Transgrancanaria - SCARPA Team

Transgrancanaria - SCARPA Team

Last month two of our SCARPA UK athletes travelled out to the Canaries to compete in the TransGranCanaria races.

Emma Stuart - took on the Classic 126k race - finishing in an amazing third place, whist Luke Roberts took on the Marathon 46k race - but unfortunately his race didn't quite go to plan.

We caught up with Emma and Luke a few weeks after the race to get their reflections.

 Hi Emma, congratulations on finishing third at this year's Transgrancanaria, how was the race for you?

Three weeks on, I've had plenty of time to reflect on the race, and in all honesty, I'm really really happy with my performance. It's a cracking route (with a very aesthetically pleasing Strava trace!)
I love the variety of terrain it covers - from the beach at the start, through the villages dotted through the rainforests in the north, right down to the arid desert of the south where you follow a dry riverbed to the finish.

I had recce'd the route before Christmas and was glad I had as I felt I knew what I was up against. I set off quite conservatively and maintained a comfortable pace for the first 20km and was surprised to find I was in 4th position at the second aid station.

At that stage, I was worried I had set off too fast, so pulled it back a notch. I knew I was never going to be able to beat Courtney as she is the best in the world, but now that I've had time to reflect, I probably didn't push hard enough at the start which meant the gap between me, Claudia and Azara grew too big for me to be able to close it..

However, it would have been a big gamble because I could have easily blown up and not finished the race, so I'm happy with the decisions I made. I ran the whole race feeling really good and didn't have many low points, plus I also did a lot better with my nutrition than I normally do. It meant I didn't have many episodes of nausea, and that's always a bonus!

You went in to the race with a shoulder injury - how did this affect your race?
I was really worried about the shoulder injury but once the race started, the adrenaline kept the pain at bay! It was a bit of a niggle in the background but luckily I don't think it had too much of an impact. Unfortunately, it's still causing issues because everything I do at work aggravates it and taking time off isn't an option!

The route crosses Gran Canaria and some beautiful trails - what were your highlights?
 It's a truly stunning route but it's also pretty tough. It's not as technical as many of the Lake District trails but there is a huge amount of elevation (6,800m over 131km) and many of the descents are on cobbly, awkward terrain.

We had some rough weather in the first half, with rain, sleet, gale-force winds, cold temperatures, and horribly slippery mud that made me think of home. Not exactly what I was expecting in the Canary Islands! The last 40km were pretty special, when the clouds lifted and the temperatures rose and you could see for miles in all directions. I loved the descent down into Ayaguares - trail running at its finest!

When did you realise that you had a chance of making the podium?
I spend pretty much every race feeling like I'm being chased down, even if I'm a couple of hours ahead of the next position. I was very comfortable in fourth and quite happy to be there because I knew that the three girls in front are incredibly strong athletes.

Marco (my support) informed me at Tejeda that Azara wasn't looking very good and was at risk of dropping out. She had gone out very hard racing Claudia but I knew they were both experienced on the course as they've both raced it several times before. Shortly after I left the aid station at Tejeda, Marco drove past at a road crossing and shouted that Azara was out.

I didn't let myself get too excited because there was still 50km to go but it gave me the drive to push on and keep pace.

I knew I couldn't catch Claudia as she had built up a really good lead on me, but I was determined to try and maintain the gap. However, the whole time, I was convinced that the fourth lady was going to be right behind and could overtake me at any minute. It was only in the last kilometre that I finally accepted I was going to finish on the podium!

What shoes did you wear for the race?

I wore my trusty favs - the Scarpa Spin Infinity. I absolutely adore this shoe and wear it for all of my big races. It's so comfortable with great cushioning and really good grip on both wet and dry terrain. I didn't get a single blister and my feet were in great shape at the finish!

Third place at the Transgrancanaria follows your win last year at the TOR - how does it feel to do so well at these big international events?

Sometimes it's all a bit surreal, to be honest! When I ran my first ultramarathon in 2019, I could never have dreamed that I would be standing on a podium with some of the best trail runners in the world just a few years later.

I was never sporty in school and only started running in 2018, so I still constantly feel the need to pinch myself, especially because I lead a very normal life - looking after two dogs, working full-time, and then trying to run in my (limited) spare time!

What's the next race on your plan? What are you looking to achieve this year?

My next race is actually next weekend, back in Ireland. It'll be my first race on home turf so I'm looking forward to it even though I haven't had a chance to recce the route. It's only 50km, so much shorter than I'm used to, which is actually quite intimidating! I think the last time I raced 50km was in 2020, so it'll be interesting to see how I can cope with running at a slightly faster pace. I'm also hoping I'm not carrying too much fatigue from TGC as I've not really had much time for recovery. I have a few other races lined up this summer, but I'm taking each one as they come because they are all quite close together so I have to be mindful of injury risk and fatigue!

Hi Luke, you've just got back from running the Transgrancanaria - how was it for you?

Firstly, the event and organisation of the week is incredible. Its really cool to see an independent classic becoming a world class epic and I would recommend it to everyone. The different race lengths make the trails accessible to all, and it was awesome for me to travel with my family who also did some of the races too!
The trails are super fun, fast and technical and make for exciting racing over all the distances. For me the race was definitely not my best, but these are the ones your learn from the most!

Your race didn't quite go to plan - tell us about what happened.

Yep, that’s correct! So the race starts with ~1.5km along the road before reaching the trail head. I knew it was going to be fast, and I didn’t want to over cook it, so I sat in a second pack back from the pedigree road runners in around 30th place. I wanted to get to the trail head fresh, but within the top 30 so not to get stuck in a bottleneck. Anyway the only bit of the race which went to plan was the first 500m, as I pulled my glute pretty bad along the road section - I have no idea why! But I suspect a lack of warm up might have contributed to it. From there it became a mental game.

Well done for finishing the race - how tough was the mental battle to get across the finish.

The first 30 minute climb was the tester – my glute was sore and my gait had to change to compensate for the pain which is never good. Steadily people started overtaking me which is always tough. ‘Perhaps the downs will ease it off’, I thought. - Nope! Again, I couldn’t find a rhythm as each hip swing was painful. An hour in, coming off the famous Roque Rublo, I made the decision that I was going to cross the finish line, despite the discomfort and knowledge I would be way off the pace (1 hour 40 back from my predicted finish).
It's races like these and mental battles that shape us though, there is something really humbling to step back and realise it’s just super cool just to be out there, doing what we love whatever the result. Knowing my sister was crushing the race as well was pretty special, so I had to get to the finish to see her in!

The route crosses Gran Canaria and some beautiful trails - what were your highlights?

Roque Nublo is part of the old volcanic caldera and the highest point of the race, and Marco De Gasperi was up supporting the SCAPRA team at this point so that was pretty special. And oddly for me, my favourite bit was probably everyone else least favourite ‘death valley’. The final 10km follows a dried river bed, by this point my glute had settled a little, I was near the finish and a little bit of my flow came back hopping from rock to rock.

What shoes did you wear?

I wore the Ribelle Run’s, same as Scarpa's Rosa who placed second on the women’s marathon.

What is next up for you? Do you have any key races coming up?

A bit of local fell running on my local Dartmoor. Then the UK Golden Trail Series comes Cornwall for the KVK which is exciting and later in the summer Ill be at the Lakeland 50. So a bit of variation, and keeping it local!