We’re here, we’re in Spain!
Conscious that if I’m going to stand any chance of completing Ultra Sierra Nevada I need to get some hill training in, we’ve decamped to Spain. Plus, it’s Ramadan in Qatar and with it being June and daylight hours at their longest and (relatively) hottest, there’s not enough hours of darkness to get the length of long runs in demanded by the training for a 20 hour plus race.
Arriving in Spain last Friday, I’d got hubby, Steve, and I lined up for a trail training race on the Sunday – no point messing around. We arrived for the race early, picked up our bibs and waited for the start. You’ve got to love community races in rural Andalusia…all this just for entering.
As people milled around, we weren’t really sure what was going on. We knew the race didn’t start at the finish line, but no one seemed to be going to the start. And then at 9:30am, with a police escort, everyone started trotting the 1,500m to the start. The problem for us was that the pace was brisk, we didn’t know the way and didn’t want to get left behind! Arriving on the start line in the centre of town a little breathless (yes, the run was uphill), the countdown was on and we were off!
The rolling start was actually a sensible decision by the race organizers, the roads in the middle of Montefrio are narrow – a standing start would have meant road closures for quite some time before, and the trot up was a great way to get the faster runners to the front. I was towards the back, just in front of the senderistas (walkers).
An uphill start, I overtook quite a few quite quickly; we were then turning left and onto a route I recognized from reccying another race the previous year. I knew we’d be single file on single track pretty soon, and we were, and soon walking.
Another off-road section, clamber through an olive grove and I was somewhere near the front…but then I was right at the back of the pack! About 3km in, we dropped downhill, steeply, on loose shale and dust, I was bum shuffling and everyone else was flying past.
Literally last, I was all alone following the markers to the first water stop. Carrying plenty of fluid I didn’t bother stopping, and tactically overtook about 20 people 😉 Back onto route I knew, I was making progress on a runnable, shaded downhill track. Marshaled hard right, I was again walking and scrambling on a tough, uphill firebreak. Into CP 2, I said ‘hi’ to Steve as I trotted past. Run/ walking I kept passing runners, before a bottle refill, a slice of watermelon and downhill through pine woodland.
Another marshal right, and I was climbing, poles down and getting evil looks from those not carrying poles 😉 A flattish section and we were onto a rocky climb – prime snake country. I was now too-ing and fro-ing with a guy. One of us overtaking, the other retaking the lead. We passed a younger chap, clearly struggling. His water bottle was empty so I offered him one of mine.
Moving on, we were into the 5th water stop and in hearing distance of the excitable finish-line DJ. Seriously, this guy was DJ-on-steriods. He had more energy than all racers put together! With 5km to go, I knew it wasn’t all downhill but mainly. Time to move along and reel it in. Another 200m of road, and where Steve was shortly to see an 8ft snake (he really doesn’t care for snakes), we were back off road and onto trail I recognized.
Hitting the town, a couple of km of road and I was over the line. I’d run conservatively, I wanted my quads to be happy to be back running within a day. Due to in part to the lack of women running, I ended up 5th overall and 2nd in age group.
The rest of the week was back into training. Following a strength circuit in the garden on Monday, with ant squashing interlude (they kept sitting on my mat), Tuesday was hill reps in the morning, easy run with Steve in the afternoon. Wednesday was a put-the-world-to-rights run with friend, Angie, in the morning and a quick 9km to the local bank in the evening.
Thursday we went on a bit of an adventure. Having to return the hire car at some point, we decided to drop it off at the airport and run back. (No one seemed the slightest concerned at the airport – think it’s pretty standard practice!). The route took us 15km across the plains before 10km gradual ascent. We took it steady, stopped for ice-cream before our last big climb, and generally tootled along, doing what our legs are built to do.