First of all.. I got to run across a whole remote Island for the 2nd time!! This time it was awesome to have the support of not only Salomon running but also to be on the 2019 Suunto Multisport Team. Which is a huge honor to be apart of this team of Pros and Amateurs with great support from a number of leading athletic companies.
Yes, I feel so very lucky to race the MIUT again. MIUT is a 115km 72 ish miles race with 24,000 feet of climbing on the very beautiful and steep Portuguese Island of Madeira.The Race is now part of the Ultra Trail World Tour bringing in a solid crowd of both spectators and world class athletes. The race starts at midnight on Friday in Porto Moniz and goes up and down all over the island finishing in Machico with a time limit of 32 Hours. Why so long you say.. Because this island is steep and the weather is always changing.
Madeira is a volcanic island covered in forests, green mountains, wet valleys, cliffs, caves, and levadas, which are the irrigation channels around the entire island. If you’re a beach person, this isn’t the place for you… but if you love climbing, amazing views and lots of straight up and down with no switchbacks this is the race for you.
Physically, I never know how I’ll do before a race. My restaurant career/schedule is brutal for long hours of standing on my feet. I managed to get some good training done and some fast runs at the Salomon Athlete Summit in Utah in March. So here we go. Three flights and Boom back on the magical island.
The wait before a long race is hard for me. I was lucky enough to run this race last year so I knew that I wanted to start right at the front of the amateur line. The race starts with a short and steep 1,148 foot climb on road and concrete steps. When I saw the leaders weren’t running this section, I happily power hiked. The course takes a quick and somewhat technical descent back down to sea level, where there are tons of locals in the crowd cheering and yelling! It was awesome to see Dinarte Jesus from Madeira Trail Tours cheering me on. This is very special and all the races in Europe are incredible with crowds showing support around the clock. Now the big climb up to Fanal. It was foggy this year and seemed to take longer than it should. At the top I was only about 4 minutes off my goal time so on I went trying to not let that bother me.
Next you descend down to checkpoint two at Chao da Ribeira. I was trying to get into a flow but this trail is a jungle like terrain and lots of roots. I could actually feel my legs on this part and slightly panicked thinking of how far I had to go. The climb up to Estanquinhos is gnarly. It is about a 4000 foot climb at a fairly steep gradient, reaching 5000 feet around the 19 mile mark.
Honestly, it was the smell of eucalyptus, wild onion, nasturtium that woke me up a bit and the sunlight wasn’t too strong, so it felt like ideal running conditions. I just tried to keep going and not freak out about my time goals.
The second half of the course is nothing less than stunning – some of the most beautiful tropical views I have ever seen. The red roofs of some of the villages along the way peek out amongst the bright green grasses and mountainous backdrops. You just wonder how this island was developed it is just so steep!
The terrain from Pico Ruivo to Poiso is probably the most challenging on the entire course, but you are rewarded with 360 degree views of sheer beauty. The course winds through rock tunnels and with the raising temperatures it felt good to get out of the sun for a short bit. This is where you’ll run into more fans and hikers. How they made these rock tunnels is beyond me.
Stretches of this course require you to be brave if you fear heights. There are some metal ladders you will have to descend, with more amazing views of the valleys very far below. I was told if you make it this far you are going to make it. With just some 20 more miles to go I put my head down and tried to make up time.
From Poiso, 16 miles of descent and flat running with a couple short climbs that make you work for it. Then its running along a rock ledge with cliffs dropping down into the ocean and I mean steep drop! I enjoyed running the trails along the levadas and dirt roads this year and kept a steady pace just really wanting to finish strong. The only thing about this part of the course is that due to the overlap, you will always have someone ahead and on your tail. I put my head down and finished as strong as I could really passing some 30 runners in the last half.
I appreciate every challenge and opportunity I am faced. Each one usually ends with personal growth, goals and new inspiration.
Finished 134 of 640 finishers with about 900+ starting the race.