Last week I revealed my secret project for this year: TransGranCanaria 125k 8500D+ on March 1st (and 2nd).
You know, when doing things like this, you should be well prepared, well rested, made enough kilometers, be ready. Well, it could've been better for me. In January I had an accident with my MTB, which subsequently lead to having a cold for 3 weeks. Not the best preparation, but still I was going to do it. In the end the main part of doing an ultratrail is in your mind.
Last Wednesday Steven Wuyts (who would be doing 84km) and I travelled to Gran Canaria. Feels very good to get off the plane and step into the sun. :) On Thursday we picked up our bib-numbers and all other stuff we needed to have. Handing in Medical Certificates etc and of course hugging Celeste (she's with the organisation). We also met Mark Groeneweg and his wife Marion. Mark was going to do the 125km also.
Steven needed picture proof that we had nice weather...
We also got the meet the barranco (river bed) where we would be running the last kilometers of the race.
Friday was mostly a resting day, because I had to start at midnight! Steven accompanied me to the Expo, where I was going to take the bus that would bring all 125km runners to the starting point in Agaete. Too bad I couldn't sleep in the afternoon, I guess I was just too nervous.
Before the start I met Mark Zwart, who would be running also. He recognised me by my (tattooed) leg. Mark had done the TGC in 2010, when the route was from Maspalomas to Las Palmas. He felt the same as me: scared, but also looking forward to it!
Fast selfie just before the start.
At midnight our adventure began! In October I was on holiday in Agaete and I had the chance to run the first part of the TGC by daylight (and in the company of the lovely Yurena Castrillo), so I new what was ahead for the first 10 km. Because of the amount of people (about 500) the first part wasn't going to be very fast on the single track. However, I found myself in a group that was running / walking a good pace. Too bad I tripped at km 4 and seriously hurt my finger. But since you don't need fingers for running I decided to ignore the pain and go on. I managed to force my finger in the right shape to grip my pole, so that worked fine!
After the first foodstop we started the first downhill part. Good running, but in the dark I had to be very careful not the trip. I was very much looking forward to dawn and very happy to see the first light coming over the mountain at my second ascend.
Not the best picture, but you get the point. :)
Somewhere before dawn I came to Artenara, where I found Mark Zwart again. He was feeling very bad and cold. He didn't know if he could continue, but wished me well on my journey.
As I was descending towards Fontanales I could hear the speaker talking about the start of the Advanced trail (84 km). So I did hear the start, but was too late to see it. I think I came into town about 10 minutes later. However, I never expected to get to that point before the Advanced race would start, so I was actually quite pleased with myself. I was feeling strong and having fun!
The sun was coming out and warming the trail. The clouds in between the mountains where disappearing. It was actually getting hot! So at the foodstop in Valleseco I changed to short sleeves. Then it went downhill towards Teror. Funny to enter Teror from a totally different side then when we went there in October.
When we went to pick up the bib-numbers I talked to a guy that had trained parts of the TGC a few weeks before. He told me that the part out of Teror was going to be tough. He was so very right! Stairs, stairs and more stairs. Very steep and never ending. Even when there where no more real stairs, the mud was cut into steps. But somehow I found that funny. The strange things you begin to think when doing ultratrails... :P
At the top of the stairs in Talayón I found Mark Groeneweg at the foodstop! Mark Zwart had already told me that Mark G was also feeling bad. Mark G was surprised to see me coming in after him, because I had passed him in the night already (I didn't see him). But I guess he was right behind me and when I hid behind the bushes to pee he must have passed me again. Poor Mark was puking his guts out. He looked very bad, but when I said so he told me to be more positive. I gave him some magnesium and ORS (for re-hydrating) and went on. Uphill again!
And downhill too to Cruz de Tejeda and (some kilometers later) the foodstop in Tejeda. On my way down to Tejeda I met a guy from Argentina who liked my tattoos. We had a lot of fun trying to understand eachother. He didn't understand why nobody wanted to join me running this race, until he found out I was doing the full distance (he was on the Advanced race). Then he decided I had to be insane! Hahahahaha. Sure.
How happy can you get from eating bread with cheese? Well, it made my day! At the foodstop in Tejeda I was so happy to find bread AND cheese! :)
Then the long way to Garañon started. All the way up to Roque Nublo first. Somewhere on the way there I found myself looking out over the valley and seeing Tenerife in the far distance. Such a beautiful sight!
We were kind of circling Roque Nublo, but still going up. Then suddenly we were at almost the height of the base of the rock, where we had to go left to Roque Nublo. That was a bad part, all sharp rocks and no real path. But we had to go there since there was a timing mat at the base of the rock.
For me that was a hard part. The heat and the sharp rocks and then going on to Garañon, which didn't seem to get closer. But stopping was not an option, so I got going again. Somewhere on the way there a guy was walking the other way and he said: it's really close now. Well, I can tell you, "close" is not how it felt! :P
Garañon was the big foodstop where we could pick up our drop-bags. I changed shirts, shoes, socks and found time to eat some pasta. This was also where I met Mark Zwart again. He had dropped out at Tejeda and was brought to Garañon. It was very nice to see a familiar face and to talk a bit about how bad some of the parts were. Mark was very sweet, he got me cola and helped me out of the chair I was sitting in. :) Then he sent me off to the highest part of the trail, some observatory at 1938m.
The downhill part that followed next was a good one. Too bad it was already getting dark. I almost got to Tunte before full dark.
And when I went into the dark again my body decided it was time for sleep. My legs were fine, but somehow the connection between brain and body wasn't there anymore. I had to slow down. After Tunte I was walking road and suddenly heard a familiar voice behind me: Mark Groeneweg was still running! He said he'd stay with me until the finish! I couldn't have wished for anything better! Together we made good progress until we came to the descent-from-hell to Arteara. Rocks, steep, more rocks, even steeper. That is where I shut down, I couldn't go on, I was sure of it. I stopped for a few seconds while Mark went on going down. Suddenly I saw a light shining up: Mark was waiting for me! I don't know how long it took, but I got down. Just before the foodstop I slipped and hurt my tailbone, so I cursed like a pirate. I managed to go on and Mark kept the pace up! Running wasn't a good idea, so we walked at a brisk pace. One more foodstop, then to the finish...
And just before the foodstop I had to hug the ground. I was too tired to try and stop myself from falling, so I smashed head-first into the gravel. My chin was bleeding, my knees where minced meat. But after getting this far, quitting was not an option. So Mark patched me up with a band-aid on my chin and off we went! 5 more kilometers, 4, 3, that awful barranco, 2, beach, 1... Marion (Marks wife) was waiting for us and walked with us the last part. Then, finally, after almost 28 hours... the finish! Steven was also waiting there, he had run a good race! And Celeste was welcoming all finishers, she must have had a long day too!
Both Steven and Celeste directed me to the First Aid tent, where I was cleaned and patched up by two lovely ladies and the First Aid doctor. :)
The day after was painful, we were tired, but also very proud of ourselves! Do I want to do this race again? I'm not sure. It was very hard, I was very tired because of the starting time, I hate rocks, but it was also beautiful, fun and awesome! I met nice people and I was so very happy with my companion for that last hard part. But who knows...