This weekend was the Transvulcania Ultramarathon on Isla de La Palma, my first Skyrace for this season and also first ever Ultra. I have been looking forward to this race for a long time and I’m so happy that I finally did it. I travelled down to La Palma 9 days before the race to get some good training before the race and check out some part of the course. The landscape on La Palma was nothing but stunning! The mountains, the black volcano sand and the forrest made a truly unique experience. The race is 74km long and 4350m positive elevation and it is one of the biggest and most prestigious ultramarathons in the world. The race starts at sea level in Faro de Fuencaliente in the south end of La Palma and immediately starts to climb up in the volcanos Los Desedas, Down to forrest in El Pilar (24km) and then up to the highest point Roque de los Muchachos (51km) at 2420m. Then a long decent to the beach in Tazacorte (69km) before the last 6km climb to the finish in Los Llanos.
The trail during the first 20K is pretty much all sand so you are constantly searching for the hardest path to run. From Las Deseadas it’s a very nice trail, not so technical or very steep so you can pretty much run for most of the time. And from Tazacorte you run through a canyon or old river, up some couple roads and then asphalt the last 2K.
Some days before the race I did some fartlek with Jonathan Albon and I felt that my shape was getting better and better. But I was still nervous about how the body would handle the distance, specially so early in the season. But when I did the last recon of the course with the Salomon Team two days before, I felt very confident and I was just gonna go out and do my best and enjoy the race!
Salomon S/lab Sense Ultra 2
Salomon S/lab Sense 5 set
Salomon S/lab NSO Tee
Salomon S/lab sense Shorts 6
Salomon S/lab suport Half tights
Salomon Running hat
Suunto 9 Baro and heart rate monitor
2x500ml Soft flask
Petzl Actic core
Oakley Radar Ev
Emergency blanket (Mandatory)
Moonvalley energy bar (Before start)
We woke up 02:30 on race day, had some breakfast and then sat down on the transfer bus to Faro de Fuencaliente. The race started 06:00, at the beach, in the dark in and it was a really good atmosphere at the start. I felt great from the beginning and I wanted to control the field and not let any get away easy. After about 3Km, Ruy Ueda from Japan took the lead and I followed. To my surprise, no one else did and when I took the lead to help with the pace, Ruy dropped as well. So I decided to go for it and try to get a big gap as possible and try to hold it to the finish.
The kilometers went by and I felt super strong for so many hours. My nutrition plan worked and I felt that I this might just work. At the 40km mark, my gap to Thibaut Garriver and Dmitry Mityaev was over 6 minutes. Then I started to struggle a bit and I couldn’t run as much as I wanted to up the long climb to Roque de los Muchachos . I could see Thibaut and Dmitry come closer and closer and just before the summit, they had cough up with me. But by then, my legs started to feel better again so I could follow them easy and I looked like it all was going to be decided in the long decent to Tazacorte. Just when we started to run down, Thibaut fell pretty hard and I stopped to make sure he was ok. The trail down was steep and technical and after 55K of intense running in the heat, it was easy to tripp or make a misstake. Dmitry pushed really hard in the front and I was struggling to keep up. Suddenly I tripped and fell hard to the ground. Luckily I didn’t hurt myself so bad but I got scared and shaky so soon after, I fell again and lost contact with the others. I screamed, both out of pain but also frustration of loosing the victory. I continued down in my own pace and got my strength back, still determined to Finish on the podium. I got down to the beach in Tazacorte, it was so many people cheering on and that lifted my spirit. I got a new soft flask and pushed all I had the last 6k to the finish. It was such a good feeling to cross the finish line and I think I have never been so tired in my life. Thibaut won the race before Dmitry, they where super strong and really deserved it!
My reflection from my first ever Ultramarathon is that these kind of races are hard, both physicaly and mentally. But luckily, I was prepared for that so by following a race strategy and focusing on the nutrition made it much easier during the hard times. It was specially hard mentally to push for a long time by myself. I ran alone for almost 5 hours and I never knew how big my gap to the others were. Maybe some other tactics would have made the result better but now I know that I need a much bigger gap before the last downhill to win.
I know that I’m often talking about how fun it is to run in the mountains. But I most admit, during the last downhill, it was not fun… Or to say, it’s not fun in the last decent during any race. It hurt so much in the legs, you are tiered and you just want to end as quick as possible. This time it was specially tough because it was like 25 degrees and 2420m of decent in 16K. But when you finish and you realise that you have done it, you are so happy and satisfied with yourself and you just remember the good moments from the race. Because the other 53K before the downhill was just an amazing experience and I really enjoyed it!
In the end, I’m very happy with my third performance and 3rd place. My nutrition worked and I followed my plan from the start. I learned a lot from this race and there is much I will take with me to my next Ultra.
Transvulcania is definitely a race that want to come back to and one day it will hold all the way!
Thanks to the Salomon Team for all support. To Skyrunning, the Transvulcania organisation and all the people who was cheering on in the mountains or in the streets!
Next race will be Zegama in the Golden Trail Series on June 2nd.