Why are you running?
For peace. Inner peace!



1. Never go on a hike for which you are not prepared; always choose a feasible route and consider that in the mountains there are dangers that can be avoided if you are prudent and wise.

2. Prepare every hike in every detail, both mentally and physically, no matter if you climb alone, with friends or a guide; the spiritual equipment has to be as well prepared as the material equipment; you have to know how to behave with the people you will come across in the mountains and you will have to make them trust you and you will have to try to understand them.

3. When you are in the mountains do not forget the education and well breeding you received from your mother and in school; do not threat either the eyes or the clothes of your neighbor; if you meet a lonely traveler on your way greet him and answer his greeting; give up the slum behavior.

4. Do not spoil the places you go through and do not dirty nature’s beauties; do not forget that those you will follow you might want to quench their thirst from the clear spring you are now troubling; do not generally shout in the mountains because people and animals do not like and this is not good for you, too.

5. If you are a guide or a leader do not show your superiority over those that are weaker than you; the possibilities of the weaker one should be the measuring unit of the trip; do not forget that leaving somebody in the mountains is a crime.

6. Respect the hut as you respect your own home; do not have in the hut the same demands that you have in an expensive hotel; do not downgrade the hut to a tavern; choose your sleeping place carefully, but renounce it as soon as you see that others that are more tired or weaker than you need it.

7. Do not steal the peace and pleasure of other people or the flowers that nature created for everybody; do not fall or scribble on the trees just because you do not know how else to use your strength.

8. Do not lie, do not brag, do not exaggerate; never curse the weather, never swear; respect the beliefs and habits of the mountain dwellers and never make fun of them; do not forget you are their guest, as you are the mountains’ guest.

9. Keep the honour of being a tourist and be proud you are part of the world; respect the memory of those who were the founding fathers of tourism.

10. Do not degrade the mountains through the obsession of records, understand their soul.       

The funds obtained by selling the book "IRONMAN The way to my fulfillment"
will be donated to the Social Centre for homeless children and mothers
“Sf. Arhangheli Mihail si Gavriil” located in Slobozia, Giurgiu county

Asociatia Letca Noua - Asezamantul Sfintii Arhangheli Mihail si Gavriil
Cont RON:
RO73 BRDE 190S V135 8231 1900        
BRD Sucursala Giurgiu

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