Sunday, 18 November 2012

Puig Campana


Puig Campana viewed from Benidorm, 17th floor of a tower block!
Last weekend I completed my third and final vertical km of the year and so ending my Arc'teryx sponsored adventures for 2012. This time the destination was Spain - Benidorm to be precise. A town not best known for its outdoor pursuits in the traditional sense. While the ugly tower blocks rise over the beach, Puig Campana is a 1400m summit that overshadows them all. It's an interesting mountain with a distinctive square 'window' missing from its side profile. The south facing side is steep and enjoyed by climbers, while other paths take a more gradual route to the summit. It was up this south side that the race went.

We started in the small town of Finestrat in groups of 10 and jogged our way up to the real race start at a sociable pace. We were then set off at 30 second intervals up the 3.6km course.These timed starts have their advantages. The paths are usually very narrow and just not suited to a mass start race. Also, I find it easier to set my own pace in these things. Unlike a cross country race where you might chance it early on and run a bit harder to get a good position, vertical kms seem to be best approached with caution. After a few hundred metres of climb, just keeping going is quite an effort.

The race start
So with that in mind, I set off up the rocky path. The weather was good but rain was forecast so a jacket was compulsory (kit geeks: I had my Arc'teryx celeris jacket rolled up around my waist - 110g!). The first section was distinctly runnable - although my perceptions of steep have changed since Le Fully. I felt comfortable and good, only switching to a power walk at around 450m because it involved more getting over bigger boulders.I kept walking/running when possible for another few 100m of climb. Usually I get severe feelings of wanting to give up around 600m so I was surprised to see the 700m mark appear without too many problems. Maybe it was the concentration required to find the right line over the rocks that distracted me. The final 150m of 'the corridor' that we were climbing up became more like scree and I really struggled to keep my footing. It was frustrating to put effort into going up, only to lose a bit sliding back down. My shoe choice was not optimal (Flites not Xtalons) but I had what I had so it was just about getting on with it.

I was rewarded with a flattish section to finish. I popped out onto the top plateau and followed a rocky trail up the last 120m of climb (the course a little over 1000m of vertical climb.The views were fantastic, even Benidorm looked strangely good from above. I didnt hang around too long as the weather was setting in and I set off on the gentle 8km descent making new friends with my competitors.

The rocky section and the scree
I ended up 4th, a pleasing performance. I was too far away from the other girls ahead to be able to say 'I could have...' although I do think the fact I found it all much easier than the last two races means that there is room to risk it a bit more. I was also 5th in the overall skyrunning vertical km skyrace series. A result that possibly sounds better than it is. Although I actually only have two counting scores out of a possible three, there are few who have the full house and the best girls have not focussed their attention on this series. Still, I'm happy with my improvements and my performance this time, so I can't ask for much more.

As these foreign adventures come to a close for the year, I realise I have a lot of people to thank. Firstly Arc'teryx for making this all possible (and Jenny Johnson).  Secondly, the Skyrunning federation for their help sorting the races out. Thirdly, all the race organisers and other competitors who have been so welcoming, generous and friendly. I've really enjoyed my first year in the mountain running community and hope to continue.

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