Transvulcania Race Report 2014

IMG_4603 Photo: Irunfar.com

 

 

Transvulcania was a race I have been looking forward to for over a year.  Racing over volcanoes, a majority of the world’s best mountain runners, fanatic spectaors and a gnarly course with nearly 15,000ft of climbng in 43 miles makes for one awesome race.

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I enjoyed the 3 days leading up to the race at a wonderful 4-star resort 6 miles from the start on the island of La Palma.  The weather was hot for what I am used to and I did my running in the heat of the day in attempts to acclimate my body.  Adjusting after such a long trip to La Plama and the 6 hour time change is difficult, but 3 full days was a good amount of time.  Patagonia athletes Luke Nelson, Ty and Krissy Mehl were at the hotel along with Jones and we had a great time relaxing and going through the pre-prace activities together.

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I fell asleep the night before the race quickly but was wide awake at about 1:15am.  I got ready and tried to relax before our 4:30am bus to the start.  Once at the race start, I fully realized the magnitude of a 2,500 person start.  Loud music and tons of energy was errupting at the start line.  At 6:00am we all charged up the sandy trails in the dark.  I was wide awake and feeling fine on the climb.  As normal, I was starting under control and a ways back from the lead pack or two.  It blew me away how many professional, world class athletes were in this race, more than there will be at any other race this year in the world.  There were easily 40 guys who would podium at most US ultras racing today.

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At the first town on the course there were people lining the streets to cheer… in the dark.  I continued to be amazed at the excitement and participation of the people of La Palma fo the whole race.  Transvulcania is the Boston Marathon of the mountain ultra world.

I was in around 30th place an hour into the race doing well running my own race.  Around sunrise I passed through the most scenic section of the course.  Around me was Ponderosa like pines widely spread out with almost no ground cover, just volcanic rock and sand towering upwards.  Down below was the sun just rising over the inversion of clouds.  Accross the ocean the 13,000ft peak on Tenerife, Spain’s highest,  made the sky line that much more magical.  I was smiling and having a wonderful time.  I slowly passed runners one at a time until I reached the top of the 6,000ft climb 30k into the race and was somewhere around 20th place.

The next section of the course was 10k of rolling dirt roads gradually climbing making it’s way to more exposed ridge running.  It was here that I realized the body wasn’t quite “on” and ready for what I thought it could do.  I jockeyed back and forth with 2 or 3 guys and struggled to maintain good leg speed.  As I hoped and expected,  I was able to get back into passing on the second part of the major climbing, but 3 or 4 places and a good 5 minutes back of where I planned on being.

My kit was working well, AK Ultimate Direction vest, 120-140 calories of Vitargo per hour, Altra Paradigms, Smarwool T and shorts, visor and Julbo glasses.  More than any other race, I spent a lot of time picking gear for this demanding, gear intensive, hot race.  I also had to cary mandatory gear to include an emrgency blanket, blinking red light, headlamp, cell phone and 1 litre of water capacity.  I referenced my “ElevationTat” tatoo all day to see where I was on climbs, descents and were aid stations were located.

The volume of people on the course cheering with passionate energy made the day for me.  The people of La Palma love the Transvulcania race and all of it’s runners.  I’ve never had so many pictures taken of me in my life.
Near the top of the climb I began to slow a bit due to the 12,000ft of clmbing, but what was unexpected was the sharp sorenes in my medial quads.  I’ve never had medial quad soreness after primarily running uphill.  My best guess is that the sand caused me to pronate more and strained my medial quads more than normal coupled with the fact that I wore my race shoes longer than I would normally and the natural breakdown of the shoe also made an impact on my form.

At top things continued to get hotter and I started the ritual of “showering” at each of the aid stations for the rest of the course.  I was in 17th or 18th place and well within striking distance of my goal of breaking into the top 10, but I knew my quads were not going to cooperate with the race plan of hammering the 8,000ft descent.  After making my downhill running a big focus in training over the last few months, I was nothing short of crushed to not be able to take advantage.  My positive demeanor disipated and I did my best to just focus on small goals of making certain mileage, progress on the descent and to aid stations.  I was running alone, not thinking about racing anymore and holding on.  With a few thousand feet of descent left I was passed by a couple runners as I was reduced to tip toeing down the steepest part of the descent.

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At the bottom of the descent was a geourgeous beach town and  the last aid station with only about 3 miles to go to the finish.  I needed all the encouragement of the huge crowd, cheering, music, red carpet and a sheltered tent with tons of cold water being poured over my head.  My hobbled descent was over, it was time to finish the race strong.  In the last 3 miles and 1,000ft climb I caught the two guys who passed me on the last part of the descent and charged to the last mile of city running with litterally thousands cheering and high fiving me into the finish.  16th place and an 8:00 finish.  Not the race I hoped for, but an awesome race none the less that I look forward to racing again.

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15 Comments

  1. Tom Forbes May 13, 2014 12:20 pm  Reply

    Interesting to read how the pros tough it out. The crowd sounds very cool – I had the good fortune to run Boston this year and the fans really do give you a lift – even stopped for a Wellesley girl kiss. I would love to try a short ultra (oxymoron!) some time. Thanks for your post.

    • admin May 14, 2014 1:38 pm  Reply

      The support made the race a one of a king and something magical. No kisses for me, but offers for beer were made… just like Boston! Find an awesome 50k on the trails and go for it :)

  2. BirdDog May 13, 2014 1:34 pm  Reply

    Anyone would be happy with a 16th place at Boston. & it sounds like top 10 in the world is definitely within striking distance for the Schlarba Darba. . . Like a Boss!

    • admin May 14, 2014 1:36 pm  Reply

      Thanks Bird Dog. One thing I was certainly missing was your visualization and meditation prep/exercise/coaching before my race. I’m not going to miss out on that tool for my next race my friend.

  3. roy pIrRUNg May 13, 2014 7:10 pm  Reply

    Great job Jason! With that many elite runners and the little time you had to adapt, you performed well. Next time get there 6 days ahead. One hour for each time zone change. See you in a few miles….roy

    • admin May 14, 2014 1:35 pm  Reply

      Thanks Roy! Always great to hear your veteran wisdom with advice… A day for each time zone change sure sounds like a great rule of thumb. I certainly look forward to our next meet up!

  4. Mike Devloo May 14, 2014 12:04 am  Reply

    Great story. I’m assuming the crowd was cheering you on in Spanish. Que dicieron? Just how hot was it? What is your preferred racing temp. Was the course more hard surface and less trail being that it’s a small island? Did quad pain persist on flats, the next day? Entertaining post

    • admin May 14, 2014 1:33 pm  Reply

      The crowd was nuts Mike! “Animo!” (courage) was chanted and yelled all day long. I prefer cool mountain temps for running and racing overall. The course was a mix of single track (primarily), some double track forest service style road, a little paved path/road and a bit of coble stone path (not easy to run). My quads still hurt today! Great questions Mike

  5. Jeff Valliere May 14, 2014 6:30 am  Reply

    Sorry your race did not go as planned, but nice job sticking it out. You’ll nail it next time. Sounds like an awesome trip regardless though and an amazing place!

  6. George Harris May 14, 2014 9:55 am  Reply

    Jason, great race. Interesting choice on the shoes the Altra Paradigms. Was the Olympus too heavy? How did it perform on the trail? I just ordered a pair and I am anxious to get them. Hey do they run true to size? I have a 11.5 in the Olympus.

    • admin May 14, 2014 1:30 pm  Reply

      George,
      The Pardigms are lighter than the Olympus. I love how the Paradigm perform on the trail and on the road as they have just enough cut out traction, low ramp angle and a light weight upper that keeps me nimble on the ascents and descents. I found them pretty true to size on my foot. I am sure you will love them!

  7. rms May 14, 2014 9:57 am  Reply

    Would you expand a bit more on the pronation/shoe issues you mention? How many miles do you have on the Paradigm? I enjoy the Olympus, have ordered the Paradigm, and would like more insight into this shoe and what to look out for. Thanks!

    • admin May 14, 2014 1:26 pm  Reply

      rms, the Paradigm is a neutral non-stability shoe. I don’t think you need to worry about pronation with the shoe in general, it just happened that in sandy conditions and after some wear, my medial quads had to work a bit harder than I was used to. Paradigm are still my #1 favorite!

  8. grae May 14, 2014 9:01 pm  Reply

    Nice run. Now for business. What is the honest reason you went from Hoka to Altra. And don’t say the contract was better. The truth. And don’t say “personal preference”, that’s to politically correct. Tks.

  9. Nicolas May 15, 2014 7:34 am  Reply

    Great to read your review and congrats for the result! Estas muy fuerte, tio.
    Looks like an awesome race. Maybe one of these years I’ll try that.
    Are you staying around Europe for some time now?

    BTW, the Around Patagonia film was really cool, congrats for that as well. It’s nice to see my country shown in trailrun movies.

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