Stage 1 : Loja to Alhama de Granada, 39km
For the first 3 days we all started at the same time (9 am on day 2 and 3) and for day 4 and 5 there was an earlier start group at 8.30 and the remaining faster runners at 9.
A group photo on the line before the big countdown and we were off... following 2 Police motorbikes... not sure how fast they were expecting us to set off but we kept up. My main plan was just to ignore the pace of other runners and just do my own thing.... there were 5 days of running after all, it didn't make any sense to me to be battling over a minute or two here and there and I just went on enjoying the route. The first 11km is a steady climb before CP 1 and myself, Sonia and Franck moved on ahead of the pack, by now the only clouds we saw all week had cleared and it was HOT!
|10km day 1 looking back at Sonia and Franck|
There was a long steady track downhill after the cp and I moved on ahead, Sonia caught up at a gate that was tied shut and we ran together to the next CP enjoying a chat and passing through the early miles at a good pace. After the cp Sonia edged ahead and we continued on following the markings and weaving along the tracks. The scenery was fantastic and before I had finished gazing around the mountains in view I was running into CP 3. I grabbed a bit more water here and had a quick chat before running on, I was a bit too quick to get a cold towel but was feeling fine at a steady pace, just starting to get hot. Next was a gradual descent and suddenly we turned to approach the town and the final km into the finish of day 1 where a refreshment table, bar and pool awaited.
|Paul had a good vantage point for day 1 finish|
Typically at the finish this was my routine....
Finish: I'd get a cold towel and start replacing fluids for the first approx 30 mins
+ 30 mins a recovery shake
+35 mins a shower/ bath/ swim
+ 45 mins Continuing to drink and eat juicy stuff like watermelon and bananas still using elete electrolyte too. + 90 mins Continuing to drink I'd have a dehydrated meal + chill out in the shade for a bit.
+150 mins A recovery protein bar and some salty crisps
+180 mins By now hydrated drinking as usual and would continue to eat as I felt hungry.
The thing about stage racing is that the faster runners (quite possibly are better trained and recover quick) are finished sooner giving them more recovery time than someone who has been out for longer and perhaps isn't as conditioned to the distances. I think it's phenomenal achievement no matter how you finish such a race...
In 2010 The Gobi Challenge was my first race (similar 140 miles in 6 days except across a desert and carrying all gear) I didn't have the fitness to run it all (not even close) but that wasn't my intention, I wanted a once in a lifetime adventure/ challenge which at the time it was! With the right mindset I could complete it, just by keeping going. I had less recovery time than the ones at the front and carried more stuff, spent longer in the heat and did get achy legs and tired feet, but I made it to the end! AAUT is a tough event and might seem light-years away to some aspiring runners right now, I think that depends how you want to do it, how much you want it and what kind of experience you'd like to get. Definitely there is no need to be elite level and run every step, but if you're planning to hike it and do bits of running now and then (like I did in Gobi Challenge) be prepared for the longer days out on the trail.
Each evening there was a briefing for the following stage giving a detailed overview of where the cps would be and how many mountains there would be etc and dinner provided along with prize giving for the stage winners (which turned out to be myself and Sonia each day)
The tents had been set up in a large sports hall for the night, very warm. Easy peasy, ready for .....