The city of Salamanca in Spain boasts a rich history, great atmosphere and astonishing architecture whichever way you turn. Close to the Sierra de Gredos Mountain Range, a 45 minute drive from the city, is the little mountain town of Bejar – home to the Ultra Trail - La Covatilla. (Ultra Trail la Covatilla is an Ultra and Marathon trail event which offers two routes: an 80km with over 4 800m of climbing or a 40km with a respectable 2 500m of climbing. It is also a qualifying race for the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc.)I had let a chiropractor friend of mine in Salamanca know that I would be heading down for some trail time in the mountains and he said he had the perfect guide.
He had arranged a 20km course recce with his friend and client, the trail legend, Miguel Heras (Salomon Spain athlete, and previous winner of Transgrancanaria, Transvalcania and La Ronda dels Cims to name but a few of his results).I was excited and nervous to be taking to the trails for a run with a mountain running machine. After meeting him at his mountain cottage we hit the trails. We started out from above the small town of Candelario in the Sierra de Gredos Mountain Range. Following a direct route straight up the mountain we headed for part of La Covatilla’s route.
I definitely started to notice the altitude as we climbed above the 2 000m mark, but gettingpointers and chatting with Miguel made the climb a breeze as we kept a steady pace. The truly amazing views helped ease the climbing pain too. Eventually we reached the snow-covered mountain top. Running through the snow was a first for me, especially with no visible path. One thing I had noticed, the terrain was far from easy, unlike our well established trails and wellmarked routes back in SA. This was far more demanding, taking a line and going for it. Miguel also took time to explain some of his training which involved running from his home up to the summit, and back home again. That’s a minimum of 2 500m of elevation gain every run! As I am hoping to take on some big trail marathons later in 2016 and 2017 I was grateful for the pointers and advice. Running up rocky and snowy mountainsides, over peaks and passing some amazing cliffs has to be the highlight of my running life so far. From the top I got to see the majority of the 80 and 40km routes (both of which look tough and extremely technical) the descents are steep with no clear path which requires a large amount of concentration. All round it was an amazing experience and challenge.
The Ultrail la Covatilla has definitely worked its way onto my “To Do List” and I would highly recommend it for those looking for a great mountain challenge. The race takes place this year on 15 October. Check out www.ultrail-lacovitilla.esfor more details, but unless your Spanish is fairly decent you will need to use google translate or send them an email. I can confirm that once you’re there, you will be made welcome by enthusiastic trail runners, willing to share the challenges and beauty of their mountain trails with pride.