Monthly Archives: July 2015

Madrid Marathon (MAPOMA) 2015

“Happiness only real when shared”, Christopher McCandless (1)

On April 26 (2015) I completed my 12th marathon (2) by running the Marathon of Madrid, 15 years after having completed the first in the same place. My friend Jose and my brother Jaime completed there their 1oth marathon.

We have run together several marathons: Paris, Berlin, Rome, Athens, Rotterdam, New York, Sevilla… the fact is that we have not run any of those together from the start to the end (3). For these reasons we had decided in the previous days that this time, we would run it together from the beginning to the end, no matter what happened.

After the bad experience in Sevilla, I had found it difficult to find the motivation to train. However, a couple of weeks after Sevilla, I beat my personal best in half marathon and managed to complete a good mileage prior to Madrid. I thus felt that I arrived to Madrid in a good shape. On the other hand, Madrid hasn’t got the best profile to attempt a personal best.

Madrid marathon profile.

Madrid marathon profile.

Thus, we decided to take it rather easy. Our quick strategy was something like: run at about 5’20″/km the first climb (7km) then run 5′ till the half marathon, close to that pace till the entrance of the Casa de Campo (~26km), take it easy there, exit it and do the final 6km climb as we can… thinking we could finish in about 3h45′ doing that.

Madrid marathon route.

Madrid marathon route.

… and that is what we did. Give or take some seconds to the paces, and softening a bit more in the second half. Our final net time was about 4h02′, but you would have to discount about 9′ to have the time we were actually running as we had a rather long pit stop at km. 13. Discount those minutes and we would have been at some 3h53′, just a few minutes above the target.

Time splits.

Time splits.

My brother Jaime wrote a very detailed post here about how the race developed. I suggest you to read it.

The marathon in Madrid normally is rather hard. It was a pleasant experience this time. Running together with friends. Not being mentally pressured by the time. Running at home; knowing what would be after almost every turn, how long and how hard the climbs would be, where one could relax the legs… The rain, heavy rain at several moments, made it only better. More epic in a way. Helping each other in the last kilometres, cheering my fellow runners. And finally crossing the finish line, sprinting in the Retiro park where I have trained so often with Jaime. As he said to end his blog post,

It was an honour to run with you

(1) In a previous post, “Running in the Incles’ valley“, I described the joy of running alone in the mountains. I then compared it with what the experiences of Christopher McCandless, the man about whom the story of the movie “Into the wild” is based. I quote here one of his latest sentences.

(2) Not counting Millau in 2011 (100km) nor Sevilla 2015 (not completed).

(3) I completed Millau together with Jose in 2011, and I have completed several San Silvestre with Jaime.

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Montech water slope (Pente d’eau) at Canal du Midi

The Canal du Midi (1) connects the Mediterranean sea with the Atlantic Ocean. It was built at the end of the XVII century under the supervision of Pierre-Paul Riquet. At the time it was one of the most remarkable civil engineering works and that has deserved its recognition as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Along the canal there are plenty of beautiful spots and some oddities. Some weeks ago, we visited one of the latter ones: the Pente d’eau of Montech, that is, a water slope. What is a water slope?

When two water streams at different heights need to be connected we are used to see water locks (think of the Panama Canal, or Suez). In the Canal du Midi there are dozens of locks (65 to be precise). However, engineers in the 1970s employed a time-saving different approach. Instead of having the boats go through 5 such locks at Montech they constructed in parallel a water slope, thus saving 45 minutes in the route.

Canal du Midi to the right, water slope to the left.

Canal du Midi to the right, water slope to the left.

See below the panel with the explanation of the concept at Montech:

Explanation of the water slope (in French).

Explanation of the water slope (in French).

See here the explanation given by the Wikipedia.

See below a couple of pictures showing the diesel locomotives and the canal.

See here a good scheme to ease the visualization of the concept prepared by the L’Association Culture Loisirs Entente Sport (LACLES, see here their blog post with the complete explanation).

Water slope scheme (prepared by L'Association Culture Loisirs Entente Sport)

Water slope scheme (prepared by L’Association Culture Loisirs Entente Sport)

Unfortunately, the water slope is not working nowadays. Nevertheless it’s worth a visit to the place, to get a glimpse of such an engineering feat.

(1) To be precise the Canal du Midi (originally named “Canal royal en Languedoc”) connects the Mediterranean sea with the river Garonne in Toulouse. From there, another canal, the “Canal Latéral de la Garonne” makes the connection to the Garonne itself at Bordeaux, where it is navigable down to the Atlantic Ocean. The combination of both canals is called “Canal des Deux Mers“.

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Running in the Incles’ valley (Andorra)

Last weekend, we took the opportunity of July 14th being a national holiday in France to make a short 4-day trip to Andorra. We selected Andorra, in the middle of the Pyrenees Mountains, in order to escape from the hot weather of Toulouse.

On Saturday and Sunday we did some activities including trekking, but with Andrea being just below 2 years it was difficult to cover any meaningful distance.

As I always do, I took my running gear in the suitcase just in case. And on Sunday evening I decided to go out for a run on Monday early morning…

Beginning of the run / trail, at 6h40am.

Beginning of the run / trail, at 6h40am.

… I woke up at 6am, quickly dressed, ate a toast, some orange juice and took the car to go from our rented apartment in El Tarter to the beginning of the Incles river valley. From there a short 3-km route (“easy”) departs to the end of the road CS-270 where the “bar d’Antoine” is located. The previous day we had done that stretch by a touristic electric bus, and it was that hop that triggered the idea. I parked the car and just equipped with the running gear, a baseball cap (Oakland Athletics), a 400mL plastic bottle of water in one hand and a photo camera in the other, I went to complete that Incles’ valley route followed by another one “Lakes of Siscaro” (“medium”) and back.

In all it was just over 13.3km, with about 800m of positive climb (an average slope of +18% in the last 3.8 kilometres to the summit), reaching up to 2560m, leaving the Siscaro lakes (at an altitude of 2325m) behind to complete the climb up to the mountain ridge to see what was at the other side. It took me about 1h20’ to climb (the 2 routes estimated at 45’ + 1h45’) and 1h10’ to come back, in all 2h27’. I made several short stops to take pictures, videos, talk to a Frenchman who was enjoying a morning sandwich at the top of the climb and to take a refreshing bath at one of the lakes in the way back.

Climb elevation of the run.

Climb elevation of the run.

Map of the Incles valley.

Map of the Incles valley.

On the way up, I only saw a man waking up at the Siscaro refuge (~2140m) and the above-mentioned Frenchman at the very top. Other than that the experience was running and climbing for almost 7km alone in the mountains just listening to the water, birds and some other animal, while watching to the changing colours and lights of the dawn. It felt a little bit like the character of the movie “Into the wild.

At some point climbing at ~7h30am.

At some point climbing at ~7h30am.

On the way down, apart from falling twice, it was much lighter if not easier. I crossed paths with several fully-equipped mountaineers who at about 9am still had ahead of them some 3 to 6 hours of trek (if wanted to complete the same route than I did).

View at the other side of the ridge.

View at the other side of the ridge.

When I got back to the parking lot at the bottom of the valley, I changed t’shirts, drank from a bottle of water I had left in the car and felt like “when is the next such solitary mountain climb?”

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P.S.: Finally, I just wanted to share this video I made for a friend, Maicol, just before taking a bath at the lake.

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