There’s nothing like the post-race blues to make you find something bigger and harder. Just after Glen Coe Skyline a friend showed me Transvulcania. It sounded ideal, sunny running near the equator with lots of height gain and rough trails. There are 4 races over a weekend, a VK, half marathon, marathon and Ultra. I got psyched and entered the 75km Ultra with two friends joining me for the half.
Injury had meant I didn’t get the best lead up to Glen Coe, I was determined that this time I would race well trained and rested. 2018 had a rocky start with skiing induced injuries and generally being distracted by the snow. Thankfully Laura got me back on track with lots of conditioning and hills. All to quickly it was time to drive down to Gatwick and fly to La Palma.
First impressions of La Palma were windy, steep and rocky. It feels like an island of 3 parts, a nice Mediterranean coast, a slightly tropical and forested middle and a barren, sandy top. I would be racing through all 3. We had a few days before the race to recce bits of the route, relax around the hotel, and stop Ross fanboying the great and the good of the running world. All too quickly it was 3am on Saturday and I was getting on a coach to join 1900 other runners at the start.
The first hour was a melee. Fighting for room amongst the other runners and trying to make up some time. I had made my usual mistake of not trying to move up in the starting pen and so was a long way back. It’s one big hill for the first 24km to El Pilar, which went surprisingly quickly and got me to the first food station. From here you could see the rest of the route following the caldera rim just peaking above the clouds. The field started thinning out from El Pilar which made the running easier and I could start enjoying the trails and views. I had a few split times to keep me on track though I seemed to be 15minutes behind from the start but it made sure I kept my pace up.
The route tops out at 2,400m at Roque de los Muchachos. All the way up, the course was lined with locals cheering everyone on, the shouts of “venga” and “animaux” continued all the way to the finish, a fantastic atmosphere. After a short sit down and a lot of watermelon I started the 20km descent down to sea level. Descending is definitely one of my weaknesses: 2 hours of constant downhill really started to hurt and the heat began to get to me. Running through the finish of the marathon course and having to continue is cruel but I was quickly shepherded into the final feed station and on for the final few km.
Passing through the marathon finnish and on to the last stretch
I was feeling pretty slow by now and it felt like I was crawling up the last hill, somehow I managed to find some speed from somewhere for the final run in though Los Llanos de Aridane. Shortly after crossing the line I collapsed into a blissfully cool paddling pool. I wasn’t confident with how well I could do when I signed up, in the back of my head I was hoping for a top 100 finish, but it’s a big race and didn’t have a clue how I compared to European trail runners used to the terrain and with their poles. In the end finished the course in 9h 58m, putting me in 100th place. Perfect.
Next stop is Saunders MM but I’m going to have a week or two resting enjoying the weather that makes it feel like I never left La Palma.