29 March 2010
Each year in March, “La Sufrida” organize an event in Ronda, Spain, in homage to their annual “101km of Ronda” race (which takes place in May). The March “Homenaje,” just like its big brother in May, offers three modes of participation — a 69 km mountain bike ride, a 44 km run or a 70 km duathlon (run and bike). Last weekend, Pino and I participated in the event — her doing the run (crazy, I know), and me doing the mountain bike ride.
We traveled to Ronda on Saturday afternoon, with plans of overnighting in town, to avoid an early morning drive from Marbella on the race day. Since we booked late, the only hotel we could fine with vacancy was the Hotel Colón. As the hotel sits precisely on the starting line, next to the Alameda, we thought we’d lucked out!
But then we checked in.
First bad omen was when the receptionist said that we had to be out of the hotel by noon the following day (Sunday). This is the first time we’ve ever been to an event like this, and where the local hotel didn’t allow us to return to the room late the following day to take a shower. (It’s not like they had guests arriving on Sunday night.)
So we spent the afternoon exploring Ronda, and ended the evening with a pizza. Returning to the Hotel Colón at about 9:30 PM, we hit the sack early.
Three hours later we realized we’d made a terrible mistake. Not only does the hotel’s location coincide with the race start, it also coincides with the busiest evening-time spot in all of Ronda. Loud cars, loud people, buzzing motorcycles, shouting, bottle breaking, police sirens, you name it. An orchestra of noise.
At midnight, I’d decided to simply go home. Anybody familiar with Spanish nightlife knows that kind of chaos goes on all night long, and I wasn’t about to sit there all night, and then ride 70 km the following day, having done no training at all (more about that later).
We left the hotel shortly after midnight, unsure whether we were simply going home, or to another hotel. Fortunately, we happened to ask the public parking lot attendant if he knew of a hotel outside of Ronda, and he pointed us to the Hotel Don Benito.
Wow. What a difference! Just 4km outside Ronda sits the four star Hotel Don Benito. Beautiful. Friendly staff. And quiet! We were able to have a gloriously peaceful night.
Considering the one-star Hotel Colon was 50 Euros per night, excluding breakfast, and the four-star Hotel Don Benito was 60 Euros per night, including an awesome breakfast, I’m pretty sure I know where we’ll be staying in the future.
After a breakfast of fruits, toasted rolls with olive oil, cereals and coffee, we headed off to the Alameda for the start of the event, where we were greeted by 1,000 cyclists and 700 runners.
Not having touched a bicycle in over six months, I was more than slightly concerned about my chances of finishing the thing, and so I moved to the very back of the group. At 9:30 sharp, the gun was fired and we were off.
The race made an initial, insanely muddy loop around Ronda, and then it was off to Montejaque, where we climbed up to the famous Ermita. I’ve done this climb many times, and it’s hard. I was able to stay on the bike for most of it, but had to walk at the very top, where both the inclination and trail erosion from the recent rains made it impossible to stay on the bike.
Back to Ronda, we hit the 30 km point, where I’d planned to do a self-assessment and possibly quit. However, I felt surprisingly good, and decided to continue. The route then left Ronda for a north westerly loop of about 40 km. I started feeling better and better, and ended the race passing many people and feeling strong. I can only attribute that to the Powerbar gels which I’d decided to take religiously each 45 minutes.
My finishing time was 5h:30m, over an hour better than last year’s time. (But still, that’s relative. Spaniards love cycling; over 80% of the people in my category still beat me!)
I arrived just in time to setup the camera to capture Pino finishing the run, in fourth place overall, and second place in her category. AMAZING!
After the race, we downed our recovery drinks, had a warm sandwich and beer offered by the organization, and sat looking at the gorgeous Ronda countryside waiting for the awards ceremony. At 5:30 PM, Pino was awarded her 2nd place trophy — and there was no mention of my finishing in the bottom twenty percent. (Unfair!)
In addition to Pino’s performance, others from Marbella did well too. Our friends Aurora and Juan finished first and second in their categories, respectively (in the 23 km run option).
All in all, an absolutely fantastic day in Ronda. Looking forward to next year.
Map of the 70km bike route.
Altitude profile of the bike route.
Start of the race.
Pino running through the local towns.
Climbing up to the Montejaque Ermita.
Pino’s finishing second!.
Team Marbella did great!
It was a muddy, muddy day.