This was the first race of the season, and the first chance to test out my training. All I could think about in the second half of the race, especially as I began the massive descent for the final 15km or so was boy I did not train for this elevation! After 4.500m of climbing, my legs were dead and had nothing left for the technical descent to the bottom. I was hoping for sub 9 hour finish, so was an hour slower than I had hoped, but given the state of my legs and the stomach cramping I experienced for a couple hours that forced me into a slow walk/jog, I am happy overall with the performance and think I’m on track training wise for UTMB – my “A” race for the year. I’m skipping next week’s race in Madeira to get in a good training block with a lot of elevation before the Mt Blanc 90km at the end of June. Now that the snow is gone in the lower parts of the Pyrenees, I can head there for bigger climbing than offered here in Girona.
As for the race, I think about it in 3 sections:
(1) The start of the race to El Pilar at 24km.
(2) El Pilar to Los Muchachos (the highest point of the race) at 51km.
(3) The descent from Muchachos to the finish line at 74km.
Section 1: The start of the race to El Pilar at 24k.
This part is fast and all runable. I lined up just behind the elite runners so I wouldn’t get stuck on any of the single-track, and boy do they go out fast. I was in the top 50 to the first aid station at Los Canarios after 7k and 716m of climbing. The power I was putting out was close to my threshold power, which was a sign I’d have to slow down soon (also a sign I was running way too fast, but that was part of my strategy for this race). I went light to Canarios with only 250ml of water since I was hydrated for the start and the temps were cool (still dark out with the 6:00 start) but filled my two 500ml bottles with Tailwind at Canarios thinking I needed to get ahead on calories. This turned out to be a mistake, and while I climbed fairly well to Las Deseadas at 1.828m I had really bad stomach cramping for what should have been a fast, easy descent to El Pilar. I ended up at El Pilar in 61 place from 47 at Canarios, losing almost all the positions in the final few kilometers going into Pilar.
Section 2: El Pilar to Los Muchachos at 51k.
This section was a mix of fast, flat or downhill running, steep climbs and rolling hills. It was a fast section, or should have been, but this is where I started feeling the effects of climbing over 2.000m in the first part of the race. This is where I noticed other runners better prepared with a short, strong, high-rep stride for running the hills that I need to develop in my training going forward. I pushed as hard as I could, not really losing time to the runners around me on the steep climbs where I could power-hike well, but losing time on the sections that were runnable – especially the downhills – where I wasn’t able to run as fast as I could. There was a lot more climbing in this section than I was anticipating – almost 1.800m. I dropped another 13 positions in this stage, putting me in 74th place at Muchachos at 52km and the highest point of the race (2.420m elevation). Up to that point we had accumulated almost 4.000m in elevation gain, going from the lighthouse on the beach at the start to the tallest point on la Palma.
Section 3: The Muchachos descent to the finish line at 74k.
This section was brutal, there’s really no other way to put it. There was a bit of downhill rolling hills with some climbing still for the first few kilometers (where I experienced my second bout of stomach cramping), then a super steep, super technical descent on pointy volcanic rock. I don’t think my feet (or legs) have ever hurt so much. Given how tired my legs were, I was forced to break the entire downhill, my legs unable to support the force of the fluid and fast running that grade steepness would require. Breaking meant more work for my legs, which just made it more painful and slow. At this point the marathon runners who started from El Pilar were catching and passing me, only making me feel more demoralized. I ended up going into a meditation – “no craving, no aversion” mantra repeating over and over in my head – until after a couple hours of intense pain I made it to the ocean at Puerto de Tazacorte at 69km (the finish line for the marathon runners who started at El Pilar). I managed to avoid any damaging falls on the descent (seems most people fell at least once) but did manage to hit the deck on a flatish fire road the second I lost concentration. At Puerto de Tazacorte I was in 88 place, having lost 14 places on the descent. Thankfully for me the last 5km had a 400m climb where I was able to charge as hard as I could and take back 7 places, finishing the race overall in 81st.
Overall, I’m happy with the performance/output. I think with more elevation preparation coming into this race I could have raced the middle section faster, as well as the final section. I think I probably left 30 minutes on the table in Section 2 and 60 minutes in the final section, so a mid 8-hour finish I think is realistic for me sometime in the future. That said, I am super thankful to have finished, super thankful to have the time to train and very much looking forward to the upcoming mountain training to see how I can fare at the Mt Blanc Marathon and later in the season, UTMB, my primary goal for 2019. Also a huge thank you to Andrea for being solo crew/support for this race.