The Trans Gran Canaria race : 4th March

78 miles
26,000 feet

Wow what a seriously tough race. It's always difficult doing a long challenge or race having never set foot on the route (Paddy Buckley 2007 for me) . Especially so when the ground is unexpectedly very tough. But recceing a race that's 1,800 miles away isn't too practical. Although the race winner did actually make a trip out to do just that, proving how useful reconnoitring is!

The race name would suggest a bisecting line across the longest line on the Island. But in reality it starts on the North West coast, and zags in land up and down towards the islands high point of Pico de la Nieves then heads due South to the finish in Moleneras. The race is point to point so a bus journey to the start line is required for the 11pm start. For me this entailed a 4 mile taxi ride from Playa del ingles to the finish at Moleneras, to catch the bus. Luckily I met with Matt Neal , Steve Rhodes and their friends, to while away the time on the 90 minute bus journey. One of these friends was top UK fellrunner Kim Collison. It was good to hear some of his plans, and aspirations for the race. But on this bus journey I felt a bit of indigestion. Tthe first time I had felt like this 5 days into my 2 week stay, bugger.

On our arrival at Ageate, Matt Neal being a veteran of many of the previous editions of the TGC, knew there was plenty of time to "relax" in a local cafe, prior to the 11pm start. So we had a chat and a few brews. Me not having any money meant I stretched their generosity a touch.

After a while we left and found a carnival atmosphere of runners and supporters all filtering through the queue for the start. A confusing scene, but exciting, given the general enthusiasm for this race. A DJ was whipping up a frenzy on a very loud PA system. Whilst I was trying to remain calm, as I know it's not a good idea to waste energy on anything at this point.

Finally the countdown and we were off streaking up the first 4,700 feet climb. I would go on to give a detailed description of the race but feel it's not worth it. I absolutely loved the race, the atmosphere, the organisation, and the way the locals really champion it as a big day for the Island....But I had a bit of a shocker. I started well enough, but on the 2nd climb I felt I needed the toilet, the indigestion was having its say. After this I never felt quite right, and didn't have much of an apetite.

I tried to just get on with it and enjoy it. The combination of extremely rough trails and a brutal course, along with my weekened state curbed my enthusiasm bit by bit. Even the daylight didn't really lift my spirits. A bit of drizzle at dawn meant putting my jacket on, whilst doing this I took a photo at the CP.

At this point I was still on for my sub 20 hour target despite feeling a little off. I, along with most left a drop bag at the base of the last climb at Garanon. Most of the climb is completed at this point, with about 3,700 feet of ascent and 6,400 of descent left. I had a good rest here and when I got back up my legs had stiffened up. I can never remember this happening in all my previous ultras.

I just got on with it and my legs freed up a bit as I crossed the road just before a long line of Ferraris. On the steep climb to the high point of the island at Pico de la Nieves I felt increasingly tired. This was the signal that sub 20 hours was now extremely unlikely. The damage was too great, I was too brutalised by this course. On the descent I kept stepping aside for other runners to pass (some on the 80k and marathon , some not) , I felt this would be my strong point. It would have been, despite how rough it was, but the course had beaten me. I was now on "survival get to the finish" mode. The heat was noticeable as I dropped height  towards sea level.

As the sun was fading I trudged through the remaining checkpoints as best I could. Feeling a bit pathetic I reached the finish, in just enough daylight to avoind needing my headtorch. A little convoluted up and down the road in front of a cheering crowd and I'd finished. Not pleased with my effort, but pleased to have done such an amazing race.

After lounging around in the expo centre, I could hardly walk enough to get in a taxi back to the hotel. My idea of walking back, was now just a pipe dream.

I may return next year. But to do the marathon distance. Which starts at the drop bag point. It would fit in with a holiday a bit better, and i would struggle to get enough specific training done for a course this long and brutal.
Matt Neal finished  298th In 24.38:10.  Steve Rhodes finished  320th In 25.11:53. And Kim Collison finished first Brit in 20th  15.45:39
I finished 132nd out of appx 800, in 20.36:28. Didrik Hermanson won in 13.41:48, simply awesome.

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