24th February 2017
125km with 8,000m of ascent
The race started in the very north of the Island on beach and finished on the south of the island pretty much at the beach again. The race route traverses the mountainous spine of the Island taking it its highest peaks: Roque Nublo & Pico De Las Nieves.
I split this race up into 3 manageable chunks: 3 marathons.
Knowing that when I got through the first marathon I could pretend I was feeling fresh and doing the 82km race, then when I got through the next marathon I could pretend I was doing a marathon which Vicky had done earlier so we could chat about the terrain on that.
The organisation was flawless! I took my drop bag and race kit to registration because I thought they might want to check everything and make sure I had all the required kit. The ‘Trailzone’ was pretty small in comparison with Chamonix but had some great stalls. Registration was quick and easy with a good queuing system. Wrist band attached, Bib number received, Drop bag sent off and that was it.
TransGranCanaria organises race busses to the start from 2 various locations across the island, as we were staying near the finish in Maspalomos, so I’d booked the buses from there to the start. The bus was at 8pm and the race was due to start at 11pm so apparently that was plenty of time to get up there.
There wasn’t so much of a queuing system for the busses, it was more of a mad dash to get on one as soon as possible. The bus drives up anticlockwise past the airport and the big shopping centres until it drops you off in the lively party town of Ageate on the north eastern coast of the island…. Only the bus I was on broke down! After a little delay another one pulled up and I think everyone just got on it.
Walking to the start was loud, a lot of spectators on very small streets, no toilets but the incredibly lively atmosphere was brilliant for the 11pm start. I found a little restaurant which had some toilets so visited there before the start. There was runners sat all in the entrance to the restaurant so I joined them away from the hustle and bustle.
Marathon #1 – Agaete to Fontanales (0km to 42.5km)
I’d like to sum up this section as sleepy, windy, cold and foggy.
I met up with Stuart Chalmers at the start, who was with Mywanwy, David and Dave. We stood in the tightly packed corral area listening to the famous Gran Canaria rap and inspirational music before the Spanish countdown – VAAAAMMOOOOSSSS!
As soon as the race started we headed uphill through the town, past Nuria Picas cheering us all on. This first 10km climb right off the bat was just over 4000ft ascent to the first checkpoint at Tamadaba.
I was having a competition with a guy (he didn’t know it), to see how long we both could last without putting head torches on, he won because I bottled it about 3km in as it was getting more difficult to see using other people’s lights. I was incredibly tired now, just sleepy and wanted a nap – not good!
Tamadaba checkpoint was a welcome relief, but we weren’t at the top of the climb just yet. There was an undulating section and the wind coming in was so strong it was blowing us all sideways, feeling very cold I had my OMM Waterproof jacket on and some gloves. The fog was down too so it was hard to see where you’re running with the head torch bouncing back at you in the fog. I came into this checkpoint with only about 30 people behind me in the race, still really tired now and not sure what to really do about it.
Saw the first motivational sign of the race: “110km to finish” – Nice haha! Every 10km we were treated to these.
We came to a bottleneck after this checkpoint along the trail! Nobody could overtake because it was a really small and steep trail with a cliff at one side and I think it was probably cactus/thorns at the other side. The queue went on for much further than I could see so had no idea what was happening. It must have taken about 15 minutes before I was through the bottleneck: It was a little rope to rappel yourself down the cliff a little bit, but some people were really taking their time.
I really can’t remember the next climb up from the checkpoint Tirma (18.8km), apart from giggling to myself about absolute nonsense.
When I got to the checkpoint at Artenara (33.2km) I’d text Vicky and said I’m going to go for a 15 minute nap. I thought it would help refresh me and recharge the batteries so I set a 15 minute timer on my phone. Instead of having a nap I just sat in a chair and ate loads of food instead. I sat for the full 15 minutes pretty much! When leaving the checkpoint it was just starting to get light and I was feeling much better. It’s surprising what a little food can do for you, along with maybe the day breaking?
Knowing if I got to Fontanales, I’d have 82km left as that’s where the advanced race starts from. It would be impossible to make my time back to get through Fontanales before all the guys started and see some of my friends pass me. I trundled on making up places only on the descents.
Got lost when going around one of the valleys around here and added about 3km back onto my race, was I was running back up the road and a few other runners had missed the turn off too so I helped them back with me. I had energy again now and felt bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to get to Fontanales.
Marathon #2 – Fontanales to Garañón (42.5km to 81.7km)
Getting into this checkpoint was a great feeling and I felt a good sense of accomplishment knowing I’d been strong on the few descents to here and was running well. The checkpoint was nice and had a good selection of food. I went into the toilet and had to do a U Turn because someone had pooped all down the back of the toilet – Urgh!
Had some food and then I was off, I thought this next marathon would be cool because I could chat to Gavin, Alan and Noanie about the route as they were doing the 82km.
As soon as we hit the trail I remember it being very muddy and pretty well trodden, it was quite slippy. The views were stunning – You could see the coast and the lush green valleys all around with huge cactus everywhere.
One of the checkpoints came and went and so did another. Teror (56.2km) was the next one and most memorable because it seemed like a party town, with a local market on in the square and music blaring out of the checkpoint. The volunteers went above and beyond to help us all out, it was incredible! The support along the route was great with people showing encouragement in Spanish (I hope it was encouragement anyway haha).
The climb out of Teror was so long and so hard, it just went on forever. I remember finally getting to the checkpoint at the top of the hill after climbing the super steep jeep roads/tracks, there was a really nice guy I spoke to called Stephen, I must have followed him on this climb for ages because of his bright colours.
I assured him there is only one big climb left and that was us – According to the elevation chart but how wrong was I!!!!
The views really opened up at about 70km and you could see the biggest peaks on the island – Wow! I wasn’t sure which peak Roque Nublo was and think I hoped it was the smaller of the two (It wasn’t). A great fast descent down in the baking heat to the next checkpoint at Tejeda (71km).
I applied copious amounts of sun cream so I didn’t turn into a tomato like usual. Employing the ‘CCC race’ method of covering my neck with a buff and had my blue hat on to protect from the sun. Again this was a fantastic checkpoint with great volunteers and crowd support. I asked a local which peak it was we were going up and it did turn out to be the bigger of the two – jeezo!
The climb was okay at first, the weather was pretty warm and I’d got 1.5l of water ready for this knowing the next checkpoint is about 11km away and will take me a few hours to do. The climb then took a turn and we ended up going around the full mountain, I kept thinking when the hell are we gonna get there!!
After fully crossing over to the other side of the peak we climbed up and eventually made it to the top – woo hoo! There is a little out and back section here and lots of tourists but man those views were amazing.
The descent down to Garañón was another fast one and I even stopped to help some lost Spanish tourists – That’s right! I helped them by telling them this was the path up to Roque Nublo haha.
Don’t be fooled when looking at the profile chart on your bib, it wasn’t all downhill to this next checkpoint, there was a stiff climb up to the forest where the checkpoint was!
Yes, I’d actually made it this far and overtaken about 200 people already to make up my places.
Marathon #3 – Garañón to Maspalomas (81.7km to 123.7km)
This checkpoint was the one where you can pick up your drop bag. I had spare clothes and spare food but didn’t bother with any of that. During the race I primarily ate all their food, having coke and water at checkpoints too. I never wanted to change socks either as my Injinji’s were fine.
I got some pasta in the checkpoint, some jelly sweets, wafers and muffins! I spotted John Duncan in here, so it was nice to actually see a friendly face and have a chat! I ushered him out with me but he was sorting out some of his pack. Some French guy was shouting at me for sitting in his empty seat though which was a bit weird “THIS SEAT IS OCCUPIED” haha.
Leaving the madness of this checkpoint was nice knowing you only had this final marathon left, Vicky had done the marathon earlier in the day so we could chat about it when I finished later on.
The climb up to Pico da las Nieves was steep! This was the high point of the island at 6,394ft with an observatory built at the top, the climb through the woods was incredibly steep and relentless!
After we hit the little road at the top, the route then descents down to the next checkpoint at Tunte. During the long descent here my legs felt tired, my feet were really sore and I was finding it difficult to run for more than 5 minutes in one go. In my mind I thought because of this I would just end up walking to the finish now, it was going to be a long hike for the final 40km, argh!
The landscape was beautiful, the route crosses what feels like the moon before descending the long cobbled switchbacks which must have taken years to build! I was intermittently walking and running, admiring the sunset too!
Just before Tunte (94.2km) I was running a bit better now, my feet were still very sore so had a weird little hobble going on, I’d had to put the head torch on just before the checkpoint too as it was getting really dark now.
The checkpoint was great, I refueled with the food and drink they provided before I was off heading up the climb I’d recced with Vicky earlier in the week.
I started speaking to a really nice guy originally from Mexico and we chatted the entire climb. We both felt good at the top of this climb and absolutely bombed the descent all the way into Ayagaures (106.3km) chatting the entire way. The descent was technical, dark and filled with broken runners, some hobbling down like I was an hour prior. I’m not sure where this surge of energy came from but it was best to just go with it. I ran with Erwin and we chatted the entire way down, it was tough to keep up with him at some points and also not to fall on the technical descents with my dying head torch.
My head torch was flickering the low battery signal so when we got into Ayagaures (106.3km) I changed it to my backup Silva one I’d packed just in case, over my Peztl E-Lite which thankfully I didn’t need to use.
Paella at the checkpoint was delicious!! I’d highly recommend it to everyone, just a nice little boost to get you to the finish.
Leaving the checkpoint I’d assured Erwin that the last climb was really small from the elevation chart – As usual though, trusting the elevation chart was a mistake on my part because it went on for quite a while.
The final sharp descent was really good but as soon as we got into a good rhythm it felt like we’d hit the infamous riverbed.
The riverbed section went on for far too long but realistically it must have only been a few km or so. Every now and then we thought we were out of it so started running well again only to jump right back in the riverbed. This went on for quite a while until finally we got out of it – Woo Hoo!
*So the riverbed is just an old riverbed full of various shaped loose stones from football sized to baseball sized. None of them seem to stay in place when you go on them, it’s pretty flat and nowhere to avoid them at all.*
After we passed the ‘5km remaining’ sign we were running well again then and into the final checkpoint. We pretty much ran straight through it but the final 4km were hard work going up and down all the steps.
We got lost one final time before the end after missing some of the signs to come out of the other riverbed (This riverbed was ok to run on – just like broken up slabs of concrete cemented back together).
I ran into the finish with Erwin, we had chatted about this moment for hours!! It was nice to come into the finish chute and see Vicky and Noanie cheering me in!
The finish 123.7km
I crossed the line in 25 hours 43 minutes – slap bang in the middle of my predicated time and under the Western States qualifying time of 28 hours – Woo Hoo!
This turns out to be the longest distance I’d run in a race, the most climbing I’d done in a race and to top it off, the longest time I’d been on my feet – Phew! All good building blocks for the next challenge: Lakeland 100 mile in July.
I started out in 702nd position and finished in 317th after slowly clawing back my places among the slowing and dwindling field (30% male dropout rate).
Super happy to have finished, pushed myself mentally and seen how my body reacts to these long days out.
The crowd was fantastic, the organisation was top notch, food in checkpoints was great, and the route was stunning!!!!!
Apart from the riverbed, that sucked!
The weather was really nice and an excellent contrast from the North to the South, it feels amazing to have crossed the full island on foot and over the peaks. Finally the friends who were there doing races and who I met during the race were all amazing, Vicky did a great job of motivating me and showed her support throughout the holiday. I love the close knit community this little sport seems to have!