Interview with Linda Boldane after her victory and course record in Letecká stovka 2023
On Saturday 11th of March early morning the 9th edition of Letecká stovka started in Trenčín with 180 participants in the start list. Difficult conditions and weather with strong breeze, snowing and low temperature did not prevent the runners from showing amazing performance. In both categories a new course record has been set. The first woman in finish was Linda Boldane, who did complete the 105K course in 11:45:36, which was the 3rd fastest time overall - really impressive! We are really thankful to Linda for her visit in Letecká stovka and of course, for this interview. :-)
Hi Linda, the past weekend brought a victory in the Letecká stovka winter ultratrail race for you with an amazing overall 3rd place and with a new course record, congratulations! Could you please introduce yourself and your ultratrail running ''history'' a bit?
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to participate in the Letecká stovka race. The atmosphere was awesome, everyone was so welcoming and open even despite the language barrier. The conditions were rough, but that gave an extra edge to the race itself.
Linda Boldane (photo: Peter Mečiar)
Shortly about me, I am a trail ultramarathon runner from Latvia, which is quite a flat land as we only have one highest hill with a height of 312 m above sea level, so you can imagine, that it is quite challenging to prepare for ultramarathons in actual mountains.
I have been running ultramarathons since 2017, when I did my first race of 80 km in Latvia with 2,200 meters of elevation gain and afterwards, 2 months later, I did my first actual mountain ultramarathon in Poland, which was 61 km long and with 4,770 meters of elevation gain. Since then I have run approx. 11 official ultramarathon races. My biggest one was in 2021 - UTMB - the full loop around Mont Blanc, finishing as 11th women and 84th in general.
What was the trigger for you to decide to come to the 105 km course of Letecká stovka 2023? Where did you get the information about this event from?
Last year in June I managed to break my leg, I had a fragmentary fracture, so I was not able to run and participate in races for almost a year. So I was looking for some ultra races in mountains and in forests and beautiful areas that would be at the beginning of a season, so I could kind of test my leg, how would it feel going downhill and going for such long hours non-stop? So I just Googled Ultra races March Europe and your race came up. I just really loved the description of it how local it was and I got the impression, that you are a bunch of enthusiasts, who want to create an opportunity for people to be outside for hours and still feel safe and cared about. I started with smaller races and I like to come to smaller races that are not too fancy. I would say I really like the community and the atmosphere that is in smaller races.
Start of Letecká stovka 2023 (photo: Peter Mečiar)
Is the 100K distance your preferred ultrarunning course type?
I would say that, yes, 100 km distances and even longer races are my comfort distances in a way, because I feel, that I have quite a good endurance and at the same time I don't have to be super fast. I like to be outdoors, to experience nature, hardship, and the opportunity to push myself mentally and physically. And I think, that I can get to that place when the distance is longer. I really enjoy it despite the fact, that I swear loudly sometimes to get through some phases in the race.
Was this your first visit in a ultratrail race in Slovakia, or first visit in our country?
No, this wasn't my first visit to Slovakia - I had been in Liptovský Mikuláš a couple of years ago with my friends, who were skiing, but I was running during winter as well. It was a great time running in the snow and trying to reach some peaks. The mountains were amazing!
Letecká stovka has a course profile, which is quite unusual among the Slovak Ultratrail League races - the first approx. 20K passage is following the river Vah dam with almost no ascended meters. This was the original way (''first the dam, then the hills''), but in the past few editions the course direction was opposite. How was this for you? Would you prefer such a passage at the end of the race?
I was wondering, how will it be to run the first almost 20K without an ascent, as I thought that it would be harder to pace myself rationally and save strength till the end. But when I started to run the race, I understood that I feel good, I feel strong and I decided to run at my comfortable pace as far as I could on the flat, because I knew, that I would be much, much slower on the up hills, as that is the hardest part for me and I’m very slow on uphill.
I think it was a great start to actually get the feeling of running fast and without too much thinking about where to put my feet. This allowed to kind of warm-up for the hills so, yes, I would prefer to have the race as I ran it. Though it would be interesting to try it also the other way around.
Running on the river Váh dam (photo: Peter Mečiar)
The most demanding one was the K4 Šport chata Bezovec - K5 Inovecká chata part - the conditions there were really hard. How did you deal with the harsh weather, snow, low temperature and strong wind?
Yes, this was a tough one. I mostly ran alone so I let myself be quite vocal. When I encountered very harsh winds, or snow blowing into my face, I just yelled out something, laugh, let out very heavy sighs or just made some noises like “Whoop” each time I slid and fell. :D At some point, my hands were freezing and one part of my face was very frozen from the strong wind and snow.
When the snow on my face started to melt, it dripped in my eyes making it hard to see (I have contact lenses), so I had to trust my feet more than my eyesight.
In short, it was challenging and super interesting!
Ascent after the village Beckov (photo: Peter Mečiar)
The visibility was not good during Saturday, however - any places you did enjoy in the mountains? Did you experience any issues with orienteering?
The one I remember the most was the peak with a viewing point towards the end of the race, I think. I couldn’t see much, but from what I saw - the view over mountains and treetops was breathtaking. Everything was gray or white.
I had issues orienteering and I did run off the course a couple of times. I was very grateful that the gpx file was a mandatory thing to have during the race, because without the navigation in my watch, I would maybe still be running and trying to get out of the forest. :D
Close to the K4 aid station Šport chata Bezovec (photo: Peter Mečiar)
Was there anything during this race, what was a surprise for you?
I was surprised about what was covered by snow when the snow had covered most of the course. I had to think almost about each step that I was taking, because each step could have been a surprise. For example, there was a huge snow drift over the trail, and I wanted to run through it without a hassle. I stepped into it and it appeared to be like a huge pile of leaves, so it was deeper than I expected and I just fell deeper into the pit as well and almost lost my balance. And it’s not great to lose balance, when on one side you have a hill and on the other a steep slope.
There were six aid stations in the race. Was this amount sufficient for you? Was there maybe something, what you did miss?
The number of aid stations was definitely sufficient for me and I was very happy to come into each checkpoint as everyone was so welcoming, wanted to help and take care of my needs.
I can say a big, big thank you to everyone who helped to put together this event and was there for countless hours to help runners get through the tough course.
All my needs were met and exceeded. At K5 the volunteers even put on a song for me “We Are the Champions” as I was stuffing my face with Snickers and gulping Cola. It was awesome!
At K5 Inovecká chata, 20 kilometers remaining (photo: Dominik Kuchťák)
The slovak ultratrail races are not exactly mass events, rather smaller ones. In such a weather there were hardly any people in the mountains. How did you like the atmosphere of the race?
I really, really enjoyed the atmosphere of the race. For me, that is a bonus that this is not a mass event and I was actually looking for something like that, because it allows being on your own in the mountains, pushing through the hardship and moving forward to reach these checkpoints as islands of warmth and comfort.
It’s an opportunity to be more appreciative of the people who are there, their kindness and their help. It allows to look each one of them in the eyes and actually say “thank you for the support and for being there”.
Aid station of Letecká stovka race (foto: Peter Mečiar)
After the Kysucká stovka (a 113 km / +4700 m ultra in northwestern part of Slovakia) had its last edition in 2020, Letecká stovka is now the only winter 100K ultra in Slovakia. Is this a race, you would recommend to your friends?
Yes, definitely! The town is wonderful, the organization of the race is great, people are very welcoming and the area is just gorgeous even in harsh weather.
Do you plan to return to our country and try maybe a different race, perhaps a summer or autumn one?
I really liked Slovakia and I see myself returning here. Summer race calendar is full with races in Latvia, but Letecká stovka might become my winter race destination. We'll see about that.
Happy finisher - Linda in Trenčín with victory and new course record (photo: Radovan Harach)
Thank you very much and wish you good luck for your next ultratrail races!