A trail running holiday in Gran Canaria

My friend Oli and I are both passionate runners and both of the companies that we work for shut down over the Christmas period. We thought that as we had enforced holiday over this period we should use the time to head to warmer more mountainous climes to get in some quality runs before we began our training plans for our 2017 races. We had a quick think and I suggested Gran Canaria, primarily because I knew it would be warm and I assumed if Transgrancanaria was such a popular ultra, contested by some of the best runners in the world then there must be some epic running to be found.

We stayed in a town called Moya in the north of the island situated in the mountains. We organised an Airbnb and this was the perfect spot to be the base for our trip. We had to hire a car so travelling around the national park would be easier, and it also gave us more flexibility in our route choices. We did four runs whilst we were there and covered around 40 miles and 14,000ft of ascent. As previously stated on the blog I struggled for the last few months of 2016 with shin splints so didn’t enter the holiday at the fitness level I would have liked. I found every run we did challenging but not unmanageable, and really felt like I got some great training in. Living in Devon my experience of running lots of ascent is from Dartmoor and the South West coast path and although you can achieve lots of elevation, (such as the Endurance life marathon that came in at over 4,600ft) it is usually accumulated through lots of undulation. Gran Canaria though was a different beast. The run pictured below had over 2,000ft of ascent in the first two miles, there aren’t many places in the UK where you can replicate that. And we both won our first races of 2017 on the 4th of February so all that running up mountains must have done us some good.

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One of the runs we did, 10 miles and 5,000ft ascent

We used the Gran Canaria tour and trail map, including the rambling roger routes to plan and navigate our runs. I would say that being used to OS maps I don’t think it is quite as accurate, and for one of our runs we planned to park near La Culata and follow a narrow ridge path marked on the map up to the highest point on the Island Pico de Las Nieves, but after climbing through sharp bushes and scrambling for 1000ft up the side of the mountain we had to concede there wasn’t a track there and aborted, got back to the car and parked on the other side of the mountain so that we could finally run up Pico de Las Nieves.  I have to admit that although getting lost and having your legs scratched to pieces is never fun, when you are on holiday with no time constraints and the day stretched out in front of you to explore and run until your heart is content it is the most enjoyable way to get lost.

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Me at the top of Pico de Las Nieves

To all my non running friends and family, the idea of spending the money to go on holiday to run around in the mountains is absurd. But hopefully if you are reading this blog you too have a love for running and a keen sense of adventure. As a destination Gran Canaria was pretty perfect. The island has lots of opportunities for beautiful challenging runs and also has the infrastructure to make accessing them easy, because it is a popular holiday destination. If you stay away from the main hubs such as Las Palmas and Playa del ingles then you will be amongst the locals and be able to find some great places to replenish your energy of an evening such as Locanda el Roque, where the food and service was amazing and is the perfect antidote to a day running in the mountains.

Conclusion 

Overall it was a really relaxed trip that incorporated the perfect amount of physically testing mountain running with the relaxation required to push yourself again on the next run and to also feel re energised for the new year back at work. For anyone wanting a running holiday in the sun during winter I would definitely recommend Gran Canaria and believe  you will not be disappointed with the views, and the opportunity to push yourself up some great peaks.

Runs we did and would recommend

  • Agaete to Mount Tamadaba and back 15mi 4,500ft elevation
  • Cuevas Caidas up to Roque Nublo and back in a circular route 11mi 3,300ft elevation
  • Presa de Los Hornas reservoir to Pico de Las Nieves and back in a circular route 7mi 2,000ft ascent
  • San Pedro to Montana de las Presa and back circular route 10mi 5,000ft elevatio

Gear I used

  • Inov-8 Race Ultra 290’s
  • North Face better than naked shorts
  • Patagonia Nine trails shirt
  • Salomon Skin Pro10 hydration pack
  • Clif bar Bloks
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Oli at Roque Nublo

 

A microadventure within an adventure

This is a piece written about a hike Oli and I accomplished in August 2016

Myself and six of my friends embarked on a road trip this summer across Europe from London to attend Dimensions musical festival. I had little input in the planning of the trip and was relishing going into it without any preconceived ideas and spending two weeks with good friends, drinking wine and exploring a bit of Europe. However since the start of 2016 I have begun to involve myself with the things I have enjoyed as a child a bit more in depth. That is spending time in nature. So now I am supposedly an adult and can drive myself around, afford to buy my own equipment and do as I please with my time I have reconnected with one of the things that makes me happiest, being active outside.

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Oli striking a pose on the ascent of Triglav

Alastair Humphreys and his fantastic book microadventures really reaffirmed to me how an adventure is a state of mind and also solely dependent on your ability and circumstances. As in a two mile walk up to the highest point near your house to watch the sunset may be quite a challenge to some people, whereas for others a challenge might not really begin until mile 70 of UTMB. So I started small, bought a little tent and went up to Dartmoor and wild camped, started trail running to become fitter and see outdoor spaces through a different perspective. I’ve done two little weekend trips so far this year, the first me and my good friend Oli who was on the road trip with me, went to Snowdonia and hiked and camped and felt free and full of the good vibes an active time in the outdoors gives you. A successful trip also gives you confidence. So for our next weekend away we decided to meander across Dartmoor from Oakhampton to Ivybridge and clocked up 40 miles in the process, it was challenging and rewarding and we were blessed with great weather, and found we were both really relishing these outdoor challenges we would make up.

 So back to road tripping in Europe. We were camped beside Lake Bohinj in Slovenia surrounded by picturesque mountains and postcard villages. One evening we caught the cable car up Mt Vogel to explore and run down. However when we were looking across towards the mountains one peak larger and more picturesque, like a sharks tooth loomed in front of us. Oli and I instantly decided we would spend the next day climbing it. We had no idea at the time it was Triglav the highest mountain in Slovenia at 2,864m and that it usually takes 16 hours over two days to summit and return to your car. We had already decided at this point we would be up and back in time for dinner.

View from the summit

And so the next day after a hearty buffet breakfast from a nearby hotel we parked the car at what we thought was the closet point on the route we had picked (it turned out we could of parked 3 miles closer) and began. Because we actually parked further away than we had to the first few miles were very gentle and we were immersed in trees, however once we got to the end of the road we started going up. The trail was instantly really quite steep and the trail was covered in jagged rocks which meant we spent a large amount of time staring at the ground and watching our footing. However when we did look around it was a stunning forest which eventually broke to provide views to the surrounding peaks. It took us around 5 hours to summit and it was only the second mountain either of us had ever climbed. The scenery was spectacular and the feeling of accomplishing an adventure which was born less than 24 hours before whilst watching the sun go down from the other side of the valley added to the thrill. We picked our way back down and I accidently lead us off the summit via a different route that was even steeper than the one we went up and it was a scary scramble down to Triglavski dom. We stopped for a quick snack and some water and continued our descent, still spellbound by our surroundings and feeling fresh enough to actually run some of the trail. Descending at speed down a mountain is one of the most joyful things I have done in the outdoors, there is an element of regression at the thrill of being free that feels almost childlike, you want to woop as you dodge a boulder and skid to a halt before you go tumbling off the edge. Once we re-entered the forest though the trail got steeper and the ground more treacherous, which is exactly what you don’t want at around 17 miles into your hike. The thighs were feeling the strain now but we consoled ourselves in the knowledge that we were on course to arrive back to the car at 8pm and would make it to the restaurant in time for dinner.

This microadventure for me embodies all that makes a microadventure what it is. Something challenging yet achievable which can be achieved in a relatively small amount of time, leaving a lasting impression in your memories and psyche, providing a bountiful amount of confidence in yourself to keep pushing your limits and seeking adventures.

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Myself on the ascent, still looking fresh and feeling happy