In 2010, when Michael Odvárko came with the Budějovice-Praha race restoration, I liked the idea. However, we had a lot of races abroad with Ježour (Tomáš Ježek) that summer. At the same date as Budějovice were planned we were invited to Descenso International del Sella, so it was clear how we decided. Whoever raced at Sella would understand it fully. However, a week later, we had scheduled my first race significantly longer than 30 km, which was at that time a marathon race. We were heading to Sweden for 55 km long Dalsland Kanot Maraton +. Of course, we were going to win there, we could not even have the smaller goals, but we were overtaken by René Olsen, who was so well prepared for that season. We were both good marathon paddlers, we belonged to the top of the world, but what he did at the end of the race was completely incredible – he was able to pull at 4:00/km – . I found out that I still have to learn a lot. And those feelings during and after the race! Fortunately, one quickly forgets how painful it is, and then they only remember the pleasant states.
In 2011, the marathon world championship was shifted to October, and we managed to avoid a date collision with Sella. I considered Budějovice as a good part of my preparation for the world champs, so I did not hesitate and signed up. Ježour did not go into it, making it much easier for me, because he was the one who could have beaten me. And of course, one can always lose the race themselves.
The race was three day long, started in Budějovice with overnight sleeps at Husárna and Skalice. The third day was started under Slapy dam wall.
On the first day, we quickly made a group of four and rotated the lead regularly each kilometer. Me, Kucoš (Martin Kucián), Michal Burián and Pavel Šára. The last named one left us at Kořensko, and really suffered for the rest of the stage because he overburned it. Michal has been dropped somewhere between Kořensko and Podolsko and we became alone with Kucoš. Although I was paddling easy and still with some reserves, I started to feel some weird tiredness before Podolsko. Since then, I do not like the Kořensko-Podolsko section. I always suffer, especially at its end. And it’s because I’ve been paddling for a long time without any break. Which was clear to me at that time. So I jumped out behind Podolsko on the left, ran over a short portage and jumped in again. Kucoš the same. He said later it did not do any extra help, but for me it was like a fresh blood. Again I was able to pull easily at 4:30/km. Kucoš had forgotten to drink regurarly, and then I did not give him much opportunity. Finally, he had to drink before Zvíkov, I dropped him and reached the finish with the lead of two minutes.
The next day was similar. Michal Burián left us at Cholín and Kucoš started to slow down before Živohošť. i dropped him behind the bridge by speeding up to 3:40/km and took another four minutes. Kucoš later said that he had never been as bad as the last five kilometers. But the two days have been enough for me as well. At night a light fever came to me, and in the morning I was generally stiff and weaker. However, I became quite good at the start and it was enough to ride the last 30 km, which was not that difficult and the first victory was at home. Martin Kucián did extremely well that year, but I was at the top of my performance and still healthy.
2012 was the first year for me not being part of the national team. I slowly started taking down training effort. About an half of what I did before. But I wanted to go Budějovice and we (me and Ježour) were invited to Sella for the last time. So I told him he had to race Budějovice when he was able to do so. He accepted the challenge and joined the race as well.
The race was three day long, started in Budějovice with overnight sleeps at Podolsko and Živohošť. The third day was started from Živohošť.
In the first stage, we quickly made a group of four and changed regularly. It was me, Ježour, Tomáš Pavlík and Michal Burián. The last mentioned two were dropped at Kořensko and me and Ježour reached the finish line at Podolsko. I was just pulling, so I won the stage.
On the day two, Vláďa Vik stayed with me and Ježour. He came with us to the Orlik dam wall and kept himself in a front group behind Zvírotice. At that time, we did not know the Zvírotice-Musík portage, so we honestly aimed to paddle all the meanders around Cholín. But my butt started to hurt so much that I had to jump off. In Zvírotice, I went alone to the bank, ran a piece of internal curve, and then joined the group without any delay and began to make them heavy heads. This really gives me an incredible help. I started pulling again below 4:30/km, which Vláďa did not take and has dropped from us. Close to Cholín I took the lead from Tomas, and he was about to be dropped as well. However, I did not believe that I would finish it alone. It was still over an hour from Cholín to Živohošť… so I waited for him and we finished the second stage together. Ježour was just pulling, so he won that day.
There was no point in trying to win the second day when the third day start was performed by the Gundersen method. We started together and went in an easy pace to the Slapy dam. We both knew that Kolna would be a tough fight, something that can decide the race. And we also knew each other’s disposition. I was better in running up the hill, Ježour was better in running down – we tried it against ourselves in the training in Chuchle.
Ježour got off from the boat, quickly put on his shoes, and got in front of me. But I passed along him running up the hill so that I was far ahead of him at Kolna. I ran on and for the biggest slopes down I prepared an improvement – I put the boat from the shoulder in my hand and it allowed me to run down much faster. For a better idea of how fast we went Kolna, the average pace of the whole portage without shoe manipulation as taken from the GPS was about 4:30/km. Thanks to that, I was about a minute ahead when trying to board in Štěchovice. Fate, however, mixed with cards differently. On the shore, the Ovar son had to wait for us with our juice. But I did not see him because he was hiding for some reason behind the bridge. I did not want to spend a valuable minute searching for a juice and set off without it. Ježour has gotten his juice from him.
On the way to Davle I kept a higher pace so that Ježour had to work hard and get tired. I could see how he was catching me and was still thinking about how I would go without any juice. Finally, I drank from the river. Of course I missed the best water. I should have drunk before the confluence with Sázava. Well, Ježour closed the gap just below Davle.
Since then, I went completely easy even when I pulled. I believed in my strong finish. We tested ourselves slightly on Vranská portage and in Modřany weir. Nothing major happened. I took the lead, pushed Ježour to the island so he had not much room to go, and with the final acceleration I won the race. Ježour was the top opponent, he came that year 7th on K1 on the world champs in Rome, but I was still almost in the top shape.
In 2013 we tried to go Budějovice-Praha for the first time nonstop. Thanks to the floods and the ban on particular sections of the Vltava river, the race was held without a permission. Several participants were discouraged by this fact. However, the rockers were at 4am at the start in České Vrbné. There’s something written about the race in the results, so I’ll just add a few of my memories.
Pavel Šára and Zbyněk Laube were honestly changing the lead each kilometer. Everyone has gone their own pace. We took the first long break at Podolsko after almost fifty kilometers and four hours of paddling. Zbyněk said he had never been at Podolsko so early. He compared that to his stage race. The fact was that we had an average pace of 4:58/km, which was very good at such a distance. Well, good for me, probably not for Zbyněk, because he was on his way to die. We took a break for about five minutes, then started off. Šáris opened a small gap, because he was already looking forward to the paddling, and me and Zbyněk had to leave something on the right bank. Then we went after him, we were changing, and he was cursing at Šáris that he was an asshole and an ox. He was afraid he would not be able to catch him anymore, I would catch him, and he would stay alone. I did not want to drop him at all, and on the contrary, I enjoyed seeing Šáris as he is struggling on his own and loses his strength. According to the comment below, Šáris did not want to break. Just waiting for us at a slow pace. In the end, we were quite early with him again.
At Žďákovský bridge, Zbyněk began to slow down and Šáris had already been pretty enough. We have been to Velký Vír and Radava. A cape on the left bank is my favorite for a short portage. I jumped off, run over, and saw the guys are nowhere. They said afterwards they have had there a break for about 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, I continued with Ježour, who supported me along the whole track and came on his boat across from the dam wall. We went together, but I was not taking advantage of his wash. The dam wall quickly appeared in front of me and there was an hour break for a lunch. Zbyňek and Šáris arrived 20-25 minutes behind me.
The lower half of the race is much more fun for me than the upper one. It is more variable and there are more portages, either mandatory or optional. In addition, we were about to try for the first time the long portage Zvírotice-Musík! We took inspiration from the long Dusi marathon overruns. The basis were laid by Šáris when he wanted to jump off before Zvírotice and jump in at Oboz (6km run). I improved it by stretching it to Musík (8km run), because Oboz seemed to me too inefficient. When I was at the beginning of the portage at Zvírotice, GPS was showing 100 km paddled. You’ll probably believe me I was looking forward to not padding for a while. Running after the climbing the hill went at a pace of about 6:30/km. At the end, I had everything so painful that I was looking forward to paddle again. As soon as I got out of Musík, I started to approach Živohošť. And there it happened. I got into the trance. I was mentally floating high above the country, with a blue line below me that I have passed that day and the result was that I felt like at home at Živohošť although it is more than 3 hours of remaining work. I thought to myself “A couple of turns, a hill, and the river flush me to Prague.” I was exactly 10 hours on my way. I started estimating when I could be in the finish, and I had a feeling I could go below 13:30. It kicked me completely up. Maybe too much. I kept pace around 5:20/km down to Kolna portage. I felt there how devastating was the first long portage. I was not able to run up the hill and I do not think I ran on the Kolna plane either. It became better on the way down from the hill into Štěchovice. Ježour put the last juice bags on me and I started the final fight with time. I went Kolna much slower than I imagined, and in general the reachability of the time 13:30 was on the edge or rather slightly over the edge. As long as the river flow helped, it was still ok, but then under Měchenice my head was tottering and the pace was at 5:40/km. My mind still wanted to go, but the body was no longer listening. For example, on the Vranská portage, I was unable to move my legs faster than simple walk. Below the Vranská dam wall I saw that I would not get it, because from Vranská down I know the river so well that I can count distances in seconds. But the river was merciful. The stream was quite strong there (it was a few weeks after the flood) and when I saw the pace 4:10/km on my GPS, it still sparked a little hope in me and I put all my strength to it. Besides that, I knew about the last trump – the Modřany weir that had not fallen after the floods. I was betting on the fact the very end part would be faster than usual. And it became so. In the finish GPS showed time 13:27:56 and nearly 149km. Feelings after nonstop can not be described. You just have to experience it. And I just want to mention that I could not move for two days. All my muscles including breathing ones hurt.
I did not enter the stage race in 2013. We had a newborn Eduard at home and Berta was year and half old. I wanted to be more father than a paddler and accompanied the race with Berta just as a photographer.
This was the third season after I stopped paddling at the top level. My performance was significantly lower, but I believed I could win the non-stop race, although it was more competitive than a year ago. In particular, I already knew what it was about and what was waiting for me. After the start at 4:30am from Vrbné, we were easily paddling in the dark in a bigger group to Hluboká portage. The field was a bit cracked there and we established a front group of four, me, Tomáš Pavlík, Pavel Šára and Matouš Pavlík. Matouš soon after the portage had to tune something on his boat so we continued in group of three. Pity, we could have a gold wash in the group, which saves a lot of energy. We reached Podolsko two-three minutes earlier than in 2013. We had a classic break there for a few minutes and continued on. Tomáš was pulling a bit faster than us two so we were calming him down saying he is mad to go so fast. It was good for me, I was not feeling good at that moment. My head was spinning around, I had a small crisis, and his wash did not help me so much. This is clear to anyone who knows us. Tomáš later said he was doing fine and as soon as he slowed down, he started to feel bad. At the Orlík castle, Šáris was already done, but he bravely pulled his kilometer, but somewhat slower. We were two more minutes faster on the Orlík dam wall earlier than in 2014. At that moment, I was feeling already good and strong. The crisis was gone.
Me and Tomáš got to the lift and was moving down. Šáris decided to wait for Matouš, who was chasing us alone from Podolsko. This race was real true nonstop – time was not stopped at the elevator. The transfer took about 12 minutes and we immediately set out into the second half of the race. It was one on one and we were expecting a heavier part of the race.
I say that I have no rivals on a nonstop race to the Orlík dam wall. They are rather companions. I’m not trying to drop anyone from the group. On the contrary, I’m trying to keep the group as large as possible so that I can go easy and save as much power as possible. And from the Orlík dam wall, my companions are starting to move slowly into the rival mode. In Zvírotice the change is complete, they are all opponents and we are already racing.
We had 20 km in front of us till the long portage. Tomáš was a good runner but did not know the route. So I was sure he would not run away from me and I felt a chance to drop him somewhere in the fields and let him wander. Especially at the beginning, it’s impossible to pick a good path when you do not know it. So I started to make him hard times and I was pulling about 0:20/km faster than him. However this was not enough to drop him on the water. Perhaps he got somewhat tired at least. At Zvírotice we jumped out and climbed up the hill. Tomáš followed me. Then we ran down to the road, got the refreshment there, and Tomáš started to run away. I thought it was quite brave and fast, because the portage was 8 km and he did not know the route. He realized it soon, slowed down, and waited for me. I ran sharp, faster than last year, but still with reserves because the finish was still far away. Some kms were below 6:00/km, to the hills the pace was around 7:00/km. I broke away from Tomáš in the final pitch, but it was not enough. He caught at the end of the portage when the road goes down to Musík. We ended up jumping in together.
From the first portage, it was clear that I was better at ascension, but Tomas was faster on planes and descensions. So I had something to think about. How can I do that to keep in touch with him at Kolna? Kolna is much about running down the hill and Tomáš knew the route so I had no advantage. I did not come to anything better than to save the power on the water, get some advantage in running up the hill, and then close the possible gap on the water again. With this plan we were jumping off in the left bay in front of the Slapy dam wall.
Tomáš was faster in putting up his shoes so I was behind him at the beginning. In the nonstop, the ascension is terribly heavy. I’ve already experienced that. Last year I was walking here and this year I also did not count on running. But Tomáš walked only a few steps in front of me, and whenever he could, he ran. I was talking to myself, “my gosh, he’s running again, I have to … he’s a freak.” I was totally out with my plan to get ahead of him. I barely stumbled behind him and keeping the minimal gap. Tomáš got up the hill and began to disappear. I did not see him on the descension in the woods, nor did I see him on the main road in the curves. This was the moment when I had to give it all what I had and try to minimize the opened gap. I suffered like an animal, but I saw Tomáš in front of me at the plain in the village. I felt like he was slowing down so I tried to go even harder. When he disappeared on the river bank, I have started to count the gap. As soon as I approached the ramp to the bank I came to a gap of about a minute. Right after that I could see that Tomáš was not on the water and was not disappearing. On the contrary, his boat was on the bank and he was pouring juice into the plastic containers in the boat. I immediately took advantage from his mistake in this zero-sum game. Ježour quickly put two drinking bags on me and I was setting out about five seconds behind Tomáš. I immediately closed the remaining gap and settled down on his wash.
Ježour who was seconding me through the whole race told me afterwards: “I thought you would be easily the first at Štěchovice but Tomáš suddenly appeared with you far behind him …” I told him: “Man, you know how he did it to the hill and then down? It is better do not talk about it. I was glad not to be so far behind … ”
Since then I felt quite comfortable and powerful. In an easy pace, we changed the lead and I was saving the power for the finis. If I remember well, I went the Vranská portage quite well and was earlier on the water, which made me a bit dare to try to drop him, but it was just symbolic. Tomáš was right behind, so I abandoned that idea very quickly. From the confluence with Berounka I took the lead and did not want to let it go. I went into the drive of Modřanský weir and accelerated a bit checking whether Tomáš is paying attention. When I got out of the passage Tom was right next to me. So I calmed down again and with a slow pull I approached the target. I was a little nervous, though. “How many times have I tried a finish after a 150-kilometer ride in my life? Will I get a cramps somewhere? Well, it’s here, he is coming, it’s up to me now.” I was finishing the last 150 m and saw Tomáš getting slowly back. Done!
At that time I did not know it was my last Budějovice for a long time. For two more years, only a short race was held. Then I nodded on taking with Zuzka the race organization. I do not know if I ever get to the start. I would like to. I miss one start to get among tough Budmen …
Petr Mojžíšek, January 2018