First day back at work today, urghhh. Legs are getting better quite nicely, but lungs are struggling. There was a lot of dust about during the race (the Calima was blowing in) and/or I have a lurking bug, which means I have an aching chest and I'm losing my voice. Oh well, I will use it as another reason not to start running too soon!
A bit more on the race. A good week of rest and holidaying running up to it meant that I was raring to go by 11pm on Friday. The start on the beach was predictably OTT, but I managed to stay chilled in a cafe until as late as possible.
I decided to risk a faster start as the first 10 miles are pretty flat and runnable and it seemed like a good chance to get some distance under my belt and get into a good group. I tucked in behind a couple of French guys and did as little work as possible. We hit some rocky barrancos for a few miles, which were a hint of things to come. The first aid station at 10miles with 500m uphill came at 83 mins, faster than planned, but oh well!
The next section was fun over some rolling open hills with great views over the moonlit landscape. I settled into a good rhythm here and got chatting with some of the runners around me, going at a nice comfortable pace, definitely easier than the first bit. Another aid station came and went and then we hit the mountains.
I hadn't quite appreciated how steep things would be here, with a succession of five 750-1000m climbs and descents taking us up towards the summit of the island. There was some good running (pine needle trails, gravel tracks and even some road sections) and some very slow going (lots of overgrown rocky donkey tracks). It always comes as a bit of a shock how slowly the miles tick past in these sections, both uphill and down. This bit all blurs into one and I can't really remember the order that things happened...a runner near me stopped by the side of the trail to grab a bamboo cane which he snapped to use as poles (ultra-lightweight), I missed the markers at a junction and added on a few hundred metres that I really didn't need, we ran through mountain villages with locals out cheering at 3am, and finally it got light as we ran up a dramatic ridge overlooking Roco Nublo.
This was the biggest climb of the route and included a brief out n' back to the rock itself. I felt good up here and worked my way through a few places, passing a runner sitting in the middle of the trail with head in hands and others looking similarly broken. I faffed a bit too much in the next aid station (and bag drop), which lost me some of the good work, but at least that gave me some markers to work on as we set off on the last marathon or so.
Initially things went well. I felt good and was able to stride out in some lovely rolling trails. Then we hit the steeper descents and things got less fun - horrible uneven stone cobbles and rocky scrambles that just went on and on. Progress was slow, but at least those around me seemed to be having just as little fun and I had the incentive of Alex and Jenny waiting for me at the penultimate aid station to motivate me along. It was great to see them and I think Alex found it funny to be able to keep up with me so easily for a while.
There was one final 300m climb on a runnable dirt road in the baking hot sun before a long 15km run down a rocky barranco into Maspalomas. I made it to the top feeling a bit woozy and tried a gel. Oh dear, my stomach did not like that! Threw everything up and considered my options...I reckoned that as long as I could at least sip a bit of liquid now and again then I would be OK. I felt sorry for myself for a couple of miles, then gave myself a kick up the backside and decided to get the job over as quickly as possible. If I could manage sub5-mins/km I could still get inside 16 hours. The rocky barranco went on and on, I passed one guy with some impressive flesh wounds, and after forever reached the motorway on the outskirts of town. The final stretch was pretty desperate, I was over-hot and reeling and I got passed decisively by someone I hadn't seen all race.
But the finish had to come eventually. PaulF and Clare gave me a nice boost with a couple of kms to go and It was great to see Jenny and Alex waiting at the finish. The relief of finishing was tempered by how bad I felt, but eventually managed a cold beer before falling asleep on the beach while Alex built sand castles.
Overall, a different flavour of pain from the other long 'uns I have done. I was constantly surprised and impressed by the landscape and the terrain, which just kept changing and throwing new obstacles at you. I'm happy with the result, but a little disappointed to suffer so much at the end - still got something to learn about these things!