Baga to Berga Trail Nit

Baga to Berga Trail Nit

My wife and children are away in the UK for one week, what is a man to do with the spare time? Find a Transvulcania qualifying race of course, but where to look within a couple of hours of home..The only race that fitted al requirements was a race I had never heard of covering 27 miles and approximately 11,000ft of ascent, perfect.

Training has gone well recently with no niggles but it’s fair to say I was more than slightly twitchy about a race deep in Catalonia when my Spanish is far from conversational and the race is through the night with only 48 runners registered by the time entries closed.

My flight from Ibiza to Barcelona was peaceful, the bus into the city centre was when I realised Shelley usually gets my kit ready and I had forgotten my watch, quick trip to Decathlon in Barcelona, job done. The air conditioned bus from Barca to Berga was a joy, ever bigger hills becoming mountains, small town stop offs along the route a mix of old and new, all these towns had one thing in common, not a soul to be seen. I realised why this was when alighting the bus, the sum was brutal.

Upon arrival in Berga, a mix of old and mostly new buildings set in the backdrop of a huge vertical rock looking down in angry fashion, quickly finding Intersport to replace the compression shorts I  had forgotten. Now food with a plug socket to charge my shiny new watch whilst checking I haven’t forgotten anything else, I did at least remember packing my trainers! What I didn’t realise, two yellow trainers, two left feet, no please f*ck no, but it was true. Quick trip back to the now closed Intersport, quick message to Sarah who I think realised DNS was now on my mind. Thankfully her positive reply had me ready to line up in the road shoes I travelled in! Fortunately the sports shop opened again at 17:00 when I gave the girl who sold me the only pair of trail shoes that would fit me a good belly laugh when explaining what I had done. She wished me luck and finally I felt ready for the race start, I knew there was nothing else missing apart from a few more marbles gone awol.


A short bus ride for all runners to Baga was like getting caught in a mass sword fight as their poles clashed and tripped one another, everyone had poles, what do they know I don’t? Baga was a stunning location to start a race, our small gathering were treated like celebrities, I liked that bit, no one knew how slow I was before we started J The race was off on the stroke of nine on the town clock, everyone running the steps and early incline, wtf, running hills, I don’t run hills… The first incline was tough and I was hiking too fast within a small group, half hour in and I knew this was going to hurt a lot. After an hour we were deep into a forest, it was pitch black and nobody would turn their head torch on, was this a game of chicken? I backed off the pace and immediately felt better, topping occasionally to take in the amazing night time vista below, reaching the first well stocked CP at 10k an hour inside cutoff, we are rocking it.

So far we had gone up and then down, I had studied the elevation plan not realising how little runnable (for my ability) sections there were. We were now going up, then started down some mo fo steep switch backs, this was new to me and I hated it, how the hell do people run on this loose ankle breaking stuff. The river in the valley bottom was worth the descent, clambering over rocks and trudging through the water before hitting a runnable section, things were looking up J

At the next CP a girl was laughing pointing in my direction, I subtly tried to spot the bird shit on my shirt or whatever else was the source of amusement before I realised it was sports shop girl who had doubtlessly told her buddies this is el tonto! She gave kind words of encouragement and I was off, at this stage ignorance was bliss. We climbed and never stopped climbing at various levels of incline for 10km, the steep parts towards the end of the climb convinced me a heart attack was only a few more strides away, does death count as a DNF, is there any leeway for the RD I wondered.

Sadly the summit of this mountain (near 7,500ft) was lost on me, I was worried about my HR, having convinced myself the grim reaper had me in his sights. Only once by chance I looked behind me to see we were above the moonlit clouds with seemingly hundreds of peaks far into the distance piercing the clouds a real life version of so many oil painting depictions. I bitterly regret not taking ten minutes to appreciate this part of the route.

The summit CP was a stone building with a huge blue flashing light on the roof, I approached and took the bizarre scene in like it was normal, I felt like sh*t at this stage and had no idea if I could finish inside the generous 12 hour cutoff. The evil bed fellow of steep ascent was waiting for me over the brow of the mountain, there was no disappointment here, this was nasty evil downhill with bells and whistles. The few runners I had kept up with for a while were soon gone and deep in the forest I could neither hear nor see a solitary soul. I loved the solitude of the woods during the NDW100, here deep in a forest on a Pyrenees mountain, descending for what seemed like hours I was totally broken.

It was surprising to see runners at the next CP, I hurriedly gave my number and dashed out to follow without food or filling bottles, human company was my primary concern right now. We ran along in silence for a few miles, it actually felt liberating to run without pause for a mile or two before hitting more ascent and the various paced runners parted ways. It was not yet light and for the first time I was confident of finishing inside the cutoff and I backed off the gas from slow to dead slow and from here I actually started enjoying the race.. I was parched, stopping to fill my bottles from a plastic pipe jutting from a wall, but clearly not quite thirsty enough to drink it just yet.

There was an unexpected CP round the next corner, surely I had already counted six, I tipped my bottle contents replacing with CP water that had probably come from the same pipe. Eating for the first time a large slice of melon, wow what had I been missing that stuff is good! Frome here I could have run much more but had the NDW100 in mind, getting this far without a niggle was a result for me. The phone came out and I took photo’s of the dawn which seemed to ease the pain of the past nine hours.

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A few hundred steps where I was passed by five runners with numbers plus the sports shop girl, was she stalking me and a mile of road remained. I was going to finish and that was all that mattered. I crossed the line and was offered beer (possibly the only way James could improve Centurion events, give us beer at the finish J ).. Ten hours and 24 minutes it took me to complete a bit more than a marathon, I was second last and don’t give a damn.

This was the toughest physical challenge of my life, different to a 100 miler, that for me was a very mental challenge, this mountain race near killed me. Yesterday morning I sacked all ideas of UTMB, Transvulcania and anything with hills. Today has been spent planning my next visit to the Pyrenees, but one thing I know for sure, I need to practice down hills and uphills, the flat bits I’m ok with J To most this type of challenge is less than one half a b2b run, but to me it has opened a whole new pandoras box, where does this stuff end, is there an end?

The organisation was brilliant, CP’s were exemplary getting runner numbers before we were allowed near food or water, getting shouted at if our numbers were obscured. The course marking was different gravy, the best I have seen in any race. The race is limited to 500 runners and had 48 registered starters, they deserve more, this is an amazing experience. Maybe I will see you at the start next year J

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