Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Ruta del Condor - 1st


The Ruta del Condor is a famous route in the mountains outside of Santiago. It starts in Cajon del Maipo and climbs into the Andes before descending to the main road that goes to Far=rellones. Typically people choose to cycle, hike or motorcycle the route as the trail is in good condition and suitable for all of these activities. The race was for both running and mountain biking and everyone started at the same time in Alfalfal in Cajon del Maipo.

At the start with Max.


It wasn't a big start as there was a small field for both the running and mountain biking sections. Fortunately my friends Max and Patrick were there so there was some company and good runners to race with. Based on the quality of the organisation leading up to the race I wasn't too confident in the number of aid stations and the amount of support we would have for the race. I used my new Lafuma pack with a bladder and bottle and plenty of food to keep me going for the day and later found out that it was going to be needed.

Patrick and I started out at a gentle pace and moved towards the front of the field. It was an easy start to the race with rolling hills as we ran into the valley. Max quickly joined us as we reached the start of the climbs that would go on for a very long time. The trail was smooth and climbed up switchback after switchback as we lifted out of the valley and made our way to the highest point of the race. Patrick dropped off the pace as he was holding himself back before a 100 miler in a few weeks and Max pulled ahead of me slightly as he loves the climbs and seems to be getting stronger at them in every race.

Looking back towards the start.


We held these positions, Max in front of me and Patrick a little behind, for the next couple of hours as we climbed. The route was beautiful and the views spectacular. I saw three or four condors along the way which was quite a treat and obviously where the route gets its name from. Unfortunately the race organisation was very poor. There was no marking of the route, none, and the first aid station we were promised at 14km wasn't there. I had all the food and water I needed and was fortunate I was carrying a fuller pack than I would normally carry.

Some of the early climbing.


Capturing a few photos on the way up.


At the 26km point we had reached the top of the climbs. Our positions were still the same and I could just seem Max about two to three minutes in front of me. The terrain felt like we were still climbing, but it was more like rolling hills for the next 14km that climbed ever so slightly. I really enjoyed this section of the run as it was breathtaking landscapes and very runnable terrain. After rolling through the top section of the course we reached the 40km where the one and only aid station of the day was located (after being promised at least 3 aid stations). I filled up a bottle with the sickly sweet pineapple flavoured drink (the only option) and raced on to try and catch Max.

The final switchbacks before we reached the top.

Very happy to be at the top of the climb.

The rest of the route was all downhill and it was quite steep. I've gradually improved my downhill running this year from the K42 in September to the Endurance Challenge in October and now the Ruta del Condor. I felt confident and fast and that was rewarded by catching up to Max in the first few kilometers of the descent. I was able to run away from Max without pushing myself too hard and settled into a rhythm on the way down. I ate the last of my food to keep me going to the finish which I believed was at 53km and then slowed the pace a little so as not to beat my legs up too much with the continuous downhill.

After about 9km the descent ended and the route curved around to the left where I could see a tent and banners. I assumed that it was an aid station, but when I arrived I realized it was the finish (the race was 4km too short). I was happy to be finished and even happier that I had won my first race! Max came in a few minutes later and then Patrick a few minutes behind him. It was awesome to have three friends on the makeshift podium and a fun day of running.

A final river crossing which was actually the finish!

The podium: Patrick 3rd, me 1st, and Max 2nd.

I'm very pleased with the progress that I've made over the last three months, a 7th at the K42, a 5th at the Endurance Challenge and now a win at the Ruta del Condor.  While all very different races I've made some good gains in strength and sorted out some of my weaknesses along the way. If everything goes according to plan I'll keep on improving with every run.

Showing off my new Lafuma pack at the finish.

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