5 runs / 105.1 km (week) / 105.1 km (total)
Permit me to be a little honest: I wasn’t in the highest of spirits when I left Conil de la Frontera this morning. That is not because I was loathe to leave; it’s a lovely place, pocket-sized yet big enough, with stunning views—I’d certainly recommend it for a romantic weekend. Nor was it because I was minded to echo the opinion of a resident when I told them that I was was going to Barbate: in a nutshell, that it wasn’t the pleasantest of places, and that its close proximity to Morocco makes it a haven for, well, how shall we say it, extra-curricular trading. Instead, I’d taken a bit of a mood-dip, for a number of reasons, one of which being that I got stuck in a brain-loop about the weight of my backpack. Clocking it at around 15% of my bodyweight, before water or food, and having rested the previous day, I began to feel increasingly intimidated by it—the same sort of feeling when you know you can do some run because you’ve done it however many times before, but somehow, this time it’s really hard to start. Nevertheless, I bid my host farewell, got my first reference to Forrest Gump (I’ve been waiting for this :P ), and set off. And what a stunning start to the run!
The path is sandy, although not so much as to lose too much grip, and I run my most comfortable starting kilometres yet. Before long, I realise I have somewhat strayed, and I either have to double-back, or find my way through the shallow water. Mindful of blisters, I find the shallowest part, wade through, and continue on my way. (Note from future self: considering that my blisters got much worse after this, if I had my time again—I’d do exactly the same. :P )
Pretty soon I come to a road, but this is the sort of quiet, inoffensive, cousin-much-removed version of many of the roads I’ve seen to-date, barely related to the motorways of peril I’ve been so anxious to avoid. To the right pretty much throughout, I can see the sea and the beach. This is a surfing area, and an assortment of shacks and campers pass me by on the left.
There is something incongruous about the Tibetan prayer flags I pass, strung up outside a protected villa. I confess myself no expert in prayer flags, but I’m pretty sure they’re not meant to be attached to barbed wire…
Soon enough, it’s familiar territory of the path-through-field kind. I wonder to myself whether this is indeed a valid path, and whether I’m even allowed here. But a moped passes me from in front, and I see a gas station on the left (yes, I said gas, not petrol), so I figure everything’s probably alright.
Rejoining the road, I amuse myself by heeding the stop sign, as a tractor goes round the roundabout. The road lasts for quite a while, until I take a brief detour from the direct route—I am going to see Faro de Cabo Trafalgar, on Cape Trafalgar.
This is it! This is where the Battle of Trafalgar happened! I feel something akin to Clarkson’s mood as he talks about the River Kwai.
And upon my ascent, I am not disappointed with the view. I overlook the bay, and decide to rest. It’s got hotter, and I’ve run 16 km already. Time for breakfast. :)
Continuing my journey, I am time-after-time overwhelmed with the splendour of it all. Looking behind me, I see the cliff drop onto the beach stretching behind, the warm blue of the Mediterranean, the clear, clear sky. I know as I’m looking at it: this is why I’m here; this is why I’m doing this run.
The road begins to climb. And climb. And climb. I will confess, I don’t have the strength left, and I walk most of the way up. Trees line either side; a natural park of some sorts. There isn’t really anywhere safe to run, as the road is elevated. For the next few kilometres, I run (or sometimes walk) along the road where I can, and jump off when vehicles are coming that can’t overtake safely. Most people overtake safely, and most at least slow down. One driver looks right at me, and doesn’t move aside at all, keeping their speed as they drive towards me. I have to step off the road to avoid being hit. I am not best pleased.
And at last, the road rolls downhill. And downhill. And downhill. Running with renewed energy, I see the blue of the sea up ahead. It is worth running towards.
As the road descends to Brabate, the view opens up, and I see the town to the left, and the sea stretching right across the right. This is truly a wonderful moment, and I’m very, very pleased to be running this stage. Almost there; just a couple of kilometres left to go. :)
As I run through the town, I am elated by the run. Tired, sure; I’ve been out for hours, in the heat of the day. I started the run feeling anxious and not at all at peace. And yet, not only did I get there, but I detoured to inspect Cape Trafalgar, breakfasted overlooking the cliffs, and took mile after mile of tree-lined road. And I feel much better. Checkpoint. 28.0 km (stage) / 90.9 km (total)
The day dawns bright and sunny in Chiclana de la Frontera. Okay, according to my mobile; I can’t pretend I was up nearly enough to make such a judgement of my own accord. Regardless, when I set out mid-morning, the sun is shining brightly, starting at sunny 11°C.
Part of the reason I took so long to leave was that I’m still trying to optimise my bag-packing. And even more importantly, to solve the small-hands-punching problem of the airflow back. An initial attempt with a dry-bag fails; it’s comfortable, but all the air gets squished swiftly. My second attempt is a joy to behold; I fold my coat carefully, pocket zips facing the bag, and stuff it up between the netting and the plastic. Sooooooo comfy. Truly, a feat of engineering.
Soon out of the town, I am already confused. Just what is a pedestrian supposed to do in such a circumstance? Come to that, what’s a cyclist to do, either? The future me can tell the past me that’s talking to the present you that this is basically my recipe for the entire day…
I elect to run along the side of the road, as far from the passing traffic as possible, without falling too much into the concrete ditch. When the ditch flattens out, I run there, instead. Also a recipe for the day.
Hurrah! A bike path. :) This makes me happy, and I follow it. I also find the mini-crossings and mini-lanes amusing. (In case it’s unclear, this isn’t the entire reason I follow it.)
Um? I guess this is the end of the path. A little past the bike path, it goes goodness knows where. I continue for a few hundred metres along a grassy area in front of some builders’ stores, and then abruptly run out of road.
I spend a long, long time trying to solve this problem. I look at maps. I look around. I tentatively venture back across the dual-carriageway, and see that the best I can trade it for is a full-on motorway, complete with warning signs. I cross back, walking past the end of the fence. (Note to self: Fences keep pedestrians away from roads. But they also trap them in dangerous or unreasonable areas, especially when a bike path has simply vanished.) From my map I see there’s a quieter road running parallel. But there’s simply no way to get to it. Not even if I go back hundreds of metres. At long last, I give up, deciding the best solution is to retrace hundreds and metres—and then run in the wrong direction. At least here there’s a quiet road.
A few times over the past couple of days, I’ve found myself basically running down small roads at the back of people’s gardens. I wonder if they mind. I wonder what lives roll past, on four wheels, on two wheels, on two trainers… I admire their flower-display on the way past.
At least when running through the country, never let it be said that Spain is always dry. There’s mud. There’s puddles. (Mm, nice plural contraction.) There’s mini swimming-pools in the middle of the road. Not often, mind you—but just saying, the countryside has a lot in common, wherever you are. I feel at home in the fields… even if there are absolutely no cows. :|
A little while later, I take the most lovely road. Trees on either side, bumps and dirt all the way along. I enjoy myself immensely. By the way, if you’re wondering, my to-be-patented coat-up-the-backpack technique is holding out wonderfully. Sure, it’s wetter back there than I’d like—but no more beatings! :D Morale improves.
All-too-soon, I come to another human vs car situation. There’s not really anything for it but to run alongside the road, and hope that nobody’s asleep. I don’t like trusting others’ intake of coffee…
Bridge over the River Motorway! To be clear, the busy road I’ve had to run along isn’t the motorway; that’s the road alongside the motorway. The quiet road is still on the other side of the motorway, safely out of reach. I determine to take the bridge.
Except there’s no way on to the bridge. There’s no side-road. There’s no path. There’s very little except private land, and beautifully-scenic yet unhelpful you-shall-not-pass signs posted. #GetOrfMyLand
Up at the bridge, I find my own solution. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the way god intended humans to travel over major-road then motorways. I have to bend over and use my hands, near the top, because not only is there nowhere for a backpack-carrier to hold onto, I’m also rather scared of heights. ;)
Safely-up, I cross the bridge, and admire the view: a busy two-lane road where I’ve just come from, right next to an even busier four(?)-lane motorway, with this being the one opportunity to cross since kilometres ago.
And although the trees dare come no closer, what a difference can already be seen. A field of top-heavy trees, looking like something out of Avatar (but I don’t mean they’re blue…).
At last, the quieter road. It’s not pretty, and the sun is absolute baking, but I’m grateful for the relative quiet (quiet from the relatives?). There’s a large concrete wall on the right, motorway-side—not as big as the wall in Palestine, admittedly, but large none-the-less.
Time to rest. I’ve stopped at various parts along the way for a bit anyway, mostly whilst trying to navigate the concrete spaghetti, but now some water is deserved. I carefully drink part of it, thinking I’m not all that thirsty. And then drink most of the rest of it, realising I am. (Note to self: Bring more water! It’s heavy, but it’s kinda worth it…)
Getting going after this is rather harder. It’s not so much the problem of cooling down, since it’s really warm. But just having stopped properly for a few minutes, I remember what it feels like to not be running. :P By now I’m dipping a bit in energy, although thankfully nothing like yesterday. Today I have brought some biscuits, but I don’t really fancy them; a Kit Kat this morning for breakfast already made me feel a little iffy. But with good timing, I see a supermarket. And, it not being Sunday, it’s actually open! Hurrah. It’s hard to explain just how welcome the sight of a cuboid, supermarket building is, after these kilometres.
I decide to take a longer break, eat a properly breakfast, and drink orange-juice. Except… I then trigger my IBS-esque health problem. Thankfully, it isn’t too bad for me often, and it’s not usually painful—but it does play havoc with running, at times. (If you’re an IBS/Krohn’s long-distance runner, please get in touch! :D ) When I eventually get going, I decide to ignore Google Maps, which wants me to keep running down a busy road when there’s clearly a convenient side-road. This transpires to be leafy and picturesque.
Got your goat! Literally! I pass by the sweetest of goats, who come up to the fence to have their pictures taken. (I’m not naïve, they did probably want more, but there are limits…) And in their enclosure, just behind, there are two adorable baby-goats—in some sort of cage on wheels. I don’t understand it.
I reach a longer road, with what is apparently a two-way cycle-lane on my side. Really, it’s just about big enough to fit me. But compared to some of the roads I’ve seen today, I’m mostly content. For the last few minutes, I’ve been run-walking, since my IBS-esque-thingy is worsening. But then it gets too bad, and I have to simply walk. There’s simply no fighting that kind of problem.
As I’m coming down the road, I espy four horses galloping along. They run and run, streaking across the field. It’s a beautiful sight, and I wonder whether they’ll somehow cross the road. But they come to the end of their field, and stop. As I pass them up-close a little later, I see the four horses seemingly talking to two horses on the other side of the fence. Their conversation is clearly more interesting than me passing, and they go on uninterrupted.
Entering the town, there’s finally a proper-sized bike-path, clearly marked in red, and everything. I can’t decide whether this makes more or less sense: On the one hand, most people will probably cycle short distances, within the town itself. On the other hand, the speed-limit in the town is likely lower, so it already isn’t all that dangerous, whereas trying to take the route I’ve taken is, well… challenging…
At last, walking and wishing I hadn’t had breakfast and orange-juice after all, I arrive in Conil de la Frontera. With the exception of the last few kilometres, it’s been a good run, and despite the frequent busy roads, I’ve enjoyed myself in the sun. :) Checkpoint. 24.0 km (stage) / 62.9 km (total)
Wishing I hadn’t rinsed my running-top through, I finally complete my packing and probably pull a face whilst pulling on damp clothes. Exiting town today is faster. Cycling roundabout! That can be for me, too. ;)
Passing rivers and what appears to be a nature reserve on the left, I am momentarily concerned by the upcoming bridge. Admittedly, there’s not much traffic, but still… And then I see a pedestrian-only bridge on the right. Perfect! More of these, please!
The water around really is lovely. Wide expanses, small boats. But I can see why I’m having to take such a detour; according to the map, there are no roads through the water. Well, you know what I mean. ;) #Moses
No-one around except for cyclists. Some eye me curiously. I’m slightly ashamed to admit it, but I eye their bikes a little jealously. :P On the right, a train-line. A train comes towards me and hoots. Maybe to tell me I could’ve simply bought a ticket? ;)
At the northernmost point, towards Puerto Real, I turn off. This is probably the most northern I’ll be for a long time. #ChipsAndGravy Silly to go north then south, but it avoids the big road. The overpass ramp has cracked and is breaking away. #MindTheGap
Having to join the main road for a little while, I am grateful for the cycle lane. It feels a little inadequate, especially for a runner, but at least it’s fairly wide. (The cycle lane, I mean.)
A cobbled surface, very quiet, with expansive fields and tall, top-heavy trees in the distance. The sun is pretty bright, now, and we’ve reached midday. I am grateful that I’ve brought water, this time. #FollowTheYellowBrickRoad
Running through the country, the surroundings are really beautiful. The colours contrast strongly in the midday, and the road alternates between shade and sun. The shade feels a little cold, because it’s hard to expel moisture with a backpack. ;) #sweaty
I need to mention my backpack. It’s one of those airflow ones, keeping a tautness to allow air to circulate. Except behind the netting is plastic, with an air-allowing ridged design. Which feels like being punched repeatedly by small hands. Need to sort this.
I pass by what appears to be a goatherd. It’s an unexpected and pleasing scene. But I’m suddenly getting really tired; although I brought water, I didn’t eat. Well, not last night, either, as I wasn’t hungry. Which would be fine, without a backpack. #smart
It’s interesting how concentrated thoughts can be when running. When thirsty, all you can think about is water. Cider. Beer. Something cold. When hungry, your whole mind is occupied by intense images of sandwiches, dinner, cereal bars. By now, I’m walking.
And just like that, my run has basically collapsed within the period of a couple of kilometres. I barely have the strength to walk, never mind run, mind still obsessed with food miles away. I’m amazed Google Maps found this path, and wish I could enjoy it more!
The last few kilometres are just spent walking—slowly. So it appears I should not only take water, but eat as well… Entering town, I buy the first food I can find—a Swiss-roll—and feel both stronger and sick. :P Checkpoint. 18.9 km (stage) / 38.9 km (total)
Running from Cádiz to Barcelona. Or at least, trying to. #ProjectSnail ;)