Across Volcano. A race called that is translated literally to across Volcano. What have I got myself into?!
I first heard of Transvulcania on a Ginger Runner podcast. Nike Trail Elite runner Chris Vargo was chatting about some of the incredible races that host a deep field of world class runners in Europe. A circa 73km race, with a serious 8000m of cumulative elevation, finishing with one of the nastiest final descents of any race. A steep 2500m descent in 9 or so miles, on harsh, technical trails. This race is a BEAST. For a ‘shorter’ ultra, it packs almost the same amount of elevation as the prestigious Ultra Trail Mont Blanc, a 100 mile race through Europe’s highest mountain range. With 4000m of ascents and 4000m of descents, its the equivalent of running up Mt Everest, and at the halfway point, running back down, packed into the space of 73kms. Yes, this race is legit. And the fact that it draws such a huge continent of elite runners every year, makes it one Europe’s most popular races. Seeing both a stout American, European and International field competing for the top position, Transvulcania is always one of of Europe’s premier races. The small Spanish island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, is home to this monster of a race.
My 2015 year was planned with races and events to allow me to start 2016 with Tarawera 100 in New Zealand, and then Transvulcania in May. The notoriety of Transvulcania garnered a HUGE amount of respect from myself. Hearing and reading multiple accounts of some of the worlds best ultra runners recount their time racing previous editions, had me scared. Video footage of the race looked incredible. Absolutely breathtaking views, multiple eco-systems on the island, and an event that brings out the entire population to support. Photos of Transvulcania show unrivalled landscapes, and a diversity that captures the imagination. But this race has a dark side. A hot race, with extremely aggressive climbs and descents, un-relenting technical trails, and a course that doesn’t forgive anyone that takes it for granted for a second. There is a reason Transvulcania always pulls such a deep field of elite runners. It is tough. It is mean. And it will make you work for every finish. It was a race that had my attention, in a very big way. And whilst the nature of this race did send my stomach into knots when I thought about the actual physical endeavour, I knew that it was a worthy adversary to challenge me. And so I qualified, entered, and was accepted. I was heading to Spain (for my first time), and toeing the line at a race that is both beautiful and horrible.
After entering the race, I managed to get my training partner and friend Maggie to join me, and it wasn’t long before three others were all signed up to race either the Ultra or the exceptionally tough marathon event. This was exciting, as this would be my first time going to race with others that were racing also. Whilst all of us (and others) were in Italy in March for the Sciacche Trail, I was only crewing and supporting, so it was a different experience for me. This time we all race. We all have challenges and goals. And we are all out there together. Maggie, Weronika, Sophie, Becs (B1) and myself. Two ultras, and three marathons. But out there as a team. A welcome feeling, and a new experience I am incredibly excited to share.
In terms of the 2016 race, Transvulcania has once again assembled a deep field of runners. Luis Alberto Hernando is the obvious favourite, the winner of the last two years and the course record holder. He has beaten Killian here, which is no mean feat. His ability to absolutely hammer that final descent is one of his strengths, and it has been noted by many that the final descent makes or breaks the race for most.
For FAR better snapshot of both the mens and womens field, check out the irunfar reports.
This race is going to be fast at the front, and whilst the massive start may make it harder for me to get to the front, my intention is to go out and race. With crazy fast runners like Sage, and mountain goats like Luis, this will come down to what it does almost every year. The ability to get to the final descent in decent shape, hit the descent with confidence, and then push that final climb to finish. This is going to be a competitive race, with what I expect to be a strong lead pack pushing and working for every inch of ground. A sub seven hour finish is likely again for the top few runners, and a sub nine hour finish is what I personally am looking at running. A lofty goal, and one that will require a hard fought effort all day. I am excited, nervous and eager to toe the line once again with the best runners in the world. Transvulcania will undoubtedly be humbling, and I greatly look forward to the lessons that it will teach me. I run for many reasons, and I race for many more. I SEEK challenges, and crave situations where I will be pushed beyond my limits. Transvulcania is the second time this year I get to say I am embarking on the TOUGHEST race of my life. And the fact that I get to say that again is a testament to my commitment to not seeking average. I am both confident and terrified, and come Saturday, it won’t matter. I am racing. I am running. And I am thankful for so many things, and particularly that I have the means, support and ability to start this adventure.
Transvulcania, lets have it!