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Tenerife Bluetrail

08-Jun-2019 Los Cristianos, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

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2 REVIEWS
Mountains Race Race Terrain
102KM / 63Miles
1 Day

Alternate Distances: 67KM/42M 43KM/27M 20KM/12M

DIFFICULTY Race Difficulty Advanced  

A unique ultra running high-altitude race in Europe: cross the island of Tenerife from the south to the north coast, the hard way.

One of the toughest mountain races in Europe and also one of the most varied in landscape and ecosystems. Start at sea level at Los Cristianos, climb volcanic slopes to almost the top of the highest mountain in Spain (Mt. Teide) and a UNESCO natural park site and then all the way back down to sea level to finish at Puerto de la Cruz.

With its highest point above 3500m, the accumulated elevation is 12819m (6411 ascent and 6408 descent).

Chose ultra or trail. The shorter distances available include marathon or half-marathon. Athletes with reduced mobility are also welcome to take part in a 4km hand bike event.

Mandatory requirements for inscription are at least one 70k completed mountain event in the past three years. This race awards UTMB points.

The ultra race has 12 checkpoints and a 24h cut off.

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Tenerife Bluetrail Ideco

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Beginner

Elevation: Very little change < 500 metres. Benign running terrain, not technical.

Suitable for: First ultra runners completing a marathon or doing regular long distance running in the last six months.

Intermediate

Elevation: Increase of up to 1000 metres

Suitable for: Runners who have completed at least one ultra distance race (or similar event) or are doing long distance running (>26 miles) regularly, with elevation shown.

Advanced

Elevation: Increase of up to 1500 metres

Suitable for: Runners who have completed several ultra distances or similar events, or are doing long distance running regularly, with elevation shown.

Expert

Elevation: Increase of up to 2000 metres with some challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity or heat) and or technical terrain

Suitable for: Experienced runners who have completed at least regular ultra distances in last 12 months, or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races may be subject to evidence of recent qualifying race participation and recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements.

Brutal

Elevation: Increase of up to 2000 metres with very challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity, heat or at high altitude) and or technical terrain.

Suitable for: Very experienced long distance ultra runners (min 3 years’ experience) or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races is often subject to evidence of recent qualifying race participation and recent medical examination certificate. Purchase of specialist kit is often recommended for these races.

Endurance - Multi-activity

Type: An ultra distance race including at least two of the following activities such as running, swimming, cycling, kayaking, skiing and climbing. It may also include different climatic conditions (eg ice, snow, humidity, cold water, mud or heat).

Suitable for: Experienced multi-skilled athletes who have trained for the different activities included in this event. Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements and any specialist equipment required such as a wetsuit, skis or a mountain bike.

Global - Virtual

Type: A virtual race which can be run at any time shown on the dates shown, on any type of terrain in any country.

Suitable for: For runners from beginners to experienced as you choose your own course and challenge based on the guidelines and options set by the virtual race organiser.

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Gotimgo

07:15 31-12-18

To see this with pictures head here
https://gotimgoultra.wordpress.com/2018/08/12/the-journey-begins/ or read below!
I clamber nervously onto a bus full off svelte, lithe, tanned individuals clad in short shorts or compression leggings and tops advertising their clubs or boasting of their previous achievement. There is a space at the front next to a particularly tanned individual. I ask in a strange sort of faux Spanish,
“es free” Of course I know it is free, after all no one is sitting there but I ask all the same. I don’t understand exactly what is said but I get the gist, it is free. I sit down feeling sorry for the guy who has to sit next to the one guy he can’t communicate with. I try to make some conversation, perhaps he does speak English.
“Is this the first time for Bluetrail” I say in a Spanishesque accent.
He points at his chest, “firsts” he says “yes, first time bluetrail”
“Are you from Tenerife” I ask. He looks confused.
“Donde es Tenerife” I say thinking I remember how to say “are you from Tenerife”. It actually means “Where is Tenerife” but somehow he gets it.
“Me, come, Lanzarote” He says.
“Ah O.K,” I say “have you run Haria” I ask (Haria extreme is another ultra on the island of Lanzarote.)
“Si” he says then talks in Spanish and I understand nothing.
I get the gist when he asks if I have run it.
“No” I inform him, he looks disappointed. Conversation is too difficult I decide, he agrees. I should sleep anyway I figure, it’s 9:15pm now, the race starts at 11:30pm and goes on through the night. I notice the guy on the seat opposite me is fast asleep. I shut my eyes and rest my head against the headrest. I don’t sleep though, a million worries cloud my mind, 105 km to run, 6500M of elevation to get up and get back down, 3500M up in the air, what the hell am I doing on this bus. I suddenly liken myself to a trooper being dropped in a combat zone, I’m thinking Aliens and Predator, but this is different, there is no banter, no conversation at all, the bus sits in silent contemplation, perhaps all wondering quite why they have chosen to put themselves through this ordeal. It’s not completely silent though, the bus driver, free from our worries, plays pop songs and sings along to them, “Oh na na whats my name” sings Rhianna over and over apparently determined to fill my head with her inane warbling for the 16 hrs or so I expected to be running tonight. I give up on sleeping and eat mini donuts, my final “meal”. I think of the task that lies before me, looking at the profile that is temporary tattooed on my arm. The profile is impressive even when placed next to other famous tough races. On the same scale with the lowest elevations set to zero it dwarfs them, starting at sea level and rising to 3600M, it’s a rare “treat”.



Easier to read Profiles

All too soon we arrive at our destination, Playa Fanabe on the far west side of Tenerife. I clamber off the bus, alone in a sea of runners. I drink the plastic bottle of cold coffee I’ve bought with me and seek out a toilet, I need to go into this empty. Disappointingly there are no official toilets, there is a Burger King, I sneak in and down to the toilet. As I leave, the stairs down to the toilet are now full of runners, I’m such a trend-setter. The race, typical of a Spanish race, has massive fan-fare, dancers and music, lots of big inflatable arches (surely they could have managed a couple of portaloos). A commentator interviews the elite runners on the start line, photographers and filmmakers edge around looking for the best angle. It’s all a bit much and all a bit hard to understand. I spot Jack Casey a face familiar from other local ultras, I say hello but he has family there, I sneak off and get my drop bag dropped. I walk alone onto the beach itself and lay down on a lounger waiting, still 45 minutes till kick off.

25 minutes to go, I hear something about a kit check, better move. On the way up to ask about the kit check I see another face I recognize. Mark Davies, a friend of a friend I have never met. He recently raced the (awesome) Preseli ultra beast, he beat me by about half an hour. I also know he raced Ultra trail Hungary last year, again, me too. I introduce myself and ask about the kit check, he is none the wiser, like Jack he has family in tow, wife and kids. I leave him be and seek out the kit check. I had left my wife when I got on the bus in Puerto de la Cruz, I couldn’t see fit to drag her down here, only to drive back for an hour alone, especially when this bus cost only 2 Euros.

People are approaching the start, they check the kit of a random few individuals but not me. I carry on through and towards the start. There I spot Jack Casey again, a full head taller than most, he can’t hide even in this 300 strong crowd. We chat about previous race successes and failures and very Britishly bemoan the over the top festivities of the Spanish start line. Just start the damn race already.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1, “Animae” we are off. Jack sets off quick, I let him go, plodding along at what seems to me to be a reasonable pace. We have started near the front but I quickly drop down the ranks of the masses, most of which surely are running too quick. The race is winding around the lit beach-side path, past hotels and palm trees and plenty of spectators. As we pass a corner, off shoots a big display of fireworks. You have to hand it to the organizers, they have really made it a big deal.

Soon we turn away from the beach and onto a dusty path where we begin our long long ascent towards Teide. Whilst there are so many runners around me I leave my head torch off, letting others light my way, selfishly conserving my own battery. The path finds its way onto a dried up river bed and we find ourselves clambering over boulders and though tunnels, climbing but running, nothing overly steep as yet. I go back and forth through the crowds of people telling myself constantly to hold back, to run my own race and not get caught up in the madness and overexert myself. The guy next to me is panting like he’s in a hundred meter sprint. He will suffer later I tell myself, carrying on at my own pace. Ahead now, I see a woman running in a dress, a traditional South American looking dress, must be a supporter of some sort I assume. I notice she wears a Salomon running pack though, she can’t possibly be running this race, can she? She is wearing sandals, womens dress sandals, as she runs over the technical dusty rocky terrain in the river bed carrying a torch in her hand. I gradually pass her, and look back, to my amazement she wears a red number, a number that denotes she is indeed running the brutal Bluetrail in a dress. The track passes through a tunnel and onto a steep single track path, zigzagging up the rocky hills of the west.

Time to use the poles I have been practicing with. Without breaking stride I undo the popper and velcro straps that my dressmaker wife Tess had added to my pack to allow for easier removal and stowage of my bulky, cheap, but when in use perfectly good Karrimor walking poles. Poles in hand I drive myself up the steep path, settling in for the long haul. I gradually edge my way forward through the ranks. My head torch is a Silva trail runner 2, a late addition to my running kit and never yet used, in anger. I purchased it in disgust at the price of a replacement battery for my Petzl Nao lamp. This torch, which runs on AAA batteries cost £20 less than another rechargeable battery for the Nao. I figured it was worth a shot. I am pleased to find that the beam it provides is comparable to those of the runners around me, who, for the most part, wear the same Petzl Nao lamp I had left behind. Content and feeling good I continue to climb, glancing back I am awed by the white snake of runners lights behind me in front of the increasingly distant twinkling of the town lights below. In front of me another serpent of red tail lights winds its way up the slope, revealing the course ahead.

Eventually the steep climb comes to an end and I am running through the streets of Adeje a town full of keen supporters, here they mainly shout “animue” “animue” Go I presume. When I ran Transgrancanaria it more often than not was Vamos, strange that the Spanish speakers here on the adjacent island chose a different word of encouragement. As I run up a steep road, two probably inebriated ladies start running next to me, woohooing. They give up after about 20 meters despite my encouragements. I pause briefly at the first checkpoint, filling my bottle and grabbing a handful of red sugar coated jelly sweets. Onward and upwards, well actually somewhat downwards, the trail has a surprising amount of descent in the first half of the race. All this descent is most unwelcome, every descent now means more ascent until I reach the top 3600 meters up Teide, the top of the island the highest point in the Atlantic ocean. My spirits are high and my body feels fine, so far, so good. The trail heads now into the forest, thin paths winding themselves round through the pine trees. Little bits of Bluetrail marked tape guide us through the twists and turns of the trails. A minor complaint is that they are not made of hi viz fluorescent material like they were in Ultra trail Hungary, those markings stuck out from a mile away, these are a little harder to spot. They are close together in any case and we are following an obvious path, indeed there is often an extremely steep and seemingly infinite steep drop to the right of us and a steep climb to our left, sometimes the sides of the drops switch, sometimes there are steep drops both sides. The path here is technical in places but mainly runable climbing up then down and back up, winding its way through the pine forest.

We ascend into a thick fog, this serving both to make visibility difficult and to completely soak me. The mist has it’s benefits however, its far cooler than the muggy air lower down. The start in Playa Adeje had been very warm, the cool mist is most welcome. The field of runners seemingly had split itself into groups. Having started slowly I was working my way through these groups to the front then pressing forward alone. After a time on my own I would inevitably find another group of runners sticking together in the night, gradually overtaking each of them in turn and finding myself alone again. I had just passed one of the groups and found myself alone when I began to realize my first major unfortunate challenge. My stomach begins to cramp and gurgle. I needed to go, soon. Continuing my ascent I figure, maybe I’ll last till Vilaflor, there may be a loo there, there will definitely be a toilet at Parador, I’ll make it I decide. But my stomach gurgles and my pace slows. The paths heads downwards, my innards rattle more as I bounce down the rocky path. This isn’t going to wait I realise, I need to find somewhere, fast. I hear voices a way behind, the last group I passed are catching up. Another gurgle, oh God out of time. I can’t GO on the path, to my right is a steep drop, to my left is a steep climb, the lesser of the two evils. I climb up about ten meters taking of my bag as I go making it behind a tree and switching my headlight off, I’m just in time. Shame and relief. In my back pocket I have plenty of paper just in case but either the sweat running down my back or the moisture in the air has left it soaked, it’s fine for now (even better actually) but a repeat performance will mean losing my race buff. The group pass me down below as I put my bag back on and cover my shame with a rock. I add another three imodium to the two I took before the start and still feeling slightly queasy I get back on the track and plod on. My pace soon returns and I pass the confused peloton again.



Night trail

At the next checkpoint I am interviewed on camera by the live broadcast people who had been at the start. He asks why I am here at Bluetrail. Last July I had a touring cyclist stay with me through the Warmshowers website, he had cycled with a friend from Barcelona to Wales en route to Ireland for a full distance triathlon. He is from Tenerife. When I told him I ran ultras he told me about Bluetrail. The profile was ridiculous, I signed up that night. At that time I happened to be inactive and immensely fidgety after a bad fall off an elliptical bike. I was easily encouraged, so here I was in the dark running with poles next to a cliff in Tenerife. That was a long story though and I had a race to run, I mumble a twelve word version of this story to the interviewer, grab some more sweets, refill my bottles and carry on. I carry on through the pine forest paths, now out out the mist the bright stars are visible, as is a bright crescent moon. The milky way is also visible in the now clear night. Looking up at the sky I lose my footing, barely saving myself from falling, no time to admire the view now I focus back on the rocky trail.

The descents seem to get harder harder and harder somehow, I start to get overtaken when descending. As they overtake I realize their torches are way better than my Silva trail runner after all. I fiddle with it to make sure it was on full, but it is. I figure I should have bit the bullet and bought a battery for my Petzl Nao, I could have borrowed a battery in fact, I know about 6 people with the same torch. No use crying over spilt milk now though, get on with it. Ascending again for a while anyway, the poor light doesn’t matter on the slower ascents. The next descent I come to though is a long one, I realize now that my light is actually getting worse, the batteries are evidently running out. Stupidly I haven’t practiced changing the batteries in the dark. If I try now I risk being stuck with no light at all. I need to get to the next checkpoint. Another runner up comes behind me, his torch is very bright and he soon gets close to me gingerly making my way down using poles in my limited light. I let him pass but now realize I need to stick with him. I hold the poles and concentrate on matching his pace running just slightly behind. Looking at his light ahead, my brain somehow calculates a few steps on the rocky path in advance. He is keeping decent pace but I manage to keep up. I say nothing but I think he understands. A little further along the path widens a little and I can stand to his side utilizing all his light. In the distance I am relieved to hear cheering, the next checkpoint, I’m going to make it. I run in to the next point and thank my saviour who must surely have silently understood my plight. The marshals are super helpful taking my bottles to refill them for me as I sit on the ground and wrestle with my head torch. Thankfully with new batteries the torch is once again just as bright and powerful as my competitors. Not sure what the quoted 30 hr battery life meant but I’ll put it down to the batteries and give the torch the benefit of the doubt, in any case I only have a few more dark hours to run now.

Leaving Vilaflor we are confronted by a steep downhill road. Markings are slightly confusing here. I call back a runner who has missed a sign. We climbed back up another steep concrete road and back onto a path. Here the path splits and the runner I had called back returns the favour, as this time I miss a sign and start running the wrong way. Back on track, head torch working, bowel tranquil.

My spirits are high as I settle in to a sustained climb. “Ohh na na what’s my name”, shut up Rhianna I have work to do. I toil with poles up a steep ascent. The path is very narrow and the ground underfoot is volcanic gravel, similar to the conditions underfoot at the start of Transvulcania in La Palma, should I have worn gators I wonder? I steadily pass people on this ascent, now feeling increasingly strong knowing that soon the sun would be rising, the challenge of night running would soon come to an end. I put some space between me and the snake of white runners lights behind. Soon I would reach the top of the climb and some flatter running followed by a descent to Parador, last stop before the final climb of Teide. Reaching the top of the climb, now at 2500M the trail continues though the caviar like gravel on the rock strewn path which has flattened to a runable undulation now. The sun has just barely started to rise, a red haze filling the sky to my right, revealing a sea of clouds below me. As I continue round a corner the sun rises further and the rock structure surrounding me begin to emerge, an incredibly utterly alien dreamlike landscape made even more spectacular by the bright red sunrise and the spectacular rolling cloud inversion. A wave of euphoria hits me, I begin to well up with emotion. I have seemingly woken up on another planet, a strange volcanic world of twisted rock and strange vegetation. I continue round the corner and behold my first glimpse of the mighty Teide. The volcanic peak of the island and the whole archipelago. There are some Marshals waiting at a crucial turn, I want to speak to them of the beauty of the landscape but the only word I find is Gracias. I glance at the inversion to my right one more time, pull my emotions in check and begin the rocky descent down to Paramor. Incidentally I would have pictures of these sight but for technical difficulties, my sweaty fingers and my lock screen are incompatible, after a few failed attempts I was locked out for 4 hours, next time I will bring a real camera.

The technical descent is easy now in the light. I soon find my way to the dirt road at the bottom which winds its way through more utterly breathtaking natural pillars, impossible weathered Lava monuments winding down ever closer to the last checkpoint before Teide, Parador. As I run I begin to feel a tingling sensation in my hand, my wrists have swollen with the altitude and the Bluetrail festival like band I am wearing (it was in the entry bag, I figured I needed to wear it, not sure why) is now restricting the blood flow to my hand. I manage to stretch the plastic a little and release the pressure as I run now on a path approaching the checkpoint.

Parador, a hotel 2000M up at the base of Teide, proper in the national park hosts our next checkpoint. The marshals as ever fill my bottles for me. I resist pasta, not wanting to upset my apparently fragile stomach, but I glugg a bottle of Pepsi, I need caffeine now. I eat nut chocolate and more sweets, swap my head torch for my cap and plaster on some sun cream.

Time to get on with it, the great challenge, Teide. A 1600M climb in a little over 5km up to 3600M this was going to be a brute. The short flat run before the climb passes by some more impossible lava monuments, giant irregular pillars of petrified Lava. The ground then begins to rise sharply, the path is tough, jagged rocks of all shapes and sizes and a steep gradient make all progress difficult and slow. I lean heavily on my poles to save my legs as I grind up the path. I pass a couple of people and a couple of people pass me on the uphill traverse. Cracks between the rocks swallow my poles whole and threaten to snap them if I place them wrong. I aim carefully with poles and feet, beginning to grind on upwards. As I continue the seemingly endless climb I start to feel lightheaded, the altitude is beginning to take effect. Feeling dizzy I continue slowly but steadily onward. The climb seems to go on forever, the top seems to stay as far away no matter how much further I climb. The higher I go the more lightheaded I become, the higher I go the stronger and colder the wind gets. I had been convinced, warm down in Parador, that I wouldn’t need to wear any other clothes, but I now have to relent. I have arm warmers in my pocket, bought for four euros at the expo, time to try them out. I stop using the poles briefly as I place on the sleeves. They help but as I climb, still the cold increases, the lightheadedness increases too. I must be near the top now, surely I must be nearly there.

Bluetrail

I pass a sign, 2 km to rambleta. 2km is an eternity on this treacherous steep ascent. I continue upward getting colder and more lightheaded with every step. Eventually I relent, stopping to put my Helly Hansen long sleeve top on. Taking off my bag and poles, messing around, wasting time. The wind still penetrates but I won’t stop again to put my waterproof coat on. Just need to keep going up. The cold somewhat dealt with, the dizziness is worse. Perhaps I was better off cold. I am desperate for the climb to be over now. I pass descending hikers and I can’t resist asking how much further. I get a wide spread of different answers. I shouldn’t be asking. My usual strategy is to imagine the hill to be infinite, just keep plodding and eventually I would reach the top. Except this hill may really be infinite. A helicopter circles around filming, although in my mind it’s there to save me when eventually I collapse from acute mountain sickness. Man up Tim, get up that hill. I see a familiar face up ahead with a camera, Ian Corless, a prolific and excellent ultra running photographer. A photographer myself, I would like to chat, right now though I have a hill to attend with. I can’t resist asking how far is left. 200M he informs, that is a relief. 50 meters later the course flattens out, I finally reach the sanctuary of the cable car station, and the checkpoint. It’s taken me all of three hours to get from Parador to Rambleta, the highest point of the course, it felt like eight and probably should have been two. I have actually made up 4 places, although I couldn’t guess that now.

Topateide

In the cable car station, free from the cold wind I slump on a chair and submit to the offer of pasta and coffee despite my planned strategy being to get the hell down to a sensible elevation as quickly as possible. Managing to not linger all that long I leave the room and look for the descent. A thousand meters of very steep technical descending awaits. I start off with poles trying to ease myself down, trying to save my legs for the rest of the 4500M of descending that remained in the last 42km of this race. The path zig-zags steeply down the side of the volcano on a mixture of big rocks and gravel. Poles are no help, I stop and stow them away, they would not be needed till I start climbing again after the initial 3000M descent. It’s dry, dusty, rocky and steep, exactly what I expected. I focus on trying to keep a good pace whilst conserving my legs for the further 4000 meters of descent to come after this initial descent. I soon begin to get warm, the wind that had made me cold on the other side of Teide was absent here and the lower I get the hotter it gets. I should have taken off my long sleeve top at the checkpoint, instead I stop on the slope take my bag off and get my long sleeve top off, electing to leave the arm warmers on for the time being, I could take those off whilst running. I really should have done this at the checkpoint I reason, as I am passed wasting time undressing. 100M down the path though I am vindicated a little, the guy who had passed me has stopped to layer down as well. We exchange international smiles of recognition of our joint error as I pass. The arm warmers follow my thermal top soon afterwards, stowed in the pockets of my Patagonia Strider Pro shorts. On the last but one bend of the steep stuff I step awkwardly on a rock and come crashing down to my knee bending my fatigued leg awkwardly. It’s a shock but no real harm done, I continue, blood now trickling down my leg.

The steep descent ends and a sensibly placed medical van with some water awaits. Plenty of water left and uninjured I bypass the van. The route is on a dust road now and not so steep, easy fast running. Mindful of the miles left to run I don’t let go too much, opting for a steady pace to save my legs for what was to come. Soon I’m directed off the dust road onto a great single track path, which winds it’s way down through the Wild west like landscape this side of Teide. The path snaking through various Cacti and succulents, rocks, and plenty of startled lizards, darting away as I run by. A huge rock outcrop from the dusty valley and the cloud inversion further on make this another truly spectacular landscape to run in. For the moment the running is easy, the trail isn’t wide but it’s fast and not at all technical. I relax, letting myself ease down, in hindsight I really should/could have pushed here, but after the hardship and stress of the Teide climb at altitude, perhaps mentally more than physically, I needed a break. After 5km of easy running I am confronted with an unexpected ascent. I drudge up it begrudgingly with considerable annoyance. Soon after continuing my descent, there is more greenery as I get closer to the cloud line. 13km after the checkpoint at the top I reach the next checkpoint. Once again the marshals are superb, a guy far too portly for ultra running attends to me, he definitely seems to get what I’m feeling, letting me fuel up on chocolate and banana whilst he fills my bottles, all with a smile.

I don’t hang around long, making my way back on the dirt track, contouring the steep sides for a gradual descent. I have plenty of company now, other runners on the shorter races share my trail. I am passed and I pass people from these other distances. Here on a wide path the traffic doesn’t interfere, just provides some welcome company. The ultra runners are easy to tell apart from the rest of the field with a built up layer of Canarian dust and bulging intense eyes, proof of a full nights toil against the harsh landscape. I still make sure to check the colour of the race numbers of anyone I am passed by, just in case my “ultradar” lets me down. A clear red denotes the runners I am competing with, thankfully the runners passing me are sporting slightly less impressive colours.
The trail now turns sharply onto narrow paths zigzagging down through the now lush green forest, another completely new landscape on this remarkably varied course. The vegetation prevents a view but it’s enjoyable running despite the miles in my legs. Speed suffers due to the hairpin turns and low hanging vegetation, other runners running different distance races also slow my pace now, passing on the narrow trail is not easy. The wooded trail becomes more and more misty and it begins to rain lightly. The ground underfoot is now muddy and abundant tree roots are slick. Mud was the last thing I was expecting in Tenerife. The single track path carries on zig zagging its way left and right mostly downhill, but every so often climbing back up just a little. Eventually the trees open up and a steep straight descent leads me to the arms of my wife, who is waiting, having run up from our Airbnb flat to meet me at the checkpoint.

It’s great to see a friendly face, Tess helps me refuel and hydrate and I probably stay a couple of minutes longer than I needed to. 10 miles left to go. I stuff a pack of sweets into the pocket of my shorts which, now wet, are beginning to chafe me. I say goodbye to Tess and get on with it heading straight into the final climb. This final climb is one that I feel could easily be missed, when looking at the profile. The profiles scale going from 0 to 3600M makes this 600M slog appear to be a minor blip in the overall profile. I have been caught out before though and I didn’t miss this one. A 600M climb in 2km, it was going to be steep and tough. I had been mentally preparing myself for this slog the whole race long, but that doesn’t mean I was looking forward to it. Furthermore I now understand the route and having driven from my house a day ago, know that this climb is really completely unnecessary. The finish from the checkpoint could be all downhill from here.

Jungletrail
Oh dear


Our route though heads back up the same ridge we had descended down, more zigzags now on the ascent climbing steeply up the hillside in the lush green vegetation. The rain is still falling making the ground muddy underfoot, my feet slipping a little as I trudge upwards using my poles. I share the trail now with several others, all on shorter distance races. I console myself through this drudgery by the fact that I am not getting passed by these fresher faces. Every turn seems now like it would be the last, but every time looking uphill, I see another course ribbon indicating another switchback on the never ending climb. Me and a woman next to me catch ourselves collectively groaning at the sight of the next ribbon. Two marshals now head down in the opposite direction. I can’t resist asking them how far is left, I guess that I must surely be near the top now. The guy tells me 200M, that’s not too far I figure, then he clarifies himself with an upward facing figure and says 200M again. He means 200M vertically up left to climb. I’m only two thirds of the way up. I pretend to be pleased like I was expecting it to be further, I’m lying. 200 more meters, really 200 more meters? I really want this climb to be over. It’s cruel and unusual punishment, adding nothing but hardship, the paths being carbon copies of the ones I have just run down. I increase my pace as much as I can putting distance between myself and the group of runners I had shared the track with, I’m alone with my misery now. Eventually I see a group of marshals huddled together in the rain, the top. I sigh with relief, all downhill from here.

The Marshall’s let out a mute cheer as I head off for the final thousand meters of descent to the finish. The path is wider now, a dirt lane down the mountainside. Ahead I see a group of stopped runners, or they appear to be stopped. As I get closer though I see they are creeping forward very slowly. I soon find out why, mud. They are extremely cautiously descending the steep muddy track. Pfft Spanish runners can’t handle a little mud I figure. Running up to them I’m ready to proudly scamper past. My foot hits the steep mud path and instantly slides from under me. I manage to get a pole to the dirt but it only delays the inevitable. I fall on my ass in the ice like slick mud, my pride disintegrated. Getting up I’m still somewhat determined to make some places up in the mud. It’s no good though I just can’t get any traction at all, the dusty rock tracks of Tenerife have finished of the grip on the Altra Lone peaks I am wearing, already 400 miles old at the start of the race (which incidentally is 250 miles longer than the Hokas I was wearing previously, lasted). I join the group of struggling people inching down the steep path, just trying to stay on my feet. I try to find a bit with vegetation, something to provide some small grip. I find none though, the side of the path is thick vegetation, useless. I get to the bottom of the visible track only to be confronted with another even longer slick mudslide. My quads are now screaming anyway, and on the verge of cramping up, this is the last thing I need. This continues for another 2 miles and 500 meters of descent, I fall and get back up at least three times. Finally the mud lane finishes, for once I am happy to see tarmac.

I have been staying this side of the island and know which way it is to the finish and I am furious when the course heads in the opposite direction to this. Half a kilometer of flat or slightly uphill road and the course turns off and down a steep rocky single track. The rock is slick with the rain and my aching feet and worn out shoes, compounded by tired quads, make this a chore but at least I’m out of the mud. The descent comes to an end and we are now running on a coastal path. Now I thought it was going to be all downhill after the last climb, I’m peeved to see the path rising up, I’m climbing again. It’s definitely runable, but I’m walking all the same, just willing the course to end. The climb finishes and I start to run again, it soon climbs again but my resolve is better now, I’d run this one. There are a few more little rises and some slippery boardwalks to negotiate on this none too pretty (at least in my current state of mind) path. When the path ends I am glad once again to be on tarmac, usually my sworn enemy. On flat easy runable ground I start to increase my pace, the end is within my grasp now. I see the final checkpoint ahead, only a couple of km from the finish. The marshals implore me to stop and get some food, but I run straight through. Time to finish now.

My pace gradually increases with each passing hundred meters. Now I’m on a pavement near the seafront amongst holidaymakers. I pass people regularly now as my pace increases further, the encouraging cheers of the spectators pushing me even more. I pass more runners, I notice at least one ultra runner amongst them, an actual race place. I pass at speed not wanting a chase now. I know where I am, very close to my apartment, I know the way from here, a sidewalk staying next to the beach and into the tourist area of Puerto de la Cruz. One KM left. The more the spectators cheer me on the faster I go, the faster I go the more they cheer. As I get to the final few hundred meters, thick with spectators, I increase the pace again. Endorphins flowing freely, breathing hard, heart rate spiking, but somehow still pushing, legs somehow still turning over, fueled by pure adrenaline. A guy waits for me with a microphone and a camera.

“Tim Woooo dia” his voice bellows from the surrounding speakers, I oblige his outstretched hand with some skin and continue my epic march to the finish. The road rises a little and I push even harder up the slope, its busy now, many people cheer but more still are blissfully unaware that a race is going on. I weave in an out of them and thank all the cheerers on. Finally I see the finish, a tunnel of inflatable arches. As I get under the arches lined with people I push the pace, faster and faster until I am sprinting as fast as my tired body will allow. “Tim Wooooo dier!” the announcer cries again. The finish of my last Canarian ultra, Transgrancanaria, was a painful, pole assisted crawl, the ramp they put at the end nearly breaking me. Now I would make amends. The crowd cheers and I push with every ounce of left over energy, heart beating out of my chest, gasping for air, legs burning, covered in mud, blood, sweat and the salt it has left behind. I see that same Transgrancanaria ramp, that one final insult and in an act of revenge and triumph against the inanimate wedge I push up the ramp and hop off to the finish. It’s done, and I’m done. I stagger forward barely able to continue to stand, wheezing into the arms my wife in relief and satisfaction.

Bluetrail is a spectacular course, immensely varied and immensely tough. There are too many other races to say for sure I’ll be back, but I will certainly consider it.



Finish

Reunited with Tess, I have something to get off my chest.
“I’m not doing Montreux,(the Swiss hundred miler with 12’000m Elevation gain I have in 7 weeks time.)”
“I’ll be in better shape other years, maybe it’s pointless to put myself through that”
She gives me a disbelieving look and laughs, “O.K then”
“I mean it” I tell her annoyed by her disbelief.
“O.K” she says again, with a knowing smirk.
It takes all of 24hrs for me to change my mind (much to Tess’ satisfaction) .

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Ian R

12:19 24-06-18

What's not to like about a trip to the Canary Islands and running across Tenerife, finishing at the sea at the start of your holiday? That's what I did and it's the perfect opportunity to combine a destination run with a bit of R&R.

There's even a choice of distance options. The Ultra (102km) is the daddy, south coast to north coast, starting at midnight and taking in Mount Teide, the highest mountain in Spain on the way. The Trail (67km) starts high up in the mountains; the Marathon (43km) keeps out of the highest altitudes and below the clouds; and the Media (20km) gives an option for just about anybody. In fact there's also the Reto (8.4km or 1.2km) adapted for disabled runners, so there really is an event for all.

I opted for the 67km Trail distance rather than the full 102km Ultra, mainly to avoid the faff having to obtain a recent ECG test. Whilst running it I decided 67km was plenty but a few weeks later, I’m thinking… well…next time, who knows.

Tenerife is a beautifully warm island but the start line in freezing cold darkness in the mountain village of Vilaflor. Runners crammed into early opening cafes for warmth – and to queue to use their loos – with a few even buying the odd espresso. Jackets, gloves, hats and buffs covering all but the eyes was the order of the day for the local runners. I had to put on my waterproof at the start and for the first few kilometres as it was so cold but running uphill soon warmed me up sufficiently to have to stop and stash it away. The start, in the dark at 6.00am on a Saturday in the middle of the village was a noisy affair with music, drums, klaxons, cheering etc – no hope of a lie-in for the locals. A stream of runners’ headlights (and their red rear lights) soon snaked its way upwards.

We joined with the Ultra runners that had started before midnight on the south coast for a while before they peeled off to head right up to the top of Teide. Us Trail runners sort of circumnavigated it, circling anticlockwise around the eastern side at a high level between 2,000 and 2,500 metres. It provided for spectacular views once the sun came up, high above the cloud layer which was a lumpy cotton-wool sea below us.

It was still cool but warming quickly.  Teide's summit was forever in view as we circled around it, so much so that it seemed we were making very little progress.  I felt more for those Ultra runners having to run right up it though, having already ran over 30km more than we had.

It really was superb running now. Lots of ups and downs, very rocky but spectacular and beautiful. I found myself humming the Big Country theme music with the blue sky, cacti and mountains all around.

Passing one of the Mexican Tarahumara runners in her traditional colourful long flowing skirt and ultra-minimalist sandals after about 17km, just before I ran down a steep trail full of sharp rocks, I wondered how she'd cope with her scanty footwear. Looking back she was flying down no problem though - amazing, when my feet were taking a battering.

After what seemed like (because it was) hours, we started heading further downhill and into the clouds. Doing so meant the temperature, which had been warming, started to cool again.  We entered the mist and it thickened to drizzle and before long became really heavy rain.  Not what you need as the descents became ever more steep and mud started mixing in with the slick rocks.  Soon it became too steep for the trail to head down without having to zig-zag and there were many casualties with mud covered backsides.  The runners who continued to keep up a good pace were those using their poles as third and fourth feet to aid balance and traction.  This was the first time running I've ever thought that I needed to consider getting some running poles - and learning how to use them effectively, of course.

As the race progressed, we also joined route with the Marathon runners and the Ultra course also re-joined us.  Further along the Media race course also became part of the same route, so green, orange, blue and red bib numbers were mixed in.  Actually, I didn't see any green Media runners, as they'd all long since finished.  It was encouraging to start overtaking again though, as I passed some of the slower Marathon runners and some Ultra runners whose pace has slowed painfully by now.  It wasn't so good when other Ultra runners, skilled in their pole-use, came skipping past on the steepest downhills though.

The last few hills before re-entering civilisation were of extreme gradient.  Following that mad, slippery descent, zig-zag steps climbed seemingly forever torturing the back of my thighs.  When we eventually reached the top, we were sent back down the other side again, this time my front thighs enduring being trashed, whilst trying to avoid skidding too much and slipping over.  As we reached the first bit of road and could see our end destination of Puerto de la Cruz in the distance by the sea, the sky was emptying itself of rain at an unprecedented rate.  At least it washed my muddy shoes.

We then descended further, almost to sea level, where the sun now warmed us back up again.  The end seemed close but I could see there was over 10km to go and I knew we had to run along the coast for a while.  Actually, the course directors took great pleasure, I would imagine, in sending us up and down a serious of further ascents and descents of seemingly unnecessary extra hills.  I suppose it kept us off the main roads and made the final run in more scenic and - in hindsight at least - this definitely improved matters. Maybe my general humour at the time wasn't quite so appreciative though.

Soon though we entered the town outskirts.  The local police were there stopping traffic as we crossed roads and I was impressed with how sections of road were taped off for runners allowing just one lane for the traffic, the other lane for us and the pavement still for the tourists.

Approaching the finish we ran the final few kilometres through the pedestrianised area and along the seafront.  Locals and holidaymakers parted in front of us runners, clapping and cheering before the long stretch of blue carpet signalled the final few hundred metres.  I summoned up my best sprint finish and ran past the drummers and dancers to leap across the finish line and collect my medal.  That was a really tough 67km and took almost 10 hours to complete.

My official finish time was 9 hours 56 minutes, placing me 93rd out of 348 Trail race finishers, 8th out of 41 in my age category.  I'm pleased with those stats but can't help thinking if I had better balance/grip running the steep and slippery downhills - or could use poles like some of those I saw - I could have improved upon this significantly.  Something to aim for maybe.

The Tenerife Bluetrail is a great race and extremely good value compared to the price of most of these type of races, despite giving a quality well-designed technical-shirt, useful gym-sack style race bag, buff, number belt and other goodies. Registration was in the capital Santa Cruz, the day before, but that was a short and easy bus ride away from Puerto de la Cruz, where I chose to base myself at the race finish. In fact the finishing arch on the seafront was immediately outside my hotel and the bus to take me to the start line (at 3.00am!) picked me up from the same place on race day. Bus pick ups were available from various points of the island, so there's plenty of choice and cost only 2 euros.

I've nothing negative to say about this race. Just don't underestimate those gradients, or the aches you can expect for several days afterwards.

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