Every race is a learning experience and an exam at the same time. You get to see how your mind and body react to the distance, speed, and elevation. You get to see how your quads feel in the first 30km and how they feel after km 40.
You learn how your stomach handles food and how it handles gels. You get to hear your mind speaking, your body feeling alive. And you learn how a different pace, different weather, or an unexpected detail in the competition can turn things around completely.
Plus, you get to live a totally different experience as you adjust all these variables.
For me, doing Vall del Congost 43km race with more than 3000 positive elevation gain was an opportunity to test myself:
– Can I run this distance and elevation so early in the season, after my 5 month break last year?
– Can I handle it well if it’s been almost a year since I’ve run this distance (EcoMarathon 2017, and that was actually shorter and less elevation)
– On a scale from 0 to 10, how crazy am I for signing up for my first 50K in May, at Transylvania 50?
but also, a very interesting question/lesson was:
– Can I run it without being competitive, take it just as a training and not sacrifice my legs and liver on the rocky hills of Aiguafreda?
So that was the plan: run slowly, as a test, and enjoy the race and the lessons.
My friends who suggested this race also took me to two trainings, first doing the first half and then the second half of the route. I realized I had totally underestimated it and after the training I understood why everyone says about Vall del Congost that it’s one of the toughest races in Catalunya.
I should have realized that before, because it’s a competition that used to be part of the international circuit and now it’s the only race in Catalunya that offers points for the World Trail Running Championships. So you can imagine it’s a very attractive event for pro runners.
Aiguafreda, where the race starts, is a one hour drive away from Barcelona, so I had to wake up at 4.30 am on Sunday morning, to make it in time for the 7am start.
At the start line I met some of my training friends – some of them running, and others who were there to cheer for us and take photos. Also, I saw some of the top runners in Catalunya there, probably for the beauty of this race, the relatively big prize money and of course, the points.
What I loved about Vall del Congost race
– Refreshment points every 5 km. I didn’t have to carry a vest, I had a belt with a soft flask inside, two Raw Bite bars that I didn’t even eat, and two gels. You can go light.
– All the points were signaled in advance and after: “100m to Refreshment point number X” and “End of the refreshment zone” (with a nice garbage bag to throw the orange and banana pills and whatever else we had taken).
– A big plus point, compared to most races I’ve been to, is that they don’t require a compulsory list of equipment. You decide for yourself what you’re going to take with you during the race, at your own risk.
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