Since you all know now my reasons for running ridiculously long distances, I thought to leave a small recap on how the first ultra in Spain went. It happened just a few days ago, an 80km race called Eco Trail de Madrid. It was a gift for my birthday (I usually run my age for my birthday, but this time I choose to do something a bit bigger, which also involved a bit of traveling and sight seeing).
I’ve been living in Spain for more than a year now, and I started to train again in January 2019. I took it really slow, since during the previous year I’ve been on a break. My first runs were something like 15 minutes or 2 kilometers, and I increased every week between 10 and 20 minutes, doing this 3 times per week. By July I got to 4-5 hours every week. 95% of my runs were jogging, below my lactate threshold, and almost no speed work and no uphill / downhill running.
In Spain, July and August are quite difficult, temperatures are reaching 30-35 degrees Celsius very easily and – I find this even harder to fight than the temperature – humidity goes up to 70-80%. So I kinda plateaued at 4-5 hours every week (and sometimes even less than that).
In September I had 2 long runs, one 30km and the other one 40km. There were half runs / half hikes, as they happened along the Valencian beach. The first one was to the city of Sagunt, and the second one to the Cullera resort. In all honesty, I combined pleasure with training, as the scenery is amazing and I did stop to eat along the way, indulging in some local, tasty food.
Pre-Requisites, Expected And Not Expected Stuff
Since this was a trail race, we were required to carry on a backpack, with a few compulsory items: thermal blanket, head torch, water reserve and some food. In hindsight, this alone, together with the “trail” in the name of the race could have give me some hints about the difficulty of the race.
I was expecting this to be quite demanding, but I didn’t expect it to be that hilly. There weren’t more than 3-4 kilometers of flat land, in rest, everything was up and down, up and down. I also didn’t expect to be that cold, when we started, temperature was like 4 degrees Celsius. And, to add a bit of insult to this small injury, we also got a few decent hours with rain and wind.
Start was 9 AM from a beautiful place called Manzanares, here’s a picture of the castle from were we began.
The first 4km were straight uphill and weather was cold, although sunny. I decided to run the uphills, because I thought this was the only part up, but two hours later I realized this was a bit of a mistake. Pretty much the entire race was about to be uphills and downhills. Not very high or low, but constantly there. I personally perceived this as a “grinder”, taking out precious energy resources way faster than I was prepared to.
About 10km into the race, I made a picture, just to see how far apart we were from the finish line, the Quatro Torres area in Madrid.
We got a bit of sunshine around noon and that made me really happy, smelling the flowers like Ferdinand, and stopping every once in a while to take pictures.
But soon, heavy clouds covered the sky and the rain, propelled by an unexpectedly strong wind, started to pour. I think we were at km 30, and the only good new was that the end was closer now.
Still 50km to go, but at least we could see it clearly.
From that moment on, until I reached the last checkpoint, at km 64, the race was rather uneventful. I didn’t make progress as much as I would want, but I was constantly moving, hydrating and feeding myself correctly, and not having any injury whatsoever.
After the last checkpoint, which I reached around 5PM, I thought we were “there”, but, alas, we still had a bit of a forest to cross. We were running around Madrid, clearly seeing the city every once in a while, but moving through a deep forest, with very narrow paths. So narrow, that we couldn’t run alongside each other, so there was a bit of a line. We were a small group of 3 runners, cruising forward in the dark, on a narrow path, in a forest.
At some point, we got lost. I think this was the only major event of the race. We realized we were walking for about 10 minutes without seeing any marking whatsoever. After wandering around left and right for another 10 minutes, we decided to go back until we reach the last mark, and try circle around that until we find the next one. It took us another 10 minutes to do that, but we eventually found the marking and we were back on track.
In about 1km we left the forest behind, and from there we only had 4-5 km of open field paths, after which we entered Madrid. There were also at least another 10 minutes lost at red lights in Madrid, but it wasn’t like I was competing or anything.
All in all, I reached the finish line after 12 hours, with a decent 10 hours and 16 minutes of moving time, including the time lost while we wandered for the markings in the forest.
Recovery also went really well, only a slightly darker toenail on my right foot and no muscle, joints or other parts of the body being affected. I had a bit of a trouble sleeping the night after the race, but that was expected after 80km.