20 Jul 2014

Transkarukera 120km, Guadeloupe - Follow Along

I've kept my latest racing plans a little under the radar over the last eight weeks. This was nothing more than wanting to ensure I was 100% recovered from the lingering foot issues I've dealt with this year and not wanting to outwardly commit to a racing goal until I knew I was good to go.

Near the end of the HURT 100 in January I started experiencing metatarsalgia style pain in my left foot, the opposite foot to which I'd twice before broken. I seemed to have successfully worked through the initial issue by late March and had confidently lined up for the UTMF at the end of April. One of the most disappointing races of my life was to follow and even though I wasn't having my day I was proud of how hard I continued to fight through, only to be forced into a DNF after 105 kilometers due to the foot issue flaring up again.

Throughout May I rediscovered my road bike while working with numerous top local practitioners and by early June I started back to fairly normal training volumes again. I made a conscious decision not to go up into the 100 mile plus training volumes of one year ago. I know that my body can happily handle that volume, but to force it on my foot after a lingering injury would simply be playing Russian Roulette with myself. I officially seemed to have turned a corner in the last few days of May, and every week since then has consisted of at least sixteen hours of movement.

The first three weeks had lots of hiking and biking hours built in, and the last four weeks have been solid mountain running mileage while complimented with some intense biking sessions. The last four weeks in particular add up to 73 hours with 480km / 300m, 25,000m / 82,000ft of that being on foot. I've felt great throughout, gotten stronger week after week, set the Hanes Valley FKT along the way (2h49m) and managed to not get hit by lightning while working pacing duties for Adam down at Hardrock last week. All in all, I feel about ready to let one rip.

Guadeloupe. What? Guadeloupe. Where? Guadeloupe. How? Guadeloupe. Huh?

Yeah well funny story. The Skyrunning World Champs in Chamonix last month was to be a goal race for me this year, and while conditioning my sit bone to accept a bike saddle again in May I was coming to terms with the fact that the June 28th race date simply wasn't going to allow me to recover and train effectively in time. I then had a communication with this race in Guadeloupe, Transkarukera, or TRANSKA for short. The race date of July 25th, being one month further on was ideal. Here's the thing though, as I dug deeper I was shocked at what I discovered about this race. You ready for this?

The race is just 120km long, yet it boasts 9700 METERS of climbing and descent! It's a Caribbean Island, how is that even possible!? Those are UTMB and UTMF stats but the race is a full ultra distance shorter than both of those (-~45km)!!

Digging deeper still, the course record was OVER twenty-seven hours AND that run time was heralded as an unbelievable time for the course! The second place finisher in 2013 was Christophe Le Saux, who I've run with twice now at UTMF. Christophe finished the 2013 and 2014 UTMF in 13th place, his 2013 time was 22h51m while his 2014 time was 23h41m. Christophe's time at his 2013 2nd place running of the TRANSKA 120k...thirty-three f#@king hours!

How does a race have climbing stats in line with the toughest 100 milers out there, while being significantly shorter, and end up with nearly inexplicably longer finish times? I'm not entirely sure, though some communications since then have helped paint the picture a little clearer, this one in particular,

"There is a 33km mountain stretch that you will run at night with overgrowth to navigate, and you will need to be fully self sufficient for a six to eight hour period. You should also carry a GPS device with the race route loaded into it, to prevent getting lost."

I'm guessing you throw in some Caribbean heat and humidity, and what I can only guess to be HURT like volcanic island technicality and all in all it sounds like a nice little hike in the woods to me.

Some slightly disappointing news as of a few days ago; it looks like they had to make a slight course change this year. The distance stays the same but they'll lose the better part of 1700 meters of elevation, bringing it down to a still rather unbelievable 8000 meters.

Another cool feature with this race is that they make people carry a live GPS tracking device, meaning that you can pull up their website at any point in time and get up to the second updates as to how the race is unfolding. I believe this is the future of ultra running. I'm sure this device in 2014 will be quite bulky and cumbersome, but once these things get dialed down in size can you imagine being able to watch Western States or UTMB via a live up to the second GPS feed verses twitter updates every fifteen to sixty minutes. I think it's safe to say that this will occur at some point in time, and when it does I know I personally will get even less accomplished on the big event race days.

Guadeloupe is a French island in the Caribbean that operates on the Euro. Damn the French have it FIGURED OUT with owning small tropical islands around the world!

I fly out on Monday, July 21st and the race starts at 8pm on Friday, July 25th. Here's the link to the website and to their Facebook Page on which I'm guessing they'll eventually show their live tracking data. I'll attempt to update in the days leading up to the event.

As a side note, the race director Gerard has been incredible at helping me piece everything together via Google Translate conversations. Being a race director myself I know that I've been a huge pain in the ass over the last few weeks.

Basic Info:
Guadeloupe (/ɡwɑːdəˈluːp/; French pronunciation: [ɡwadəlup]; Antillean Creole: Gwadloup) is a group of Caribbean islands located in the Leeward Islands, in the Lesser Antilles, with a land area of 1,628 square kilometres (629 sq. mi) and a population of 405,739 inhabitants (as of Jan. 2013).[1][note 1] It is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. Guadeloupe is an integral part of France, as are the other overseas departments. Besides Guadeloupe's two islands of Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre, the smaller islands of Marie-Galante, La Désirade, and the Îles des Saintes are included in Guadeloupe.

As part of France, Guadeloupe is part of the European Union and the Eurozone; hence, as for all Eurozone countries, its currency is the euro.[3] However, as an overseas department, Guadeloupe is not part of the Schengen Area. The prefecture (i.e. French regional capital) of Guadeloupe is Basse-Terre. Its official language is French, although many of its inhabitants also speak Antillean Creole (Créole Guadeloupéen).

Imagery that gets me stoked: 

Beaches, sand, surf, diving, mountains, singletrack and a badass trail race. Is this HURT V2.0? I'm kinda hoping so :)


12 Jun 2014

Trip Report - Sigurd Peak & Crooked Falls

A brief update on my own training and injury issues. It's been a very positive three weeks now and I've been on my feet fifteen of the last sixteen days with very little in the way of reoccurring foot pain. I hesitate to say behind me, but I have certainly gotten things to a manageable point in which training is finally starting to make sense again. It's definitely exciting given how incredible our spring weather has been this year and how quickly the higher terrain is opening up. In line with that, we got out to tag a peak yesterday. Here's the trip report.

Sigurd Peak - 1940m / 6360ft

Link To Info Via Club Tread

Party: +Eric Carter, Nick Elson

Conditions: Mostly clear and sunny spring day with temps in the mid to high teens. An unseasonably warm and sunny spring has lead to early melt out. The lower trail as in immaculate condition looking like it had been recently trimmed. We first reached snow at about 1100m and then consistently above 1300m. The trail peters out a bit around 1100m with some sidesloping but is always flagged just sufficiently enough. Above 1500m was all snow for us and we simply followed sightline to the top. I packed along and wore Mircospike though they did not appear to provide any benefit as the snow up top was quite soft.

Timing: 2h35m ascent time, about ten minutes of stop-time up top, and then 1h30m descent time which included a ten minute detour to the well worthwhile Crooked Falls (600 meters return)

Total Distance: 15km / 9.4m

Total Elevation Gain: 2130m / 7000ft

Pace - Easy/Honest/Intense: Honest. We kept a good pace up to the top and had a few breaks to take in the views. The descent was consistent but again not pushing the pace at all.

Gear: Standard trail running gear, plus poles and Microspikes, though only I used the Mircospikes and the snow up top was soft and plush so the spikes were not necessary

To The Trailhead: Approximate drive time from North Van to the trailhead was 1h15m

Access: You can drive right to the trailhead in any vehicle. You spend a few kilometers at the very end of the drive on a freshly graded and relatively flat forest service road. Going beyond the trailhead area would likely require a 4WD vehicle

The Route: Completely sign posted from the start. It's a straight up and straight down trail with very little flat terrain mixed in. Once over about 1100m the trail becomes a bit more obscure but is still flagged appropriately. We had a few minor detours off the route but always found it again without major issue. Above 1500 meters was consistent snow and we simply followed sightline to the summit.
**If you decide to head up before the snow fully melts out you must be aware of cornices. Not overhanging from above but cornices that if not paying attention you could easily walk out onto and collapse with dire consequences. Pay attention to terrain hazards if attempting in the spring. Having said that, there is zero threat of danger if you're simply paying attention and you understand what you're looking at.

Assessment: A very worthwhile and surprisingly accessible spring summit. I was amazed we were able to get to almost 2000m in early June as this is certainly not the case most years. Views were great though not unbelievable. Worth the effort in every sense though. Looking up at Ossa and Pelion is fun and certainly beckons you to return later in the season for those targets.
*We did not come across any water sources on route so it's best to take along all water from the start

GPS via Movescount: Linked Here