TRAIL RUNNING SPAIN: ULTRA TRAIL MALLORCA SERRA TRAMUNTANA. Race report by Casey Morgan. (2nd overall)
Trail running in Spain this 2014 keeps on getting larger and better organized, as proved by this Ultra Majorca Serra Tramuntana 4th edition. Our mate Casey Morgan, from Scotland shares here his race report after achieving the 2nd position overall. Well done, Casey!
Ultra Majorca Serra Tramuntana. Race report by Casey Morgan.
The Ultratrail Serra de Tramuntana represented an opportunity for me to right a wrong from 2013. Last year, 62km into the race and in 2nd position, I was forced to drop out when I fractured my ankle so this time around I had a point to prove.
My build up to the race had been very good, I ran Transgrancanaria in March, took a week off to recover then had a really good 6 weeks of training including the K42 Mallorca 4 weeks from race day where I finished 4th, a good indicator that come race day my form would be good..
I arrived on the island on Wednesday morning to give me enough time for a couple of easy training runs in the mountains and plenty of time for rest ahead of the start at midnight on Friday. I’m very fortunate to have a lot of good friends on Mallorca so accommodation and travel around the island is very easy which takes away any stress before the race. I’m hugely grateful for all the help I received.
One of my friends, Adria, was supposed to race but unfortunately he fractured his 5th metatarsal in training so was unable to compete but rather than miss out altogether he kindly offered to be my support crew along with his army colleague Ayoze. and so, on Friday night around 11pm, I gave them enough gels to feed their entire battalion and some last minute instructons then it was off to the start line.
The last 15 minutes before a Spanish ultra are always great: The banging music, the crowds, the nerves, the fear and the realisation that you’re still going to be running come tomorrow lunchtime! Then before you know it, Bang! We’re off into the night with 112km and 4500m+ ahead of us between Andratx and Pollenca.
The first few kms are on road and I had decided to run this section at a good pace so that by the time we hit the narrow paths of the mountain i wouldn’t have to deal with any congestion. Fairly quickly we were down to around 6 or 7 runners in the lead pack so I just realxed into the pace until we hit the first climb to S’Esclop then before I knew it we were down to just 2 of us at the front, myself and Pawel Dybek from the Salomon Poland team. We climbed together for the first half of the climb but we were going a little too fast for my liking so early in a race of this length so I backed off a little and Pawel opened a gap.
At the top of the climb the views were stunning, an almost full moon with a clear sky and views out over the sea. Everything was feeling great at this stage, I was eating and drinking well and keeping Pawel in sight. By the time we reached the first checkpoint at 20km in Estellencs I had caught him again but as I stopped to refill my bottles and collect gels from the dynamic duo of Adria and Ayoze, Pawel pushed on and opened a gap again. I wasn’t overly concerned at this stage because i came with the intention of running easily all night then pushing hard on the climbout of Soller at 65km.
The night passed largely without incident, I lost a bit of time on the descent into Delá at 54km because the underfoot conditions were prime ankle breaking terrain so I just took my time to avoid injury. As the sun came up I made a mistake on my approach into Soller, I must’ve lost concentration and missed the course markings. Before I realised my error I’d dropped down the wrong descent and was heading away from Soller rather than towards it.
I eventually managed to find the main road into town and ran a little faster than I probably should have to try to make up for my mistake. Just before the checkpoint I met my friends Angie Rigo and her partner Xavi, it’s always a real boost to see your friends along the way and even more so after a tough section. When I arrived at the feed station the guys told me I was 12 minutes behind. So with the night behind me and a big climb ahead of me I set off with the intention of closing the gap.
The climb out of Soller is stunning, 6km up the Barranc de Biniaraix, a series of cobbled switchbacks and terraces clinging to the side of the mountain with beautiful pools of water and small waterfalls tumbling down from the peaks. it almost makes you forget how much pain you are in, Almost! I tried to run as much of the climb as I could but had to take occasional walking breaks to recover but overall I was happy with the climb. At around 900m altitude the path drops for maybe 100m then there’s a flat run beside a lake for around 5km to the next checkpoint at Cuber at 73km. I felt really good along this section and by the time I reached the checkpoint the gap was down from 12 minutes to 4 minutes, the race was on!
Leaving Cuber there was a little more flat running before the climb to Massanella, the highest point of the race at just over 1200m. I ran this section pretty hard to try to narrow the gap even more before we hit the descent to the final checkpoint at Lluc at 90km. I was really beginning to suffer at this point but enjoying the chase.
On the descent in Lluc I was taking a lot of risks but when a spectator told me the gap was down to 1 minute, I knew my efforts were paying off until around the 86km mark disaster struck. I took one risk too many and rolled my ankle really badly, I thought that my race was over, anyone within a 5km radius would’ve heard some colorful language! I hobbled for a couple of minutes and began to walk to try to get it moving again.
Fortunately, it wasn’t as bad as I initially feared but it reduced me to a pathetic pace for the rest of the descent and effectively finished the race as a contest. After Lluc there were around another 7 or 8 km of descending which lost me more time until the final 12 or so kms on the flat into the finish in Pollenca. Once i hit the flat I was moving really well again but the race was over and it was just a matter of maintaining my position to the finish. I met my friend, the ever smiling Pau, on the run in to Pollenca, she informed me I had 6km left when I thought I only had 3km to go, I could’ve cried!
By this stage I just wanted it to be over so I ran the last 5km as hard as I possibly could, aided by a police escort for the final 3km I managed a closing 5km of just under 20 minutes so I was really pleased to have good legs after 12 hours, it gives me confidence for the future.
The finish line was, as always, a very welcome sight. Right in the middle of a beautiful square in Pollenca town. 2nd position was a big improvement on last year and I’m taking a lot of positives from the race. I was welcomed on the line by Belén, Pau, Adria, Ayoze, Angie, Xavi and El Gran Borja! I spent the rest of the day in the square enjoying the atmosphere and waiting on the other finishers, most notably Juan “feet of an angel” Canovas and Antonio “The Costa Rica Chef” Artabe who was running his first Ultra, I’m sure it wont be his last.
A huge thanks to Toni Contesti, Dani Salas, Esther Vidal, Elena Perez and the whole team from UTST for a great race. You guys are awesome.
Finally back home in Scotland I’m pretty sure that I’m a better athlete for the experience. In fact in Ultratrail I think experience is everything. Experience teaches you how to pace your body for 12 hours or more. It teaches you how to fuel your body to keep you at the top of your game. It teaches you that no matter how bad you feel at any given moment in a race, if you just keep pushing on, things will get better. And last but not least, experience teaches you that no matter how much you promise yourself that you’ll never put your body through such torture again, you’re a liar! Until the next time……..
FURTHER INFO ABOUT TRAIL RUNNING IN SPAIN.
- The leading trail running website in Spain, since 2007: Carrerasdemontana.com
- Key trail races & trail runners in Spain 2013
- Key trail races & trail runners in Spain 2014