Fast Running sent Philippe Roberts out to the Canary Islands to try out the highs and lows of the Tenerife Blue Trail 102km race.
The experienced mountain man, a four time finisher of the gruelling Tor des Geants in Italy, had a fantastic trip. Not just seeing the major resort areas that most confine themselves to, the race and the Tenerife No Limits and Anaga Experience showed the welshman a whole lot more of this island paradise.
Every race comes with lessons, especially in ultra running. Below are the most valuable things that Philippe took away from the heat, altitude, volcano running and entire spectacle that is the Tenerife Blue Trail.
Don’t go wild from the gun
The start is actually pretty flat and, as with many European races, it’s an electric pace. After about three kilometres it enters a river bed and the single track doesn’t allow for easy overtaking in the next two kilometres.
The temptation therefore is to fly off to get a good position at the start, but as my coach Robbie Britton always says “There’s plenty of time to overtake later on”. Yes, it might get a little frustrating to be behind a slower runner for a while, especially if they’re blocking the way past with their poles, but it’s an ultra marathon, not a sprint.
Most of the overtaking in these races is actually done at the checkpoints (CP) and the final stages. You jump up positions every time you pass through a CP as many drop out here, especially in the heat and altitude. Save those legs for the final sprint.
Know your course
It wasn’t until around 70km that I realised I’d been taking it a bit too easy on some of the runnable sections. The heat and altitude play tricks on your mind and I had walked along a relatively flat section that I could have at least run/walked.
The altitude, heat and excitement of summiting the volcano had distracted me from how tight the deadlines were. I suddenly surged in panic and hit the 72km food stop with only 23 minutes left before the timeout. I stared at the race profile poster that was stuck to the wall. My mind churned the numbers but it is always best to have a clear idea of these at the start, rather than letting a sleep and sugar deprived mind try to do complicated calculus (well, it seemed like that) in the middle of a race.
You don’t have to know every detail, but having a good idea of the profile, the water stops and what’s expected of you can really help with planning and managing a race.
Take the time to enjoy the island
As racers we often see a lot more than most of anywhere we visit. Be it an ultra marathon or a city marathon, you can find yourself heading down streets or trails that you’d otherwise never have seen.
It’s tempting to organise your trip to fly in and out of a destination as quick as possible, trying to just get the job done. But is that what’s best for the place you’re visiting? A responsible traveller knows that they have an impact on the communities of any place that relies heavily on tourism and seeing a path less traveled is not only satisfying, but good for the whole island too.
The Anaga Experience helped me do just that and it was a great way to help bring a bit of recovery to the legs post race by visiting a few more beautiful locations in the biosphere reserve on the island.
The Tenerife Blue Trail Ultra a race for keeps. It has made it firmly into my top three events of this distance and I definitely am aiming to return. Not only to better that close call at the finish line but to see more of a fantastic island. Family are also interested. Plans are already afoot, perhaps next year, for a Roberts family visit to Anaga. Some scenic training and fun family excursions await.
Philippe is a four time Tor des Geants finisher who just keeps going back for more. The 330km mountain race circumnavigates the Aosta Valley in the Italian Alps and goes up and down a lot of hills.
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Tenerife Bluetrail – what a race!
Tenerife No Limits – for helping to organise the trip and for their athlete centred approach to Tenerife tourism
Anaga Experience – for showing us the north of the island and sharing their vision for helping to invest in small communities – www.anagaexperience.com
Hotel Silken Atlántida, Santa Cruz – for a runner friendly base for the race (12mins walk from the race expo)