Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Transgrancanaria - top European winter ultratrail

"Posiblemente la prueba de ultratrail más importante del invierno europeo." Probably the best winter ultratrail in Europe. Yes I know what you're thinking, just another ad slogan. But this time it really is true! And no need for the word 'probably'; read my lips: Transgrancanaria is without a doubt Europe's top ultra trail running event in winter (or early spring) season.

Playa de las Canteras in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria - one of my favorite urban beaches in Europe.
Actually this event, which has been steadily evolving since 2003, consists of the following four races:
  • Transgrancanaria: 119 km (74 miles) with +7,300m (23,950ft) cumulative ascension,
  • Advanced: 83 km (52 miles) and +4,700m (15,420ft),
  • Maratón: 42 km (26 miles) and +4,000m (13,123ft),
  • Starter: 24 km (15 miles) and +1,800m (5,905 ft).
The race HQ and finish of Transgrancanaria is beside Alfredo Kraus Auditorium.
The distance of the main event's new course is a little shorter than the old 123 km race I did in 2012, but I believe less is more here. You'll get so much more hills to climb that you are not likely to miss those 4 km by the time you reach the finish line in Las Palmas.

The weather can be excellent in the Canaries in March.
The max time limit in the main event is 31h. It will start at midnight on Friday (in other words 00:00 Saturday morning). The finish line will be closed 7am on Sunday. Bring some caffeinated gels to keep your eyes open and your best headlight with extra batteries so you can see where you are going. The course is well marked, but it is possible to get lost when you are tired - for me at least!

People in the Canaries are very smart, active and outgoing - just like you and me!
There will be some steep technical sections, but nothing to worry about as long as you are careful. Poles are allowed and I found them very helpful. Nobody's ever mistaken me for Sebastien Chaigneau though.

Surfers' training area.
Gran Canaria, one of the volcanic Canary Islands, belongs to Spain, but is closer to Africa. The climate there in March may not be what you associate with winter. You won't have to run in snow, and it might get quite warm during the day - the average high is 22C (71F). It might rain a little, as they get 14mm (0.55 inch) precipitation in March.

See the mountains in the background? That's where you'll be running.
The average low is 15C (60F), so a lightweight rain jacket should be enough. As always, the weather might throw a surprise and your mileage might vary.

A surfer heading home after a long day at the office.
Playa de Las Canteras is one of my favorite urban beaches in Europe. It's 3 km long and a very active area with tons of joggers, walkers, swimmers, surfers and sunbathers. There are plenty of hotels to choose from in this area, within walking distance from the race HQ. It's not necessary to rent a car, because you can take a very cheap and comfortable bus from the airport to Las Palmas, and the race organizers will provide buses to the starting place.

By the way, Playa Chica is an excellent spot to go snorkeling if you want to see tropical fish. It's a bit like swimming in an aquarium. The water will be quite cold in March, but they say it speeds up the recovery of your legs.

Playa Chica is perhaps the best part of Las Canteras beach to see some tropical fish. 
To summarize, Transgrancanaria is recommended for those looking for new challenges in exciting natural settings. Animo! Vamos!

In many places around the islands you can see black volcanic rocks.

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