Path race 4:50:19  42.35 km (6:51 / km) +2874m 5:07 / km
Zegama Sky Marathon
In one sentance the longest, highest, toughest, wettest, most competitave, funnest and most satisfying race I have run. Oh and a my first marathon and a new PB of 4h50min20sec. Hopefully there is room for improvement on that PB.
Had been feeling a wee bit over worked leading up to the race to ended up taking it real easy in the days leading up. Short runs and plenty of stretching. Flight over the day before was not ideal but got away with it and even had time for an easy 25 min run the evening before. The weather turned rubbish and it was peeing it down from for the whole weekend which again was a shame but in hindsight probably ideal for me.
Blocked sinuses had cleared over night and legs felt fresh on the morning of the race so all systems were go. Two rice puddings, some crusty bugget and a banana saw me through to the start.
Arrived at the start with the whole village buzzing, plenty of banter and high fives flying round the 450 runners and couple of thousand spectators!?
Some statistics: 42.2km, 2,736m climb, 14 checkpoints, 13 refreshment points, 4 main peaks, 1 "brutal" race.
As the race was so well supported the only compulsory kit was a wind proof cag. Tucked my 70g beast into my craft running belt with a 220m water bottle and some haribo. Game on! Race tactics, well I didnt really have any, the only bit of advise that stuck in my head was Tom shouting "the race only starts after the first 20k".
On the bang of the gun we were off with a lap of the square. The start turned out to be the fastest part of the race. 400m round, back through the start and we were off along a wee trod straight up the hill. No messing about.
After climbing for about 30 min the course leveled off and I was able to ease off a wee bit after a some what ambitious start. Really enjoyed the steady running at this point with the americans cruising along muddy tracks in my mudclaws (I was going to run in a pair of NF single tracks, but due to the wet conditions I settled for my good old faithfuls).
Through the first checkpoint (7 km), still feeling good and still glimpsing the leaders every now and again (maybe not so good). "Animo, animo" were the chants I recieved from the spectators. In my head I heard this as animal, animal which really helped the motivation on the big climbs.
The next 7 km are now a bit off a blur as I went into auto pilot and the running, althoug mostly uphill, was quite gently and enjoyable.
Then we hit the steaper and more technical section, amazing forest with wild rock features jutting out the rolling landscape. However, my pace dropped a little at this point and few of the faster guys ran past (a couple ended up finishing top ten, so again maybe a bit too ambitious with my pace at the start).
The climbing now got steeper and steeper and I had to resort to power walking for the first time. The other guys however were far better power walkers than me so again I slipped down a few places. Hit the top of the first hill in 1h47. The descent that followed was one of the most fun descents ive done. A proper rollercoaster of mixed terrain types, over ruins, through caves, down mountain bike tracks, rocks, grass, scree, all there. Flying down I regained a few places and thought that that was my bad patch over and then I hit the big climb up Aitxuri (1551m, highest top). Looked at my gps, 20km in, so this is where the race starts. Arse!
The next 2 km up to the top seemed the longest, and quite possibly where my longest 2 km ever. The weather turned to snow and the wind proof cag had to come out. As I broke through the tree line you could hear the party going on at the summit, which still to an age to get to and I have to admit that the though of pulling out did crop up when I started seeing black and white. These thoughts however did not last very long as rounding the rocks at the top I hit a wall of noise, "scozia, animo, chepelin, ali, ali, ali" buzzing buzzing buzzing. 2h40 in and pretty much half way. High fives, right left and centre. People handing me water bottles, pushing me up the hill. This is where my race started. Have never experienced a crowed support like it. Couldn't belive how many people had made it up the hill in these conditions. High five!
The next km was a rocky cruise to the next peak (the true summit) where I equally got a great reception from Chris with his scottish flag, 2h52. After an exchange of some rare banter it was time to descend. Oh yeh, today my legs were loving the down hills. Either that or I didn't have any energy to break so just had to let myself go. Flying and making places. Hit the bottom of the big descent at the 24km mark. At this point, probably no thanks to the speedy descent, my legs started to cramp all over, I knew I just had to run through the pain and just kept on digging. At the next food stop at 27km I made sure to get plenty of electrolyte which seemed to help the cramps and the race continued. Between 24 and 29 km the landscape had changed again, very alpine, running over farm meadows, in between limestone rock features, gentle ups and downs. Much fun. Through the checkpoint at 29km and the final big climb of the day. This again had to be powerwalked but with the knowledge that the rest was mostly going to be downhill the climb seemed now too bad. Had some much memorable banter with a spaniard with 200m to go who ran alongside with an umbrella over my head telling me I was an "animal" and it was "only 200m to go". Hit the final peak in 3h50 and then game the muddy descent. I was loving it, the locals were not so again the places I lost between 25 and 30k I once again regained in the last 10 and the cruise back was once again very plesant running. Although I did have to grab an energy drink at each fual stop to make sure that I would get back in one piece. Hit the first bit of road with 2 km to go and the village appeared out the trees down below. The noice grew closer and once again the crowds got denser. Hit the village streets to a sea of spectators, tunes and kids giving me the high five. Round the last couple of bends on the cobbled streets and done! 4h50min20sec and achieved one of my goals which was to beat back the first lady. Tom had a flier to finish in 3rd 4h06 behind an unbeatable Killin 3h56. The Americans suffered with the conditions to finish round about the 4h30 mark. First lady in 4h52. Would I do it again? hell yeh, even if the weather is this bad. Was I ready? with the two months of training specifically for this race I think I was as ready as I could have been. But I think it takes a bit more mountain marathon racing experience to be able to race this sort of race. Would I run it differently? Aye, maybe a tad slower up the first climb, next time?? or I work harder on my long distance endurance. Did I survive? Yes, still running, niggle free :)