Someone at work asked me how I have the time to do all this. I work quite a lot of hours, so it is sometimes difficult to fit in everything. To be honest, I have very little life outside some daily routines, like work, train, sleep.
So how do I fit it in? One of the workouts I have been planning to do for some time, in preparation for the UTMB was to do a long night run from our cabin to the highest point in Montsant (Roca Corbatera, 1,160m). I estimated it to be around 50km and 2,000 meters of vertical gain. It would take me about 6 hours to do it. I did not want to ‘waste’ a weekend night for this, so I thought that Friday after work would be the best time to do this run.
Montsant, near the highest point, on another day (photo by Katri)
So, last Friday, I exited the house at 6:14 PM (about the same time as UTMB start), while there was still some light outside and I was hoping I could make it to the first village over the first set of mountains I had to cross. I didn’t quite make it there as there was a bit of trail in the forest and that was just a bit too dark to run in already. I had my first little break watching the final rays of the sun set behind the mountains. This is also where I stopped using my headphones as there are lots of wild boar around and I wanted to be able to hear them in the dark.
Sunset … time to put on the headlamp
My plan was to run pretty slow and easy, take breaks and have fun. This was actually quite difficult and running slowly felt quite clumsy. In the first bigger downhill I almost fell twice and I had to stay very focused. In a race, this kind of clumsiness is usually the first warning sign that things are not going so great. Well, I was finally down the first hill and had another break here, at one of my favorite spots and I was here now at night for the first time.
Chilling at my favorite waterfall
Next was a big long climb into Cornudella de Montsant and then up the steepest (and very technical) climb in Tarragona. When I got into the village, I had the hardest climb ahead of me and had spent something like 2hours and 20 minutes so far. Quick math told me that finishing in 6 hours would be a stretch, so I started planning a more efficient return route to win some time. I didn’t want to spend the entire night in the mountain and still wanted to go into the sauna before bed. The sauna was a big motivator here… 🙂
Our sauna was calling me … (Photo by Katri)
My first headlamp gave away during the first climb, maybe 2hrs 40 minutes into the run. I had it in full setting, but still the battery life was a disappointment. I needed to stop and swap in the replacement battery and then carry on. I was a bit worried now, with no more battery reserves, so I kept the light at the minimum setting (which was perfectly fine).
It was quite a cold night, below 0 temperature and some wind at the top. I was running in full length pants the whole time and had my jacket on here and warm gloves. Still, I only spent a few seconds at the top and wanted to drop down away from the wind. I chose an easier, but much longer route down from the mountain as I didn’t want to face the technical descent in the dark being already a little tired. I think my elapsed time was something around 3:35.
Ok, mandatory photo done, now back down!
The easier route was much more pleasant to run. It was very cool to look around, on a clear night with almost full moonlight. The mountains and the villages looked very pretty. There was a bit of pain in the knees and legs in the downhill, so at the bottom I took one painkiller just for convenience and to be able to run a little faster for the rest of the way (sauna was waiting).
I took a faster route back that had a nice, long continuous climb on an easy road so I could just clip away with my hiking poles. It felt like really good practice, really pushing with the sticks and keeping a good rhythm. I kept quite good pace all the way to the end really.
My final time was around 6 hrs 20 minutes, so I was home well before 1 AM and still had time to have a good sauna and relax. What was really promising was that the run didn’t feel that difficult at any point and when I got home, I wasn’t really very tired or weak. I had eaten minimally, perhaps 1 gel / bar per hour and probably spent something like 3,500-4,000 calories. I just ate enough not to totally bonk and this worked fine (take one gel / bar whenever you feel weak… you’ll first feel it in the brain, then 10 minutes later you’ll be fine again).
Here is a nice Suunto Movie about the run
Ok so I don’t spend ALL my Friday evenings this way. I have had to run a few times from the cabin to the coast (28km) because my wife had taken the car. It must be convenient to have a partner who is an ultrarunner as you can just dump them anywhere and know that they’ll find their way. Really usually on Fridays, we go out for a dinner or drinks to wrap up the week and they are dedicated to switching from work-mode to weekend-mode.