85KM 3 STAGES 3350M ELEVATION - COSTA BRAVA STAGE RACE
After the success of our 6 day stage run in Corsica last October, I ventured into the unknown again last week and headed off to the glorious Costa Brava, approx 2 hours north of Barcelona for another stage run event. There were 2 options to chose from; 85km with 2800+m elevation or 125km and 3800+m elevation. I originally signed up for the 125km but some injuries forced me to drop down to the 85km. The distance was split as follows; 23km 900+m on the Friday afternoon, 32km 1000+m Saturday morning and 30km 900+m Sunday morning.
Stage 1 - Blanes to Tossa de Mar -23km
Stage 1 took us through 2 botanical gardens and the first was within the first 2km. I started with a rain jacket but quickly took it off. It may have been raining but it wasn’t cold. I had a plan and it was to stay well within myself as I had counted 19 uphill sections for the day. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before we started to go up….. Mark, Lisa and myself were of a similar pace but Lisa wanted to temper her pace so did her own thing on day 1. Mark went ahead on the descents, I was taking no chances as I was known as a bit of a faller. There was 160 in this stage so plenty of people to tag along with if you wanted. I caught up with a guy and girl who had a great pace going so tagged along. I would eventually work it out that this was the top female (Cena) and she won the 125km. She was probably running well within herself on the stage. We ran well together and she was local so kept me informed on what was coming up….. steps, I tell you….. it was steps…… so many steps….. You always think you will make time on the descents but not here…. They were steep and wet and mucky with loose rocks, difficult terrain. However, when you managed to look up the scenery was absolutely stunning, so many coves and beaches and the views from the top were outstanding. We caught up with Mark and Cena’s friend tailed off so it was the 3 of us and we worked together up to 19km, chatted. She has completed 9 Ironman, I was impressed. The climbs took a toll on us all. However, I drifted on ahead on the last climb and was on my own to the finish. A tough climb and decent and then a lovely run through the streets of an old village before a finish at the beach. Everyone home and no injuries. Stage one complete. 2hr 35min
Stage 2: Begur - L’Escala, 32km
Our longest and hilliest day. When I checked the map, I thought I could split this into 3 sections, first hilly 10km, second flat 10km and last hilly 12km. We should make time on the flat right??? Nope, wrong again. This was a tough day from the off, started on a beach and within a few meters we were climbing 100 steps, everyone cramming to get onto them. Today was all about energy conservation. A hilly 32km hurts. Mark, who we thought was caught up behind us at the steps was ahead so didn’t see him until the end. The first climbing section was over 400+m. Tough start. We only managed 3.4km in the first hour….. this was going to be a long day. First 10km took 1hr 40mins. We chatted, marveled at the scenery and was cautious on the descents. The second 10km was along the beach, approx 7km on actual sand…. We made zero time here. It was energy sapping. 16km into the run we had to go through the sea, waist height, holding a rope to get across, about 30m, then approx 2 km running on the sand….. Blister city!! Over the last 12km there was 3 more steep climbs and descents, loads of rocks and sharp declines. We wanted to go faster but just couldn’t. Finished again on a beach and saw Mark as soon as we had finished. Stage time 4hr 49min. He crossed a few mins before us. That was a tough day. We stayed local again, this time in a campsite….. mmmhhh, apparently I was in a log cabin…. exciting….. nah, it was a shed…. And a cold one at that. Not a happy camper (joke, get it?) after that stage. Food that evening was awful. Went to bed hungry and cold.
Stage 3 Cadaques - Portbou, 30km
The final stage. Straight from the off again we went up a steep rocky climb for over 30mins. However, we covered over 6.7km in the first hour. After day 2 we felt like we were flying it. Mark, Lisa and I ran together for the day. The last day was more run-able on the flatter sections and on descents, stunning vista’s again. Today’s main issue was wind….. we had a north easily coming at us at 40km/hr with gusts of 54km/hr. At times we were barely moving on the flats, it was so funny, tiring but funny. The flats rolled well on road, boardwalk with a few steps thrown in. I really enjoyed that section. Once we reached 20km we sort of relaxed a little, only 10km to go. Had a final gel and was read to kick on. However, the organisers had another little stinger…. The last climb went on forever….and was super rocky. Once at the top we had a cracking meandering gentle trail for about 1.5km, probably the easiest section of the 3 days, then a very sharp 1 km decline with steps to the coast and the finish line. What a welcome sight it was. The 3 of us crossed together. Super finish to an amazing 3 days of running. My Garmin data read, 85km, and 3550m elevation. The wind was so strong the race hoardings were falling regularly. Everyone get home who started stage 3. Two people stopped after stage 2 due to injury. Everyone was chuffed. I would recommend this event extremely highly (apart from the campsite). The stages were challenging but totally manageable. It was never going to be a fast 85km, my time was 11hr 9 mins, it was a challenging 85km and one I loved. Check it out on www.cbsr.run I’m already on the lookout for another………. Or will I go back and take on the 125km challenge….. decisions, decisions.