Friday, November 23, 2012

Running the Camí dels Bons Homes: Part 2

Running the Camí dels Bons Homes (a.k.a. La Ruta de los Cátaros / Le Chemin des Bonshommes / GR 107):
A joint run report by Alicia and Maria

Part 2:  Gósol to Bellver de Cerdanya, approx. 30 miles

Day 2 started with some very stiff legs trying to trot up a very steep hill.  The climb out of Gósol is not too long but packs a significant punch, especially at 7:30 a.m. after not very much sleep and not much in the way of breakfast.  Fortunately it ends in some of the very best running of the route:  a ribbon of perfect singletrack across the side of the mountain, high above the valley.  My photos don't even remotely do this section justice (click on them to enlarge), but you can at least get the idea:

We were a bit nervous about the navigation at this point because Carles had been our guidebook reader and navigator the day before, and now he was gone and we were left on our own with the all-Catalan guidebook.  Between the two of us we understood most of what it said, but there were some gaps in our knowledge.  For example, the guidebook ominously referred to a section with lots of "fang," as in, "Be careful here, there is a lot of fang."  We didn't know what this was at the time but we assumed it couldn't be good and liked to periodically remind each other "Watch out for the fangs!"  (Carles later informed us that it means mud.)

When we got to the top of the first pass, after the beautiful singletrack section, it was suddenly winter.

Unfortunately the trail went onto this dirt road here, and we had to do a steep 6-mile descent all on hard-packed road--ouch.  At the bottom of the road was Bagà, which is the town where, for ultrarunning fans, the Cavalls del Vent race starts and finishes.  For food fans, they also have a fine bakery, which we took full advantage of.

We left Bagà a little after 1 pm, which meant we were going to be cutting it pretty close as to whether or not we'd make it to our planned destination before dark.  Maria noted that it possibly would have been sensible to stop in Bagà, considering that it got dark around 5:30 and we would have almost twice as much climbing to do in the second half of the day as in the first.  I claimed without any supporting facts that we'd be fine, and we set off again.

After a few km on the road, the trail turned colorful and foresty as we made our way up about 1,000m of elevation gain over 12km.

The views from the top of the pass were pretty spectacular:

Alas, even 12km of uphill hadn't been enough for our quads to recover from the earlier big descent, and the run down the other side of the pass was fairly painful.  We had to race the clock a bit to get down before dark, but we made it with maybe 15 minutes to spare.  We were relieved to see a hotel right at the entrance to the village, which in fact turned out to be not technically Bellver but rather an even smaller "suburb."  The hotel, the Cal Rei, was perfect and came complete with friendly gossos, a friendly owner, books to read, and a good hotel restaurant which served almost entirely local food.

At night Maria forced us to take ice baths, which, while painful, may have helped, since we both felt significantly less sore the next day.  There may be inconclusive research on whether ice baths work but so far, on anecdotal experience, I'm ready to conclude that they do!

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