Azores Trail Run Triangle Adventure – Part 2

Luís Race Report

running in são jorge island

Second Stage – São Jorge Island

On the second day the weather was improving. There was still some strong wind blows that could be felt at higher altitudes, but down bellow the weather was perfect. At the end of the day there was some heavy rain, but I had finished the race by then.

My best stage

Day 2 was the best for me, performance wise. The stage was a difficult one – Fajãs Trail is a brutal course with 1600m elevation gain, 2000m elevation loss, and 28 km long. It can be resumed to this:
3 km technical descent -> 3 km hard steep climb -> 3 km technical descent -> 6km really hard steep climb -> 4 km really hard technical descent. 
In between there is of course, a few less demanding segments, like the last 4 or 5km.

This, of course, after waking up at 6am and take the Ferry in Faial Island. Almost every one else stayed in Pico and the ferry would pick them up there, but I decided to come back to Faial after stage 1 because I could sleep in my own bed 🙂 with the wife. The cross to Pico is a very short one (30 minutes), but the cross from Madalena (in Pico) to São Jorge can take up to 2 hours and the waves were kind of rough. Many athletes had sea sickness which I guess isn’t nice just before a trail race. I usually don’t get sea sick so I enjoyed the wave riding.


The start line

Once we’ve landed in São Jorge we still had a kind of long bus transfer to the start line. And when we finally arrived, there was a very nice breakfast with tea and coffee and plenty different food available for everyone. A well deserved refreshment after the journey. I’ve drunk lots of tea and went for the cheese and sweetbread that are both awesome in São Jorge. Then there was the usual athletic WC wars just before the start. The race finally started not long past mid day.

I started easy, maybe too easy, because I had a hard time passing many runners. But it’s okay. Part of the fun is to run with more people beside you, and in most cases they will make you faster, not slower. Into the first climb I took it carefully, feeling comfortable in my own pace. Towards the end of this climb a kind of group was formed that was gaining a few places in the race. The group was formed by me (bib 42), Patrick (bib 44) and António (bib 77). On the second descent, I was feeling warmed up and pushed a bit more keeping up with Patrick (bib 44) who was descending very well.

azores triangle adventure
azores triangle adventure

Injury and bad thoughts

When we got to Fajã dos Bodes, right at sea level, the course goes into “Pedra Rolada” terrain, very tricky, but fortunately we – Azoreans, are well familiarised with that kind of coast line terrain. So I was able to win a couple of places. But probably a kind of dance move on the “Pedra Rolada” made something to my right leg. By the time I got to Fajã dos Vimes, I was feeling terrible. I was running on the flats, easy pace and my right thigh and buttock were really hurting. Some kind of muscle or probably back pain related.  

I was thinking that maybe I wouldn’t be able to make it to the last stage, only if I could have two left legs. Just when I was feeling awful, a very little girl was on the course offering me a banana. I know I was not suppose to accept assistance out of the aid stations, but how could I let her down? That banana came just on the right time for a moral bump more than nutrition.

Outstanding climb to Serra do Topo

And then came the most demanding ascent – 6 km – 700 m elevation gain. And I unfolded my poles and started walking up, by then a few guys had pass me, including Marco (bib 20), who was 10 min ahead of me in general classification. But as I was finding my focus again, I rejoined a group with him and Patrick (bib 44). 

In no time I was feeling great, maybe thanks to the many changes in terrain, or because of the ascent movement by walking with the poles. In any case, my leg didn’t hurt me anymore. And in this amazingly beautiful and steep segment from Fajã dos Vimes to Serra do Topo, my buddies were having a hard time keeping up with my pace. 

So I took of, feeling strong, and climbed solo for a while, passing at least a couple more runners. Once the steepest segment was over, there was still a bit more to climb. But I took it easy, since up there the terrain was muddy, and naturally the weather was colder and worst than down the slope, with strong winds and a bit of rain.

running in são jorge island

Downhill and rhythm drop again

Next up was the technical downhill to Fajã do Santo Cristo. Which again, I did very well especially by keeping up with a good downhiller, I don’t remember his bib number, but I suppose was someone who was racing only the São Jorge stage. I have to say that running behind someone that is technically better than me always helps me a lot. It’s funny how our mind works. Towards the end of the descent I’ve let him go (he was really fast), and I started thinking on the next day. 

The last kilometres were up and down, from Fajã do Santo Cristo to Fajã dos Cubres. This last segment was kind of painful for me. Physically I felt like I could still give a little more. But in my head I was thinking that maybe I went too hard on this second stage, and the last and harder stage was still to come the next day. So I’ve tried the best I could to put an easy recovering pace on this last stretch to the finish line. But it felt like the easy pace was making things more difficult for me. 

Unlike the previous day, I finished São Jorge’s race feeling well. The rest of the day was spend relaxing by the finish line at Fajã dos Cubres, a place that I like so much. I was amongst friends, everyone was discussing the race and I also took the massage just before dinner. Later, over the dinner, the results came out and I saw how good my performance was in day 2, comparing to my most direct opponents.

Click here if you would like to keep reading Part 3.

azores triangle adventure