Azores Trail Run Triangle Adventure – Part 1

Luís Race Report

azores trail running

The Azores Trail Run Triangle Adventure (link) was something that I’ve been wanting to do since its first edition. The idea of a 3 day stage race in 3 islands is just beautiful, even more for me. Being native from Faial, knowing well all the trails in Faial, Pico and São Jorge… The possibility of 3 races in these 3 islands during 3 days, it’s just a dream come true. So, for the 4º edition, I finally lined together with more 69 athletes that were up to the challenge, in an overall number of 124 athletes. Some of them only took part on individual stages and not the whole adventure. The results can be seen here.


My main strategy before hand for this Azores Trail Run Triangle Adventure was to go easy on the start… Using race time to warm up or recover. So the idea for the first 2 stages was to start and finish a bit slower. Allowing for some recovering during the race. I can endure long distances if I go slow, but I was also trying to be as fast as I could. One of the strategies was to do as few stops in aid stations as possible. I usually race short distance trails, like between 20 and 30 km. So I’m used to cary what I need and keep on moving fast.

azores trail running
azores trail running


Basically I was using dried figs and beef jerky. I guess it sounds very strange but I had 2 strong reasons. First, what I use for nutrition during work (hiking, cycling or running) or training is mostly natural stuff: water, trail mix and other dried fruits or nuts; fresh fruit; beef jerky and sandwiches now and then. So my body in theory is used to this kind of food. Second, I like to use less processed and less plastic producing food. 🙂 Which doesn’t mean I don’t use gels and stuff, I just use it less. 

Every day I was carrying 1.5L of water and approximately 3 figs, 1 small stripe of beef jerky per hour of racing and 2 gels. I’ve found out that after 2 hours of racing, me and my stomach don’t want to chew figs anymore. So the blessed gels were very important. Also, after this 3 day stage race I couldn’t taste figs or beef jerky for more than a month.

azores trail running

First Stage – Pico Island

Weather was ugly on this day, strong winds, some light showers and lots of clouds. The first day’s course was mostly up hill – From the Vineyards to the Mountain. The plan was to run about 28km with 2380m of elevation gain. The finish line was supposed to be placed on the crater of Pico volcano. At an altitude of 2230m on the highest Mountain of Portugal. But the weather didn’t permitted it and the organisation canceled that part of the race. Very wisely in my opinion. As a certified Pico mountain guide, I can assure you that playing races there with weather like this is a bad idea. So, the finish line was placed on the mountain house making the course 4 km short and 1000 m less of elevation gain.

The poles mistake

At the start line Mário Leal, the race director, told everyone that the mountain segment was canceled. So I’ve decided I wouldn’t need my hiking poles for this stage. It was a big mistake. Because during all my training for this adventure, I was always thinking that the poles would be a big advantage for myself. Since I’m a professional mountain / hiking guide, I use the poles all summer… Guiding hikers on the trails all over the triangle islands. Using the poles during my work can save my legs for the next day or for training. And using them a lot also made me perfect my technic, applying more upper body strength into those steep climbs. Hence, I even customised my hydration vest. So I could carry my folding poles on the front in a way that I wouldn’t loose much time “turning them on and off”. So, not taking them on this first stage was really a precipitous decision. Due to nervousness or excitement. That probably made me loose 5 to 10 minutes at end of the day.

It was a great race

Other than that, it was a great race. I started easy, although with high heart rate due to race excitement, I’m sure. I was wearing the rain layer because it was windy and raining a bit. But soon after the start of the race I was too hot. And I did kind of a mess trying to take the vest and jacket out without stoping. By the time I was out of the vineyards, I was feeling pretty warmed up and was able to keep a good pace in the easier terrain. The problem started with the steepest segments, because I didn’t bring my poles. The weather was also worse as the altitude increased so I had to put my jacket on again. This time I stoped and took my time. Further ahead was when I first noticed Patrick (bib 44). I was climbing this really steep trail and he passed by me. I tried to follow but couldn’t. He was very strong on that ascent and also without poles. He would finish the day 6 minutes and 31 seconds ahead of me. 

The end of the stage

The very end of this stage was kind of difficult for me. Because the terrain was difficult, the weather was wet and cold and foggy. I was trying not to go too hard in order to keep with my strategy. And was still frustrated about the poles. Inside the last 2 km my heart rate dropped and that would be ok if the finish line was right there… But I was still climbing. The last 400 m were a kind of gentle descent straight. And the sight of it made me run faster than I should. My heart rate went too high and I’ve finish not in the best mood. (You can see my Strava activity including Heart rate and cadence.)

Click here if you would like to keep reading Part 2.