Formentera All Round Trail (FART) 2016
Back in 2014 the fart (Innocent Spanish acronym for the race!) was my first ever trail race and will therefore always have a strong emotional attachment to me.
Last year the Fart along with most other running aspirations turned to dust for no discernible reason, in particular the Fart 2015 was a kick in the nuts, clocking a time slower than 2014.
This year I had a score to settle and trained accordingly, by the week of the race, I was feeling pretty damned good, in itself a first pre-race.
For the past two years we have taken the early morning ferry on race day which involved a few hours’ sleep and then several hours of stress. This year we made use of the great boat/ hotel offers provided by the organisers and arrived Friday afternoon in glorious sunshine. Our hotel was virtually over the start/ finish line and life was feeling good.
Race day brought the usual pre-race nerves and tension, heightened by my still rudimentary grasp of Castellano. One thing that cannot go uncommented is the atmosphere at a local Spanish race, it’s so laid back yet chaotic in equal measure pre off, it’s a mistake to think these guys are not deadly serious once the guns issues it’s bang.
The coach journey to the start at Es Arenals was fun as usual, sitting next to an English runner from Mallorca who was a 1:38 half marathoner, ten minutes quicker than me brought some relief from my building tension. It was her first time and I dutifully warned her about the dastardly sand for the last few miles, she didn’t believe me..
At the start of the half which I was doing, we get to cheer through runners who set off at 08:00 doing the full circuit of the island, this year is was down beat due to the weather. We were treated to gale force winds and the usual race start had been modified accordingly such that we simply ran over a timing mat in turn before setting off as a swarm, the knot of tension turned into excitement once we were on our way.
The first CP is approximately 10km away at Far de la Mola a section with a good few hundred feet of ascent and enough technical aspects to keep one alert, like last year I covered the stretch in little under an hour and felt I ran as well as I could for the duration. Heading into the CP the heavens opened but not wanting to drop the few minutes required to adorn my jacket just yet I gambled it was a passing shower, hopefully I would not later regret this move. My loyal crew were waiting and as always lifted my spirits an octave or two, telling me I looked really good.
It was another 10km or so to the next CP at Es Calo where I was due to meet my crew once more until then I continued to run with ease and made a place or two. Previously when running up behind a runner I would normally step off the gas and cruise in lazy mode for a mile or two. This year I went for the kill each time I was invited to “passo”, not often I overtook runners so make hay and all that. There is a rough downhill section on cobbles and rough trail into CP2 where it’s not easy to let the brakes off without risk of serious injury. Seeing Harvey running out to meet me was one of those moments in life that will forever be etched within my sometimes questionable long term memory. Shelley seemed surprised how well I was still looking, I caught her puzzled look as she scanned me up and down for signs of my almost obligatory race-day injuries, there were none…yet!
Our next rendezvous was the race finish as the final checkpoint is remote, always windy and I’m usually beaten up by this point and would rather save the sympathy for the finish line 🙂 I was still feeling bloody great but we were now running into a serious headwind that was zapping the legs quickly. Two guys passed me and now I started to get annoyed with myself for being so rubbish in this wind that was literally blowing you backwards when slowing too much. Eye off the ball for a moment and crash down like a stunned hippo in almost the same place as last year. “Thank god those two guys had just passed me or they would have seen the whole incident.” Was my thought even before I hit the rocks, why do we care so much about being clocked falling?! There is a few miles of nicely runnable terrain in this section, sea front walkway and lovely wooden boards. The final CP is up on a remote clifftop at Torre de Punta where it is a case of checking in and out again. We then hit the sand dunes which did not seem so bad this year, or possibly the first mile or so didn’t. Once into the deep sand a guy caught me up and asked what position I was in my age group. This is something I have never thought about previously, the guy also told me the race was shortened by a few km due to the crazy weather. This gave me a big mental boost and the turbos were turned on, even through the deep sand dunes that were my Nemesis the past two years.
The final two miles were totally enjoyable on a nice runnable camino, although the wind was still a major concern during this stage as we often ran directly into it’s path. During this final stretch I never stopped running and passed quite a few runners, this was such a unique experience that I was quite enjoying. The finish is a bit special when Harvey and Jemima tear down the seafront to run down the red carpet to the finish. My finish time was xxx but over a courses shortened by a couple of kilometres but I will take it as a pb.
The final surprise was to discover I had snared 3rd in my age category at which time it became clear why I had been asked what position I was! My first ever podium finish as a runner and one I enjoyed way too much…Watch this space.