Aztiriko Mendi Lasterketa Trail Race 2017

10 Things I Think About the Aztiriko Mendi Lasterketa Trail Race

1. Facebook

I think Facebook has made finding races on holidays so easy, all you need is a date, some idea of the location and the willingness to send random messages to people you don't know with the hope that they'll reply. If they reply you're sorted. It's great really. If only it was this easy for everything else.

2. 93 puntos Guia Penin 2017

I think that drinking wine the night before a race is very bad. I normally don't drink wine as in Ireland it's too dear and tastes of metal. In Spain it's different. We went to a restaurant called Ikatiz last night where the waitress recommended a Tempranillo, apparently it got 93 points in the Guia Penin 2017 which is extraordinary. It was very nice and very cheap. I think I'll drink more wine. I don't think it will affect my running.

3. Euskara

I think the google maps lady can't speak euskara. She was pronouncing all those places from Donostia to Aztiria with Xs and Zs all wrong. I'm pretty much fluent in euskara after learning it from Oliver on the walking tour yesterday. I have been tormenting every shopkeeper with "kaixo" and "eskerrik asko" ever since. It's a great language, it feels natural to me. Perhaps I'm actually Basque. Tiocfaidh ár lá and all that.

4. Parking

I think we upset the Basque man with our first attempt at parking. I just drove right up to the start. When he saw us he directed us towards a barricade. I didn't think that was a good idea having already scratched the rental car so I didn't move. Then he walked up to the window and started speaking Spanish to me, I only understand euskara so I didn't understand. I think he wanted us to go away. Eventually a nice lady showed up and got one of the locals to move his van so we could park. They are very nice people in Aztiria.

5. Favourite

I think the locals thought I was actually good at trail running. I did my warm up with two local guys who I impressed with my euskara, "nire izena Donal da, I'm not from England, Irlandakoa naiz". It's very important not to be English in Spain. They said that I was the favourite for the race. It must have been because of my haircut. I wasn't very confident.

6. I'm from Navarre

I think they secretly knew I wasn't a trail runner. I treated the start like I do any other race and just tore off like it was a 5k, this was fine as the first 200m were flat on a gravel road. After 200m a guy came up beside me kind of half laughing at me and asked where I was from, I said Cork, he understood, I asked where he was from he said Navarre, then the downhills started. That was the end of my leading as the Basques proceeded to fearlessly fall downhill with reckless abandon. I was terrified.

7. Donal Coffey

I think Donal Coffey would have beaten me today. He does IMRA races the whole time. I felt pathetic on some of the technical downhill sections, with auld Basques flying by me left and right. I was much better on the uphill and road sections, but these didn't make up for my walking down the hills like an old man with a dodgy ankle.

8. ánimo

I think ánimo is my new favourite word. I love the way crowds cheer for you in foreign countries. You'd get tired of "well done boi" or "go on lad" back home. The "allez allez" in France is fantastic as is the "venga, venga" in Spain. The crowd today had a new one "ánimo, ánimo". I think it means keep going or animate yourself. It sounds particularly good in a female voice.

9. Kilian Jornet

I think I'm not made for trail running. I ended up finishing about 10th from the 58 starters. This was the biggest number ever for the race, I probably helped. I asked the guy from Navarre how he got on, he won, this didn't surprise me. He said the course wasn't that technical, this amazed me. I'd hate to see a technical course. Then we talked about Kilian Jornet and agreed that he's mad and brilliant.

10. Best Spread Ever

I think the spread after the race was the best ever. They had beautiful fresh bread, gorgeous jamon iberico, olives, water, cider and wine. No rubbish. I don't think this would work in Ireland, people would complain.

Eskerrik asko Miren and Ioritz. What a great race.

Latsagien Itzulia 2017

10 Things I Think About the Latsagien Itzulia

1. Basque Carrigtwohill

I think Ustaritz is very like Carrigtwohill, the only reason you'd live there is because it's cheaper than living in Biarritz/Cork. It has lots of derelict apartments and a colossal old church. I didn't see any pharmaceutical companies so maybe it's different.

2. Dopage

I think that it's terrible that doping is illegal in France. For this reason I didn't bring my Ventolin with me as I was afraid of being arrested. I think this cost me some time in the race. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

3. Tolls

I think I'd be broke and eternally late if I lived in the Basque Country. They have tolls on the roads every 20km, they're as frequent as the food stops on the Ring of Kerry. The ones in Spain are manned by Spanish people which means there are long queues. In France, they are unmanned which means there are long queues because of English people who have no euros.

4. Hop Time

I think that John O'Connell would have approved of how early we arrived at the race. I don't think I've ever turned up 3 hours before the start of a race. I had to allow time for potential Spaining in France as the French have wierd laws about athletic events. You have to be certified by a doctor to run a small road race. They were happy with my Athletics Ireland card and the fact that I wasn't English, so I was allowed run. We used the spare time to visit the colossal church and watch a wierd combination of hurling, handball and quidditch.

5. Warm Up

I think that I was too confident after my warm up. I was convinced that I was going to win. There was nobody warming up. This normally means you are the only serious runner and are going to win. Then I got to the start and guys with legs far more shaved and tanned than me turned up. There was even a guy taller than me. This was scary.

6. Start

I don't think I've ever seen such a casual start. Thank god Clotilde taught me French so I could understand the start procedure. There was no line, just a casual countdown in French. There was lots of jumping the gun. No one cared.

7. Macron

I think Macron is right, French labour laws need reform. The start of the race was unlike anything I've ever seen. I tore off as I normally do. One guy came up beside me after a kilometre but didn't pass, then a whole group of Basques crowded around me. No one wanted to do any work. Eventually three tall tanned shaven legged guys appeared and formed some sort of trade union and agreed to work together. I was left in fourth with another bunch of Basques. I don't like trade unions.

8. The Mur

I don't think I've ever run up such a steep hill in a race. I hadn't really checked out the course before the race as I prefer not to known what's happening and I didn't understand Basque. The route itself was 50% trail, this wasn't advertised. After about 6km there was a wall of a climb, they seem to like throwing these into races abroad, I like it too. It wouldn't work in Ireland, people would complain. The hill was very hard.

9. A Gauche

I think I lost fourth place because of going the wrong way. Once we crested the top of the Mur we came to a junction. I went a droite, the Basques went a gauche. I quickly realised my mistake and turned around but I lost a few seconds, this was crucial as once I was away from the group of Basques a trade union was quickly formed and they suddenly started working together. I had no hope, perhaps trade unions are a good idea.

10. The Spread

I think the concept of an approximados race has spread to the Basque Country. The race was advertised as an 11km race, it was 10.3km last year over the same route. I think it was somewhere in the middle. I don't think it mattered. They had a lovely outdoor spread afterwards, apricots, prunes and fruit cake. I'm sure that there will be no complaints on the Basque version of the Cork Running blog. No one did a warm down except me. Macron will fix this.