19a Cursa CEC a Collserola
On a normal day, north-west of Barcelona, there are hills. Today, there was a mountain. I participated in the 19th Collserola mountain race of the Catalan hiking association.
My preparation for the race was a bit shaky and at times my participation in the race was uncertain. On Tuesday last week I tried to keep up with the pace of an ultra-marathon runner and ran too fast. Last weekend I had to settle for a short jog because I had not recovered from the Tuesday run. It was time for a week-long rest to allow my muscles to recover. On Thursday — as my muscles were recovering — I felt my throat getting sore. A flu was on the horizon. It was time for an even more serious rest. I took things easy. So did the flu. By Sunday morning the sore throat was gone and more serious flu symptoms had failed to materialize. I was up for a race.
Following the standard procedure for a race, I made sure I was adequately hydrated. Following the standard procedure for a race, I overdid the hydration. After completing the registration I headed for the restrooms and joined the long queue. I was apparently not the only one suffering from premature dehydration.
As I was leaving the restroom area I was stopped by a guy who addressed me in Catalan. I was silenced — wondering whether that guy had really asked me if the restrooms were for everything. Given my limited knowledge of Catalan I could easily have had misunderstood the question. He repeated his question. My interpretation was still the same. I did not know what I should answer. Fortunately I was saved my some other guy standing behind me who — as far as I could understand — replied that the restrooms were indeed for everything one can expect from such an establishment.
On the starting line the organizers explained how the route was marked and wished everyone a nice race — hoping that no-one got lost. According to the organizers the route was marked with red flags on the right hand side. If someone found themselves with a red flag on their left, they should turn around and run in the other direction. I got a bit worried. I am not very good at orientation and I have a tendency to confuse left and left. Eh. I mean the other left. I decided I better keep up with some other runners in order to try not to get lost.
The race got underway and I ran up the steep hills of Barcelona — heading for the Collserola mountain range. As this was my first mountain race I did not know how to set myself a target for the coming 16k. Officially I declared that I planned to finish before the official timing ended — which would be four hours after the start. Since that goal was a bit too realistic I set my self a personal goal of finishing the race in two hours. Two sounded like a nice number.
A few hundred meters up the hill I found myself in the second queue of the day. The route passed through narrow steps which formed a bottleneck. I waited patiently until it was my turn to climb the steps. With the steps behind me I could pick up the pace again and head out of town. Pretty soon I arrived at the Collserola natural park. The route through the park alternated between gravel roads and narrow footpaths. Every now and then the footpaths were too narrow for overtaking and queues formed below a steep stretch. I did not mind that very much. It gave me an opportunity to catch my breath after the uphill running.
The route had its ups and downs. For me, both were a challenge. The ups were a challenge for the muscles and the downs were a challenge for the mind. I was not brave (read foolish) enough to let myself go on the downhill bits. In particular, on the narrow footpaths. I decided thus to forget all ideas about finishing within two hours and turn this into a nice little jog in the park. I decided to relax and enjoy the view and the nature around me. As the race progressed I also allowed myself to walk up the steepest hills. Toward the end I even allowed myself to walk up the no-exactly-the-steepest hills. I was in no hurry.
After running for an hour and three quarters or so I was back in town. The Collerola mountain range was behind me and nothing left to do but allow gravity to do its magic and drag me downhill toward the finish. I passed the finish line an hour and 59 minutes after I passed the starting line — pretty happy with the race.