About 25 kilometers inland from A Coruña where the two rivers Mendo and the Mandeo converge is a town called Betanzos. We have been here on a few occasions as it is a regular coffee stop on our cycle rides. However I never had the chance to spend more than half an hour and most of that time was dedicated to refuelling on coffee and some tapas before cycling back to Coruña.
Orsi had told me though that there were some nice trails to run or mountain bike along the Mandeo, so when we heard about the trail event being held again this year, we signed up of course. In addition to a run, this would also present the perfect opportunity to spend the day in Betanzos and see the town. Betanzos is also famous for its Spanish tortilla which is made so that the middle is nice and soft and you have to use a spoon instead of a fork to eat it. The perfect way to recover after a trail run of course is tortilla and beer. Perfect mix of protein and carbs if you ask me.
We got a ride with our friend Arturo and arrived in Betanzos with plenty of time for the 10am start. Betanzos being an old town finding parking was tricky. What you’ll find in most “old towns” is that the streets are narrow and naturally were never built for cars. The race start was in the town plaza so we parked the car next to a nearby sports ground and walked a few hundred meters into the town centre.
Since we had already picked up our race numbers, we checked out the race start and went for a coffee. This being my third trail event in Galicia, I could already spot some familiar faces amongst the crowd of runners who were at the start. Most notably we saw a few runners who had been to the Xalo trail and wearing their bright neon orange event shirt.
After our experience in the Xalo, we were a bit wary about the elevation profile. However, considering the information provided by the organisers, we were kind of hopeful since the event was advertised as having 900m elevation gain, as opposed to the 1500m+ of the infamous Travesía. Also, this time we were careful to start at the front and not repeat the mistake of starting from the back and getting stuck behind the other runners like we did at the previous event.
After a quick race briefing and a countdown we started running from just in front of the town plaza. The first 2kms were on the town streets which gave us a good start and helped to get into a good rhythm. After this we hit a nice trail that headed down to the river Mandeo, then we started to climb up and away into the forest next to the river. The first kilometres went with a few ups and downs and a long downhill section. As we had agreed that each of us would do their own race, by this time I got well ahead of Orsi. Also, there happened to be no one in front of me, and somehow I missed one of the turning markers and went too far down on a trail while enjoying the downhill. Luckily I soon realised that I’d missed a turn, but I had to back track my way back up to find the marker. Of course, by this time I’d lost a good number of places and, as I arrived at the first aid station I could see Orsi already running ahead. With a very quick stop to fill my Salomon hand held flask I ran after her to catch up. She was surprised to suddenly see me behind her, as she didn’t realise she had passed me. We ran together for a bit until we came to the next uphill section at the hill called A Espenuca.
This was a pretty steep gradient. Looking at it afterwards it was at some points 41%, so running up was an option only reserved for mountain goats, not for humans. It consisted of about 280m+ of insanely steep climb. My legs started to feel really heavy and I almost fell backwards at a few points, consequently I was forced to slow down considerably. In the 7th and 8th kms my pace was about 10 minutes per kilometre on average. This was 20 minuntes in total of the whole race. Not good. Once I got to the top I recovered as much as I could by slowly getting my legs to respond. The next 3 kilometre stretch was a steep downhill section back to the river valley on some technical single trail. At the bottom, at around the 12 km marker for the race was the well needed second aid station. I once again refilled my flask, as it was getting quite warm, and had a couple of cups of the electrolyte drinks they were giving out. From here on the terrain was single track along the river Mandeo back to the start. This part of the trail – aside from some short but steep climbs – was nice to run on with some easy sections and a few technical single track. The trail eventually came out to a road and ended up back at the plaza amid cheers from all the onlookers who had gathered at the finish. Orsi eventually finished somewhat ahead of me and won the women’s race by a good few minutes in front of the second woman.
After we had a few bites of the empanada offered by the organisers and freshened up, we all sat down at a café near the plaza and ordered our well-deserved beers and enjoyed the atmosphere. After the prize giving where Orsi got a very nice trophy and 3 big bottles of Olive Oil, we went on our quest for the famous Betanzos tortilla…
Some more photos from the trail.