Race Review – Transgrancaria Marathon – la segunda parte

I am not going to say that Whiffers is a bit of a Jonah, however… Numerous emails from her B&B on the lead up to the trip was a concern for her, and after a teary nightmare in the airport there, when she finally landed, and got a taxi, the cab driver couldn’t find the place, and dumped her on the side of the road after lots of shouting, closely followed by more drama at the airport home, so, when later in the race she showed me a cut hand from that fall that I, and I apologise for the insensitivity, described as inevitable, you can see where I am coming from. I am a huge fan of Michele, and it is always a pleasure to see her but, as sure and eggs is eggs, if I do run with her I would, one day, end up lost, possibly never to be found again, and if I am, probably I will be found 10 years later, after escaping from the clutches of backward family of pagan cannibals living deep in the woods, who’s ramshackle hut we stumbled upon whilst Whiffers was navigating.

The purty English fella escaped from that there barrel. And it was my night for a honeymoon too

We met up at the EXPO at 5am on the new, rescheduled race day and were surrounded by a sea of Compressport, Salomon, and the yellow of WAA. A lot of tight clothing and EXPENSIVE kit was on show. It was cold and it was dark, and soon we got the call to board the buses. I would say call, and this was where the disorganisation started. We stood outside and then an event official walked by with a MARATON sign above her head like the round girls in boxing. No shout, no other word, but the masses were moving to the buses, so we joined them.

Now, I have been to many races where I had to catch a bus to the start, or back from the finish, normally they are organised, they segment the crowd into bus sized portions. Here? NFW. It was a free for all akin to stuffing as many marshmallows in your mouth as possible at Christmas whilst playing Chubby bunnies. The first bus was surrounded by a swarm, and given the WAA colours, they could have been wasps. Next bus? The same. The next? The same. We joined a small mob and I left Whiffers there as I went to find a bus with space and no crowd. I found one and YAY! We were on the way.

“Schubby bunneesh”

Remember the Jonah thing? The bus swung around the bends as we climbed. It was dark and there were no street lights on the climb. I tried to zone out, listening to music to take my mind off motion sickness and then we stopped. We just stopped. The Charlie Drake clone bus driver, resplendent in his too big a woolly hat, got out. No word of the problem. We sat there for ages, 20 mins? Maybe more. No one had a clue of the cause. When asked someone said succinctly “wheel broken” so we were now waiting for a second bus, and time was ticking towards start time. When the second bus arrived, a much smaller, nippier bus, we were happy. This happiness was waved aside and replaced with jeers as that bus too stopped at the top of one of the many steep inclines on the way up into the mountains, and it sounded like he was just grinding his gears.

Changing up and down the gears though and suddenly we had traction and were on the move, up into the black mountains as the dawn started to force its way through the dark clouds. I was a little concerned that we would be starting in darkness, like the intrepid 125KM ultra runners who “enjoyed” an 11pm start the night before. And soon we were out of the bus, again no marshals, but the noise of a PA system and music to suggest where we needed to go. The runners headed through woods, through a number of cabins, including proper toilets and to the start. I was very glad of the toilets as my body didn’t know what way was up at 4.30 let alone follow the tried and tested method for morning bowel movements, but at 7.30 and with a proper toilet, not a portaloo, Thunderbirds were go.

Thunderturd number 2 has left the forest

It was cold, fog moved through the wooded areas of the mountains, and I wore my Raidlight tee with the number attached under another tee, under my Salomon waterproof hydrid jacket. I had my Leki poles ready, although I had no experience of using them on this kind of terrain. There was a mandatory kit list and so I used my Salomon backpack that I had used for RTTK and RTTS as it has zipped waist pockets, mesh pockets on the side and is very comfortable.


  • ID, passport or driving license (with photo)
  • Plastic cup.
  • Front light, flashlight or headlamp with spare batteries.
  • Back light, red.
  • Mobile phone.
  • Water tank at least 1.5 liters.
  • Enough food to face the race.
  • Thermal Blanket. Minimum measures 100 cm x 200 cm.
  • Race number in a visible place.
  • Breathable waterproof jacket.
  • Hat, scarf or similar.
  • Cash (euros)
diez nueve ocho siete seis cinco cuatro tres dos uno go!

How Did I Do?

Well, it wouldn’t have been in keeping with the trip if we just upped and left at a simple count down. Oh no. As we were all preparing for the 8 o’clock start the announcer said we would be delayed to let the leaders of the 125KM ultra, who were nearby to go ahead of us.

I don’t blame them really, they had been running since 11pm the night before and the last thing they needed was to run into a herd. But once they passed we were away. Marathon number 20, let’s be ‘aving you.

I hear screaming

We started in the woods, dense humid forest either side, mud on the paths, pine needles and pine cones, and slippery stones just peaking above the surface of the mud, forcing you to keep your wits about you. It would be a theme this, and an exhausting one. Having to concentrate for 6 hours plus on where you are putting your feet is tiring, and knowing what happened to Lou forty eight hours earlier, I was doubly aware that one lapse of concentration could spell disaster.

And it did, albeit not for me, on the first stream crossing, where a lady was screaming and holding her ankle. Not a great start, and it puts you on edge as you leave the steep mucky ups and down of the forest and move out onto slippery rock and zigzagging paths down the edge, and I meant the edge, of the mountain.

Born Slippy

And with the storm the previous day everything was wet and slippery, between the wet stones mud oozed, and you targeted it with your poles to get some sort of stability as you quickly joined a single file snake of runners.

The stone paths were bad. You were always on your guard. The views were amazing, do not get me wrong, but you slipped and slid, and turned your ankles over if you looked up to enjoy them.

It was already at walking pace pretty early on. I caught up with a group that included a below the knee amputee. He was going great guns. One of his poles got stuck in a crack between some rocks and he was already struggling to get it out. I took it and pulled it out and handed it to him. He nodded, thanked me and said “agua” gesturing for a drink and I gave him one of my 4 bottles. He drained it, which I didn’t think was very good, but soon we came off the trail and reached a small village and the first checkpoint. 2 hours in, 12 and a bit K done. Terrible. And I felt I was letting myself down big large.

The CP was so small you could have missed it, if it hadn’t for the thumping music coming out of the PA. Cheese was sweating in containers, ham in the container next to it, crusty rolls filled with cheese and ham in the next. I was offered something to drink. Tea or coffee. I asked for tea and, much like Douglas Adam’s Nutri-Matic machine was delivered a cupful of liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. I dumped it out with a “urgh” and then went in search of the next red and white Aristo flag to show me the way. It was not obvious and along with a group of fellow lost runners we had to ask a marshal.

The route took us up steep roads. Roads! Yes! Roads! And I enjoyed them for a full 5 minutes until the paths led up and into farmland and then back into the mountains where I caught up with another amputee runner, who had fallen, but was ok, and then Whiffers as my Polar kept losing signal and we ascended the kind of mountains you see in westerns, or charge around on your horse in Red Dead Redemption. We stopped at the top for a selfie, as you do, and then we started our descent toward CP2.

CP 2 was a monster. Music, two toilets, although one was disgusting and looked like Jabba the Hutt had rectally prolapsed in there, two huge vats of paella, and so much coke cola and water that I just drank and drank and refilled all four bottles before heading off, knowing that if I decided to eat, I would stay there forever.

I had now taken my marathon time to cover a mere 25K, and needed to motor. But motoring was quite difficult when, after a nice jog across a dam (never done that before), the route was a steeeeeeeeeep zizzagging path up and out of the valley that then led to a steeeeeeeeeep zigzagging path the other side down into the bottom of the next valley, and my least favourite part, the dry river bed, and all the while the sun baked down and everything was starting to hurt, not least my poor feet.

The horror!

It was the river bed that hurt the most. There was no respite for 5 miles or so. At the start a policeman stood over another lady runner, again with her ankle strapped up and going nowhere. It signalled that I should not be complacent and so I kept at a slow and steady pace, spying the 10K to go sign and then thankfully coming out of the mountains and into the worst part of the race for me, the 6K or so in town.

Mad Max Beyond the Condom Dome

After a dirt trail where mountain bikers, dirt bikers and a quad bike raced by with little care for the runners, you ended up in the town’s aquaduct. And it was grim. Baking hot. Condoms and broken glass, graffiti, and then the last check point and, oddly, hot chicken, boiled potatoes on sticks, and beer.

I met a Dutchman who was cramping, using his poles to walk. I had long since put mine away. I gave him some words of encouragement and spied the box shaped EXPO building and the finish in the distance. It was barely a KM and a half away but it was hot, my feet hurt and I was never going to get a decent time, or one to be proud of, despite overtaking people constantly on the way.

And then I finished, yay! They only had XL race tees, but they had beer, and medals, which made up for it.

Bless my tinted beard that was tough. And my trail shoes no longer look like something that would be dug up on TimeTeam, they are just broken…

With a dirty great hole in the side after just 5 races, they are being binned for something more sturdy for the Amersham 50K in a fortnight.

In Summary

My skin and I are not talking, and if we do it’s a shouting match. I was wholly unprepared for this one. It was just a marathon (JK), and I have run 20 of them now so should have been alright. It was downhill, but it was so technically difficult for me that I could not do myself justice. I will have nightmares about this one. I would like to see the photos, as am sure they will be great, and may make it look like I had fun. I did not. I pretty much hated the whole race. If we had gone out on the originally planned race day people may well not have come back. It would have made infinitely tougher. As it was, it was my slowest marathon by a good couple of hours and I am not at all happy with that. But, as an experience, it was pretty fucking epic. So I have that, and my 20th marathon is ticked off.

WOULD I RECOMMEND THE TRANSGRANCANARIA MARATHON? If you are really into your mountains, if you can handle hours of technical descents, wet rock, and potential ankle breaks at every turn then sure.

WOULD I RUN THE TRASNGRANCANARIA MARATHON AGAIN? It takes a special kind of runner to enjoy that kind of race.  Am not that special. I did not enjoy it much. There were moments that were amazing, but overall I am sunburned, sore, and feel inadequate as a runner. So, take that as a no. Although, with the caveat that I said the same thing about Ultraks and very very nearly signed up for that on Valentines day with the 50% off special discount.

Scores in the Doors

It does score very high. It was well organised, with plenty of things to tick the boxes. I am sure Michele liked it, it was just very hard for me and so I wouldn’t score it highly for my own personal enjoyment of the race.

UP NEXT: THE AMERSHAM 50K, but before that



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