Transgrancanaria 128km- Hints & Tips

Whilst some races seem to have a plethora of hints, tips and advice pages, there seemed to be little about the Transgrancanaria 128km race so I thought I’d pass on what I discovered.

Registration –

Pretty easy, all done online. If staying on the South of the island it’s worth paying the extra 10 Euro for the bus from the finish (Maspalomas) to the start (Las Palmas) as it’s about an hours drive and would be an expensive cab ride.

Unlike a lot of UK races the entry stays open very late, around 2/3rd Feb before it’s closed for the race around the 22nd Feb.

Medical Cert – 

They need a medical cert to allow you to run. There is a pro-forma one on the website that’s best to use. It’s similar to the one used by Paris Marathon etc and just a check that your doctor doesn’t mind you going for a little jog. Get it signed by your doctor and upload before the deadline of 2/3rd Feb. It needs to be checked and verified by the organisers. I got no update that this had happened, but logged back into account about a week later and found it marked as approved.

Communications –

Don’t expect anything else to follow. UK races tend to update you on last minute items, reminders etc. This has none of that. As long as your medical cert shows as approved you’re good to go.

Hotels – 

Personally I’d get a hotel at Maspalomas for great beaches, quick access to expo and easy walk /taxi back from the finish. Also mentally I’m sure it helps knowing you’re running home.

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Bib Collection –

This is done from ExpoMeloneras (the expo hall) in Maspalomas from Wednesday onwards. They’ll update the timetable nearer the date but typically a morning (10am-1pm) and afternoon (4pm-8pm) window. To collect your bib you need photo ID matching your registration name (UK driving licence is fine). You’ll get bib with timing chip, a backup chip on a tag to affix to rucksack/pack and some goodies (in 2019 I got shoe gaiters, arm sleeves, and compression top). They don’t give safety pins as most runners seem to use bib-belts so if wanting to pin on your top bring some with you.

There are enough stalls at the expo to buy pretty much anything you’ve forgotten.

Kit Inspection –

img_2027There is a mandatory kit list as to be expected. I presumed this would be checked at bib collection so carried it all down. It wasn’t. They didn’t kit check before the race itself either, seemingly preferring to trust runners to have the right gear. Probably still worth bringing it with you just in case they change the approach in future to avoid a lot detour back to hotel to grab stuff.

Drop Bags –

At registration you’ll also get two plastic bags. One is for your end gear (warm hoody, flip flops, shower items (there are showers on site) etc), the other is for your drop bag for Garañón at approx 53 miles (I’d recommend spare socks, dry clothes, plasters, vaseline, any desired food or drinks, battery pack for charging phone or Garmin). The drop bag is relatively late in the race after some big climbs so don’t be surprised if it takes 16+hrs to get to it. Your Garmin may not last until here so may need to carry a battery pack anyway. Both bags will be waiting for you at the end of the race. I had all my gear in a drawstring rucksack within the plastic bag to make it easier to carry home after a long day of running.

All drop bags need to be given in by 1pm on Friday so you can take them back to hotel and pack at leisure assuming you don’t mind make a further trip out, or come to bib collection with all the gear you wish to fit in the bags. I’ve given suggestions of what to pack further down the page.

Start – 

img_2044The race starts 11pm on Friday. Yes – 11PM. If you’re on the coaches they leave from the Expo centre at 8:45pm, although for 2019 they were moved to 8pm with only a couple of hours notice via email so worth checking for updates. If you’ve paid for the coach it will be marked on your race bib so have it to hand to get on the coach. The journey is around the perimeter of island on the fast roads, not a twisty vomit inducing path through the hills.

img_2046All being well this should get you to the start on the beach at 9pm for a 2hr wait. Even on a warm day it is likely to be breezy and chilly so worth having a spare throw-away top, bin liner or putting on your raincoat for warmth. There isn’t much to do for the 2hrs so try and find a cafe/pub and sit and rest, listen to the warm up band. May be worth bringing some snacks and drinks for the wait. I went to the pub with some twitter chums. We got some odd looks.

img_2048The runners assemble on the sand about 10:40pm, into numbered pens as denoted by your bib. The race starts with fanfare and fireworks. It’s a great atmosphere but likely your body is wanting sleep not an 80 mile run.

First few miles is on sand, alternating between beach and boardwalk. If you get sand in shoes then wait until you leave the beach the second time and start to climb the mountain before emptying your shoes.

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Emergencies – 

Your bib has an emergency number on it, and a mobile is mandatory.

Loved ones / support crew & timings – 

It is likely you will be far slower in the race than expected. I consistently run 100 milers in the UK in sub 23hrs, so had a very optimistic 20hr goal and a more realistic 24hr plan. On the day I managed 26hr despite gaining places all race. I found it difficult technically and struggled but no more than most. It is hard and unless you’re used to running up and down loose rock and endless climbs it will be out of your comfort zone.

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There are only limited checkpoints on route which although updated regularly to website and the app, can still give concern to followers when you’ve not appeared at the next checkpoint for many hours after your planned arrival. Also worth noting some of the electronic checkpoints are on the exit to the aid stations so even if arriving broadly on time, you could well show up as very late if you hang around eating.

Cut off and DNFs –

The cut off is 30hrs which for ‘only’ 80 miles sounds ridiculously easy until you see the course (incidentally I made a very short mistake on course but otherwise ran the route as marked and clocked 83.87 miles so think overall you should assume approx 83 miles).

For 2019 there were 772 starters and 527 finishers, so approx 68% success rate with 32% dropping out. 76 finished in the final two hours. The average finish time is circa 24hrs but given this is an Ultra Trail World Cup event and attracts world class, corporate sponsored runners they skew the results somewhat. It’s also worth noting you may get a big mental slump when the sun drops on Saturday and you realise it’s night again, you’ve been running all through the previous night and day and still not finished.

Checkpoint Miles Cut Off (time of day)
Arucas – Santidad Alta 10.25 02:30:00
Teror 16.96 04:50:00
Moya – Fontanales 24.36 07:40:00
Los Pérez 31.5 10:35:00
Artenara 39.39 13:45:00
Tejeda 46.48 16:25:00
Garañón DROP BAG 53.13 19:00:00
Hierbahuerto 62.76 22:45:00
Ayagaures 68.85 01:00:00
Parque Sur 77.55 04:15:00
Meta (end) 79.54 05:00:00

Kit –

Mandatory kit is likely to be unchanged as below.

  • ID, passport or driving license (with photo)
  • Plastic cup
  • Emergency blanket (minimum 100 cm x 200 cm).
  • Headlamp, flashlight or front light (spare batteries required).
  • Red rear light (runners shall wear it on their rear side and keep it on throughout the race).
  • Mobile phone with enough credit and properly charged battery.
  • 1.5 l water bottle.
  • Plenty of food to eat throughout the race.
  • Race number, worn in the front so that it is easily visible.
  • Breathable waterproof jacket.
  • Cap, bandana, etc.
  • Cash (euros)

Personally I’d say bring a decent sized plastic cup not the stupid speed cups.

There is no requirement for backup headtorch but given you’d be completely lost without lights I’d suggest an emergency headtorch like the Petzl E+Lite Headlamp. You could have this in your mid-race pack as a backup if you trust yourself not to break your main lamp before then. I used a Unilite PS-CL1 cliplight for my rear light as it also features a bright torch mode, enough to hopefully get you to safety if needed.

Other kit I’d suggest in addition to mandatory kit would be as below:

Carrying at Start Wearing at Start Drop Bag 50 miles
Race vest / rucksack Buff for head Dry top
Caffeine tablets / shot blocks Arm sleeves Dry arm sleeves
Emergency torch Gloves Dry buff
Emergency whistle Bib belt or safety pins Dry hat
Peaked cap for daytime Calf guards Dry socks
Sunglasses for daytime Shorts Battery pack USB
Suncream for daytime Compression base layer Garmin charger lead
Emergency base layer or top Vest/Tee Phone charger lead
Tissues (for loo stops) Shoes More salt tablets
Vaseline Socks Bag for sweaty gear
Plasters/tape End Drop Bag Sports drink
Salt tablets Flip flops Energy drink
Aid station list / timings Hoodie Beer
Zip lock bag for food Shower gear / wet wipes Extra Food
Food/gels
Hiking poles
Paracetamol

Temperatures / kit – 

This will vary a lot throughout the race, expect 8/10degC up to 25degC. The early stages can be a little chilly so I found the use of arm sleeves and gloves to easily regulate temperature helped a lot. For much of the heat of the day you’re in the dense woods so protected from worst of the sun. That being said it is bright so suncream is sensible.

The wind can come suddenly and be gone almost as quickly so don’t be surprised to be baked for a few miles only to be chilled for the next few. For cooling I borrowed ice from aid stations to go under hat and in arm sleeves (rolled down like sweatbands).

For 2019 the temperature rose towards the end as Maspolamas had been basking in 29degC heat compared to 20degC on the hills so was still hot even at 1am.

Poles / cheat sticks –

I’ve never used before but found to be a god-send both climbing and descending. I saw possibly two people without, and two more who had fashioned poles from bamboo canes on route. You can get cheat sticks as cheap as £20 on ebay so worth buying. I pulled mine out around 15-20 mile in and never put them away again. If flying in consider if they’ll fit in suitcase or if you’ll be allowed in hand luggage (unlikely) if not checking a bag into hold.

Shoes –

Definitely a trail shoe event but get something with a little cushioning if able as there are a lot of fast descents on hard surfaces that pound the knees

Aid stations – 

img_2057These are pretty manic affairs at the start. Most have isotonic drink, coke and water in vats. I typically prefer a 50/50 coke and water mix.

Food is mostly oranges, bananas, cheese, meat cubes, energy bars, chocolate, fruit and nuts. There is hot food at Artenara at 40 miles and Garañón at 53 miles. It’s typically pasta or potatoes. It’s hot and fills a hole.

Training –

img_2055For most UK runners, specific training for the race will be hard. There are climbs that go on for hours, stressing your calf muscles from endless “toe steps”. The descents can be equally long and on rocks or hard surfaces, pounding your quads. Even the flat sections may be along dried river beds, tripping and balancing on bowling balls of rock. Whilst none of these are exceptionally taxing on their own for short periods, the sheer duration of the sections is hard mentally and physically. There is a downhill path on uneven cobbles that appears to go on for so long you begin to pray for an uphill just to save your legs.

img_2076Ultimately unless you live in the Lake District or regularly trespass in your local quarry for hill repeats you will find the course taxing. Accept that it is hard. Enjoy the sections through the woods where you can gain some speed and try not to fall off a ravine to your death. You will likely get some miles as slow as 30-40 minutes.

 

Route marking –

It’s very well marked, with marker tape and flashing lights throughout, with arrows for changes of direction. There is one final descent into Ayagaures that is especially marked as ‘technical and dangerous’ as you drop hundreds of meters down a seemingly sheer cliff.

Your race bib has a course profile on it but so zoomed out it can be deceptive. The final 27 miles of the course is the same as the marathon and in theory an easy downhill run. In reality you may find yourself climbing for hours at times during this downhill section as sneaky uphills are hidden in the profile.

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End – 

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The final section is along a dried up river bed over yet more rocks, before changing to the dry canal bed through town. At two points you have to climb up and back down the canal to go through a checkpoint or avoid road crossings. Climbing stairs after 80 hard miles is comedic.

At the finish in front of the Expo you’ll get a finishers body warmer/zip up gillet thing. They have beer at the end if you ask for it! Don’t forget to collect any drop bags from back inside the expo hall.

 

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3 thoughts on “Transgrancanaria 128km- Hints & Tips

  1. Nice write up. Having followed Chris’ antics a few years back, agree with a couple of points: a) you can be hours behind predicted times based on other (difficult) ultras and b) the field is world class, and highly sponsored (!), by Salomon, ultimate direction, Inov8 etc…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers. Have to see my emotions have gone from “I am never running an ultra again” to “maybe others but not this one” and now at “hmm how much quicker could I be if I did X and Y differently”

      Like

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