Running Projects

I’ve been fascinated by the idea of running to places from my front door. I’ve been doing it too and the longer the better. Now in Alforja, I live in 480m of altitude at the intersection of two mountain ranges, so I have endless places to go to. I’ve been planning to run from home to a friends house in L’Ametlla del Mar. I knew parts of the way from running in these mountains before, but had to figure out perhaps 60% of the route. I patched it together by scanning routes in WikiLoc and my experience. The original idea was to run the last part with my friend, so that he could guide the final kms near his house. In the end he didn’t feel like it, so I was on my own. I already planned to do only part of the route and play it safe and stop before the final 28km or so. That idea sounded pretty lame, so just a day before the run I thought I should just push all the way and do the planned 65km or so. I put it the unknown parts of the route together in my Suunto Spartan Ultra and had a bunch of separate routes loaded, which should help me navigate all the way.

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All ready, clean and optimistic

I still had a bail-out point in the last village before the final 23km stretch that has no roads or villages. I told Katri that I will try to go all the way, but to watch her phone in case I need a ride out. I also told my friend I’ll be trying to do the whole thing.

So I set out in the morning just after 10 AM. It was pretty foggy and even misty, but a beautiful quiet morning to go running. I enjoyed the first 40 mins climb up to the Hermita de Puigcerver where I was planning to have my second breakfast, hobbit style. I had another coffee and half bocadillo con queso. From here I continued at a quiet pace through the foggy high parts of our mountain. It was all very pleasant and interesting with all the fog. After all the coffees and drinking, I had to pee all the time. I had to stop 6 times before the first 9 kms. It was crazy.

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Early fog

I had a tiny mishap in a new part of the mountain, just past the point where the Rally de Catalunya ends, going up to another pretty steep ridge. The trail was pretty non-existent in the side of the rocky mountain and I got lost a tiny bit. I had to track back up the mountain to find the trail, but the Suunto did a great job getting me back on the map. Running by the ridge was great, there were straight drop-offs of 200 meters and it was all very dramatic with the clouds, wind, misty rain. It felt like high mountains, although it was not. I was well prepared with clothes and gear, but didn’t have to put anything extra on, other than using my Buff as a hat.

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These scene was amazing.. the best part of the fog cloud had passed by the time I found my phone

I kept up a nice, consistent pace with no stops almost all the way to Colldejou, where I stopped to grab a Nutella sandwich from my backpack and walking a bit while eating it. In Colldejou, km 22 or so, I filled my water bottles and stopped down for a couple of minutes to activate the next part of the route in my watch. I had some trouble with the route, because after switching it, it was just showing the same route I had just done. I thought there was something wrong with the Suunto, so I tried stopping the run, re-starting and trying again. Still the same route. After some messing around, I realized I had screwed up myself and loaded the same route twice. I now had to run the next 10km blind. Crap. The only way from Colldejou to Pratdip I knew for sure was a dirt road. The best plan of action I had was to follow that. I texted my wife and friend with a status update, telling them that everything was looking good and I was moving on. Just before arriving at the dirt road, I came across a trail sign by chance and was happy to see it was pointing to Pratdip, where I was going. Ok, change of plans, I will take the trail and hope it’s well marked. It was and pretty soon I came across parts that I had ran before and I knew pretty well where I was. The trail was beautiful, running through the forest and it was pretty easy with just some moderate climbing. I soon arrived in Pratdip where for the first time I thought I can now feel the run in my legs, after km 32 or so. I had high confidence I can make it all the way, so  it was time for a brief stop to refuel and then move on.

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This flag has the best views

In 7km or so, I arrived in Masboquera, the final bail-out point, after which the trail would just be high ridges, no villages or accessible roads. All was good, so I ate my last Nutella sandwich, texted Katri and friend again that I will go for the final stretch, 23kms or so, ETA in 3-4 hours and that I would be following the GR-192. Things were actually feeling pretty good and I was happy and pushing a little bit in the next big climb to the ridge. It was great going up with the running poles, trying to jog along strong, but not redlining it. At the top, it was pretty technical for a bit, but then opened up on some dirt roads, which were great as I could feel I’m making nice headway and the next kilometers flew by.

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I could now see the sea and the sun was out, as was the wind and I was just about to find out about that

I was pretty high again and closing in on the sea side of the mountains. This was great because I could see beautiful views, with the afternoon sun shining over the sea. The downside was also that I was now very exposed to the wind, which the peaks funneled into these crazy wind tunnels that made running on the technical rocks very hard. I was leaning to the wind and running at an angle, but every now and then the wind suddenly stopped when I turned a corner and it was hard. Fighting the wind and balancing every second was also a very good full body exercise and probably burned a lot of energy. The final part of the ridge was the hardest, the trail disappeared completely and it was just rocks, bush and wind. I kept following the line my Suunto was showing me and made my way down the mountain. I was soon in a canyon and protected from the wind, which was a big relief.

Coming down the mountain was very hard, but it also allowed my system to rest a bit. When I got to the canyon, I was actually feeling great. All of the pain and stiffness that I had felt earlier was gone and I was flying. This was the runner’s high, the feeling that only happens in long efforts and that you’ll want to cherish and make it last. I could have gone very fast, but pulled it in a little bit and kept drinking etc, knowing that there would still be a few more km’s to go. Pretty soon I hit a dirt road and I knew the rest of the way would just be like that with a brief stretch of asphalt. The final part was a bit confusing, it was now dark and I was running with my headlamp and had to navigate through some olive tree groves to find the way that would lead me to the urbanizacion where my friend lived. Again, the Suunto did a good job and I found my way with no issues. The final challenge was to find the exact house of my friend from his giant complex of houses. I needed to resort to the map on my iPhone and when I put in the address, I was pretty happy to see I was just around the corner and actually just looking to my left, I could see the party lights on in his garden. Yay.

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A bit more dirty and bruised than in the morning, but otherwise quite ok

My route was a bit shorter than the expected 65kms. I was able to navigate the route very efficiently (thanks Suunto) and some of the paths were shorter than what the GPS tracks showed. The total stats were 58km and 2,800m+ and it took me 7h 50 min. I did the run with my new Topo Athletic Terraventure shoes, which was half a size too big, but otherwise they performed very well.

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Beer & cooking calcots

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Bon Profit!

Katri and my friends were already waiting and finishing their cooking. They expected me to be shattered when I arrived, but I was feeling pretty all right, but very dirty. After a nice hot shower, it was great to be with good friends, with a beer in my hand and good food waiting in the table. It was a really beautiful journey with a great ending.

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