Monday, 20 August 2012

Thank goodness for Google translator.....

I know most people look through travel agent brochures to decide on holiday destinations but mine this year was decided by `Running News Greece` & the help of Google Translator. I saw this race & thought that could work - hot & hilly plus I hadn`t been to Peloponnesus area of Greece before.

The race itself was `Vrettakeia 2012 - In the Shadow of Taygetos` - Race Details - in brief a race held in the memory of a local Poet. It was an out & back course between two nearby villages (Krokees & Lagios). The profile of the course was basically a `W` shape - downhill to start with then uphill before the turnaround point & back again. The length was 18.6 Kms (PB guaranteed - yeah). Oh and it was a free race.

As I said I`ve not been to this area of Greece before but had read stories about it - Krokees was approx 30 Kms away from Sparta - this basically sealed the trip for me. I flew into Athens on the Tuesday & took an internal flight to Kalamata, stayed there the night & the next day I made my way through the mountains to Sparta & then unto on final destination Gytheio.

I have to say the trip through the mountains was spectacular. I arrived in Sparta & despite it being 32 C I did have goose bumps when I saw the Statue of King Leonidas - the finishing line of the original ultra-marathon (for those who don`t know about Spartathlon - yes the course record is indeed 20 hrs 25 mins) - before you ask I am too slow to enter this race - it does have a 36 hrs time limit.

I spent a couple of hours in Sparta & who said the Greeks don`t have a sense of humour...

Just what you need after a 153 mile run - best check on the opening & closing time first though.

After I left Sparta I made my way down towards the coast to Gytheio. I picked a great place to stay -Kalypso Studios - I chilled out for a few days, the race wasn`t until Saturday evening (start at 6.30pm). except for this race I wasn`t planning to run on holiday. I got used to the heat - it was reportedly about 37 to 40 C. Anyway Saturday arrived & I drove out to Krokees - as I drove UP towards the village I had wondered what I let myself in for. I found a cool place to park up & went to sign in. I was given my race number - it was hand made by local school kids with each number had a different design.

I decided not to go for a warm up but as I wandered around the village before the start - Paul the Race Director made his introduction. I thanked him for the information he sent beforehand - he did wonder where I heard about the race. There was a walking race before the main race so everyone watched them off & then the main introduction - I`m not going to say I understood too much but did clap when everyone else did. I did feel the atmosphere build thou. Soon we all made our way behind the start line & we were off.

Even thou the first few Kms were downhill I didn`t want to rush off - I had a feeling I would need my strength later in the race. I almost fell down one part of the course - I thought that`s going to fun on the way back. I saw many runners with the `Athens Marathon` running tops on - I decided not to wear my 2010 T-shirt till after the race.

The scenery was just fantastic - olive groves, even orange trees, hills in the background & at one point we could see the sea. I will admit I started to feel the heat at around the 6Km point & thought great only a 1/3 of the way in. Luckily there was plenty of water stations & I used the water to cool down rather than drink. I saw the lead runners come through - impressive stuff. Suddenly we went around the corner & saw the turnaround point - what I didn`t see was the sharp slope taking us up to the village & the real halfway - I felt a great sense of relief when I saw the arrow on the road leading us home.

I cheered the runners on who still had some way to go. The `steep part` did feel a lot better when we were going down. I was using most of my water (& half filled discarded bottles to tip over myself to cool down), the water hose was a welcoming sight. Soon enough we started on the uphill part but at least we were getting closer.    I found myself in a group of runners that seemed to be overtaking & passing each other every now & again - encouraging each other when we dropped back a bit. Soon we entered the edge of the village. The kids were cheering us through - I didn`t think they expected someone to say "Thanks" in English - I got in returned "Keep running" etc etc - brilliant stuff.

I saw the sign 18Km in the road - great only 600 to go...what a 600 !! A couple of corners & soon enough the last corner & saw the finishing gantry. As I finished I was given the medal & olive branch & a massive goodie bag - all totally unexpected.  Also was unexpected was the microphone being put in front of me & the guy asking me all sort of questions (I guess) about my run - I did say it was a great event & tough course.

I went back to `my` car to change & freshen up a bit & went back to the finishing area to see some of the after race entertainment. After a while I made my way back `home` - boy did I enjoy the couple of Mythos I had later.

Yes it was a tough course - hot & hilly bit so worth it - so glad I made the effort. Paul & his team put on a great event - well done them. Bravo

Write up & Results Link (& yes I was 1st Brit)

My Garmin story

Here`s a short video I made up....

BTW - the next day I didn`t feel guilty at all about lying in the sun & taking it easy. Next up - a parkrun (a what - well it would have been a 3 week parkrun break) & then Burnham Beeches Half Marathon.

1 comment:

  1. Great report Kelvin, I just love events like this and wish there were more of them in England especially with the school kids doing the race numbers which shows it was a real community event.