When asked: “If you can do any trail run in the world which would you choose?” Without a moment of hesitation, I could hear myself answering “Transvulcania Ultra Marathon”
Ever since seeing the mass start at Sea level with all the headlamps and the dramatic elevation changes of this small Island I had to research more.
Transvulcania is one of the toughest trail running races of the world, with a distance of 74.33 kilometers and 4,350 meters of positive cumulative gain and 4,057 meters of negative cumulative gain.
The route: Legendary. It begins at Faro de Fuencaliente and continues through the “Gran Recorrido” trail until Puerto de Tazacorte.
From there, it connects with the GR 130, Camino Real de la Costa, until the finish line, located in Plaza de España – Los Llanos de Aridane. From its start line located at sea level the course climbs to Roque de los Muchachos (2421 m.), the highest point on the island, then descends to Tazacorte and ends in Los Llanos de Aridane where the finish line is surrounded by an amazing environment with lots of people.
…. How does one get there? Is this really going to be happening? Is this going to be possible? A flood of questions also filled my head but it was too late. The seed had been planted. I was hooked and wanted the challenge.
Now how to do it… Busy work schedule, life schedule and I need to start running. Thankfully we live where “sea to sky" running is possible. Logging 707 miles and climbing 170,000 feet this year I was ready, or so I thought. Adding an extra challenge to my adventure, my flight back to work required me to complete this mission in 12 hours or less. I am sure you can sense I love a good challenge.
Four flights later, I faced my challenge of the dramatic coastline of La Palma. The island was beautiful. I felt the distance as the sunset, dogs howled and geckos climbed the walls.
I was told around 1600 runners would compete in the ultra-marathon, mostly Spanish runners. The European energy and colorful gear is fantastic and energizing.
Race day. Just like the Big Sur marathon they had a 3:30 am shuttle for the runners, as some of us were an hour ride to the start. Once we arrived at the start it was already very exciting. The energy was building, I saw Sage Canaday get interviewed and the eventual winner Luis Alberto Hernando. I was also on the lookout for fellow Americans Chris Vargo and Alicia Shay, who both did amazing.
With around 3 minutes to go I got ready and the Spaniards I was standing next to started to chant like Bulls. The start was just how I expected. It was as tough as the Kona swim start.
Elbows flying and a big push up the first hill. I felt great and knew we had about 12 miles of climbing for the first push. The energy was captivating. I started to feel a little dizzy and realized this was no joke. I had to keep my head in the game; fuel focus and have fun. Running along I saw a San Francisco Running Company shirt; great to meet Ben Zuehlsdorf in person and see a familiar sign from home.
Mile 31: wahoooo! It felt good to make it to the top before the 11-mile decent. I was feeling really good until it starting raining a bit and made the rocky steep trail slick! My knees were screaming at me. This is where I had a lot of trouble. I have never been on a trail like this. Made it through and just tried to push to get to the Tazacorte switchbacks. Once down to the black sand beach and the final aid station. Had a coke, and knew I still had one more climb up the steep banana fields. I was able to pass a number of people on the last 1,000-foot climb back to the road. I was so happy to see the road again and knew I was very close. The finish line and the last mile was insane, people drinking and yelling. Crossed the line in 11 hours 19 minutes. The great thing about staying close to the finish line… I was going to make my flight. Double challenge done and done. Only possible with the support of friends and family. The memories of this amazing island, people, and trails will last a long time.