Zegama, es una fiesta !
Zegama is a legendary race that all skyrunner have heard of, if not dreamed about. This year, I had the chance to take part in this special gathering for the first time.
Just like sex, hangovers, love, some things just need to be experienced to be understood and fully appreciated. It doesn’t matter how much people tell you about, and how detailed the descriptions are. Nothing compare to that moment where you find yourself at the core of that experience, and you think to yourself, “oh, that’s what they were talking about”. And then you become that person who tells the story, that again won’t be enough to satisfy new breeds of skyrunners.
As a firm believer that one best enjoy good things when share with others, I spent the weekend with my fellow buddies of the New Balance Team, Seb Buffard, Nico Bouvier-Gaz, Ju Navarro all with their significant other. A quick pit stop at Nico to gather around and off we were, driving down to Zegama in an RV.
The little gang set forth 12k down from Zegama, and after a well earned dinner, we were off to a good night of sleep.
A quick morning jogg with Nico to loosen the legs and it was time to hit Zegama to pick up our numbers and try and become a little familiar with the area. Sadly there was very little chance to get our bearings as a thick layer of clouds had settled on the Aizkorri massif. Oh well, we would see the course soon enough anyway.
As always, it is amazing to catch up with many friends I only get to see during these short migrations periods around major international races. Many of them had flown from all over the world to put their training to use, raise high their team and country colours and measure themselves against the best field there is for that type of event.
I’m getting more and more silent, trying to go in my confort zone and focus on tomorrow’s race. The weather is bad, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way for my first experience at Zegama. I wanted it to be as hard as it could be. I knew it was going to be a suffer fest no mater what and weather conditions wouldn’t change that, so I might as well wish for the whole package. I’m happy and eager to get at it.
We are bombing down one of the first steep grassy hill of the race. Knowing my lack of uphill training, I had planned to start conservatively to get to let it all out during the second half, mostly downhill.
So there I was around position 80, with a group of 5 other runners, running in a wet and slippery cow field. 4 parallel trenches offer visible yet deadly slippery slopes, and on both sides uneven and almost as slippery grass were the two options we had. Not really sure what to go for, we were moving from one to the other. The comic part of this is that sort of a funky dance takes place at full speed and despite the clear absence of control, none of us showed any will to slow down.
I’m laughing inside at how ridiculous the situation is… but truth be told I’m totally freaked out, how am I going to keep it together till the end.
This is picture of Luis taking a tumble at the end of that same downhill section. It made me appreciate that I was right to question our sanity hammering that very section, if even a true Champion like him could fail to nail it.
The rest of the race went quite well, never really fainted until 8k from the finish, during that long and both fast and muddy downhill. The words I had been told reasoned in my mind “it’s like XC running, if you have a down time, you’ll get passed by lots of runners”. So I look back and sure enough, a group of 3 runners fly past me, followed by another group of 2.
5k from the finish I pulled myself together and made my move. I gave everything I had, caught up with the 2 runners and kept trucking towards the group of 3, that I ket catching glimpses of. 3 more kilometers and they are holding the distance. I can’t seem to gain anymore terrain on them, so there I am, 150m back, going all out and hoping one of them would fall apart. None did.
I finished drained, exhausted, around the 48th place but satisfied to have had the opportunity to experience what Zegama had to offer.