At the early start of this year I fell in love with trail running, especially due to my finding of the Douro Ultra Trail in the north of Portugal, where Port wine is made in the lovely vineyards surrounding the Douro river.
Have you ever set look bewildered on an epic dream?
Have you ever put yourself to a challenge which is beyond your current capabilities?
Did you ever feel the need to grow in order to turn that challenge into an achievement?
Registering to the Douro Ultra Trail was an act on instinct, a howl to push myself beyond my limits and to dream of an event which would make me feel alive!
The trouble was… this was the first time I would run farther than 25K… and on a trail event!
Have you ever felt you wanted to make a special moment unique and absolutely perfect?
I knew I’d have to train hard and learn a great deal during the process. How and where could I test my findings?
This is how I found the Via Algarviana, the perfect setting during my summer leave in Algarve.
On their official website at www.viaalgarviana.org one can read that «Via Algarviana is a pedestrian long distance path (300km), classified as a Great Route (GR13). It starts in Alcoutim, by the Guadiana River, and ends at the Cape of S.Vicente, in Vila do Bispo, going through the moutains of “Serra do Caldeirão” and “Serra de Monchique”. It is implanted, mostly, on forest ground, with interesting natural values, and passes by several small rural villages.»
The goal was to run above the 30K mark and hence I chose to start in Silves at sector 10, take it all in to Monchique and “optionally” take sector 11 until the highest point of Foia and get back to Monchique again.
I’m sure you had moments where you thought the best way to get something done was to find some motivation to do help you along with it. As announcing it publicly usually helps a lot (the social component is brilliant in this case), I invited my whole family to have lunch with me at my final destination in Monchique!
The route was great to run on, with hills in the first half that though not steep added around 500m D+ very easily. During the whole Serra de Silves I met no one and was in true symbiosis with nature. The wonderful void…
The first way up was battling my way to the top of Picota, standing at 774m high and presenting itself in Via Algarviana with steep ascents on the trail. Getting there was tough, even though from a mental point of view I enjoyed it as I knew this debut was essencial to learn.
The way down to Monchique was incredible. The trail gets into a forest and you can see the village down below in the valley. Behind it, Foia at 902m presents itself clearly the highest point in Serra de Monchique. I decided on the fly the “optional” would be the “extra-mile” and that I couldn’t leave without trying to make it to the top.
Getting there was absolutely astonishing! The view was foggy that day, viewing the sea was difficult to grasp but did that really matter? The sense of achievement was kicking in already.
As the run was done solo that meant there would be no aid stations along the way. Food, water and electrolytes had been prepared the day before with care, building upon previous training sessions I had done in Germany the months before. In any case I ran out of water at kilometer 39, shortly after getting back to Monchique. Temperature had risen from a mild 18ºC in the morning to 28ºC by the time and the farmers which took me to a natural spring, with fresh water coming from the top of the mountain, were like angels sent to earth on my rescue. That water felt like the liquid from the heavens.
I now knew what it felt like to hit the wall…
My family was waiting at the public pool, clearly refreshing themselves while eagerly awaiting my arrival. Have you ever tried the tradicional portuguese pastries Pastéis de Nata? If you love them as much as I, then you can imagine what I felt as my wife greeted me with two as my arrival prize. Those felt like… unconditional love.
All in all, the experience was great and the Via Algarviana a recommended trail. Good signage, proper documentation, GPS tracks available and most of all a wonderful landscape to enjoy nature. Whether you wander, run or bike, definitely a good way to explore Algarve.
Now to finish… this wouldn’t be a nice post without a photo taken at the end of the journey, would it? 😉