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near Pournarókastro, West Greece (Greece)
The bigger route of the two in Panachaiko Trail race. Two years ago I did the small one (and I actually won the race :-D), last year I was out, so this year I decided to go for the big one.
The whole area and most of the paths are very well known for me as I ran them multiple times in the past as training runs. But it's always nice to see how fast can You really do this in race conditions. I was fairly fit but not so much training in the mountains as I spent most of the winter on asphalt/flats. Anyway race is race and I was not going to let it go.
First 2k are from Pournarokastro with dirt road. Then narron stone path towards refuge Psarthi starts. It's pretty technical and in some sections also steep. I mostly power hiked it with small group of other runners. Since both races started together and followed same path until Psarthi, it was hard to say who is doing which race and if my co-runners will continue late with me or start fast descent (in case of small race) from Psarthi. Anyway the pace was fine for me, not to slow but not too hard. I wanted to get to Psarthi fairly fresh and rather loose 2-3'.
First bigger station at Psarthi (5k at 1350m). I just refilled my soft flasks and continued on. The group split pretty much even with half of runners doing big race and other half the fast one. So we were now ~5people separated by not more than 30" each (depending how much we stayed at the station).
Now the vertical part of the race: ~1k of distance climbing way over 300m of elevation and all this is pretty rough terrain (no real path, just stones, grass and marks telling You more or less the direction). Going strong I did it in about 20' which was ok by me. Then a bit of easier flat section to reach the second refuge of Prasoudi and another bigger station at 7.7k and 1750m elevation. Again I was pretty quick on refilling my water supplies and off I went for the peak.
It went a bit tougher than I thought but legs were fine and I was happy that climbing was over. 8.6k and ~1350m elevation gain was done in ~1:30'.
First descent part was very technical along the ridge - totally not expected :-/ But soon was over and I was on flat mixed section of dirt roads and paths. Small water station and I was speeding down via dirt road back to Psarthi refuge.
I reached it in 1:57' and since I was fine with food and water I didnt even stop. This is where the route joined previous ascent and followed the same path back to the finish. At this point I was 7th and down ~1' to 6th and ~2' to 5th runner (I could see them both on fast section before the refuge). I was like 90% sure I will catch them both! But not more than 500m after Psarthi (where the steep paths start) I felt very strong pain in my left heel! This slowed me down significantly on the steeper section and soon I realized that I cant run fast :-/ The pain got even worse on the dirt road (last stretch to the finish) and I was just keeping comfortable pace trying to step only on the front of my left foot.
Finished in 2:22'34, about 90" behind 6th and 3' behind 5th runner (also only 4' behind 4th one!). This makes me believe I would catch all three of them if not for my foot problem, as I did the last section in 25' and could easy do it 3-4' faster with full effort. Anyway, time was very nice for a first trail race (and actually second trail run) of 2017.
NOTE: check out what actually happened to my left heel (photo)! This was a giant blister under 3mm thick skin that I have in this spot.