BARCELONA TRAIL RACES 2018
After my unfortunate DNF at the Ultra-Trail Du Mont Blanc, I did not take me long to realize that I want to come back and try again. However, in order to qualify for the 2019 edition, I had to collect another 4 ITRA points. ITRA is the international trail running association and determines the level of difficulty of each race. The main criteria are distance, vertical incline, environment as well as cut-off time. The scale reaches from 6 being the most difficult to 1 being “easy”. UTMB qualification criteria requires each runner to collect 15 ITRA points out of three races within two years prior to the year you are running around Mont Blanc. In my case, I had completed the Marathon Des Sables (6 points) and Eiger Ultra-Trail (5 points) in 2017, which is equal to 11 points. Thus, I was missing 4 points to be eligible to run UTMB.
So, in line with the words and wisdom of Roy T. Bennet to not fear failure, rather fear not trying, I knew what I wanted to do. Not long after I had come back from Chamonix, I was looking for a qualifying race in Europe to gain my missing points. I decided to run the Gran Trail Collserola (“GTC”), which is part of the Barcelona Trail Races, in Barcelona on November 24th. The GTC is a 76 kilometre-long race with a total of 2600 vertical meters through the Parc Natural de Collserola in the backyard of Barcelona.
After a long week at work, I arrived late on Friday night. Instead of picking up my number that night, I decided to collect my number on Saturday before the race. We got up early and made our way to the Velodom D’Horta, which was the location of start and finish. The race started at 7:00. While it was dark at the beginning, the sun slowly started to rise at the horizon, lighting up the trail and warming up the air.
Since I did not train during September, I had around six weeks prior to prepare. It was a good training block. I had run the Salomon Trails 4 Germany as well as the Frankfurt Marathon, and I felt good and excited. I had no expectation, but to finish the course. In the end, it took me 10:39:23 hours to complete the GTC.
Overall, I had great fun running. I was able to sustain a constant pace and did not face many mental obstacles or pain points that I had to fight. The course was incredible and included a variation of nice technical elements, up- and downhill passages, as well as breathtaking views across the valley and Barcelona.
As I had mentioned, I did not enter the race with any time in mind, instead I solely wanted to enjoy my time on the trail. With that being said, of course I would look at my watch every now and then. At times, I was looking to reach the finish line in around 8:30 – 9 hours, but towards the end I had to take out some speed.
After my DNF in Chamonix, which was obviously very disappointing and sad, I was very much enjoying every single minute of this course. While people speak of a runner’s high, I believe I can say that such was certainly true for me on this day. I felt at peace with myself, embracing every single step and I was overcome by incredible satisfaction when I received my finisher’s medal. With that being said, I had slipped pretty badly and crashed on a rock, I struck a rose bush and I rolled my ankle twice quite heavily. So, while I felt I was running above the clouds, reality had brought me back a few times during the course. All of which also reminded how quick things can change and how conscious or mindful one has to be from start to finish. Of course, you cannot compare running to surfing, freeskiing or mountain bike downhill, however, it is a sport within nature and as much as we have to accept the trail and its vertical gain, one has to be conscious of the natural habitat and its composition.
There was no better way to celebrate my birthday, than to be spending it running in Barcelona. And, by completing the course, I was able to give the best birthday gift to myself. Ultra-Trail Du Mont Blanc 2019, see you next year.