Many thanks to Jesper Lidstrom for this write-up!
On the 27th of October 2018 I took part in the Mondúver Ultra race in Xeresa, in the Valencia region of Spain. I was in pursuit of some additional UTMB points before the end of the year and this fitted the bill perfectly (The ultra gives you four points). With weather hitting low 20 C and the race being scheduled during half term we combined it with a short family holiday. It didn’t take long to convince the family and to their surprise I found a trail race to do 😊. What a coincidence!
The race organisers market this as a bit of a running weekend, with kids, 10K, Marathon and Ultra distances all catered for. The Ultra is just over 64K with about 3500 meters of elevation up and down. I’ve run further in the past, but this was the first time doing this much elevation so this was a big unknown for me.
Sign-up details are available on the website (http://www.mondubertrail.com/) and handled by toprun.es. I must say the English versions of both web sites are not great, but with some help from Google translate and the wife I had signed up and paid.
Even though I was late and had missed the deadline for registration, an email to the race director hinted that they were going to re-open the registration due to a lot of last-minute demand.
This was fairly typical for a long-distance event. Mandatory equipment as follows…
- Liquid containers (1 Litre)
- Calories (500Kcal)
- Mobile phone
- Cap, visor or similar
- Trail shoes
- Thermal blanket
- Front and Back Light
- Cup (Cup-less event)
- Race bib number
- Sunscreen protection
- Long sleeve wind/rain jacket
In addition to this I borrowed some Mountain King Racing Poles and I always bring a first aid kit.
The race offers registration on the evening before the race and, of course, before race start on the day of the event. Earlier in the week I had done a quick recce and established where the race start was. I had assumed that registration was at the same place. The information email that I received later in the week pointed out that registration was in the local “village hall” with no address. We therefore decided to do the registration the evening before the race as I didn’t want to add additional stress to race day. Luckily it was only about 200 meters from race start. There is also plenty of parking around the village so scouted out a good spot for the next morning.
There was no briefing in the morning. Everything was pretty straight forward though and if you had questions the race director was present and approachable. I would say the vast majority of the runners were Spanish (no surprise), but the man on the speaker did mention that there was a Swedish national running which was a nice touch…
At 07:00 we went off and we left the bright street lights of Xeresa and headed for the mountains. I’ve never done a race in darkness before and it was quite exhilarating to run together in pitch black with just a red light on the runners’ backs and the torch in the front to light up the trail in front of you.
As soon as you leave the village it’s single file mountain track which quickly ascends. I took it quite easy at the start and ended up quite far back of the funicular of runners up the mountain. The ascent is steep and doesn’t present many places for overtaking. This forced me to be patient and not to push myself too hard and take risks. Start easy is what I always tell myself and unknowingly this forced me which I was quite happy with.
Ascending the first mountain with the sunrise was certainly an amazing and exhilarating experience with beautiful views as a reward.
Weather-wise I couldn’t have been luckier. The previous days had been very hot and sunny. However, on the day of the race it was mainly overcast…just perfect!
The first few hours were about adjusting to the terrain…and learning to power hike with poles which was a new concept for me.
The terrain can only be described as vicious and very technical. I don’t mind the occasional loose stone or a root that tries to trip you up, but this was a different level for me. In certain areas it felt like every piece of rock and stone couldn’t be trusted. But you just have to adjust quickly and this meant shorter strides and I made sure to use the poles both up and down when needed.
I was also extremely grateful for my calf sleeves as in many areas on the mountain the tracks were overrun by knee high holly-like plant…ouch!
The continuous up and down took its toll and I found it quite difficult to know how hard to push as I’ve not done this kind of mountain run before.
The single tracks were truly some of the best I’ve run on with breath-taking scenery (lots of photo opportunities) and the smells of the local fauna was like a kitchen garden with sage, oregano and wild garlic.
The trail itself was excellently marked with just the correct distance between the markers. Only a handful of times did I wonder if I was off track, but as soon as that thought came into your head the next marker was visible. The markers were also clearly visible in the darkness with a reflective coating.
The check points had oranges, melons and bananas which sustained me quite well. Also, some other local delicacies’ such as Chorizo, Olives, Nutella sandwiches and various sweets. Plenty of water and Coca Cola was, of course, at hand. This is a cup-less event and I had brought a collapsible cup, but never used it. Just filled up my soft flasks.
– During the race I was questioning if this really was a running event. This was because I was forced to scramble and power hike so much and so unlike any other race I had done before. I think with better preparation and training it would have been different.
– Running and power hiking with poles was certainly a good learning experience. How to carry them when running, attaching and detaching them from your race vest. Assembling and collapsing and so on. On at least four occasions the poles saved me from falling over! Most grateful.
– European trail etiquette on single tracks – Shout “Pardon!” That got people to step aside. However, I must say it was a really good vibe on the track and people genuinely looked out for each other.
– Mental toughness. Trying not panic when you’ve just done 10 miles and it had taken more than 3 and half hours! There were also long stretches of the race running by yourself, you better get used to your own company.
– Look at the race results from last year! I told my wife I expected to be done after 8 hours. That is what it took the winners to complete it…
– Prepare for any kind of weather. The last 6-7 km we experienced a hail and lightning storm. So happy I packed my rain jacket. Tip: When exposed on bare mountain top during a lightning storm pack way your metal running poles…
Lost in translation…
I had prepared a race drop bag which I was longingly thinking about during the race. “It will be at the next checkpoint surely I kept telling myself…”. It was a finish bag drop and I found it waiting for me at the end. At that point the only thing on my mind was Cerveza! Thanks for reading.