The trail that runs along the coastline of Menorca, Cami de Cavalls (CdC), was originally established by the settlers of Menorca as part of a defence system. It was patrolled by soldiers on horses, hence the name (Cavalls mean horses in Catalan). The path weaves its way in and out of the coast, and lets the traveller experience varying terrain and views. These include woodland trails, white beaches with intensely turquoise water, beautiful rock formations, farmland, ravines and urban areas. The profile is undulating with moderate climbs but yet offers a technically challenging experience.
Now in its fourth year, the Compressport Trail Menorca Cami de Cavalls has grown quickly since its inception and in 2015 offered 5 courses ranging from 32km to 185km. I opted for the 85km Trail Menorca Costa Sur, TMCS. This starts in Es Castell in the east and finishes in Ciutadella in the west, following the CdC trail along the south coast of the island.
A bus was organised for Saturday morning at 6am to take participants from Ciutadella to the start in Es Castell. During the night there had been thunderstorms and heavy rain was falling as we made our way. Niandi Carmont and I both agreed that this was not what we had come to Menorca for! Luckily, an hour later the skies were clearing. As we were about to start some dark clouds were looming but the temperature was perfect.
I fell into a comfortable pace, which turned out to be amongst the front 20 or so runners. No other women seemed to be in that group but I didn’t look back to figure out where they were, I was going to do my on race. The first few hours took us through a variety of landscapes as we made our way forward on roads along the coast and pretty, undulating trails in a mix of farm- and woodland.
As I was beginning to approach half way it started to get a bit tougher. A few more climbs slowed the pace down and there were many gates to negotiate. I seemed to be running with the same group of people but we were more spread out now. Weaving in and out of each other, some stronger on the ascents, other on the descents or the flats.
The checkpoints were fairly well stocked: sandwiches with jam, peanuts, almonds, fresh fruit (apples, bananas, orange), cheese… I did take orange at most checkpoints but I was largely self-sufficient. The volunteers were very helpful, asking if I was ok or if I needed anything. Good thing I speak a little bit of Spanish so I could understand them.
Just before the half way point at about 39km everything was going swimmingly well. I felt great, I was on a roll and I was moving at good pace. Another gate to negotiate laid ahead at the end of a slight down hill section. A lovely couple held it open for me so I didn’t have to stop. Instead of looking at the ground ahead I looked them and smiled as I cruised though the gate. Just as I passed them, much to their horror and my embarrassment, I stumbled and abruptly face planted on the stony trail.
At first I thought disaster had struck but after a quick assessment I decided that I was only bruised and scraped. Blood was pouring from my knees and pumping rather heavily from a wound in my thumb but it looked worse than it was (or so I told myself!). At this point I was glad that I had carried my first aid kit. After some moderately successful patching up I hobbled on.
It was a mental relief to get over the first Marathon and know that I “only” had half way to go. Here, the terrain started to get a bit trickier. We ran on beautiful but equally brutal uneven rock formations, close to the coastline. It was now also getting warmer and I had to drink more and focus on my nutrition and hydration. This part of the race was hard mentally. I kept thinking: “when I get to 65km it’s only 20km left and flat”. That became my next target but little did I know that flat could be so hard!
After a while I started to see more people around me on the trail. I was catching up the slower runners in the 185km race (they had been out for nearly 30 hours at this point!), and the fresh runners who had just started the shorter Trekking Costa Sur (TCS) came bouncing along on annoyingly fresh legs.
To my relief we hit roads as we were approaching the last checkpoint at 73 km. I ran into it feeling positive and was informed I was the leading lady. I had incredible support from the spectators and the checkpoint volunteers were very helpful, just as they had been at all support points so far.
I left the checkpoint to cheers and felt good. I followed the road to the end where it turned, about 100 metres or so. As I turned the corner I was abruptly hit by the next obstacle which came in the form of an extremely forceful headwind. It would of course be silly not to expect strong winds on a small island like Menorca but this was something different altogether. Apparently there is a Menorcan legend that the winds of the island change people’s personalities. Whether there is any truth in that I don’t know but I certainly needed a large portion of positivity at this point!
I told myself that it could be worse, that I could still be on those treacherous rocks and that at least I was on the road. Well, guess what awaited a few hundred metres ahead… That’s right, the rocks, taking us even further out on a completely exposed section of coastline. There was nowhere to hide, no shelter.
This went on for what felt like an eternity but eventually we entered an urban area and could run on the road again. The finish in Ciutadella came quicker than I thought. I could hear the music from the speakers and the cheering from the crowds. I recognised my hotel on the other side of the little bay by Platja Gran, just a stone’s throw from the finish line. What a relief! I turned left onto the final stretch, entered the funnel on the artificial grass that had been laid out and to the sound of the cheering crowds I crossed the line.
I was very happy to have battled through all the obstacles of this race! Knowing how tough the finish was I felt for those brave runners I had passed out there who were completing the final stretch of the 185 km. Some of them would not finish until Sunday morning and maybe some would not finish at all, finding the challenge too big to muster this time. I sent a thought their way before enjoying my post-race relaxation in the finish area, which offered a pool, cold beer and paella to the competitors. What more could you wish for?
This was my first time in Menorca and I hope there will be many more (maybe those winds did have some impact after all!). The scenery is stunning and the coastline, having been protected from development, offers many areas of raw beauty and wilderness. The course is very pretty but deceptive and should not be underestimated. Having said that it is perfectly achievable. On reflection I think it could be a great race for those looking for a course with some technical challenge but who don’t like heights or who struggle at altitude. It is also perfect to combine with a long weekend or holiday. The people involved in this event and the passion and effort they put into it makes it a very memorable experience and I can highly recommend it.
Entries for the 2016 Compressport Trail Menorca Cami de Cavalls are not yet available, however, please check the website HERE
Elisabet Barnes won the 2015 Marathon des Sables (ladies category) holds course records at the GoBeyond C2C and XNRG Pilgrims. She now holds the course record for the 85km for the Compressport Trail Menorca Cami de Cavalls