The island of Gran Canaria once again hosted the Transgrancanaria series of races. Over the years, the races have grown not only in stature and entries but also in quantity. In total, there are now seven races and this year the addition of the TRANS 360 (265km) really has elevated the race portfolio so that TRANSGRANCANARIA now contrasts and compares directly to the UTMB series of races.
Starting with a FAMILY race (17km) you then have PROMO (17km), STARTER (30km), MARATHON (42km), ADVANCED (82km), the TRANS 360 and then the main event of the weekend, TRANSGRANCANARIA at 125km and 8000m of vertical gain.
Over the year’s, TRANSGRANCANARIA has had the world best come to this Canary island and do battle. Ryan Sandes, Sebsatien Chaigneau, Nuria Picas and Caroline Chaverot are amongst the winners and the 2017 edition, like previous years, had a high quality field.
Notably, the 2017 edition is also earlier in the year, in the past, the race has been in March. This is significant, the 125km race is tough at anytime of the year but coming so early means that the end of one season and the beginning of the next becomes increasingly cloudy. If you want to do well here, it’s fair to say that the previous year’s season needs to end in September or October to allow for recovery and then building training once again to be ready in February.
Caroline Chaverot and Didrick Hermansen were 2016 returning champions and without doubt they were pre-race favourites. Didrick most definitely would have a fight on his hands with the final result going anyway. By contrast, Caroline after an incredible 2016 season was almost guaranteed a victory. But this is ultra-running and things don’t always go the way you expect.
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From the off, Pau Capell and Azara Garcia dictated the race from the front and by the time they reached Artenara (approx 30km), the duo had a convincing lead in their respective races. Many had predicted pre-race that 2017 was Pau’s year, however, Azara was stepping up to the 125km distance – she normally races hilly, technical mountain races of marathon distance, so, stepping up to 125km and 8000m of vert was going to be a challenge.
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The Spanish duo most certainly had some highs and lows on an incredible journey to the line but they didn’t falter. Pau looked to be a man on a mission throughout the race and although he went through a bad patch in the last 20km, he rallied and then continued to pull away to take one of the biggest victories of his life.
Azara battled and battled and from Roque Nublio looked tired and maybe a little bit broken. Somehow she managed to find the mental strength to beat and will her body to the line. She finished with a convincing lead over 2nd lady Andrea Huser, but Azara was an empty shell on the line. She was broken and the emotion of the biggest win of her career seemed all too much as she sat lost in her exhaustion. Eventually she was stretchered away to recover.
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Behind two amazing performances were the highs and lows of the ultra world. In the ladies’ race we saw Caroline Chaverot drop from the race at Artenara lacking energy with tired legs. We saw Andrea Huser produce an ever-consistent and well placed performance to place 2nd and gain another high-ranking podium place and Melanie Rousset from France rallied to finish 3rd ahead of Kirstin Berglund. Full ladies’ results HERE.
The men’s race was a cracker, however, everyone was running in the wake of Pau Capell who produced a dominating world-class performance. Vlaidas Zlabys from Lithuania was the revelationn of the race and a name to note for the future. Right from the beginning he was in the mix and he produced a strong, consistent and well paced performance to finish 2nd 14:35 minutes behind Pau. In the final 20km he had closed that gap down to 10-minutes but Pau surged. Didrick Hermansen ran much of the race off the podium but he knows his strength. In the last 3rd of the race he closed hard and moved up through the race to finally finish on the podium in 3rd – a great result!
Behind the top-3 is a story of trials and tribulations, pre-race favourites of Andy Symonds, Diego Pazos and Timothy Olson all finished in the top-10 but it was stories of niggles, sickness, fatigue and fighting a cold and challenging night. Full men’s results HERE.
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The 2017 edition of the race will be remembered for a very cold and windy night that challenged the runners. Even the arrival of daylight did not warm the ambient temperature in the mountains. It was only as the runners descended to the sea in the final 20-30km’s did temperatures rise and of course, this brings it’s own problems. From 4-degrees to 25-degrees is a tough ask. The challenge was clearly seen on each runners face.
Pau Capell and Azara Garcia are the names of 2017, I wonder, who will be the names of 2018?
Pau Capell 13:21:03 (Didrick ran 13:41 in 2016)
Vlaidas Zlabys 13:35:38
Didrick Hermansen 13:50:06
Jordi Baus 13:53:53
Maxime Cazajous 13:53:54
Azara Garcia 16:25:20 (Caroline ran 15:23 in 2016)
Andrea Huser 17:15:45
Melanie Rousset 17:30:40
Kistin Berglund 18:00:04
Ildo Wermescher 18:17:43
Images will be uploaded to iancorless.photoshelter.com
This is Episode 108 of Talk Ultra. We speak with 2016 Transgrancanaria champion, Didrik Hermansen. We have a chat with Brit Paul Navesey about winning the 100km Anglo Celtic Plate and Jason Schlarb gives us the lowdown of skiing the Hardrock 100 route in 4 days. Niandi gives us a stress fracture update (Ian and Niandi loose the plot!) and Niandi brings us another Big Red Run interview and Speedgoat is here after ‘another’ 100-mile victory.
00:01:31 Show Start
Karl wins another 100 – 16:47 at Lake Martin 100
Ian’s been swimming and cycling but no running
Niandi gives us an update on her injury and talks to Kirsten about the Big Red Run
Kirsten Maplestone ran the Big Red Run in Australia in a past edition and will return in 2016, Niandi caught up and had a chat about the unique challenges this race brings. Read about and enter the Big Red Run HERE
Anglo Celtic Plate
Paul Navesey 6:58:52
Daniel Weston 7:11:47
Robert Turner 7:17:11
Melissa Vendables 8:15:54
Edwina Sutton 8:24:05
Sophie Mullins 8:30:22
01:01:00 INTERVIEW PAUL NAVESEY
Two Oceans in SA (56km)
Mike Fokoroni 3:13:33
Caroline Wostmann 3:44:44
Ryan Bak 3:38:17
Mario Mendoza 3:40:00
Matt Flaherty 3:43:00
Ellie Greenwood 4:11:58
Anne Marie Madden 4:22:00
Sarah Bard 4:25:00
Georgia Death Race 68m
Andrew Miller and Bethany Patterson took out the wins in 11:42 and 14:28 for WSER slots
Trail du Ventoux 46km
Nico Martin and in-form Caroline Chaverot took out victories.
Iditarod Trail Invitational 1000m
Tim Hewitt (61) 19 days 9 hours 49 minutes – ouch! First person ever to complete in under 20 days
The 2016 Transgrancanaria concluded in Maspalomas this morning at 5am after many runners battled through two nights and a long hot day to achieve the goal of completing the 125km journey from the north to the south of the island. It’s a race of many challenges!
The first big European race on the calendar, Transgrancanaria always attracts a high quality elite field and this year was no different. Starting at 2300 hours on Friday under warm skies, runners left the coastal town of Agaete and then weaved a route through many climbs and descents on what is a very demanding island to run on.
Aurelien Collet and Caroline Chaverot started the race like two possessed animals, constantly pushing and dictating the pace at the front. Chaverot was not a surprise after her string of recent high quality results and her 2nd place in Transgrancanaria last year. Collet though was a surprise!
As the runners ran into the night, Artenara was one of the first key aid stations and it soon became clear that the evening temperatures were causing many problems. A wind had started to increase off the coast and with it temperatures dropped.
By contrast, day temperatures were very warm and in the men’s race Roque Nublo became a significant point in the race as 2015 winner, Gediminas Grinius closed on Collet who had dictated the pace from the start.
Hermansen was also closing on Grinius and we knew the race was on!
In the ladies race, Chaverot’s lead was so huge it would have taken an injury for her to lose her lead, particularly after the withdrawal of Nuria Picas in the night with an injury. Emelie Lecomte, Andrea Huser and Uxue Fraile were pursuing but they were in a different race.
Hermansen finally took hold of the race in the section between Garanon and Pico de las Nieves when he overtook Collet. Grinius pursued but Hermann was committed to victory, something that he had prepared meticulously for having placed 2nd in 2015. He stopped the clock in 13:41:48 which established a new course record*
Pau Capell, winner of Transgrancanaria’s Advanced race in 2015, moved up a notch to finish on the podium jointly with Diego Pazos for third.
Caroline Chaverot was in a league of her own this year, committed, focused and dedicated, she was like a machine! Despite her huge lead, Chaverot continued to push the pace all the way to the finish and she also, like Hermansen, set a new course record and finished in the top-20 overall. Her closest rival was Andrea Huser who was almost 2 hours behind. Uxue Fraile finished 3rd.
*This years course has now been changed over the final 25km which is slightly less distance but more technical.
Many of the top elite runners assembled in Maslpalomas, Gran Canaria yesterday evening for the Transgrancanaria 2016 elite press conference.
In the past few years, Transgrancanaria has grown as the first big European race that in many ways sets the scene for what is to come later in the year.
The 2016 edition of the race is no different.
2015 champion Gediminas Grinius is back and looking to defend his crown but he is going to have a tough job. He said:
“I feels no pressure now but as I stand on the start, the tension will come and then will be soon released. I am here to perform to the best of my ability.”
Seth Swanson from the USA is considered to be a dark horse, his repeat 2nd places at the past editions of Western States and 4th at UTMB not only means that he has pace to run fast but that he can also climb and descend.
“I’m really happy to be back in Europe and the opportunity to run across an island, from the top to the bottom, is one of the unique attraction of the Transgrancanaria race.”
Julien Chorier, Yan Long Fei, Antoine Guillon, Didrik Hermansen, Jonas Buud, Tim Tollefson, Sondre Amdahl, Andy Symonds, Seb Chaigneau, Yeray Duran are just some of the other top elite men who will contest the finish line on Saturday outside the Palais de Congress in Maspalomas.
The ladies race has less depth but two time champion Nuria Picas is back and of course a hot favourite for victory. Last years 2nd placed lady, Caroline Chaverot is also one to watch:
“I want to have a good race, a pleasant journey and I hope I don’t get lost… last year I made a couple of mistakes.”
The USA’s Angela Shartel was also present and excited to be racing in Europe for the first time.
Dong Li, Uxue Fraile, Manuela Vilaseca, Lisa Borzani, Anrea Huser and Silvia Trigueros are also hot contenders for the top-3 podium places.
Racing starts at 2300 (local time) on Friday March 4th
March rolls around once again and with it, the Transgrancanaria. Arguably, the Canarian island of Gran Canaria kicks off the serious European racing calendar with the Transgrancanaria and 2016, like all previous years, once again has a quality line up.
On first impressions, the male and female elite field may not have the depth of some previous editions, but those who are racing bring a high pedigree to the race and the action at the front, as always, will be fast and tough.
Transgrancanaria is a tough, tough course with some brutal and relentless climbing, particularly in the opening kilometers under darkness. What follows is a rollercoaster of Canarian landscape that leads the runners from the north of the island, all the way down to the south, with a finish close to the sea. It’s a logical and pleasing crossing of the island.
Past editions of the race have been criticized for the final 10-20km that involved running in what felt like a concrete tube, I have been informed that a new finish route is planned and so therefore we can expect finish times different to previous editions.
This route, the island, the weather and the unpredictable nature that a 125km route brings guarantees that we are in for a special battle. Now in its 3rd edition as part of the UTWT (Ultra Trail World Tour) the 2016 Transgrancanaria will be an exciting race.
Heading up the male line-up is 2015 champion, Gediminas Grinius. We coined a phrase last year that Gediminas has become the #GrinReaper. He lived up to that reputation in the 2015 race when he closed like a demon to win the race against a world-class field. Gediminas has been a revelation over the past 2-years and his rise in the sport has been great to watch. Without doubt, he is a hot favourite for the 2016 win.
Didrik Hermansen and Sondre Amdahl will not be far behind Gediminas, this duo raced side-by-side in 2015 and on that occasion, Hermansen took the 2nd podium place. He followed this with a win at Lavaredo and 3rd at UltraVasen. This duo have had an equally impressive rise in the sport over the last 2-years, particularly Amdahl who races regularly. He follows up Transgrancanaria with his first multi-day race; Marathon des Sables. Sondre placed 4th at Transgrancanaria last year and 4th at UTMF, his best result coming at Hong Kong 100 where he placed 2nd.
An exciting prospect is the USA’s Seth Swanson. Seth is very much a runner who is below the radar in Europe, however, his podium (2nd) back-to-backs at Western States elevate him to a complete surprise package on the Canarian trails of Gran Canaria. The big question will come with the relentless hands-on-knees climbing that Transgrancanaria brings. Of course, he placed 4th at UTMB so I have it on good authority that Seth can look after himself… one to watch for the win!
Julien Chorier always impresses me on tough and technical courses, in addition to his all around climbing ability, he can run with the best too. His experiences on Gran Canaria are also good (2nd in 2014 behind Ryan Sandes), he knows the course, he has been on the podium and we can expect a top drawer performance that will contest the podium once again. Julien placed 6th at Western States, so if he is in a neck-to-neck with Swanson later in the race, my money is on Swanson.
Antoine Guillon is a UTWT regular and in the past has raced every race in the calendar, he often misses the big victory because of this but his consistency is 100%. You can almost predict that if injury does not hit h will be in the top-10 and has a good chance of top-5. He placed 3rd last year and also won Raid de la Reunion.
Like Swanson, Yan Long Fei will also be another surprise package for the podium and potential win. His gentle rise in the sport has been special to watch and his recent 2nd place result in Hong Kong 100 will boost his confidence for Transgrancanaria.
Andy Symonds is back on form after extended injury and this course will suit the Brit who lives in France. The only question may come with the distance and potential time on feet, 125km is a long race for Andy but he does have plans to extend his range and Transgrancanaria is a good place to start. Andy had 5 victories in 2015, the last coming at Ultra Trail Atlas Toubkai ahead of Julien Chorier. He also completed the super tough and technical ELS2900.
Yeray Duran represents the local talent; he always performs well on a race that may well be the highlight of his year. Other top names to watch are Pau Capell, Toti Bes, Jordi Camito, Pau Bartolo and the return of Sebastien Chaigneau.
*Late additions to my entry list come no bigger than Miguel Heras (ouch! if he is on form he could crush it), Jonas Buud is super fast and can climb as we have seen at UTMB and Skyrunning hot shot Franco Colle will love this 8000m+ course.
Nuria Picas heads up the ladies’ field and is the two time defending champion. I wouldn’t want to bet against her on this course and one only needs to look at her pal mares for a confirmation of her ability. Nuria had 4 victories in 2015 that included Grand raid Reunion, arguably though her most impressive year is 2014 with 7 victories and 2nd at UTMB.
Caroline Chaverot has been a revelation over the past 2-years and her growth in the sport phenomenal. Like Nathalie Macular, she is a wife and a mother who manages to race at the highest level. Caroline placed 2nd behind Picas in 2015 but went on to win at Lavaredo and the Eiger Ultra Trail. I saw Caroline in December while I was in La Palma, she was training on the Transvulcania route. If it all comes together, she can win and certainly make the podium.
Uxue Fraile has always impressed me with her waiting game and patience. She is not the fastest lady in the race but she has the patience and the long game. She proved this in 2015 with a victory at UTMF and 2nd at UTMB. Axe’s last time at Transgrancanaria was in 2014 with 6th place, I think the podium may well be hers in 2016.
Andrea Huser placed 4th at Transgrancanaria in 2015 and then followed up with 12 races where she ranked in the top-5 at all of them with Matterhorn Ultraks the exception where she placed 8th. One would arguably say that she races too much… she is relentless. I get tired looking at her result sheet but an early season race may well mean she is fresh!
Silvia Trigueros may mix things up for the podium as her recent 3rd place at Hong Kong 100 confirms. This result is backed up with a solid 2015 and in particular a top result at UTMB where she placed 4th.
Dong Li placed 3rd last year and backed this up with strong performances at TNF100 in Australia and the 80km Mont-Blanc.
Lisa Borzani recently placed 2nd at Hong Kong 100 and therefore this elevates her to a contender for the Transgrancanaria podium. However, her results do seem to blow hot and cold, this is reflected with 14th at the Eiger and 10th at Lavaredo.
Manuela Vilaseca placed 5th last year and with this lady’s line-up, I think we can expect a repeat performance. Her 5th place at Lavaredo backs this up as does her 10th at UTMB.
The wild card is Angela Shartel who I know little about but her results are impressive; 1st Bear 100 mile, 1st Cruel Jewel 100 mile, 1st at Crown King Scramble 50k and that is just 2015 – watch this space.
The first few months of 2015 have been very rewarding and I have had several articles and features printed worldwide in a series of top ranking magazines.
From the rainforests of Costa Rica, to heat of the Sahara. Anton Krupicka looking broken at Transgrancanaria, Joe Grant between a rock and a hard place at The Coastal Challenge and Sir Ranulph Fiennes beating the heat at the Marathon des Sables.
Episode 83 of Talk Ultra has a great interview with rising ultra star, Gediminas Grinius. Dr Andrew Murray and Donnie Campbell talk about their recent epic journey and Jez Bragg talks about getting speed back after his epic Te Araroa journey and how he plans to tame the Dragon. Marc Laithwaite is back in Talk Training, we have the News, a Blog, Up & Coming races and Niandi Carmont joins me as co-host and we discuss the MDS.
Way to Cool 50k
Pay Smyth 3:04:48 new CR beating Max King
Ryan Bak 3:10
Tim Tollefson 3:20
Megan Roche 3:41:56 new CR
Stephanie Howe 3:47
Yiou Wang 3:51
World Records on Treadmills
50k – Mike Wardian failed first time and 36-hours later did it… crazy 3:03:56 (3:06:24 first time)
50k – Gemma Carter in the UK 3:55:28 (Tracy Dean did 4:15 just before Christmas)
Gediminas Grinius took a few people by surprise at the 2015 Transgrancanaria… not me I am pleased to say!
In my pre-race preview I went on to say:
“Gediminas Grinius had a stunning 2014 with 3rd, 5th and 4th places at Lavaredo, UTMB and Raid de la Reunion. Three tough races! Based on these performances, Gediminas has all the potential to podium once again and should all things align, he may even win.”
Win he did and he set a new course record beating Ryan Sandes 2014 time and over a longer course.
This week on TALK ULTRA podcast (released Friday 20th March) we have a full and in-depth interview Gediminas and he has quite a story… in the meantime, read about his journey on the inov8 website:
Some times you just need to throw the script out of the window… Forget who may and who may not be race favourite and just let things play out like a piece of impromptu art. The 2015 Transgrancanaria certainly threw some curve balls!
In the ladies race, it was business as usual for the 2014 champion, Nuria Picas. Biding her time in the early stages, Nuria took over the front of the race with approximately 90km to go and never really looked back. Running through the night the Catalan felt good but commented on how hard the trail was. As she ran to Roqué Nublio and to El Garañón she looked tired and weak. Post race Nuria went on to say, ‘I felt weak because of a lack of meal but luckily I could overcome it.’ And overcome it she did but it was no easy victory. With dawn came the heat of the day and a ‘calima’ that dried the throats of each and every runner. Crossing the line, Nuria saluted the crowd with another high quality victory and following on from a podium place at HK100, the stage looks set for another great year in the UTWT series.
Nikki Kimball and Fernanda Maciel were expected to take up the remaining podium places but delayed travel and fatigue ruined Nikki’s race and Fernanda had no power and strength after her extended time (45-days) at Aconcagua. This opened the doorway for Caroline Chaverot who ran a strong race, maybe a little too strong at times as she certainly went through some bad patches, ultimately though she crossed the line in 17:16:48 for a quality second place.
Andrea Huser was all set for the third place on the podium but a revitalized Dong Li closed the gap, passed the Swiss runner and swept up third place; ’I enjoyed the altitude and I enjoyed the technical trails but this race was tough. It is the longest I have run both in time and distance.’
The men’s race had all the makings of a classic and boy-oh-boy it did not disappoint. The race had everything… broken femurs, dehydration, heat exhaustion, stomach issues and basic good old fatigue. At the line it was all about the ‘new’ guard and how, the best in the world had been beaten by supposedly unknown (unknown to those who don’t follow the sport) runners!
Sondre Amdahl after a great 2014 and second place at HK100 had relocated to Transgrancanaria so that he could train specifically for the 2015 edition. Looking strong before the race, it was no surprise that he took the front early and pushed hard… maybe too hard? Leading over the first 30km’s, Sondre was executing the perfect race and behind it was wide open.
Yan Long Fei was certainly the surprise (for me anyway) runner in the early stages. I obviously don’t doubt the ability of the 2:14 marathon runner but from past experiences I felt that the technical terrain wouldn’t suit him. Not so! He has obviously been working hard and it showed. Running in second place over the most technical part of the course he finally cruised past Sondre to take the lead and it was looking like that Yan may follow up victory at HK100 with a back-to-back win with Transgrancanaria. It was not to be. Unfortunately as he pulled out at Garanon whilst still in first place. He was complaining of headaches: a sure sign of severe dehydration.
The door was open and pre race favourites Iker Karrera and Anton Krupicka were closing the gaps despite having their own issues. Anton had gone of course a couple of times and Iker was complaining of stomach issues… Iker’s problems persisted and eventually resulted with his withdrawal from the race when a podium place looked likely.
Gediminas Grinius produced the race of his life. After biding his time in the early stages, he slowly moved up the field and then as Yan Long Fei withdrew, the front of the race was his. He covered the last 25km with great from and running into the finish he looked incredibly fresh. It was a breakthrough run that several of us had anticipated… me included! His time of 14:23:37 a new course record beating Ryan Sandes time from 2014. Post race, Gediminas said, ‘at the beginning I only wanted to improve on my 11th place of 2014 but step-by-step I gained positions and I felt really encouraged when I was second after Yan Long Fei. It was after the aid station El Garañón when I realized I could be among the winners because my legs felt great and I had no stomach issues.’
Johan Lantz and Didrik Hermansen had prepared on Gran Canaria pre race with Amdahl. Amdahl had gone on the record to say that both could cause a stir within the race and he was right! Didrik and Johan had run the early stages together easing themselves into the race and ignoring the faster running at the front. Johan however had been struggling with back pain from early on, it didn’t stop him though and he eventually closed to third place behind Yan Long Fei and Sondre Amdahl. What followed is quite remarkable… without warning while running a section of road his femur broke! Yes, he broke his leg!
Didrik Hermansen like Johan was executing a perfectly paced race and after Cruz de Tejeda he moved into second place and he held on to this place to arguably create the biggest surprise of the race crossing the line in 14:30:07. Antoine Guillon from the ever-present WAA Team completed the podium ahead of the early race leader, Sondre Amdahl who had done extremely well to recover from his early efforts.
Anton Krupicka finally crossed the line in sixth place looking a little broken from his efforts. Certainly the heat of the day and the final 25km’s had pushed him to breaking point. On the line the effort showed, ‘It’s been a tough day but the heat really got to me. I was good for 100km but the final 25km was tough!’
The 2015 race has been called the toughest edition of the race because of the wind, cold temperatures during the night, the heat of the following day and the calima. However, I can’t help but think that the 2013 edition with torrential rain was harder? Certainly conditions and the combination of a tough 125km’s of trails took it’s toll; Nikki Kimball, Fernanda Maciel, Iker Karrera, Joe Grant, Pau Bortolo, Yeray Duran and so many more were forced to withdraw.
The 2015 edition will be remembered though for the rise of Gediminas Grinius, Didrik Hermansen and Sondre Amdahl. Lets not forget Dong Li and Yan Long Fei too. It’s a great time for lovers of trail, mountain and ultra running.