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Transvulcania

12-May-2018 El Faro of Fuencaliente, La Palma, Spain

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5 REVIEWS
Trail Race Race Terrain
74KM / 46Miles
1 Day - 1800 Runners

Alternate Distances: 45KM/28M 24KM/15M

DIFFICULTY Race Difficulty Expert  

Entry From €96.85 EUR

The Transvulcania race takes place on the spectacular volcanic island of La Palma, the most north-westerly of the Canary Islands in Spain. The race begins at sea level at Faro de Fuencaliente and then climbs the slopes of the volcano along the GR 131 and GR130 trail routes, including the highest point of the island, Roque de los Muchachos at 2,421 m, to finish back at sea level at Los Llanos de Aridane.

Started in 2009, the race is part of the ultra Skyrunner World Series since 2012 and also the Skyrunner National Series, opening the season at the beginning of each year.

Up to 1800 international runners compete in this Ultramarathon that has 8,407 m of accumulated elevation (4,350 m of vertical gain and 4,057 m of vertical loss).

Read the Ian Corless review of the 2015 edition HERE.

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Transvulcania Naviera Armas

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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.

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ultralouweezy

12:47 13-05-18

Raced 2017 and returned 2018
Transvulcania gets bigger every year, and this year with over 2000 people in the ultra alone, it has become almost too big. That's not to say it's not a great race, because of everywhere I've raced, it's in my top five, it's just that logistically, the trails are not able to support the masses especially near the beginning, which results in hideous bottle necks and a lot of pushing and shoving.
Anyway, the race.
Race start is at 6 am, launch point is the lighthouse at faro de fulicante. Be aware it is at sea level obvs , and is totally exposed. You will need a jacket! The buses drop off at around 1.5hrs before start, so there's a fair bit of standing around in the wind. It's easy to get left at the back at the start, but being mindful of the potential for bottlenecks, you need to push into mid pack to stand any chance of sticking to your race pace.
The first 7k to cp 1 is a solid climb, along rocky paths, and because of the numbers can be a bit overwhelming. Sticking to the side of the path is the best option to avoid ending up a runner kebab on the poles of a fellow runner. Cp 1 is loud and packed with supporters, it's a little like Tour de France, theyre closely packed either side of the route, screaming and cheering.. You'll either love it, or hate it.
Then out onto the main course. This is in the main volcanic sand, and here's a tip. Although gaiters are nigh on useless, if you wear them you will only get a half ton of sand in your shoes as a pose to the 2 ton you will get if you don't.
At this point you are climbing up to 1400mtres, it's exposed, hot and stunning. The views are totally spectacular, and trust me, you'll never run a course like it anywhere else on the planet .
The cut off to the 24k point is 5hrs, which sounds a lot, but its really not. It's 24k of gnarly climbs and exciting terrain, if you've not got good climbing legs you will not make it!
The 24k cp at el pilar is in the woods, most often shrouded by clouds, and is wet and chilly. Underfoot can get surprisingly slippy, so some care is needed as you pass through.
This takes you out to the mid part of the course, which for the next 5k is completely runnable. Make up any lost time here, it is the last opportunity to do so. This year this section was cloud covered the whole way, and was wet, muddy and slippery. But as soon as you start to climb again, it soon exits out into the beating heat. From 32k to 47k it is almost all ascent, and a lot of it is brutal and technical. But the pay off is the superb views down to tazacorte and the town of Los llanos, which of course is the goal..
From el pilar to Roque dos muchachos is time cut of between those points is 6 hours. Would be easy without the pesky climbs!
All of the cps are well supported, and you will pass many safety personnel along the way, mainly because of the constant technicality of the path. This year I passed two runners who were being attended to after nasty falls, and as I myself was ousted from transgrancanaria 360 by fractured ribs after a fall, I appreciate how easily it happens.
Anyway, the Roque being the highest point of the course signals the down hill toward the end, and it's no mistake that this downhill has such a re*****tion. It's allegedly one of the most technical downs on the circuit, and after 52k of climbing is no easy task. Unfortunately this year I got timed out at Roque dos Muchachos, but I still consider this race to be one of my favourites.
Hopefully they will keep the numbers at 2000, I fail to see how they can facilitate larger numbers without compromising safety, but overall it's still a race that any self respecting mountain racer has to do.

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peterbradley27

08:40 22-05-17

Thoroughly enjoyed the 2017 edition of this race. As others have said there is great support around the course from locals, even at 6.30/7:00 in the morning. The organisation is good, support staff are friendly but the numbers of runners on the course is a bit of a shock if your used to 50 to 400 runners turning up in a field and someone saying "go". I decided to push on with the big climb at the start of the race gaining the benefit of the cooler early conditions. Once out in the open, above the tree line, although the air temperature was cooler at 2,200m to 2,500m you were running in direct sunlight and getting hot. I made the mistake of blowing through the aid station at El Reventon, feeling good and thinking I had enough water but mistakenly thinking it was 5km to the next station rather than 11km. Managed to hang on but lost time getting myself back into some sort of equilibrium. The descent from Roque de los Muchachos is brutal and you better train for technical down hill or you will lose a lot of time here. The final climb into Los Llanos is a twist of the knife and making runners climb a flight of steps with 72km and over 4,000m of climbing in their legs is particularly cruel.

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colint

07:25 13-12-16

Definitely the closest I have ever come to a DNF in a race. The course is Beautiful although the first half marathon your running in sand and trust me on this your calves feel it. It's an amazing loop over the island and the terrain is changing all the time and the views incredible just one word of warning....HOT. Yeah I knew it would be hot but man oh man it really was. Up until the high point I was doing okay then once starting the long descent I cramped up and it became unbearable to just move. I eventually slogged my way down to the beach then somehow battled back on up to the town and finish line in the worst state I've ever finished a race. Must admit the atmosphere and course are cracking but the heat really got to me and I thought I had managed with it until I started that descent. Great race but I'll not be back to run it. I'd do the marathon course as it does the same as the ultra but cuts out the half marathon on sand at the start. The only negative thing is the logistics of getting to the start. The race do organize buses but to be sure nobody is late for the start the buses drop you out there almost two hours before go time which was a long time to hang around. Anyone going to run this then I would recommend staying out near the start line the night before either in a hotel or camp. The island is beautiful and worth the visit alone. I ran the race in May 2015.

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MalCox

09:57 23-05-16

https://fatherjack56.wordpress.com/2016/05/22/transvulcania-ultramarathon-isla-de-la-palma-the-re-match/ 7 May 2016

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MalCox

06:36 04-09-15

Transvulcania 2015 – My greatest ever DNF
There, I got it out of the way in the title; I did not finish. But I still feel compelled to write about it and get it off my chest, so bear with me. I suppose if you have got this far another few minutes won’t hurt. Mind you that’s what I was trying to tell myself at around 4.30pm last Saturday and they did hurt. A lot.

Anyway, I should start by saying that I have never looked forward to a race as much as I have this one, having watched umpteen YouTube videos and read umpteen more race reports about this insanely tough and impossibly beautiful event on the relatively unknown Isla De La Palma, fifth largest of the Canary Islands and also known as La Isla Bonita (The pretty island). Driving from the airport to our hotel on the opposite side of the island it became apparent even in the gathering gloom of dusk that this was not a false claim. It promised a lot, I just hoped the gearbox on our hired VW Polo was up to the task of getting us up and down all these rather steep hills. Oh, wait a minute! I have to run up and down them on Saturday. Okay, no problemo.

It turns out that this is one of the most stunning, lush, green and fertile places, or barren and black, depending on which part of the island you are in, that I’ve ever been to. It has a good economy, mostly due to the vast amount of bananas they produce, sadly we don’t get them on the UK which is a pity as they are much sweeter and tastier than the variety that is forced upon us by our all-powerful supermarket buyers. It also boasts an excellent road network with more hairpin bends than you can possibly imagine. Forget about hiring a big car, 1st and 2nd gear, no fear and good concentration is all you need to get around here without disappearing over a precipice. The people are friendly, the food is great and the island is mostly unspoilt, apart from the abomination that is McDonald’s which has taken a foothold in the capital, Santa Cruz. I just hope the next volcanic eruption (last one 1971) wipes that odious establishment out before the locals get hooked.

So, where was I? Ah yes the race. I suppose I’d better tell you about that.
2.15 am on Saturday 9th May, my alarm goes off and I immediately think about calling the whole thing off. This is silly. But having come this far I figure I’d better get on with it. So after gathering my pre-arranged kit I slope off out of the comfort of our hotel room, pick up my pre-booked picnic breakfast and head off down to the estation de guaguas (bus station) for the 3am bus to El Faro De Fuencaliente, the starting point of the race. As I reach the main road a car pulls up and the driver shouts to me, asking if I’m going to the bus station and if so can he give me a lift. Turns out he doesn’t know the way, so I jump in and guess what? Turns out I don’t know the way either, but after some broken Spanglish and lots of shrugging and gesticulating we find our way there and wish each other luck. Manolo from Barcelona, in the unlikely event you are reading this, how did you get on?

We arrived at the start. at the southern tip of the island, at 4.15 am. Cutting it a bit fine for a 6am start, I mean is that long enough to warm up?! It was blowing a hooley so we huddled like penguins round the lighthouse, I was glad I took an old t-shirt and a windproof. 4.30 on my watch and bored stiff I decided it was breakfast time so a salami and cheese sandwich, pan au chocolat, and fruit juice were consumed. 4.35 am, now what do I do?

I headed down to the start area, where the MC was on the mic giving it his all trying to build the tension and the atmosphere with an incessant flow of rapid-fire Spanish patter, all the while pumping out loud music of a genre which I would normally associate with drug-crazed late night parties. Good job I remembered my Ibuprofen. I have to say it is a strange feeling for a typically reserved Englishman to be standing on a lump of volcanic rock in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in pitch darkness at stupid o’clock surrounded by a bunch of crazy hijos de *****s working themselves up into a frenzy. Talk about unreal, this was like some bizarre tribal ritual with traditional dress of Lycra, Salomon race packs, compression socks and headtorches. Some even sported sunglasses, I considered joining them but I couldn’t find mine in the pitch darkness. Most were also brandishing their tribal carbon fibre poles but I had neglected to equip myself properly (apart from the Salomon race pack), so hung about at the back feeling a bit reluctant to mingle with the throng. As 5.30 came and went, the noise and fervour intensified, until I found myself getting carried along and bopping about to some AC/DC numbers, the MC managed the impossible and got louder and more animated, and soon enough 6.00 came and we were off at last.
I’d planned to start slowly as I had been told the path on the first climb is narrow which can lead to a bit of unseemly pushing and shoving. You definitely don’t want to fall on volcanic rock, it can be razor-sharp. It turned out to be impossible to do anything but go slowly because of the congestion so I gave up any thoughts of a podium finish and just marvelled at the sight of a thousand or more torches snaking their way skywards ahead of me, gradually the trail widened and the gradient became more runnable. I broke into a trot, trying to dodge the forest of flailing poles. Being pole-less I was definitely in the minority here. The dawn was breaking now and soon enough we arrived at the village of Los Canarios and the first checkpoint, or aid station. This was another bizarre moment, it’s only just gone 7 in the morning and it seems that the motor-mouth MC from the start, or his clone and all his PA gear have been transported here, with the same booming bass heavy music and machine-gun banter. The entire population of the village must have been lining the street and a full-scale party was under way, people cheering and clapping, beer being consumed (not by me, a bit early even by my standards!). I discarded my by now sweat-drenched spare t-shirt which seemed to make the old lady who grabbed it inordinately happy, glad to oblige señora! Pretty amazing stuff. We then headed onwards and upwards into an area of gorgeous mature pine forest, by now the sun was up and as we came to a bit of a clearing I was treated to the first of many spectacular views, some seventy miles to the south-east, the islands of La Gomera and Tenerife with Teide jutting up though a sea of low-lying cloud. As sights go this one was worth the race entry fee and the air fare!We reached the aid station at Las Deseadas, just over 10 miles in and it seemed like over half the field were there at the same time, jostling for prime position at the food tables which were stocked with huge amounts of fresh fruit, nuts, dried fruit, water, isotonic drinks, and Coca Cola with ice, a very welcome treat. Sorry, L50/100 runners but no cake. Unless the fast lads had scoffed it all? There were also barrels of water for chucking over your head, better still the marshals were more than happy to do it for you. I’ve never seen so many staff as there were at all the aid stations here, and they all had more than enough food and drink, top marks there to the organisers. Then something odd happened, we started running downhill, this would have normally been my cue to put the pedal to the metal and make some time up, however something wasn’t quite right. I was passing runners but the old legs weren’t entirely happy, this two or three mile flat or downhill stretch inevitably gave way to another long section of climbing and by the time I arrived at the next aid station, El Pilar, approx 15 miles, I was having a bit of a hard time. Revived by more water, fruit and coke I carried on trying to brush aside negative thoughts. I’d been drinking regularly and copiously, I wasn’t feeling unduly hot. In fact I was enjoying the sunshine after a winter training in N.E. England. I tried to concentrate on my fabulous surroundings in an attempt to ignore the weariness in my legs. For a good while now we were on a high undulating ridge from where you could see both east and west coasts of the island. Stunning.The next aid station, El Reventón came and went fairly quickly, from there my memory starts to get slightly sketchy, the pattern of up, up, up, down a bit, up again was to be constant all the way to the highest point, Roque de los Muchachos at 2426m, or 7950ft in old money. On the way there was a long stretch between aid stations where several runners were struggling with dehydration, I was cramping in both legs by now and was reduced to a strategy of walk/jog twenty paces, stop and recover for ten seconds, The walks gradually got shorter and the rests longer and after an agonising eternity I stumbled in to the Los Muchachos aid station within the cut-off time but not by a comfortable margin.
On the last climb I’d resigned myself to pulling out, I couldn’t see any possible way of continuing with every muscle in both legs seizing up with the slightest uphill or downhill. I was not in good shape! Much fruit, coke, water and a few gels later and I felt a bit better. There were seats in the shade here but attempts to sit down only ended in an agonising leap back up to stretch out a cramp so the next ten or fifteen minutes were spent shuffling round in circles and grabbing a piece of fruit or a drink occasionally. There was a notice saying that the bus back for competitors was leaving at 6.30, it was nearly 6.00 now so decision time was looming. As I was standing at the top of the path leading back down towards the finish a marshal came over to inform me that if I didn’t leave now I’d be forcibly retired from the race. Cut off time had arrived. I decided to give it a go, got 100 yds down the path but was in total agony, faced with a descent on a similar gradient to my local ski slope but about 11 miles longer, there was no choice and I limped back to the top to let them know that I was out. I pointed at the timing chip on my shoe and made a scissors gesture with my fingers to the marshal, he bent down, looked up and asked if I was sure, I assume that’s what he said or maybe he was saying “fancy getting this far and quitting, you big tart!” Anyway, the deed was done and that was my Transvulcania over after 31.3 amazing miles, 11hr 21mins, 4613ft of descent, 12533ft of ascent, a few photos and a lot of memories to be treasured, I decided that I’d had worse days out.

For the record, the pre-race favourites Luis Alberto Hernando and Emelie Forsberg both won, Hernando in a scarcely believable course record 6.52, or around 9 min/mile average. Wow!

Afterthoughts on the race; it has iconic status and rightly so, a route that is pretty much perfect in its sea level-highest point-sea level profile, with a twist in the tail uphill finish to arrive in the main town plaza. It’s not perfect, it is slightly in danger of being over-hyped, some of the early trails are very narrow and it’s impossible to run until well after the start unless you are at the front. I can’t see how they could accommodate more runners, I don’t think they should even think about increasing the entry limit. There was too big a gap between a couple of the aid stations but they have acknowledged this and will address it. There didn’t seem to be the same level of banter and camaraderie between runners but that may be just my perception as a foreigner? Also, there were dozens of discarded gel wrappers along the trail which I hate to see. I have a suspicion that it’s the fast folk doing this, I didn’t see anyone drop litter around me. Don’t do it guys, stick it in your expensive sponsored shorts pockets! But these are very minor gripes, the aid stations and the spectators were fantastic, the general organisation was brilliant, the entry fee was a very reasonable €90. It’s not the easiest place to get to but well worth the effort. As for goodie bags, well I got a Transvulcania gilet, a water bottle, some gels and a cereal bar at the registration, I couldn’t tell you what you got at the finish unfortunately. I saw finisher’s t-shirts but whether there was anything else, sorry, no idea. All in all I loved it and if I got the chance would go back.
Why did I DNF and what could I do better? Not easy to pinpoint any one thing, I could have done more hill training, I could and should have taken salt tablets. I was ill on the Monday and Tuesday before the race, that won’t have helped, nor would the fact that three weeks earlier I did a double marathon and 92 mile bike ride in one day. Other factors which would be harder to address were the heat and altitude, next time I’ll go a month beforehand to acclimatize. Yeah, right, only need to win the lottery first! A lot of the trails are covered in dust and ash which gets in your shoes, and also in your lungs, I had a squeaky voice for a day afterwards. Did I underestimate the race? No, I don’t think so. Did I overestimate my own ability? Again, I don’t think so, every race I’ve done in the last year has gone better that expected, I was bound to have a stinker one day, it just happened to be last Saturday. That’s life, move on and learn from it, it’s only running!

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