Trilhos Abutres 2016 – an epic bitch kind of trail

My shoe! My shoe! That is ridiculous! – And I started laughing. A nervous breakdown kind of laugh. I had enough. But I was only 9KM in the race. 9KM and still 41 to go. Why the hell am I here? I felt like a fraud.
Trilhos Abutres promised to be epic. To me, it was an epic DNF. If I sum up what the lovely running community, my friends and my family said to me after the race.
You don’t fail on the trail. You fall, you get back on your feet and you learn.
A look back on my first race of the year, which I wanted to be….well. Epic.

Just before getting into the real stuff

1 hour to go before the gun goes off and I still can’t decide if I will be running in short or in tights. It’s cold, but what if it gets really warm during the race? Ok, long sleeve and short should be okay. I am calm. No, nervous. A mix of both maybe.
Paul and Manu are here. “Whatever you want, whatever you need” is Paul’s favorite sentence when I ask for something. I am so thankful they’re both here. It’s 7 AM, and they’re here. I guess not everybody can be so blessed to have such friends.

Trilhos abutres the crew
A reporter arrives. He asks me why I am here, what I expect, why and how I chose to run Trilhos Abutres. I remember saying that, I decided to run this race as a test for March, that it’s my first ultra and that I am pretty excited.
Oh, and that I hope I will finish.
Yeah… I said that.
I give my perfect crew a kiss and go to the PC to get my bag checked. I smile. I have such a big smile on my face, filled up with this naivety of a beginner and the resilience of finishing strong.
You wanna hear a joke? When Paul asked me when to be there to pick me up I told him “Oh you know, in 5 or 6 hours”.
Yeah… I said that too.
This shows actually unaware I was. Unprepared?
10 Minutes before start.

trilhos abutres before start

The beginning of an epic race

I started not so far from the front. Don’t ask why. Lot of men here. Some women.
I tried to get into myself. To concentrate on what was about to come.
“You’ve done that a couple of time,” I said to myself, “it’s just longer this time. With some hills.”
The gun goes off.
You always say you’re going to run your race. When friends ask me how to start in a race I always tell them that, if you have the feeling you are too slow, then slow down a little more. Because it’s what I read from the pros. It’s what I heard from my friends who run better than me.
Me? I started too fast.
Everyone was hurrying, and racing so fast that I followed. I ran my first 2KM in 11 minutes.
When you start your race like this? Not okay.
When you start Trilhos Abutres so fast? You’re burned before the first hill shows up.

Why is Trilhos Abutres so epic?

As far as I am concerned, I would recommend this race to anyone who wants to test the limits of its heart, mind and body.
I haven’t been to many trail races yet, but Trilhos Abutres is really well organized. I mean you can’t get lost on the trail because everything is well indicated. If you want to have moments of solitude, running alone and embracing what natures has to offer? This race is for you.
Very, very technical, Trilhos Abutres is a mix of muddy trails, waterfalls you have to cross, steep ascents and descents – and when I mean steep, it’s because I needed both hands to get up, or my ass to go down. All of that on single tracks. I guess this is what running in nature is all about? I felt like running in a jungle. The breathtaking views are the reward of this challenging race. Trust me. When I couldn’t get one step further, I just had to remember that the view would be awesome at the top.
Also – and here big up to all of them – the volunteers are awesome! Really kind, ready to help and always have a smile or a kind look to give. I already was stocked with the kindness of the Portuguese during my last stays, but here, in the middle of a race, it’s more than what you can ask. Here again, a big thank you to all of you.

trilhos abutres the view

Make sure your mind is ready when your body shuts down

It takes a lot of different facets of a personality to be successful at ultrarunning. It’s not just the training, it’s the mental preparation, it’s the execution on the day and being able to say that today it’s going to hurt incredibly much and I am going to embrace the pain and know that… I am hoping to be able to take more pain than anybody else. – This is your day, Movie.

 

6KM into the race, I had enough. Was my watch broken? It couldn’t be possible. I felt I’ve run so far. I felt like burned. Everything was hurting. We were running or walking up the first climb of Trilhos Abutres through mud, rocks, and waterfalls. My legs were burning, screaming, tempting me to just stop for a minute.

Get yourself together girl. Then I started to get in the flow for the next kilometers, running at a normal pace and… BOUM. I lost my shoe. In the mud. I fall on my hands because you are defo NOT expecting that SOMETHING retains your foot. Trying to get the shoe of the mud was a story in itself. You are soaked to the bones, it’s humid everywhere, and you have no strength anymore. Everything hurts and you’ve got to get on your four feet to get that shoe out the mud. I laugh. Nervously. Only 9KM into that race and it wouldn’t get easier. Why for anyway? I couldn’t help myself. I sneered.

It was just getting started. The trail was beating me step by step, trying to get me to quit.

Never.  That is not an option today.

I was thinking fast, and just kept telling to myself: whatever happen, keep moving, whatever the obstacles, keep moving. If you fall again. Stand up. And keep moving.

From one aid station to the other

When I reached the first aid station at KM13 all my exhaustion disappeared. Your mind tricks you. Or you trick your mind, I still don’t know. But I felt good. I ate some fruit jelly and kept moving. I think I was 1 or 2 minutes into that aid station?
Fill the water. Eat. Go. Put one step after the other.
I felt good, I was enjoying it again. I kept thinking about the words of Sonja: as long as you enjoy it, there is no problem to keep going.
I wasn’t out of the woods yet. The next struggles were upon me. And I didn’t know. I couldn’t actually imagine, that it would get worse.
I was mixing walking and running to keep the little energy I regained after the break.

trilhos abutres mud and waterfall

We got into muddy terrain again. Climbing, and climbing. When you think you have enough, then comes more.
Volunteers showed us the way in the middle of the jungle.
You got to be kidding me I thought.
We had to run through a kind of cylinder, in the dark, to get on the other side. In this cylinder, there was nothing less than a waterfall. And current. It was refreshing the legs and the mind. And at least, my shoes were clean. For one or two minutes.

At K14, I saw a woman running. It was more or less flat so I decided to get into an easy pace and started running too. It felt good to free the legs a bit. The sun was dancing on my skin and between the pines and for the first time since a long time, I felt free, free of all the struggles, and enjoying the moment. The second after, I was lying on the trail, face again the ground. My left foot, actually my big toe this idiot, got caught in a small stump I didn’t even know was existing, and I fall. All my length on the ground. It hurt. “Stand up girl, keep moving, stand up.”

In this moment, you swallow the tears and in seconds, try to analyze how your body actually feels. Are you hurt? Can you move your foot? Are you able to keep moving? How is the toe?
Some guys stopped and asked me if I felt ok. Is it your ankle? “Everything is fine, obrigada,” I said, “I have tape in my bag in case of.”
I started walking and took my time to assess the damage. Everything seemed to be okay. I started running again and then this pain. “F**K!”. My ankle. It felt like an electrocution at every step. So I kept walking. Walking as fast as I could, giving my foot some rest.

My first thought?
35KM to go.

At this moment of the race, I was dividing my race into aid stations. I was on survival mode. My body was shutting down, and my mind went into auto-pilot. As we started the biggest climb, I was having an endless dialogue with myself.

 

Do you want to DNF on Trilhos Abutres? No.
But you can’t anymore. True.
How are you going to explain your DNF?
Are you a failure?
Why do you think you are able to run an ultra?
Why do you want bigger distances?
For the breathtaking view? You could also hike.
You could also stick to marathons on asphalt.
You are a fraud. It’s epic.
You want too much, too fast.
Are you a quitter?
You are stronger than you think.
You can.
If you can run, run, if you can’t, walk.
Keep moving.
Failure. DNF.
Shut up.

Just get your ass to the next aid station and then you’ll see.

trilhos abutres jungle

Short visit through hell

Arriving at the top, at KM24, I felt like a zombie. I can’t recall the last miles, but it was long. I think I got to the next aid station at 3H30 into the race? My body and mind were responding to the most basic needs: I am hungry. Food. I need salt. I need sugar. Drink. Re-fill.
I feel really blessed to have the stomach I have because I tried so many new refuel at the same time.
I was not thinking clearly anymore.
Quick assessment: are you quitting? No. The next aid station is in 5KM. Only descent. I have a bit more than 2 hours to get there before the cut-offs. If everything goes well, I will then move forward to the next aid station 8KM after. It’s all going to be fine. My ankle is ok. I am tired but fine. Let’s do this.

I left the aid station at 3H40 into the race. 5 KM to go until the next checkpoint.

I am not joking when I tell you, that 800 meters downhill after the aid station, I started crying. I hit a low point. Idiot. Why did you continue? You have nothing to prove here. I tried to call Iwi. I needed someone to tell me to keep moving. That it was ok. I couldn’t reach her and I guess that was good so.
I swallowed my tears deeply inside.
You’re not a wimp. Let’s go.

During this descent, it was first a lot of rocks. I had no safe footstep. My ankle was not stable. And then we got into the real business: rocks and mud. And waterfalls. I remember myself registering for this race especially because I saw the word “waterfall” in the description – must be beautiful I thought. Of course, it’s beautiful you idiot, but it has also implications!
Between the bridge made of logs, the slippery rocks and the waterfalls on your right or left side: full concentration was required. At certain moments, I thought “how can you organize a race like this?? It’s fucking dangerous…”.
A big rock crossed my path. I had to half climb it and half trust my body feeling. Except I had no feeling anymore. I was exhausted. The waterfall on the left. If I slip, it could be dangerous to fall down there. I just remember how suddenly, I was grabbing, no HUGGING the rock with my feet in free-fall, half of my body embracing the brambles around. Again, assessment of the situation.
Obviously, I fall. Again. It wasn’t even funny anymore.
My tight was hurting because of some scratches.
You need to get back on that trail.
If l told you, that I have more sore muscles in the arms than in the legs, would you believe me now?
trilhos abutres rock descent
No time to cry. Keep moving.
I went so deep inside me, I still don’t know where this energy came from.
Next aid station. You rest, you keep moving to KM37. That is not an option.
Deal.

Another bridge. Another waterfall. Mud. Rocks. Climb. Run. Descent. Ascent. Almost there.
Bridge. Waterfall. Rock. Mud. Rock. Mud. Descent. Run. Ascent. Run. Walk.
Another big rock, you got this. A kind hand helping me to get down. I felt better. More confident. Regaining the lost power. It’s all going to be ok. No DNF for you today.

I actually began to enjoy it again. I should have been more careful, though. I should be used to it now. Every time I felt good in that race.

Yes. You got the picture.

I hit the ground again. While trying to descent a single track full of rocks, I slip on one and slid down on 3 meters. DAMNED. I couldn’t retain the tears. My hand was hurting. I couldn’t move my finger.
Stand up! STAND UP! My hip. I just remember how a runner stopped, wanted to call for help.
“No. I am ok.” I honestly thought about the cut off time for him. If he had helped me out, he would miss the cut-off. The trail family spirit.
He helped me to stand up and stayed behind me all way until I stopped in the middle of a climb to get some air. “You’re sure you want to keep going? Did you hit your head? You seemed dizzy before.”

Yes, I am sure. Thank you so much. Thank you

Quick assessment.
I couldn’t hold anything in my right hand. But I needed them to climb or descend.
I couldn’t run anymore because of my hip.
There, I knew. I knew it was enough.
The battle was over.
It ended at KM29 when I’d reach the next aid station.

You are giving up. But keep moving.

I thought I had seen everything. I thought Trilhos Abutres had already shown me the worst.
But the last descent was literally hell.
I knew the aid station was down that hill. But I first needed to get there.

YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.

I had to take a rope with one hurting hand designed for rappelling to the road. It felt like 300 meters. This last meters? Took everything I had left. Everything.

trilhos abutres free fall
This is not the picture of the last descent. I had nothing left to take that picture.

The last meters rappelling

Only one more step. Come on girl. I know it hurts. But if you could just do one more step…
5H30. Just half an hour before the cut-off.
It was over.
I couldn’t do anything to put up my mind to it.
Trilhos Abutres was over.
A team of 5 or 6 medical men was waiting down that hill – I understand why.
I handed myself over like a criminal that has no other solutions anymore. They didn’t understand that I was putting myself up for a DNF. They made me repeat it again and again, and I couldn’t hold my tears.
But I didn’t want to cry.
Not now.
It was awful.
I felt humiliated even if that was not the case.
All these emotions I held back during that race starting at KM8?
These emotions were right there, stuck in my throat.
My hopes.
My visualization of me finishing strong
Me telling myself over and over
That if I could just get to the next aid station
Or to the next top after the climb
It would all gonna be ok.
All that?
Gone in a second.
463 was out. 29K into the race. After 5H30 or so. My Trilhos Abutres adventure ended here.

I sat in the ambulance and my first call went to my lovely friend, Iwi.
Her voice.
“Hey Honey how did it go?
So full of love, happiness and hope.
I cried.
“Oh no.”
But then she got the Iwi mindset. The warrior kind of mindset
“It’s ok; come one look qt it yourself, it was not a beginner trail, it’s a difficult one you chose there for a start honey, next time will be better, next time we will be together; etc”
Something like that. I know she will understand that I can’t remember exactly what she said.
I hang up and we drove to the finish line.

 

When only love can help you

Entering the area of the finish line, I felt my tears coming up again. I was struggling so badly to retain those deep inside of me. I didn’t want to cry in front of them, all these strong finishers. I felt like it was not my place to be. They knew what was coming, they were prepared, and they came through this bitch trail. I didn’t. And at this moment, I felt exactly like this new girl arriving at a new school – and this new girl does not want to cry.
But then.
Well, then I saw Paul and Manu.
And I couldn’t do anything about them
Tears
Many of them.
He held me
Hugged me.
And I cried. I cried like I had lost someone.
Myself?
I cried. He held me a bit stronger.
I was shakes
By an avalanche of convulsions
He said it’s okay now. You’re fine.
I stopped.

trilhos abutres the battle ends here

Not only epic, Trilhos Abutres was an introspective race

This trail got me naked. I learned more during these 29KM than during my two marathons. During the race I realized what it means to run your race, no matter the time, no matter the ranking. Trilhos Abutres, you got me naked: with my emotions, with my honesty. And my respect. You can’t have a big ego on the trails. I learned that you have to stay humble. Whatever your plan is, just remember the trails and the mountains were here before you, and will remain after your “passage”. Whether you accept and respect it, or it will beat you until you fall.

I may have lost this battle.
But next time.
Well next time, I will be back.
And next time Trilhos Abutres, I’ll win that battle.
That’s a promise.

trilhos abutres bib

28.86 KM – 5:37:42 H – AVG Speed 5.1 KM/H – AVG Heartrate 158 bpm

14 Comments

  1. “When you want something with all your heart, that’s when you are closest to the Soul of the World. It’s always a positive force.” (PC)

    That’s where you are now! While it was quite a sad end, the article is a written adventure- thanks for that…

    • Oriane

      Thank you Dominik 🙂 I hope next year will be a report on the same race.
      But with a happy end!

  2. Did you ever consider writing for a magazine, Oriane? Thank you for sharing these thoughts. It must have been hell. I’d like to add something to Dominik’s quote. Someone said: “Experience is what you get, if you didn’t get what you wanted.” It makes you stronger anyway. Run on!

    • Oriane

      Oh no I did not 🙂 But would be fun to write a kind of chronicle for a magazine. Kind of story or so.
      Who knows how the future is made for us right?
      It was kind of hell… But I will defo be there next year if I get through the lottery.
      Thanks for reading!! Means a lot Xx

  3. Last year I also chosed this race to be my first ultra trail, but I was stopped at the first cut-off because I arrived 3 minutes late. I felt very disapointed and frustated with myself. I thought “you’re not up to this! Stick with smaller races.”
    But last saturday I finished it as my first Ultra and it was awesome. I really hope you do come back next year and defeat this windmill. It’s a very hard race but also very beautiful. Thank you for your story and keep on moving 😉

    324

    • Oriane

      Oh I so feel what you were thinking! I also thought I should stick to smaller races and on asphalt for the better.
      Congratulation for your finish! I can only feel what kinf of a win it must have been to cross that finish line! Load of emotions and proud. Big congrats to you! I hope I will get through the lottery next year, and defeat the trail!
      Thanks for stopping by and read my article! You’re awesome!

  4. Miguel Serradas

    In 2015 I was cut-off at the same place you retired from the race, it was a year of terrible weather and some physical limitations for me. So this years edition was about setting the record straight, and I was lucky (and prepared) enough to make it. It felt wonderful and I made peace with the Abutres. Hope you get your opportunity next year, and to see you again on the muddy trails and waterfalls. All the best, Guy With Orange Shirt ;).

    • Oriane

      Thanks for your comment. I make it a personal battle and goal to finish that race next year. I want it so badly! I am glad you made it to the finish this year! Big congratulation, this is awesome! Hope to see you again also! Thanks for taking the time to read me. Means a lot!
      The girl lying on the middle of the trail 🙂
      X

  5. Pedro Amorym (speaker in the final ) 😊😊

    Im happy you enjoyed our trilhos….. we worked very hard to received ou friends athlets well ( yes because all of you that love nature and our Serra da Lousã are our friends ) . We are waiting for all of you next year 😊

    • Oriane

      Yes indeed you promised it would be epic! It defo was! Thanks for the beautiful organization. You people are awesome!
      I’ll see you next year! I have a battle to win! X

  6. Nuno Amaro

    You’re a warrior!
    We expect you to be here next year…at the finishing line. 🙂

    Great report!

    • Oriane

      Thanks my Saver of the trail! At the finish line…and not lying on the middle of the trail, right? 😉
      Thanks for reading, means a lot to me! Xx

  7. Luis Pedro Nogueira

    Congratulations for the excellent chronicles . We ran for a mile or two around km 15 and i think you already haver some problems. I hope to see you next year st the finish line!!

    • Oriane

      Thank you very much Luis, and thank you for reading! It could be 🙂 I was already in survival mode at this time of the race.. God, this trail got me!! Next year I will finish and I’ll see you there!!! You’re awesome!

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