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Training Over 60: Adventures in The Azores

For many of us, committing to an event comes with a set of unique challenges. If that weren’t the case, there would probably be a few more runners out there (the more the merrier though!). This is a sport that tests your patience and will as much as your endurance and strength.

Something Linda knows all too well. The week prior she went from training in the hot, humid Florida climate to the extremely windy Vegas plateaus, to the cold rain and high winds on the island. Here are a couple of tidbits from her Vegas run: 

Off to Run The Azores 

Linda and her longtime pal Amy Stratton made the trek to the craggy and rugged Azores region, which is one of two autonomous regions of Portugal, made up of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean. On the island of Faial, they were to run the Pico Mountain vertical run on May 27 and the Azores Trail Run 70k the following day.

While it’s an ambitious goal, we can all probably agree that it isn’t out of the ordinary. Linda had never participated in a vertical run and didn’t know quite what to expect.

Let’s start with the vertical run, what made you decide to go for it?

We thought it would be fun to try. I learned though that there is a whole other running world and that’s vertical running! It’s all some runners do.

How do you get creative with weight training while you're traveling? 

What did you think? New hobby?

It was actually treacherous! Mt. Pico is a volcano, so you’re not simply climbing steps, you’re scrambling over volcanic rock, which is very unstable. It was also pouring and windy, so we decided not to go through with it as to not risk the next day’s adventure, what we had really gone there to do.

How did the unusual weather affect the weekend?

I didn’t bring the right clothing to be running in the cold! There were several unpleasant experiences because of it.

What was the most difficult part of your weekend of running in The Azores?

The weather had a huge impact on both events. There was hail and high winds. Visibility was terrible.  As the rain came down, the mud got deeper and deeper and it took everything I had about 33 miles into the 70K to pull my legs out of the knee deep sludge. Even with just about 10 miles to go, I had to call it quits. I was nearly hypothermic at that point and did not have the energy to go on, and it wasn’t smart to try.

Conversely, what was the best part of the weekend?

This event was less about running and more about actually making friends and connecting with people from all over. Mario Leal, the race director, was so good about everything from the moment I landed. He not only picked me up from the airport, he introduced me to a group immediately, very warm welcome and it was so appreciated. Mario has taken a tiny little event and turned it into a big tourism event that benefits The Azores. It’s very family friendly, they even have a kids run. Everyone involved even plants a tree, which I thought was really special.

Also, one of the best things was a volunteer, Joao Paulo Meixedo, jumping in and running with me. He was acting as a sweeper and wanted to run the 70K distance. It was great having someone to navigate through some of that terrain with and I felt fortunate he was there - especially since my headlamp was upside down and I couldn’t see much of what was in front of me!

It was also amazing to see this part of the world. The Marina of Horta is both busy and famous, as it is a linking point for international regattas, and an old superstition tells sailors to paint a mural on the breakwater in order to attain divine protection throughout their trip. Amy and I found our names, which was pretty neat.  

How did you end up with an upside down headlamp?

I can explain (kind of). The race started at 5:00 AM so I was up at 3:30 and somehow we ended up running to the start line. I was rushing to make sure I had my UCAN, headlamp and everything else. I just put it on upside down and never even thought to check why I couldn’t see! It wasn’t until the end of the race I realized it was upside down.

Some final thoughts on the weekend?

It was a great training run. You have to have a sense of humor for weekends like this! Originally I was going to run the 48K so I feel like it was still a pretty great achievement. I want to congratulate Amy on being the 2nd female finisher overall, completing the race in about 12 hours and thank her for introducing me to such a lovely event. As always, a big thanks to Generation UCAN and eNRG Performance for the nutrition and training respectively.

View all the photos! 

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