We examined one of the crucial stunning trails on this planet for you | EUROtoday

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Qhen the invitation landed in our e-mail in September 2023, we first thought it was a joke. A proposal to run the 21e version of the The North Face Transgrancanaria, a legendary race, 3e stage of the Ultra-Trail World Tour, which takes place within the luxurious landscapes of Gran Canaria, one of many seven islands of the Spanish archipelago.

The race is split into 4 distances: the “Starter” (21 kilometers and 1,400 meters of elevation achieve), the “Marathon” (46 kilometers and 1,900 meters of elevation achieve), the “Advanced” (84 kilometers and 4 800 meters of elevation achieve) and at last the “Classic” (126 kilometers and 6,800 meters of elevation achieve). Finally, for many who swallow the distinction in altitude like breakfast cereal, the organizers counsel working a “Vertical Kilometer” (5.5 km and 1,060 meters of optimistic altitude distinction).

You too, uncover the optimistic altitude distinction

Not figuring out a lot about elevation, we did some analysis. Take the steps alongside the well-known Montmartre funicular in Paris. It has 222 steps for roughly 120 meters in size and its optimistic peak distinction is roughly 37 meters…

Which race to decide on? Prudence would have suggested us to accept the “Starter”, however the style for danger (and ignorance) guided us in direction of the “Marathon”. After all, our observe file on the time was already well-stocked with two participations in two half-marathons: that of Paris within the spring of 2023 and the Marseille-Cassis within the fall of 2023.

READ ALSO “Through hills and ailments”: a dive into the hell of ultra-trail workingEspecially because the fundamental sponsor of the race, the model The North Face, had promised us to have the ability to profit from the recommendation of considered one of its ambassadors, the skilled Germain Grangier, 3e of the final Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB). “Don’t worry, it’s uphill at first but then it’s a lot of downhill. I'll send you some exercises for eccentric work [qui permet de contrôler l’impact ou de lutter contre la charge subie en descente, en la freinant le plus possible, NDLR] and everything will work out for the best. » If Germain says so, let’s go for the “Marathon”!

Be cautious on the best way down!

In the autumn, we start a sixteen-week preparation, with three weekly periods. This is a minimal, we’ll see later. Because if our stage in racing isn’t catastrophic, removed from it, path working is a really completely different race from traditional street races. We then start to doubt: have our eyes been greater than our stomachs?

The confidence of one other ultra-trailer, Alexandre Boucheix, higher identified beneath the pseudonym “Green Cap”, a couple of weeks earlier than the large departure, doesn’t assist issues: “We talk a lot about the positive altitude difference but the real difficulty, you will see , it’s the descent in fact…” Goops.

READ ALSO How quick must you run whenever you begin working? At the tip of February, the time has lastly come to fly to Las Palmas. The suitcase is filled with tools, as a result of path working isn’t a self-discipline that needs to be taken frivolously. In addition to the clothes and footwear supplied to us by the sponsor, it’s crucial to supply particular provides, resembling power gels and isotonic drinks to forestall cramps and accidents in the course of the race. Trail working stays an costly self-discipline on this regard: if we take note of the tools, provides, bib and, probably, transport and lodging, the quantity can rapidly climb to some thousand euros…

On the island, we’re instantly plunged into the deep finish. The different contributors have just one concept in thoughts, to be current firstly of the race they’ve chosen. The Marathon takes place on February 23. Nearly 1,300 of us gathered in Tejeda, a small city within the heart of the island (round 1,000 meters above sea stage) and kilometer zero of the race. We trade the most recent recommendation, those that acknowledged the route the day earlier than point out {that a} explicit portion is drivable (perceive: we are able to ship the gasoline there) or not.

First indicators of fatigue

Around us, the faces are nonetheless largely completely happy, the adrenaline of the beginning has chased away the stress of the final night time earlier than the race. Top departure at 9:30 a.m. with a liter of water on us. The first kilometers are exhilarating, massively supported by the locals. A primary climb lies earlier than us. And what a climb! A thousand meters of vertical drop in a single go.

It begins very badly, as a result of we go from a tarmac street to a mud street the place two individuals can barely match facet by facet. Annoyance begins to unfold among the many rivals. Here we attain a essential level within the enthusiasm round path working in recent times: sure, there’s a freeway impact at sure passages… Two runners are usually not removed from coming to blows.

READ ALSO Trails in full ascentThe cork is fading barely. At 7e kilometer, roughly midway up, some bibs present the primary indicators of fatigue. We slowly proceed our ascent in direction of the primary refreshment level. The landscapes are magnificent. Many take photographs of themselves within the distinctive setting of Roque Nublo.

The first refueling takes place after the primary quarter of the race. Two hours handed, as a result of the departure was sadly very gradual. No plastic bottles or cups: contributors fill their water bottles and use their reusable cups – a compulsory merchandise for every runner.

The faces are marked

The second quarter of the race begins with one other huge climb adopted by a primary descent. The legs are nonetheless gentle however we start to grasp why we needed to be cautious of the descent. The paths are steep, the race turns into significantly technical. You need to each control the horizon and take note of the stone the place you place your foot with every stride.

The second provide arrives. This time, it's not simply consuming. We rush to something that may present useful vitamins to our muscle groups, that are put to the take a look at by the peak distinction and the solar: bananas, dried fruits and salty drinks on the menu. Once once more, a brand new climb awaits us. We have enjoyable discovering sure unsuspected muscle groups in our decrease physique, as a result of, for the primary time in our lives, they make us endure.

Time passes and difficulties accumulate. It is now noon and the solar is burning. We drink with out pondering of rationing our two half-liter cans. The arrival on the third and last refreshment level has all of the makings of the Stations of the Cross. The faces are marked, some have blisters on their ft. There are nonetheless 15 kilometers to run.

Mutual help greater than competitors

The final quarter of the race is probably the most tough. The legs barely reply anymore. There stays a giant climb adopted by a descent on a dry river mattress, crammed with massive unstable pebbles. There are extra durations of strolling to keep away from too many cramps in any respect prices. Three kilometers from the end, there was a fall, due to a stone that we had not observed.

Our two legs stick out, straight as an i, from the thigh to the toes. Two monumental cramps, one on both sides. Not jealous. Impossible to rise up. For a second, we surprise if we're going to spend the night time right here. We have been working for greater than seven hours on the burning roads of Gran Canaria. But the spirit of path working, at a sure stage, is predicated way more on mutual help than on competitors.
READ ALSO Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc: between fascination and sulkiness

Many of them cease at our stage, providing us salt, sugar or, merely, just a little assist to rise up. It's wonderful how highly effective sure phrases are, whether or not spoken in French, English, Spanish or elsewhere, in probably the most tough moments.

The final three kilometers are lined in quick strolling. We secretly reserve ourselves to attempt to run the final 500 meters, in direction of the return to civilization. There are a couple of cheering for us however we’ve got the impression that there are tens of millions of them. We have simply accomplished 46.4 km in 8 hours 21 minutes and 49 seconds on the 686e place. The huge winner, the Kenyan Robert Pkemoi, solely took 3 hours 31 minutes and 57 seconds. No huge deal: we're barely capable of rise up but it surely feels good…