Monday, August 8, 2011

Bohemia 5-day - Czech out those rocks!

Each time I come to a new place to compete, I resoundingly declare it couldn’t get any crazier than that. First it was Sweden with and O-Ringen with 16,000 people competing in the forest at once. Then it was the London City Race, running around downtown London, dodging tourists and discovering all the side streets and passageways of London. Then it was the middle of Beijing, island hopping at the Ruins of Yuanmingyuan. However, the Czech Republic definitely seems to have taken the crazy cake.

I got into Prague on Thursday afternoon to race the last three days of the Bohemia 5-day event in Novy Bor, GVOC member Andrea Balakova’s hometown. It’s a cute place, lovely scenery, nice houses, and cheap ice cream and beer available with these simple tokens that cost about $1.15 (Andrea says its actually a 20 crown piece, I’ll stick with ‘ice cream token’).

Friday morning was my first race and first experience in this sandstone terrain. After two days of long distances, this race was a shorter one, with M21 Elite doing 3.8k with just under 400 metres of climb. This race was touted as being in the ‘city of rocks’. I scoffed since I’ve seen rocks before. How hard can it be? Well, I picked up my map and ran towards the start triangle, and HOLY CRAP LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THOSE ROCKS. Any initial plans I made in those first 30 seconds went completely out the window after discovering that little cliffs on the map were 4-5 metres high, controls were located on single rock features that had measures like 8 metres, and controls were located in narrow passages between huge rock faces. And you think all of those things would be pretty distinct, but there’s also several thousand of them. Everywhere. And there were people looking around every rock, having discussions, shouting to each other, it was O-Ringen madness in a very small area.

Oddly enough, during stage 4, I discovered that I would rather be in the rocks than in flat forest. It was a brief respite from the craziness, but I made more mistakes looking for my arch-nemesis, the cup depression, than I did looking for a 2.3 metre boulder in a sea of boulders.

There’s no doubt that doing all 5-days of this event would have been absolutely physically brutal. The Men’s Elite did a total of around 40k and 1700 metres of climb. Magnus marched in for Stage 4 and 5, finished second in H35 on 4 and de-throning the “Russian Rocket” in the final stage. That guy was so far ahead only one other person made the 1 hour cut-off to participate in the chase start. Andrea managed to get through all 5-days alive , and actually pulled out her best performance on Day 5 in D21A, climbing from 11th to 8th in the pursuit start and having the 4th fastest time on the stage. I believe she’s going to propose next year it become a 12-day event, because then she’d definitely win.

The Bohemia 5-day happens every second year, and I have been assured there are more rocks. Many more rocks. Results, the elite maps, and route gadget are all available at


  1. It sounds totally amazing - unlike anything i could even imagine. Maybe we'll have to get Andrea to give a talk about it. Maybe at next year's sprint camp? (even though it's not really sprinting)

  2. Here you can see how it looks like some 30km from Novy Bor, close to Turnov:

    You are welcome to run in this beautiful terrains!

  3. Awesome write up Will! Looks like soo much fun!