It’s been a while since I’ve written a post for the website. Despite that I have been running quite a bit. I started off the year running 10Ks and 1/2s and then went on to run long trail races from March-July. I wanted to get in lots of hill running over the summer but work didn’t allow it. As for hill running here in Spain (carreras de montaña), what can I say? They are truly amazing! During the summer months there are simply far too many races to choose from in the Pyrenees. Each weekend there are at least two well-established mountain races and now there are lots of wee villages getting in on the act and new events are cropping up all over the place. On Sunday I raced one of these new races, the 2nd edition of Vuelta el Ultimo Bucardo in Linas de Broto, a tiny wee village in between Sabiñanigo and Torla. I wanted to race it last year but got the lurgie from the Lucia as we were both still adapting to all the Spanish viruses!
As per usual the pre-race preparation plays quite a big part. We had a barbeque the night before and I was feeling fairly demotivated by the 5am rise to make the 2 hour drive to Linas de Broto on Sunday morning. But by the time we arrived I was immediately glad of the effort, not least because the temperature at 8am was only 18 degrees as opposed to the 24 degrees when we left Zaragoza at 6am.
For the second edition of this 23km/1300m race there were 149 registered participants, more than double from last year. These races are not normally that cheap and you usually expect to pay 15-20 Euros; however, the hospitality and organization of even the smaller races is just outstanding. The whole village chips in and there is pre-race tea and coffee and biscuits, changing facilities (in a barn or derelict house, or a pub or wherever …) and plenty of support on the hill to ensure the safety of the runners and an all-round good atmosphere.
Anyway, on to the race … it was a cracker, really tough and very enjoyable. One of the surprise attendees was Luis Alberto Hernando who lives and trains nearby in Jaca. He is battling it out with Killian Jornet in the Skyrunning series (they’ll face each other again this Saturday at the Matterhorn Ultraks 46K). As a result the start was rapid as 130-odd runners flew round a field before launching themselves into an 8km loop of the forest which included a 300m climb. There are a lot of very competitive runners in this neck of the woods. The climb was rocky and enjoyable, but hot and humid even at 9am so I took it fairly easy and tried not to get too carried away. By the time we reached the start of the 800m climb up Pelipin (around 2000m high) the sun was up and the day was beginning to warm up rapidly. Fortunately there were lots of water points and many with bananas and melon so dehydration would never be a problem. Although I’d not done any hill running over the summer so my quads suffered terribly both during and after the race. The summer heat over here really does affect my running quite dramatically and even on shorter flatter races I can suffer from dead legs and cramp through water loss. We reached Pelupin at around 12km (just over half-way) and had a really nice descent of around 400m whereupon there was another short climb. By this point I was really shattered and the descent from here on to the finish was very technical with lots of jaggy rocks, overhanging trees, shrubs and roots. I made a decision to concentrate on every step and just let the final 5km take care of themselves. I managed to catch a few runners and was also caught by the 2nd and 3rd female myself. At around 2km from the finish Luis Alberto Hernando came running up the rocky path I was coming down. We high fived and he said he’d won! I continued on for another 10mins and on entering the village we were greeted with an absolutely killer 100m long climb but the locals were cheering and shouting and that definitely helped raise your spirits. I finished 42nd in 2:56 and was greeted with a can of Ambar (Zaragoza’s Tennent’s) and directed towards the fruits, cooked sausages and sweeties.
The first two runners (Luis Alberto Hernando and Raul García Castán) came in around 2:05 and the third male was at 2:16. First female was a 15 year-old girl called Leire Fernandez Abete who came in at 2:37. She absolutely loves racing and is never without a massive smile (check the photos on the race website!). She burst onto the mountain scene here this year and over the summer has dominated every race. This Spring I was finishing slightly ahead or behind her depending on the type of race, but now she really is flying. It’ll be interesting to see how she develops over the coming years.
Based on my performance at this race I think I’ll keep concentrating on the 10Ks and trails, but I’ll definitely squeeze in a good few hill races before the summer ends.