TRAIL RUNNING SPAIN: K42 MALLORCA RACE REPORT BY TRACY DEAN, 2nd woman overall (RAIDLIGHT – MOUNTAIN FUEL)
The mountains of Spain host over a thousand trail running events per year, from the Pyrenees to Lanzarote. The Balearic Islands are among those territories blessed with a superb combination of well know beaches and vertical mountain trails to enjoy, climbing up to over 1.400m high at the Serra Tramuntana.
This 2017 the island of Majorca welcomed the 5th edition of the k42 Mallorca, a memeber of the K42 Adventure Marathon Series that every year offers a unique combination of “Mar y Montaña”. This year, there were two britons among the favorites at the start of the marathon, ready to take on the 43k/D+3.300m of tought vertical climbs and challenging descents. Casey Morgan suffered an injury, while Tracy Dean was able to endure and cross the finish line on 2nd place for the ladies. et us follow the race through her eyes here, right ffrom the video of the start.
K42 MALLORCA 2017: RACE REPORT BY TRACY DEAN (2nd woman overall)
When the opportunity to race in Spain presented itself I took no time in deciding to embark on not only my first ultra trail race of the year but also my first race in Spain. I had visited Mallorca some 16 years ago on a family holiday. It would be hard to convince me that the mountains in the municipality of Calvia are not the truer nature of the Island than Magaluf on a Friday night.
The race itself visits two major mountains in the Country Estate of Galatzo region, Galatzo and Esclop. Whilst I had no time to check out these hills before the race I’d gathered enough information to understand that the terrain was going to be challenging and I wasn’t disappointed.
The race start is 9am at the finac Publica d’es Galatzo. There were a group of seven of us that had spend a few days together and were running in the K42 and K21 events. Jordi Jordi Gamito Baus who went on to win, Alejandro Fraguela Breijo who finished 2nd, Carsten Drilling (14th ), Casey Morgn (Retired), Michaelle Juliane Maier who won the ladies K21 and our capable host, Sergio Garasa Mayayo who had a great K21 run and completed in 3:05:59 mins.
By the time we arrived at 8.30 it was already threatening a warm sunny day. I was in the stellar company and we were all excited and eager to get these race underway. The nearest to a reconnaissance run I did was a pre race warm up with Jordi, were we ran from the start for 20 mins and returned.
Unlike a lot of mountain races this one starts with a nice flat 3k before you start the first of the gruelling climbs.
With my knowledge of the flatter start I placed myself mid pack so as to not go tearing off only to pay for it later with too much fatigue. The count down over the loud speakers was booming and we were off, along the race profile shown below, both for my marathon race and the half marathon.
Initally, I stayed at a reserved pace which soon became frustrating as the need to overtake, increase the speed a little and get in some space overwhelmed me. I was worried about getting stuck I a bottle neck once the climb started as so often is the case at the beginning of mountain races. Needless to say it didn’t happen, but I can’t deny that it was a slower pace than I’d have liked as I struggled to get passed anyone. That said, it may have helped me later in the race when my legs continued to feel strong as those around me started to fatigue.
The climb up to Galatzo starts with a wide path soon narrowing to a rough trod which has plenty of foliage to negotiate. Not to bad on the way up however later on when you return over this ground to the finish it’s a challenge to negotiate with the twists and turns at the faster downhill speed. The real work starts as you get closer to the summit. I’m pleased I didn’t use poles for this race, there is no place for poles when there is no surface but rocks and boulders that you are scrambling up and looking for hand and foot holds to haul yourself up. I’m not talking for a sweet 10 mins either, it was relentless and it was long. In the UK think gnarly peaks such as Scafell (Broad stand) or using hands on Crib Goch (albeit not on an exposed ridge)
As I approached the sumitt of Galatzo I gasping for breath, I realised how out of shape I was. I’ve not been near a mountain really since August 2016 and whilst I’ve stayed fit I’m not ‘Hill fit’. It was going to take all I had to finish this race and even harder to do it in a reasonable time. Then came the first female looking calm and confident on her way down the hill! She was a good estimated 20 minutes ahead of me. It gave me focus and I pushed on.
The descents became the focus for me throughout this race as I knew i was losing time on the climbs. So the first descent, I simply let it all go, I ran hard, driving my feet into the packed ground negotiating rocks nimbly and occasionally, wanting it to last forever. Having witnessed Jordi flying down as I was clambering up I made the metal note that that is what needs to be done to stay in contention here .
There were a couple of surreal moments that I stopped to simply take in the panoramic view that was breath taking. The vastness of the sea, was placed into perspective by the coast line and green of the forrest trees, all coated in the warm sunlight. And, I was stood on top of the world with my jaw dropped I again found myself clinging onto that moment never wanting to let it go.
Compared to other races in Europe for example in the Pyrenees and Mount blanc regions, whilst truly difficult with hard and long climbs and not for the faint hearted, I found the terrain on the K42 Mallorca more demanding under foot. You can’t get complacent and you can’t take your eyes off the ground if you want to stay upright and keep your ankles intact during this race.
It was somewhere after the second climb i was informed by a random race supporter (who became my reliable race reporter throughout the latter half of the race) that I was 3rd female. Third, ‘third’ I thought I was ‘second’ he must be mistaken. I applied the pressure and pushed on with doubt in my mind and determination in my heart.
The route does a figure of 8 around the two big climbs, Galatzo and Esclop. So you end up getting familiar with both mountains from the east and west. During the race you frequently pass other competitors in the opposite direction who might be in front or behind in the race. So it’s fair to say that i didn’t feel alone for any great length of time. To make it interesting further, the racers from the K21 race (which starts an hour after the K42) had joined the route and so i found myself guessing which race other folk were in and if they were race leaders, or the warriors at the back.
I was starting to feel warmed up after 3 hours and settled into a nice pace. Two songs were sung (not in full voice, but to myself), ‘Keep on moving’ by Soul II Soul and ‘Walk 500 miles’ by the Proclaimers, I think they helped! By four and half hours a little fatigue started to appear however, I pushed on the descents and tried not to embarrass myself during the climbs. The terrain however doesn’t allow for tiredness, it too was as relentless as I was being and the twists and turns, the rocks and foliage only briefly gave way to wider path and forest trail before I started the another climb.
As well as the fatigue, the weather was starting to take its toll. I was using Mountain Fuel, which is a remarkable fuelling system that not only provides you with your energy, it also takes care of your hydration. I simply wasn’t drinking enough of it. I rarely drink during runs, and find it difficult to increase the amounts to compensate for the warmer weather. As a result my feet were starting to cramp. Whilst I was not affected too much in terms of it stopping my running focus, it did consume my mental energy as I was concerned about ‘bonking’ and not lasting the race through dehydration. Worth noting is that there are no streams or rivers to fill up your drinking vessels during this race and so the frequent feed stations were welcomed.
On the descent off the last of the big climbs I over took second lady. She was going steady, however, I was determine to use other peoples inevitable tiredness to my advantage and now my legs were warmed up, I was pushing them hard and refused to take up a plod. I was racing, so I pushed on. I started to contemplate, ‘If first lady is only seven minutes away’ (as the random supporter had suggested earlier), then ‘if I give the last climb a final push and hammered the descent, I could still be in the game’.
That was the plan, however, by the time the final climb came, my legs were in disagreement. They were gone, they simply weren’t following instruction and I’d slowed down to a fast-ish hike up to the final climb. Underfoot, it was the most forgiving of terrain with a wide forest path and fewer rocks. I’d consoled myself with the intention to give it everything on the way down. Talking of coming down, there she was, second lady, confidently and looking fresh. I was doomed as I plodded and eventually worked out that she was about 15 mins ahead of me.
The run in from that last climb of Ses Planes, was great fun, at last it was time to leave all that was left in my legs on the hill side and run, fast, to the finish. I was excited, exhilarated and felt renewed having had a very healthy dose of Spanish mountain running. All things considered I was pleased with my 2nd place finish in 6:31:52.
K42 MALLORCA 2017: PHOTOGALLERY.
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