Jamon and trails

Race prizes in Spain are a beauty to behold to ultra runners…since they usually involve our all time favourite items…namely food!

So far I’ve bagged olive oil, peaches, asparagus from road races. Yup, I know it’s enough to make any ultra runner drag his or her lazy ass around a bit of tarmac. You often get a sample delicacy just for showing up.

But for me, the biggest prize I’d set my eyes on was a jamon. These are often offered as prizes but so far had eluded me.

The sun is shining bright over Moclin.

The sun is shining bright over Moclin.

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As I’m just heading into my last 100km ultra for the year; I’ve been forced to top of my high endurance miles with some faster work. Now, as I’ve done more long distance stuff, I’ve fallen out of love with the speed. It’s just too darn hard work. Tell me to run for a day long no problem, but ask me to sprint for 5km and well, it’s a slog. Plus, I really struggle with my right leg…you know the one with the knackered hip, torn hamstrings, slack ligament and dodgy foot. It really doesn’t agree with doing speed anymore. Following it making its complaints known after the Santa Fe 10km, I’d given the Granada half marathon a miss in exchange for long, steady miles.

We'd put in some big miles, and no rides home with a mule.

We’d put in some big miles, and no rides home with a mule.

It had settled, we’d knocked out a 50km, it did get nagged with a series of climbing reps. (I reckon I’d been pushing off too hard from it.) And I’d had to back off. The Moraleda 10km was a do or die. It would either play along or it wouldn’t. I’d run the race as a tempo effort and try to maintain a steady pace throughout.

None of us were exactly sure how the race would pan out since it was the first running of the event. Most of the speedy folks had been lured into an 8km night race on the Friday before. The 10pm, aka freezing, start time had put me off of that and so we’d headed over to Moraleda. I knew the course wouldn’t be flat, but neither will my 100, so it suited just fine.

The uphill start wasn’t easy. My hammy got a grump on within 600m but I backed off and it was okay. A pair of womenn whipped past and I knew they’d be the lead pack as they picked up a younger girl just ahead. By 1500m, I was pretty sure I was in 4th.

At about 3km we headed onto a jeep track and uphill. Aside from the ascent the trail reminded me of the wind/ 4X4 shaped sand of Zekreet, Qatar. I was on my territory and easily trotted past the girl in 3rd. I could see the two lead women ahead. By now a girl with a ponytail was just stretching out.

As we hit flat trail, my hammy wasn’t going to let me open my stride, but I was doing okay and maintaining a moderate pace. Hitting about 6km we started to drop downhill. I was closing on the woman in shorts and bra in 2nd – braver than me in long socks and arm sleeves as I was cold. Unfortunately the continual downhill triggered a bit of stitch and I had to ease back for fear for seeing my breakfast. The women in 2nd pulled away again, and the girl now in 4th came past me. There was still all to play for as I could still see the ponytail plait of the lead woman bouncing along.

Hitting the flat again, my stitch passed and I was able to close in on the girl in 3rd. As we hit more uphill, I was in touching distance, but turning a corner the gradient was steeper and my hammy protested. Less ascent and I was back up with her; however the distance was too great and as we turned into the downhill finish she pulled away.

Congratulating each other – such is the way in Spain – I was happy with my time. About 30 seconds faster than Santa Fe on a hillier course. I was 4th woman overall and 2nd in my age group. The woman in the bra and pants won the veterans, in front of me. But better still, I’d got my hands on a jamon!

Finally I'd got my hands on the prize.

Finally I’d got my hands on the prize.

I’m now into 100km taper; having my usual arguments with my right leg – still free to a good home – and hoping it’ll get me round the 60 miles. A week to go and we’ll find out.

On first glance the course is reasonably fast with just 2,000m + and -. In reality however, the weather forecast is rubbish in Seville over the next week and on race day, and after 16km of easy running, the course map indicates there’s 40km of hellishly technical stuff. Bum shuffling is going to be so much fun in the rain. Think I need to get myself some waterproof pants.

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