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Older but not Wiser

The last long run before race day

Yesterday was the last significant training session before entering the two-week tapering period before the 128km Trangrancanaria race on March 6/7th. For those unfamiliar with tapering in the context of endurance training, it’s basically making sure you start the race fresh, having fully recovered from past training sessions. That said it has been developed to a pseudo-science/art form, with term such as exponential tapering, but that’s for another post.

For this last session I planned to do a reconnaissance trip of the first part of the race course from Las Palmas to Artenera (60km /3,000+m elevation gain) and then to Agaete (18km, 500m elevation gain), where we are staying. It was also the opportunity to test the nutrition strategy, the type of trail shoes to wear (which depends on how rocky the terrain gets) – basically fine tuning. I planned for it to take between 10 and 12hr so decided to leave at night at 6am so to come back before nigh time (including stops & some margin of safety). It all seemed pretty sensible, didn’t it?

Phone’s battery dies

The first unanticipated event happened within 30min from the start, when I realised that following the race track in the dark, while running, on my GPS watch in this particular environment with many intersections, was not going to be easy. The point was hammered home when the path I stood on ended up on a precipice. Having no suicidal instinct, I decided to resort to plan B and use my phone, where I had loaded the map to help guide me. That worked. Unfortunately, within 1.5hr the phone’s batteries were at 9% (thank you Apple) and being alone in the mountain with no phone is not advisable – so I sent a brief text to Karina and switch off the phone. Luckily by that time, it was already dawn so navigating with the watch GPS was fine.

The biggest sand storm of the past 14 years

I’m usually quite careful with checking the weather forecast before outdoor outing. I use an app called Windy that has been quite accurate so far. The night before the forecast was for sunny weather with some strong gust around 30 knots but slowing in the afternoon. Probably lulled by the excellent weather we has been accustomed to for the past month I didn’t re-check in the morning. Unknown to me Gran Canaria was going to experience its largest sand storm for the past 14 years with wind above 75mph. I only realised what was happening when I was already deep in the mountains and could barely see 20 meters in front of me. Let’s say I traded the pure mountain air for some sand, not great, but still probably better than London Underground 🙂 It went fine but could have turnout messy with tree branch flying around.

It’s Sunday in Spain

One the difficulties to go unsupported is to find enough water along the way. I typically drink 500ml per hour so that’s about 5L for 10 hours. I carry 1L while running so the rest need to be found along the way. It’s usually not a problems as there are many small streams in the mountains and I carry a filtration straw and some purification tablets; however I had notice that Gran Canaria was particularly dry this year but Plan B was to stop in some mountain village and purchase some water. As anticipated, most streams were dry but what I hadn’t planned for was that most shops are also closed on Sunday, especially in a remote village. The saving grace was the local’s hospitality! Whenever I spotted a house, I stopped by to refill my water and the « Loco Coredor » was always welcome and as a bonus they offered some fresh oranges and lemons from their garden.

Epilogue

It turned out okay as I arrived in Agaete around 5:30pm greeted by Karina, who was understandably worried. Dealing with unforeseen events is part of any outdoor adventure but a lot of the issues above could have been anticipated. I’m learning just slowly 🙂 On the positive side, I got the info I wanted regarding the race. I’m feeling quite excited and a bit scared….

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