A long delayed, but much needed blogpost is finally here:
Los Guájares (if you like maps, follow the link) is a trio of tiny pueblos in the province of Granada, about 40 minutes away from the city of Granada and 15 minutes from the coast.
There is a remarkable microclimate in Los Guájares which allows tropical fruits to flourish brings a wonderful aroma to the air and sweet delicious foods to the table. It also means that you can eat very well while running. There is a river that runs along the valley floor separating the three pueblos. Rising on all sides are beautiful mountains that have a rugged, jagged appearance. Once you enter the hills you can find potable water within a couple of kilometers in every direction. Truly a runners paradise.
Anyways, I had the pleasure of participating in the third edition of Trail Los Guájares. This was easily the most well organized, accommodating-yet-simple, beautiful-yet-grueling race I've ever participated in.
All credit for this goes to Ángel, the race director, and Edith, his partner in crime, who put on a fantastic race and were so gracious as to host us for over a week. Two of the most interesting and generous people I had the pleasure of meeting in Spain, who are certain to remain our friends for a very long time.
Ángel, having run in over 150 marathons and ultras in his running career ranging from the NY and Chicago Marathons to the UTMB, has seen more than his fair share of race-dos and race-don'ts and did a fantastic job of throwing together all of the right things to create a race to remember.
The race itself was a blast! As I've told many people, I have never run a worse race in my life, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I was beyond underprepared for the 22km +1600 meters of elevation gain endeavor after taking a couple of months prior off of running following the Bel Monte 50 miler. I also contributed, against my better judgement, to my under-preparedness by electing to wear my Vibram-Fivefingers on a course which was technical beyond anything I'd encountered prior. That is a mistake I will never make again because the trails riddled with rocks and unforgiving sharp plants ripped the so-called running shoes open in four places leading to their permanent demise.
The beauty of the course was truly indescribable. The first kilometer wove through the labyrinth streets of the pueblo with folks cheering left and right. The first exceptionally burly climb came just before kilometer 4. It wasn't very long, but the steepness made running up it completely impractical. There were a few climbs for which this was the case. And as the race wore on, I had to change my strategy due to the pain in the soles of my feet from running across rocks for two hours. I suppose it was the beginning of a stone bruise, but running steep downhills landing on gravel time and time again was doing me a lot more harm than good. I was passed by many many people on the downhills, as I elected to walk them. After stream crossings, running through more pueblo streets, through groves of almond and olive trees, the race culminated with another monstrous climb and a quick pass by an old Moorish fortress dating back to about 1100 AD(really old).
After the race the entire pueblo(all 300-500 people of it), came together for a pot-luck style party. The main plaza was packed with people, food, beer, and dogs. After the award ceremony, in which I was awarded a beautifully painted plate in honor of being the youngest participant and the participant who traveled the furthest(I was the only non-Spaniard).
The race will be happening again next year, the course changes every year. I did have the pleasure of hiking next years course and it just might be even more beautiful and even more difficult. If that doesn't appeal to you there is also an ultra-distance race in the works of about 65-75km. HERE is a link to some photos of the tentative ultra course which overlaps greatly with both this year's race and next year's, check it out.
If anyone is planning a trip to Spain in the near future or needs a good excuse to plan a trip to Spain, this is is. Thanks for reading.