Well, I’ve finally cracked it and finished top lady in Al Andalus Ultimate Trail. The adventure started in 2013 with a 3rd place for a very novice ultra runner, a 2nd in 2014 for a slightly wiser runner, and finally a 1st in 2015 when I was able to put all my hard-earned lessons to good use. (Of course, a whole new set of lessons were learned this year!)
The 2015 event was a totally different event to previous years with a big field (over 60 starters) and record temperatures. This race is never a walk in the park and 2015 was going to be tougher than ever.
Knowing that following the same training program year after year doesn’t equal a fitter runner, I’d set to work devising a plan to refine my strengths and iron out the weaknesses a challenge like AAUT reveals. I knew I was in pretty good shape; but suspected not as fit as 2014 and I was nervous I would not be able to hit the target daily finish goals I’d set myself.
Actually remembering to bring a copy of my daily target times was a better start than 2014’s event, so despite a threatening right hip going into the race, I at least knew what I was aiming for.
The day dawned bright and clear. Weather forecasts were for a hot day. I was hopeful with my heat know-how garnered in Qatar, but a little concerned as I’d already been in Spain for a month where I had been greeted by no shortage of rain storms and cool days. Would I have traded vital heat acclimation for hill training?
The start saw the usual vying as the front runners surged ahead. With my right hip reminding me not to do the same – it flared up on a final training run on the Thursday before the event – I was planning to wing it round before a visit to the event chiro, Oscar and a click, click, clunk back into place at the end of Day 1. Oscar had performed a similar feat in 2013!
AAUT’s first killer climb was no tougher than usual and a plod to the top. Keeping it steady, I gradually picked my way through the field as the heat took its toll on the other side. It was pretty warm, but nothing that I haven’t encountered in Qatar’s deserts. My right leg kept turning and I was glad to pootle into the finish just a minute slower than last year, first lady, but disappointingly off target for 2015. AAUT is however a stage race and there would be four more days to make it back up.
A visit to Oscar and a mighty readjustment and I was feeling more like it, although I was struggling to get my body temperature down. After a shower and swim, I decided to stay poolside to eat rather than walk into town. In hindsight, I was perhaps slightly under-fuelled for stage 2 and should have sauntered to a restaurant.
The first ‘campsite’ is in a sports hall, never 100% comfy and after a full day of scorchio temps, toasty warm inside. With some air
movement outside, I opted to cart my tent out to sleep in the car park. Still feeling pretty warm, I didn’t close the fly net on my tent and regretted it for the rest of the event. I gave up counting mosquito bites at an itchy tally of 18.
Thanks to Penni for her al fresco support in the car park. We were gradually joined by other runners’ tents throughout the night. (You don’t do a stage-race and expect a sound night’s sleep!)
The climb from Alhama to Jatar has always been my nemesis. I have spent too many hours trundling between CP2 and 3 in the heat to enjoy the views. My Moclin mountain training paid off though as I found the narrow track up much more manageable. The carefully selected hip drive exercises I’d undertaken seemed to have taken effect too and I was able to power up the climbs with minimal energy expenditure.
CP3 to 4 is a tough test of heat endurance on an exposed hillside but I’ve been there before and despite being pretty lonely is a case of keeping the miles reeling along.
Once at CP4, fording the stream, it’s and rolling up and down to the finish line where I was surprised to find myself first lady home again. Unfortunately Liz, who had led the stage out, had taken a wrong turn off the hill and ended up doing some extra miles.
A good day’s running had seen me make up my slow Day 1 time and save some to put me well ahead of my goal target time for the day. The question now was; had I gone too fast and wiped my legs out for the rest of the week? I did that trick in 2013. They certainly felt pretty tired.
A dip in the campsite stream, shower, refuel, massage and another dip in the campsite stream and my legs weren’t feeling too sticky. Following a proper dinner and goodnight’s rest, I was ready to run again.
…to be continued.