The first ultra of the season, The North Face TransGranCanaria, is a good warm up for runners who compete all year long on the ultra-marathon circuit. This race, which covers 123km and 5500m vertical gain, runs from north to south across the largest island of the archipelago. Although located at the same latitude as Morocco, the island is an unusual place where palm, date, and banana trees grow, and it’s 25°C in the middle of February!
For the ninth edition, Sébastien Chaigneau – Petzl team member – won the race easily, crossing the island in 12 hours 54 minutes, and beating last year’s record in spite of a longer and steeper racecourse.
A few words from Seb regarding race day on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
A quick overview of the racecourse?
« After the start at Playa del Inglès, you run for 5 kilometers through the sand dunes, then head up a river bed until you reach the 32 kilometer mark and the first water station. From there the real difficulties begin as the race enters the dry, steep mountains. It’s actually a good thing that the race is at night, since temps can reach 20°C in the shade during the day... »
« The center of the island has very few inhabitants. You end up running across landscapes that seem straight out of a Sergio Leone film, with steep vertical walls and rock towers. Here the island’s volcanic origins are obvious, a truly beautiful place to run through. The ascent tops out at Roque Nublo and Pico de las Nièves, typical features of the island. Then you start the descent towards Garañón and Teror before finally reaching the finish line in the capital city of Las Palmas, after having run 123 km and 5500 vertical meters. »
The race starts in the sand dunes of Playa del Inglés.
The view from Pico de las Nieves.
« The race is difficult as well as a challenge to manage, since you – at least the leaders - spend most of the time running through the night. It’s very hot along the coast of the island, but much cooler in the center. Temps even dipped below freezing in the middle of the night. You have to deal with both the wetter sections of the race in the north, and the much drier, arid sections in the south, with rocky terrain, bushes and even cactus! »
How did the race go for you?
« At the 30 km mark there were four of us, including Mohamed Ansal, who has won the Marathon des Sables multiple times, Armando Teixeira, and last year’s winner, Zigor Iturrieta. We had established a good tempo and were running well together. As soon as we hit the mountains, everyone ran at their own pace, and it turned out that I was running a little bit faster than the others. I tend to enjoy the more technical sections of a race, and the intense training I did during the winter, which included building muscle, clearly paid off during the race today. »
Seb's NAO headlamp lights up the way.
« At around 35 kilometers into the race, I placed my foot on an unstable rock and fell pretty hard, but luckily avoided hitting my head. When I got up my knee hurt and I could feel that my pelvis was out of place. Of course this kind of accident is part of the game otherwise I’d stick to running on roads and grass... (laughs). I ended up reaching Roque Nablo 30 minutes faster than last year, and I could see from afar that the sun was starting to rise just above the rocky tower. I continued on to Goleta, and getting there right at sunrise was definitely a magical experience... »
Sunrise over Roque Nublo.
At what point did you know that you had won the race?
« When I heard that I was 30 minutes ahead of the others with only 8 km left until the finish line... I tried not to think too much about it, focusing on the task at hand. As my trainer would say: stay in the here and now. The basic tenet for the mental aspect of this kind of challenge is to focus on the present, and to avoid projecting about what you think might happen later in the race. »
Seb explodes with joy as he crosses the finish line in Las Palmas.
How did the end of the race go for you?
« In general, the longer the race, the more time you take to enjoy the end. Your time, the results, where you placed…are really secondary to the overall experience. I do my best to pay attention to the people who cheer us on… They’ve made the effort to come to the race, and their cheering is genuine recognition. I try to be as receptive as possible to everyone’s cheers, to recognize the effort they’ve made as well. Even at 4am in the morning, in San Bartolome, it was amazing to see how many people were out there watching! Proof that this race has generated quite a bit of enthusiasm, and that the locals are happy to see it take place on their island. »
During the TransGranCanaria race
Vidéo - The North Face TransGranCanaria 2012
In the women’s category, Brazilian Fernanda Macial won the race in 15 hours and 2 minutes, finishing in fifth place overall.
Stay tuned for the long version of the video of the race!
For more on the race:
- The North Face TransGranCanaria official website
- Race results
- Follow Seb Chaigneau on Facebook
- The NAO headlamp that Seb Chaigneau used during the race
Fernanda Maciel at the finish line in Las Palmas.