I went into it a lot more tired than I should have been, after the 4 days on the Travessa de la Serralada Tramuntana in Mallorca, my legs did not have the rest this event really called for and that became apparent. Normally, nothing hurts or feels tired till after the 50K mark, nearing the 60K, but yesterday, but 40K things were hurting, lots of things were hurting.
Something I've figured out is that when things are aching, they generally only do it for a while, and then stop, so if you think about something else, generally it is gone after a bit. That was happening, but fairly consistently, something or other was hurting at some moment or another. After only 40K of an 87K race. OUCH.
40 - 50 K were fairly tough. It was hot, it was sunny, I was achey, there was a big fat long long long climb, I had had to leave my hat behind as it was SOOOOOO windy and I wasn't even half way through.
That said, there were parts that were unbelievably beautiful and wherein I felt amazing.
I was supposed to have done the walk with a friend, but he had been sick for three weeks and there was no way on earth that this was a good idea for him, but a good friend he is cause he drove me up there, with another friend of his I hadn't met before, then they decided to hang out and cheer me on at 64K, called me several times to cheer me on, and then decided that they would drive me home as well! HEROS!!! Finally, they got a hotel room up by the course and we crashed out there for the night, returning the next day. Good friend.
Here's some photos:
Just before this photo was taken I got chatting with another walker, 25 year old physiotherapist who had never walked more than 20K and was doing this in shoes he'd bought 2 weeks ago. The woman he was walking with didn't let him stop for lunch or dinner so he just nibbled at the various tables all the way through! He finished! From the look of him, in terrible pain, but with a big smile and chatting with folks! I am totally impressed. He pulled that off with his head alone.
Above is one of the crazy descents on this route, it is a little hard to see in the picture but this drops away at an incredible rate, when I took the picture I was already part way down. If you click on it you can see tiny dots of people! After descending this, running, it was more work to go slowly, we took the upper of the two roads that go away on the right. We also went up the highest peak you see there in the background.
Below is an old church, the second control. The more experienced in the group also brought along a sturdy plastic cup with a hole drilled in it for a carabiner, for drinks, they didn't give out cups on this route, which apparently is typical for these long walks(/runs. The first guy finished the entire route sometimes around 5pm, that would be 9 hours for 87K and 6000M of accumulated elevation. Unreal.
We went by quite a few abandoned houses, and this little church nestled into a valley.
Climbed back up to the remains of this church. The name is well beyond me.. Should have taken a picture of the plaque.
A gigantic monastery we walked past and then climbed up to that building on the crest, the remains of a castle. This is the peak in the background of that other image. The climb up was l.o.n.g. Mostly beautiful, but rather grinding.
A view of Cadaqués taken from somewhere or other.
It was a beautiful day for the walk.
If you click on this you can see how rough the sea was, it was WINDY!
This is inside the ruins of the castle. It wasn't really a sight seeing tour, so I didn't get much of a look around, have to go back. They guy in the background was working really hard. He didn't like it one little bit when I passed him a while back and he is knocking himself out to get away from me here.
No idea where he finished.
This is the trail on and out of the castle very narrow and while there is a drop off to one side it wasn't that bad, it just kept dropping away at that rate, you wouldn't go too far if you fell.
We then went along this ridge which was, for us non-professional trail runners, quite technical, as in you had to use your hands and climb up and down and around a lot. Honestly quite good fun. I had just passed a woman who was INCREDIBLY slow on the descents, she was obviously very afraid of falling and went like a grandma. The problem was she didn't want to let anyone pass her. I did.
Continuing along this ridge, it was really lovely, and the wind had died down a bit which helped.
If you click on these two pictures, you can see some people in the trails.
This is coming down off of the ridge, we went along this softer wider part of the ridge and then worked our way down to the left before that next hill. Please note the cows. I always grew up thinking of cows in flat fields, but na-aaaah, cows are serious mountaineers, these babies LOVE to walk and climb, the sheep stay down lower as far as I have seen, but the cows? My goodness, they are mountain folk.
This is looking back from further along the course, the ridges of mountains in the background are where the castle and I think the higher peak on the right was the first one we did. Of that ridge, we climbed up the first, went along the second and round the third, starting from the right. You can see a road in the image, and just as the road curves away to the left there is a trail coming down the mountain, we came down that, pretty much had to run it it was so steep and loose, honestly a great moment, a lot of fun, and they had a cop stopping traffic for us to cross. Nice.
Here we are walking out towards the cape. Beautiful sea and sunshine. As you can see the shadows are getting longer, which was frankly a blessing, it was a long long day in the sun for this giri without a hat.
That's the last of the photos as it was getting darker out. We went on and on, after I got to the checkpoint at 51K things got better for me, we were past half-way, I realised part way up that we were finishing the last of the big climbs on the route, we were coming into the supper station and friends were waiting for me at 64K, this was also an exceptionally beautiful part of the route, really really lovely with the mountains and the sea.
I also have to say that in sharp contrast to our experience in Mallorca, on the few occasions when we met up with people from the area who had 350+ people walking by, they were UNIFORMLY helpful, and cheerful EVERY LAST one of them. Urging us on no less.
As we came down into Cadaqués, also a very touristy spot, folks helped us find our way, cleared the way for us, we were walking considerably faster than most people out for a stroll before dinner, and cheered us on.
Dinner was honestly gross, but gave the necessary energy, I was starting to not really want to eat at this point. Meh. I did though anyway.
I do have to say that my only beef with the whole thing is that in a course of 87K, there was not. ont. toilet. Not one. *slightly gross discussion coming up, if you want, skip down to the next paragraph* Now, for the guys, peeing is not that big an issue, for the girls, somewhat more, especially as you might have noticed that there are very few trees on this course, it is pretty darned open, and the women were probably outnumbered 6:1 easily. Then there is the real issue. Poo. If you have 350+ people walking this far, working this hard, all of them with the weight of a pack hanging on a belt around their waist, very nearly all of them are going to need to have a crap at some point. If not more than one. The course directors had emphasised, at some length, that they did not want to sully the environment, they were not giving out cups or plastic wrapped food and provided garbage at the check points. But they really expect all of us to crap along the course? I don't get it. Now, I will grant, some of these checkpoints are pretty remote, but a porta-potty or two and the lunch and dinner stations would be a no-brainer. Honestly boys, get that organised.
By the time I left the dinner station it was full dark. The headlamp I had on was adequate, but really should have been much brighter, were I to do something like this again, I would get a stronger light, if only to find the trail markers which were red and darkish green. Remarkably difficult to find in the dark. I ended up trailing along with a group of guys to get out of Cadaqués, it was tricky, but they were slow so once out of town I went off on my own. I also felt kinda nauseous coming out of dinner, but that quickly passed and the stars were gorgeous.
Made it out to the lighthouse and my friends, dumped extra food, sunglasses and sunscreen with them and went off on the last leg, which felt like nothing, only 23K, I was already there! Odd the perspective you get, but that's how it felt. This section of the trail was however, kind of annoying. It was like it had been marked by several different people, some had done a really good job and some, meh, not so much. We ended up getting lost a couple of times, a little bit of plastic tape, like the cops have, hung strategically would have made a big difference. I probably lost about 20 min getting lost in here. Flat, rocky and multiple trails. Tricky.
This section also had three parts, the flat-get-lost section then a series of climbs and descents. Slightly demoralising these were, we dropped about 100m into a valley, climbed out the other side, over and over and over again. Ho hum, each time hoping to see the sea, but just seeing another ridge. Obviously it eventually ended, but it was somewhat tedious. If I were to do it again, it would be better as I have a reasonable idea of what to expect.
The last section was along the sea and except for one badly marked intersection, it was basically flat and if there had been a little more light, it would have been beautiful.
My friends met me about 100 meters from the finish and we ran the last bit in. Felt astonishingly easy weirdly! Folks at the bar nearby cheered.
Then it was done, handed in the chip, the man had to take it off, my hands were too swollen to do so. When you walk a long way, especially with a pack, your hands swell, the pack cuts down the circulation a bit and they just hang there at the ends of your arms, swinging, both gravity and centrifugal force working against your circulation. It doesn't hurt and it isn't serious, just makes your hands very slow and clumsy.
And that was it, we hopped into their car, drove back to the hotel, climbed 4 floors up to the room (wasn't positive I'd make that bit!) had a long shower and crashed. Breakfast on the beach in Cadaqués the next morning and we were off home.
I was honestly pretty achey yesterday but today feel surprisingly good. Yes, still a little achey, and definitely tired, but pretty darned good!
I'd do it again, with a brighter headlamp and a better map of the confusing section at the end of the course.
Overall, quite good fun.