There are occasions in life where I feel my family is inevitably the core of my soul, the constant guiding light which influenced so many paths taken through my life all the way to who I am today. A couple of weeks ago I travelled to Portugal to be close to my parents in a moment where that just made sense. While I left family behind, I headed towards family as well.
Actively training for the Ultra Trail Lamer Winkel, running would obviously have to fit into my daily schedule. By no means I took exception on my routine of waking up (amazingly) early in the morning, benefiting from the silence present when mostly everything is asleep. Biggest advantage of doing so is the ability to be ready to start the day when life is commencing around me.
On weekdays I took off to the Monsanto Forest Park, commonly considered the heart of Lisbon. I knew however that on the weekend and for a proper long run with elevation, I’d need to look into something else.
I got to know Tuxa Negri through our common friend João Marinho, organiser of the Douro Ultra Trail, a fabulous race which I participated in last year. Tuxa is an impressive trail runner and a superb athlete, which I had no personal contact up until then, other than chatting on social networks. Living close to Lisbon I reached out to her. Goal was to identify if she or her trail community had any planned training in the vicinity which I could join.
After looking at several options, we decided to head on to the Arrábida Natural Park, a phenomenal natural place with great hills, mediterranean-like vegetation, kissing both the Sado river estuary and the Atlantic ocean, where gorgeous beaches have a prominent emphasis.
We ended up enjoying nearly 5 hours winding up on fantastic trails along the hills, taking in singular sights of all the green nature around us, the ocean, the blue sky and even of the Convento de Nossa Senhora da Arrábida, a 16th century monastery living in the middle of the park.
As my passion for trail running grew bigger and more intense, I started to naturally consume a lot of content around the sport. There haven’t been a lot of moments in my life where I recognised myself a fan of anything in particular. Up until now I guess… not only I follow the sport closely but moreover the athletes which contribute a lot to its charm. Every sport has its top athletes and trail running is of no exception. What caught my attention this time was the true spirit of community these athletes have, their unique bond with nature and a present feeling I characterise of as the void.
Tuxa is undoubtedly one of those admirable athletes and having the opportunity to train with her in such an incredible environment was a blessing and an experience I cherish a lot. We talked a lot about the sport, the trainings, race experiences and upcoming challenges, nutrition and gear. Having the time to share trail running adventures with one another while practising it at the same time was quite extraordinary.
We started off from the village of Azeitão and headed up to the hills. As this was my first visit to these trails I followed as I was guided all the way to the top. After 6K we took a steep ascent on a rocky slope which would lead us above 400m high. Along the first half I was able to take some nice photos, however after that… not really… as I made sure I had my hands free to hold on to bushes as we climbed to the Pico do Formosinho landmark.
I decided for all-terrain shoes when packing as I knew I’d be running in the city as well. You can’t imagine how I missed my trail running shoes then. I had absolutely no traction and getting to the top was quite a challenge. In any case, needless to say I felt like Superman when I did 😉
From the top we circled the hill down, up, round, up and down again until we ultimately felt it was time to let go.
Overall I had an absolutely great time: ran in a new location for the first time, enjoyed typical Portuguese weather beneath a blue sky bathed on warm sun, tightened up a good friendship and kept up with my plan to be fit in a few weeks time to enjoy a new challenge in Bayerischer Wald, the Bavarian Forest in the south of Germany.
Kudos and a big thank you to Tuxa on taking me through such amazing trails!