Marato Pirineu
7th October 2021

Categories: Mountain Race

When my wife informed me that she would be running Ultra Pirineu (a 100 km race in the Pyrenees), I was left with the choice of either crewing, to increase her chances of doing well…or race the marathon course. So come race day I sleepily wished her good luck and pressed snooze on the alarm clock, whilst she donned her exceptionally heavy race vest full of gels and headed to her early morning start.

I felt sorry for Henriette having to fend for herself for the full 100km with 6000m of climb but then the 42km with 2300m of ascent course looked like too much fun to miss. We would start with almost 1800m of near continuous climb before undulating and descending our way back down to Bagà along some really nice and varied trails.

Having spent the two weeks since the Spartan European Championships at 1800m in Font Romeu I was feeling the most acclimatised I have ever been for any race. Usually long climbs don’t suit me but this one was really runnable with the majority of the climb around the 10% grade mark.

So I was looking forward to the race and felt strong enough as we started the long but gradual first half of the climb. Halfway up I was building a lead but then had a little panic when Ben Kimtai Chematot from Kenya suddenly materialised behind me. I considered letting him go and tried to make room but he seemed content to trot along on my heels. Some steep kickers towards the top saw us both hiking which allowed me to pull out a little lead again.

This scare made me extra focused for the following downhill which I figured was a big test as to if Ben could really push me to the end. I hammered down maybe a little too fast and got a big shock on the series of small climbs that followed. Suddenly my legs were completely empty, it was as if they had been sucked dry. I reached for my gel bottle thinking “it’s nothing a little Mountain Fuel can’t fix” and found I had already gulped far too much leaving barely enough to get me through the second half.

“Oh shit” ran through my mind a few times before I calmed down and figured that this one was just going to be a bit more painful a bit earlier than some other races. Thankfully the course did lose more height than it gained from here on out and I put my head down to grind away.

With no time gap information at all I was looking over my shoulder all the way to the end but had thankfully had done enough to stay out front with a good margin.

With my job done I started the nail biting and data sucking routine of continually refreshing the live tracking for Henriette’s race. I did try to get out to a checkpoint but missed her by only a minute. It was an exciting race and Henriette seemed to be catching third place Ragna Debats on the last climb before she ran out of course, eventually finishing happily some 8 minutes behind in fourth.

So a successful weekend all-round we would fly on to the UK for some well overdue relaxation and family time.

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