Iznik Ultra 136km – How on earth I retired 10km before finishing line?

The blue Lake Iznik, Bursa, Turkey

Iznik in Bursa province is a beautiful town in one corner of the world. A peaceful, serene and calm town around Turkey 5th largest lake surrounded by stone wall built by the Greek. Majority part of the wall still remain intact. There are many historical aspects to the city – a town that in itself like an open air museum to view and touch history. It was the capital of many empires (like Bithynian, Byzantine,The Ottoman). 

Used to be called Nicaea, Justinian Emperor built Haghia Sophe church (in middle of town) which is an important site where Christian Nikaea law being determined and home for Second Council meetings. During Ottoman time, pottery making was introduced in Iznik that made the city famous for its magnificent beautiful tiles adorned in grand Ottoman mosques – now reproduction handmade can be found in the city.

2014 Visit – Orhanganzi Ultra 80k
I’ve enjoyed the 2014 Orhanganzi Ultra 80km (overall 30 and 5th female), so in April I made a point to return for a longer race in 2015 – Iznik Ultra 136km.  The run itself was a window to view how the local live as I ran passed by small villages dwelled by very friendly locals , olive groves, pink white blooming orchards, yellow spring wildflowers, friendly villagers and witnessed their living (mainly farming and agriculture that show how fertile the land is).  

2015 Iznik Ultra 136km – Challenges and Mistakes – 

Iznik Utra 136km elevation graph
Iznik Utra 136km elevation graph. Sourced: Iznik Ultra Website

Iznik Ultra 136km with roughly 3220m elevation is a loop run around the entire majestic lake. It started at 2am so there was not much to see in the beginning, rather sounds of frog croaking. Note – this won’t be a long full race report per se but rather a post-race analysis on my performance.

Here are challenges and mistakes encountered in the Iznik Ultra. Precious lessons around hydration, equipment and organisation to be taken for next races (especially for longer races) which hopefully (and should) make me a better trail runner with better training and preparation:

  1. Study the cut-off time at each checkpoints religiously. Put a clear mark somewhere so this can be visible any time during the race.
  2. Energy gel consumption – In fact, I learnt a while back that my body did not tolerate any kind of synthetic energy gel during long ultra race. Towards second half of race, I felt bloated and nausea as 2 different brands being mixed together. Should’ve known this better after all my running experiences – but things happen and I learnt the hard way.
  3. Get used to running on mud -Some of the course was tractor roads which was uneven and came rain, tend to be muddy and filled with potholes. This is the most challenging part especially in dark (at beginning and final part of race). Resided in Dubai at time (always dry, sunny and only 5 days of rain in a year), there’s no luxury to train on muddy cold condition. Made me think, perhaps I am a clean slick road runner after all?
  4. Right shoes for wet muddy condition – I wore Saucony Peregrine 5 which supposed to be ‘good’ on muddy terrain, but I found on the contrary. I ran with North Face Hyper Track in 2014 which was a lighter shoe suit dry terrain.
  5. Running with partner or solo – I usually prefer to run solo. If running with partner ensure certain rules being laid out and decided prior to race. Such as, if I slow down, please don’t wait up. And vice versa. Otherwise, ended up waiting for each other when precious time is ticking.
  6. Using pole in racing – Not using pole, instead collected a strong tree branch along the way which was helpful during climbing and came handy to scare off the farmer’s dogs.
  7. Insufficient sleep – Due to last minute decision to come to Iznik, there wasn’t much room vacancy in town so decided to put up in the car instead. Not getting much sleep in not-so-comfy car seat and had to get up about 12.30am which is another factor causing fatigue during race. 
Sunset few hours before race kick off
Sunset  at Lake Iznik several hours before race kick off

Could Have, Should Have, Would Have
Reached Checkpoint 10 Derbent  so another 15km to go. I ran mad after that. However, about 10k to go I retired in a rescue vehicle and then being moved into a warm cozy ambulance. Could have, should have, would have I finished? These question sprang to mind every time I think about this particular race, but the fact that matter was the internal organ in the body won’t function as normal and the mind said it is time to call it a day. It may be hard to swallow but I’ve made peace with it. Plus, I doubted if I could sprint all the way to finish line in my condition to meet the cut-off. Did not finish I was, but the longest I’ve ran in one day 126km in roughly 23 hours.

Race Organisation and A Weekend for Everyone

Iznik 3 races
Iznik 3 races around the lake and 10k fun run

Overall, excellence race organization in the 4th year from every angle. The event offers not just ultra distance but also Mountain Marathon 42km and Historical City Run 10km (surrounding tower, gate, wall and palace). The Race Director,  Caner Odabasoglu  came from mountaineering background, an experience trail runner himself; started orienteering and adventure racing since 2000 – a trust factor that can be stamp on as well as guaranteed for seriousness and quality of organization.  Event capitalized on high level of professionalism and great collaboration from the local city authority, and amazing volunteers (on pre, during and post event).

Sighted a strong UK contingent (Jo Meek and Robbie Britton), Macedonian group and joined by many international runners – this event is definitely an international event at high-standard. Not to mentioned talented and experienced homegrown Turkish runners, like Aykut Celikbase, Mahmud Yavuz, Bakiye Duran and Muazzez Özçelik. 

It is also great to see how this event received local participation in the fun run on the next day (10km) which shows how running in general contribute to some degree towards local town host. Cultural performances and dances alived as the town celebrated the winners and all runners involved. Another reason to admire is the social responsibility aspect where a picture contest among the primary school students was organized, the winner received a pair of Asic running shoes.

Do this race again? Absolutely – I need to own the stunning Iznik tile medal that I missed out on. My tummy also craves that fresh made kofta from Kofteci Yusuf  (famous among local resident) and the fresh farm produced from one shop I visited near the church.

Iznik Tiles Medal - spot the missing one in SOTG's camp
Iznik Tile Medals – spot the missing one in SOTG’s camp?


Ferry ride
Ferry ride

Flew with Air Arabia from Dubai to Sabiha Gokcen Airport – under 5 hours flight. In 2014, took taxi from Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Pendik to catch a ferry to Yalova. Then took a mini-bus to Iznik. In 2105, hired a car and drove all the way to Iznik and on return – drove to Yalova, put car on ferry to Pendik, then drive to Sabiha Gokcen Airport. All options are pretty convenient just a matter of budget and time for consideration.

While there’s a camp site to put up a tent, it is wise to get a room especially when finishing at late night from Iznik Ultra race – warm shower needed for someone like me! The accommodations in front of lakes are preferred for better view.

More details on race, logistic and registration – click here. And on Iznik visit here.

Have you been to Iznik? Will you consider sign-up on any of the race?

Teşekkürler. Thank you (in Turkish) for  2 years of running adventure.