Gran Canaria- a Thomas Cook holiday destination of choice; sandy beaches, glorious national park and a good climate year round. My enduring memories of the island: running on a dry riverbed, heat, falling over, watching for several hours as every runner came in with a smile, oh and did I mention running on the dry river bed? Argh!
The North Face TGC weekend offers up four races, a 24km ‘starter’ race, 42km Marathon, 83km Advanced and the 119km full Transgrancanaria. I was originally entered in the 119km but made the decision to switch to the marathon distance at the beginning of the year as my foot was still giving me problems. I’d decided to run pretty hard to make up for this fact, but on the day everything just fell to pieces.
Kris ran the 119km (in a epic time of 20 hours) and caught his bus at 10pm the night before for a midnight start. I was able to sleep the night away happily and caught mine at 8am. I arrived at a wet and cold Garanon, 1700 metres, at 9am. Expecting heat, I only had a light jacket so I sheltered in the toilets for an hour before the start, not the most motivational of start locations! At 10am we were off and I actually felt pretty good. I kept up a reasonable pace as I knew the first section was mainly single track and downhill, my favourite thing. It wasn’t long though before I started to feel a bit sick and like I was on the verge of an asthma attack that never quite came. Towards the middle of the day it started to get quite hot and the open, dusty expanses at about mile 10 just reinforced this. Then all of a sudden I tripped on a flat section and had a spectacular face plant. This is very unusual for me. I got up and kept going but I was pretty shaken and had a lovely gash on my left palm and both knees. A fair chunk of the middle section is split between road and short bursts of trail and there was plenty of support from locals in each village we passed through. After the aid station in Teror we hit the dreaded river bed – this section sucks; it was rocky, runnable but not easily and as it was the middle of the day I felt like I was in a valley microwave. Three more falls later, and at this point in a real “glass case of emotion!!!” (if you don’t know this reference, please watch the movie Anchorman. It is amazing), I knew I had to stop. Both knees, hands and elbows were streaming blood, my knee didn’t want to bend and I just felt completely and utterly drained. I cant explain it but something just wasn’t right with me. I walked the last 4 miles, crying for the majority of it, really wishing it would just finish and bloody glad I had decided to switch out of the 119km! I finished in 4hr58, 12th women and 3rd in my age category. I was really pleased with this, but for me, the best thing about this weekend were the things that I learned:
1) I don’t like running (ok maybe that’s an ‘at the time’ thing)
2) Revised- I don’t think I like running in hot, rocky climates
3) I tried to cut my time down earlier on by not stopping to fill up with enough water. I ran out twice and spent the last quarter of the race seriously thirsty. I hope I don’t make this mistake again
4) Ditto with the food. I didn’t stop at the aid stations and I didn’t eat much on the way around. Maybe I was just being lazy but it wasn’t clever.
5) When people are picking you up off the floor and telling you to stop running and walk, listen. Especially if the same person has to do it three times! If you can’t concentrate on a flat road, you really should be walking
6) The only person putting pressure on me is me
7) Watching people at the finish is one of the most rewarding parts of race day. I watched for 5 hours and the atmosphere is completely positive and happy. There aren’t many times in life when you can say that. A big shout out to Kris, Scott, Mike and Charlie (3rd women in the 119km) for all doing awesomely in the longer races
7) The heroes to me are the people who are out for the longest but keep on trucking and finish with a smile on their face. 30 hours out there, oh my god, just so much respect