Last year, a little race in the Canary Islands caught the attention of the entire ultra running community. Taking place on the stunning volcanic island of La Palma ("Isla Bonita", or "beautiful island"), Transvulcania offered both an inspiring backdrop and also an incredible field of the top runners from around the world. It was an amazing race to follow, with course records smashed by Anna Frost (8:11:30) and Dakota Jones (6:59:07).
And of course, everybody wanted a piece of it for 2013! So a small group of hardy individuals (I believe "idiots" is the colloquial term) signed up, including Martin Wilcock, Chris Baynham-Hughes, Richard Brown, and me. We head out on Friday to attempt the unbelievably complex task of making it to the island, before getting about an hours' sleep prior to the race start at 6 am on Saturday. Acclimatisation shmacclimatisation!
The race itself is 83.3 Km, with a rather frightening 8,525 m of elevation change (about 4,500 m of ascent). The course profile appears relatively simple - a very long very steep hill for the first 20 Km, a "relatively" flat section with a short but bloody steep hill in the middle, a similarly steep 15 Km descent, then a final hill in the last few Kms just to add a little sting in the tail. Simples.
This year, the list of starters is a veritable who's who of ultra running, with many of the top names from around the world confirmed. Ian Corless has a list of confirmed elites that make for an amazing field. This is certainly going to be one helluva race!
So where do I fit in? Frankly I have no idea. I figure if I can survive that first hill (not my greatest strength what with training in Cambridge) then I can put my foot down (then my other foot - ho ho ho) and push as hard as I can for the finish. This might work and I could get a good time (sub 10 hours maybe?), or it could fail miserably! Either way, I'm just going to have fun out there, being in those surroundings, and being a part of such an amazing event.
I will be flying the flag for Team X-Bionic as an "honorary member", having been sent a bunch of kit to try out by Simon Robinson (the UK rep). Seeing as I kept him waiting around for hours at the end of the Viking Way (where he came to see me finish) it only seemed fair! This will be my first real test of the kit, so full review afterwards. It's exciting to be part of a team like this, amongst stalwart runners like 2012 UK Ultra Runner Award winners Mimi Anderson (who has win more races than I have taken part in) and Terry Conway (holder of the rather astonishing Lakeland 100 course record, and just getting faster!), even if it is only temporary.
I haven't quite decided on the rest of my kit yet, but will probably use my Salomon Sense Mantras as my shoe of choice. For hydration I am still undecided between the trusty Salomon 5L vest (well tested but maybe a bit warm) or my UltrAspire Impulse belt (better for warmer conditions, but untested for racing). I probably won't make up my mind until we're about to leave for the start line!
I have set up my Twitter and Facebook accounts to update as I run, so you can see how far ahead of Kilian I am. If at any point it appears that he is hours ahead if me, rest assured that I am either biding my time to take him down at the end of the race (with flower at the ready...), or decided to do another lap and am close to lapping him.
Well a guy can dream...