Gran Canaria Marathon

The expo was a two day affair so I expected things would be quiet when we turned up around opening time. Sadly no. A strange one-way system was in operation and it was clearly VIP time too. And I didn’t know which queue to join, because I didn’t know my bib number, because I wasn’t on the start list. I was paid and registered and everything, but on the sheet lists pinned to noticeboards there was no mention of me.

Still, shy bairns get nowt. So I joined the shortest queue. The queue for bib numbers 1 to 100. I was viewed with some suspicion (can’t think why, don’t I look like someone who’d wear the numero uno?) but who cares. The front of the queue came soon enough and I tried to explain. In English. The volunteer’s English was a million times better than my Spanish but we still struggled. Eventually they found me, on another list, and I walked away happily with number 922, and a mental note not to go to expos the second the door opens. Wait for other runners to find the bugs.

We were staying, more through accident than design, at roughly kilometre 37 of the marathon, as it prepares for its final fast approach to the finish. This, with the hotel serving breakfast from 6am every day as a matter of routine, meant I had a very civilised start to marathon day. I looked out the window and got that strange marathon tingle you get when you start seeing other runners, in ones and twos and groups, drifting in from all directions and making their way to the start. I eventually joined them and was wandering around the start in good time trying to find the baggage drop. It was elusive, time was ticking, and I began to get anxious. I spotted a runner who looked like he was on a purposeful baggage drop trajectory so I tapped his kit bag and yelped Dónde?! He pointed up and replied Arriba! Well that was all clear enough and I reflected that I may have learned more Spanish from watching Road Runner cartoons than from text books.

Gran Canaria Marathon – Jan 2018

By start time I was quite relaxed and chilled waiting in my pen. Away we went and I settled down into a comfortable pace in the cool morning sunshine. My training put me around a 4:15 marathon and I knew better than to try deceive myself that I was capable of faster. Still, it’s nice to experiment and after about 10km I began to test my pace. I was feeling comfortable but I’ve learned so much from my hot marathons last year, especially Lanzarote  where I pushed too hard and ended up blowing it. So for the first half of the race I gently pushed the envelope, testing how I felt, recognising my limits, and easing back. I was running without a heart-rate monitor but I trusted my instincts on perceived exertion and kept within my limits.

The sun had very much got its hat on by now and I reckoned it was time to get the sunglasses on and turn the cap round backwards. The sweat was dripping in my eyes but, oddly, it wasn’t stinging.

WEAR SUNSCREEN

Very odd. Then with a start I remembered something important that I’d forgotten! Despite the leisurely start to the day I had managed to leave the Factor 50 untouched on the bed side table. I’m normally very particular about this and now suddenly I was worried. Wear Sunscreen! There wasn’t much I could do about it now, and in the Old Town of Las Palmas there were decent slabs of shade if you chose a good line. Roberta had realised the same thing around the same time and despite heroic plans to unite me with some sunscreen she realised that it was an impossible task. Our hotel was on a narrow strip of land that the course zig-zagged through in the final kilometres and was effectively locked down to taxis and buses.

The marathon course was, on the whole, a bit unremarkable. This is the 9th running of the race and much fanfare was made of the fact that the marathon would be a single loop. It sounds good but the single loop often involved running a long way up a dual carriageway, around an orange cone, then back again. In fact kms 9 to 16 were so astoundingly dull that the organisers didn’t even put it on the map.

But that was all behind me now. We’d also left the interesting streets of the old town and were heading back towards the city. I was still pushing the envelope from time to time but I knew to trust my instincts and not crash and burn as I knew I would if I chanced my luck. With about 10km to go I saw Roberta waving a bottle of suntan lotion but by this time I was more interesting in scooshing water over my head and letting fate take its course.

Although I thought the course overall had been a bit dull at times, it makes up for a lot of that in the closing stages. The last few kms are a fast belt down the lovely Playa de Las Canteras. I wasn’t as fast as I’d like to have been, but I hadn’t blown it either, and I managed a strong controlled finish without the nagging doubt that I could’ve or should’ve gone faster.

Gran Canaria Marathon – Jan 2018

I finished in 4:16, marginally faster than Lanzarote, but I ran a poorly executed endgame in Lanzarote, whereas today I had got it about right.

My Route

Total distance: 42.98 km
Max elevation: 56 m
Min elevation: 6 m
Average speed: 5.53 min/km
Total time: 04:16:27
Download file: Gran Canaria Marathon - 2018-01-21_08 32 13.gpx

Lanzarote Marathon

We’d booked a week at Club La Santa at low season, when you can get a lot of sun for your money. And on impulse, I typed Lanzarote Marathon into Google. Two words that I knew must go together, but hadn’t expected them to be an item while we were there. But there it was, a proper hot marathon while we were there on the other side of the island. These things are sent to taunt us, and it couldn’t not be done.

So instead of being at Aykley Heads on the 10th December we found ourselves driving South towards Costa Teguise. I’d been nervous about parking but my fears proved to be groundless. Although this was a typical combo weekend, with 10K, Half and Full, we were all starting at different times and from different places. So for the early starting marathon runners, things were nice and quiet.

It wasn’t so long after Palma and I’d rested and trained and thought and thought, and on the whole I was feeling fine. The number of marathon runners was a lot less than I expected and there was no need for seeding pens, self-regulated or otherwise. I wandered around the starting area content in my own little world thinking I was a Stranger in a Strange land, until out of the corner of my eye I spotted George Routledge! Last time I saw him was when I heard him shouting me on in Palma. We had to stop meeting like this.

The gun went and about 40 seconds later I crossed the Start Line. That was the
busy bit over with. Then we headed along the coastal paths on the straight out
and back Marathon route. I was feeling pretty comfortable but had the discipline not to push things and settled in with the 4:15 pacer somewhere on the horizon. That suited me. I let him go and he drifted in and out of view from time to time. No worries. Past the airport where bemused passengers looked down on us from the windows of the taxiing planes, then the turnaround where the half-marathoners would be starting soon.

The psychological half-way point done, I considered my strategy on the home run. I was feeling fine and the 4:15 pacer was within easy reach should I wish to step on the gas. Closer and closer I edged until at 18 miles I was sitting comfortably in a little 4:15 bus. 7 miles to go, and it was time to leave the pacer behind.

It was, as Seven of Nine might have put it, to be my undoing. Looking at my HR graph I can pretty much see the exact point in which over-confidence kicked in (at 18.65 miles), the pace went up, as did the HR, and then, a mile or two later, the radiator boiled over. I knew I’d blown it. I walked a bit, put on the hazards, pulled over and took an enormous interest in some roadside palm trees which were, quite literally, very supportive. I suppose it was in these last few miles that the pacer must have passed again, along with perhaps fellow Strider Stuart Barker (doing the half) who I never saw but I see finished well within 2 hours.

I didn’t recover from my ill-judged effort and walk/jogged to the finish clutching an empty bottle of water like a comfort blankie all the way to the line. I was 12 minutes faster than Palma but didn’t feel particularly clever about it. I reckon I would’ve been faster if I’d just stuck with the pacer and not made a dash for glory. If you can’t stand the heat, don’t push your luck.