Andree Walkin – Transvulcania 2018 Half Marathon Race Report
I’m sure we all have a friend or friends who rope you into interesting things at particularly vulnerable moments in your life right? Well, I’m glad to say I’ve got a few of these types of friends. On a car journey following an epic Art O’ Neill 2018 event my buddy and our go-tri adventure founder and guru Paul Tierney mentioned about a group travelling out to Transvulcania Ultra race in Spain in May.
At that point in time, with my feet still feeling like blocks of ice I could think of nothing better than some sunshine on my bones and a run up a volcano! So I thought, ‘yes why not? I’ll tag along, support you guys and maybe do the half distance while I’m out there.’
Definitely a little bit delirious from the long night in the hills I really couldn’t think of anything nicer than running up a volcano on a sunny day! Hmmm note to self don’t agree to anything when you’ve been out running in hail, wind and sleet for the night.
The run-up to May involved a lot of broken training sessions. I did get some quality snow days in the hills with the other Go Tri Adventure loonies but not much consistency, however, I decided to head out, get a taste for the race, soak up the atmosphere and some sun and see what the legs could do on the day.
Four of us travelled in the end. Our travel agent Alan Webb managed to sort flights for the four of us in and out of Shannon which was just ideal. So off we went early Thursday morning from Shannon. After a nice flight to Tenerife and then joining forces with some other Irish guys we hopped on another short flight to the beautiful little volcanic island of La Palma. I immediately liked the feel of the island. Very Spanish and not at all touristy. After a few detours and tight street car manoeuvres, excellently performed by Loren, we eventually found our way to our air bnb home for the weekend and then hit on to watch the first big event of the weekend – the vertical KM. This was a fun event to see but let’s just say we were happier to watch and cheer for this one – I’m not sure the plane legs would have tackled that climb!
The lead up to race day was very relaxed. For our usual pre-race routine on Friday morning we went for a little trot to stretch and loosen the legs followed by a nice stretching/yoga session on the pier. Our short run ended up being a little longer due to a slight Tierney exploration but it was so much fun and I got to see some of the gorge route which I wouldn’t get to run and wow it was pretty spectacular. I then took the lads through some improvised yoga moves overlooking the water which they were very open tnd I think I may have converted them:)
A relaxing day was followed by an early night.
At 3am I stuck my sleepy head out the door to wish the boys well and then back to snoozey land for another hour for this chica. Then at 5am Loren my lovely chauffeur arrived to take me to the bus station. I felt pretty good considering the early hour and I even ended up snoozing again a little on the way to the start line (yes over the years I have learned to take every available opportunity to sleep and luckily I am particularly prone to sleeping on buses) So 50 mins or so later still in darkness we arrived at a very windy Faro de Fuencaliente. A few moans and groans before the bus was vacated and we all made our way to the spectacular Fuencaliente lighthouse.
I could feel the buzz of the Ultra which kicked off an hour prior still in the air. The usual pre-race milling around took place but I managed to just enjoy the atmosphere and find a nice spot inside the lighthouse to stay warm and stay off my feet for an hour. Then before I knew it was time to hit the start line. The feeling was simply electric there with music pumping and everyone dancing and jumping up and down most likely to keep warm as there was still a crisp chill in the air. So exactly on time at 7.30am off the hooter went and we began the first climb up the volcanic sand of Malpais.
After a good slog on volcanic sand the first aid station was 7k in and I think this was my most favourite experience of the . What seemed like the entire population of Fuencaliente had come out at this early hour of the morning and lined the streets to cheer on the runners up the hill to the aid stations. I couldn’t help but think of the Tour de France as people were so close they almost were touching me. It was some feeling. I think the shouts of “Vamos” and “Go Chica” will stay with me forever. It certainly carried me onwards – that and the friendly cola bottle guy I met at 15k☺ Before I knew it I was at the highest point Las Desedas and the views! Well I just had to stop for a pic or two. Again the aid station was perfectly placed and manned and the marshals were so helpful. So onwards again to the final stage and the forest area which reminded me of my local run at Ballycuggaran, every twist and turn was manned with friendly marshals or first aid people and I have to say it was so nice to see their smiling faces. Before I knew it I was descending (for once) into the finish straight and the area of El Pilar and that was it – my first half marathon-up-a-volcano done! I really can’t recommend this race highly enough.
Thanks to everyone for the support especially my travel companions, Ultra men and support crew Paul, Alan and Loren. Now all I can say is roll on Transvulcania 2019, though maybe with a little extra training and added distance;) Oh and hopefully a few more brave Irish soles/souls☺ to join in the fun!
Course details: 24.28 km 2,097 meters of positive cumulative gain and 689 meters of negative cumulative gain
A rambling post about a half marathon, back injuries and turning 40.
OK, so long story short. I haven’t posted on BitchMittens for a REALLY long time.
Partly it was because I hurt my back while weightlifting, and after that, I was so whacked out on nerve blockers and lurching from one cortisone injection to another to be inclined to talk about the uplifting and inspirational value of sport. I’d also set up my own business, and found myself working days, nights and weekends without pause. So that’s basically where I’ve been for the past 12 months. In case anyone wondered!
SPOILER – Working too hard, stressing too much and not sleeping enough, will compound a serious injury and prevent your body from healing.
So that only took me a year to figure it out!
What a dope.
By the time I had copped on to myself, I’d spent a year off the water, and quite a lot of time when not working bonkers hours, feeling sorry for myself. Rowing is an addiction. Being on the water is a type of therapy. I think it’s especially appropriate therapy for certain nervous energy types. Being off the water took away a type of medicine. I tried a bunch of other things, (clinical pilates, bikes, swimming) but they all felt like exercise, and holy god stationary bikes are just tush-torture. Plain and simple.
To make matters worse, I turned 39. Which meant (ominous music) that 40 loomed.
They’re funny things, milestone years. Marketing studies have shown that people in the run-up to these (30, 40, 50 birthdays) behave differently than the rest. Interestingly, this errant behaviour is in the lead up to the milestone, and not after the fact, as I might have assumed. (Richard Shotton covers this, and how advertisers target those people, in his fascinating book on behavioural bias The Choice Factory)
So, you see – it’s official. This year is supposed to feel strange.
I woke up one morning and realised that I was middle-aged. And boy, was that a shock! I have no fears about getting older, I relish the idea of being a wise old owl. I just don’t want to groan when I sit down, or forget what my toes look like! But also it kicked me into gear. You only get one life, right? And I only had one back. And I wanted to feel like I did when this header picture was taken, the night after the Irish rowing champs, where I was physically fit, feeling strong, and totally fabulous.
I needed to do everything I could to get better. So I went back to basics. I slept. I drank water. I stopped lugging a huge handbag stuffed full of technology and knickers and bought a thing on wheels. I swapped my office chair for an ergonomic kneeling thing. I invested in a standing desk. I kept going back for more MRIs, kept chipping away at the exercises, at the doctors’ appointments. I weaned myself off the nerve blockers and despite my doubts, went for a small operation that would help cope with the nerve pain signals, perhaps for long enough to let me get better.
And then, after all that… I slowly began to get better!
I emerged from the mist, older, wiser and very much soggier about the middle. So then I set myself a challenge. This year, I would get ‘FIT 4 FORTY’. I would set myself a series of small challenges, while I am able to move – to help me find my way back to full fitness, before I begin the wild downhill ride of my later years.
Randomly I decided I would aim for the following things:
- Complete a half marathon
- PB a 5K run (My PB was 3 years, at about 24 minutes)
- PB a 2K erg test (The absolute definition of hell on earth, and even thinking about trying this makes me want to puke)
- Be able to do five chin ups (even at my very fittest, I could only do 3!)
- Be able to do a backwards crab (I did it in my twenties, so could I get this back??)
So I have very slowly set to training, and I have about 6 months to get there. I started about three months ago by walking, then running on sand. I did that for about a month. Then I started running longer distances. Checking the whole time that I wasn’t doing damage. And then last week, I completed a half marathon. I put one foot in front of the other. My only goal was to run the whole thing, and I did! I was hoping to do it in under 2 and half hours. My finish time was a respectable 2.14. I texted my spinal surgeon to say thanks, and had a little cry at the finish line.
Now I don’t want to do anything stupid, as I was injured for such a long time, but I also think having goals is a good thing. And so, with help and support from suitably medically qualified poeple I’m going to work towards a few more of these challenges. I’ll try and blog about them too!
I want to be #Fit4Forty.
Wish me luck!!
PS – BitchMittens is moving away from Facebook soon, but if you’d like to you can get our monthly roundup of posts, straight to your inbox. You can sign up on the contact form on princessbitchmittens.com.
PrincessBitchMittens is an award-winning, non-profit blog from Emily and Rhona.
I have always loved the 2 Fast 2 Furious franchise. 2 Fast 2 Furious Number 2 TokyoDrift is my total favourite. It is about drifting. The best explanation for Drifting is from Urban Dictionary:
“How to aim one’s car at a wall and miss it completely; drifting is the opposite of grip-driving, which involves taking a corner without sliding. This can be done without any regard to horsepower, weight, or any other factors. Essentially this means any car can drift, however, some cars are more apt to ‘powerslide’ than drift. Drifting originated in Japan, thus most cars used to drift are Japanese.”
HEALTH WARNING: Drifting is not for the faint of heart, the poor, or those who are nursing, pregnant, or may become pregnant.
Through a friend on Facebook, I found out about drifting in Pallas Karting – which is a race track literally 25 minutes down the road from me. They had a Drift Club practice meet on a Saturday just after Christmas. They advertised free passenger rides if you come early enough. I got my lovely friend (who watches all the 2 Fast 2 franchise with me) to come to the drift meet with me. We were totally excited. There was a very reasonable entrance fee , we went in and the roar of engines and screeching of tyres filled our ears. I was super excited to get out of my white van go to the canteen clubhouse type area and ask about the ‘free ride’. We got a cup o’ builders tea and a sausage bap (I am really trying hard to be a vegetarian/vegan but sometimes you have to settle for food made from anything with a face). There were male and female drivers and owners, and they were all super friendly to us.
I spoke to the slightly age-inappropriate looking Jay and told him that I didn’t want to go for a ‘passenger ride’ with any young lads. He said that most of the lads were the same age as him, 36! So that worry resolved, off he went to try and get me the ride.
We headed trackside to watch the racing. Well, we weren’t quite sure if it was racing or just going around and around the track. It didn’t matter, the tunes were banging from massive speakers and it was really interesting to watch the different makes and types of cars, as well as the techniques drivers were showing off. Though one car did look like a family saloon that hat gotten lost on the way to Tesco and ended up on the track… The laps were pretty fast. In fact, bits of rubber flew over the fence and landed smoking at my feet – how cool was that! I literally squealed with delight (in a very literary Enid Blighton, Malory Towers kind of way – and I hadn’t even had any ginger beer!)
After watching all morning, we decided to head into the canteen area for a soya mocha vegan decaf. Unsurprisingly, we had to settle for builders tea and curried chips. The last time I had curried chips I was 15 years and hanging out at the shops drinking Thunderbird red (red Thunderbird one had a stronger alcohol content, which was v relevant at the time). As we ate, we sat next to some more age inappropriate boys and I got chatting with them about 2 Fast 2 Furious!!! I could tell they were all impressed with my drift knowledge by the way they rolled their eyes and laughed a lot. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed in the young fellas’ cars as they didn’t have roll bars. These are metal bars running up the sides and across the top of a vehicle, especially used in motorsport, which strengthen the vehicle frame and protect the occupants if the vehicle overturns. What a pity!
After our ‘meal’ we went outside to get the free ride. The drift laps were looking super fast and some of the cars had bits hanging off of them – just their bumpers and other non-essential bits like that. I was informed that there was a slow lap coming up (however, I think they just told this to me for the craic). The lovely Jay was outside, asking me had I got the ride yet. I replied that I was waiting for the ‘slow lap’. He just looked at me. Hmmm.
I waited a bit more, and whiled away some time dancing and also dodging the flying rubber. I then decided that I was just too scared. So we called it a day and the decision was unanimous to just actually practice the drifting on the road home! We made a pact to come back to the next drift meet in a month’s time, where I would defo get the ride!
FAST FORWARD TO THE NEXT DRIFT MEET….
So it was the Bank holiday weekend, yippee!! I arranged to meet my friend and sister at the drift track that afternoon. It was cold so I wore runners, yoga pants, tracksuit, six layers of upper clothes and a recycled fur coat. I didn’t even forward plan as to think what outfit goes with a helmet or post-ride helmet hair. I was the first one there so I got the obligatory cup o’ tea and had a chat with the lads about the passenger ride. I was told that Alan* would sort me out.
As I waited, I watched the cars drift round and round. The smell of burning rubber (now impregnating my hair and clothing) came back to me from last time. I love it! I decided that I was just going to go for it, despite how scared I was. But who would film me? Who would carry my pleather black-with-gold-trim clutch-from-Penneys, and most importantly, who would upload me onto social media????
Hooray; then my ‘crew’ turned up, and social media channels breathed a sigh of relief.
I was ready to go! I was given a silver helmet – which (thank goodness) matched my tracksuit bottoms and my runners. I had to take my recycled fur coat off and I was strapped in at the crotch area which was totally appropriate apparently. There was a massive sticky uppy gear stick up high in the middle of the BMW 3 series. We screeched out of the pits and on to the track. My friends said they could hear me scream from track-side!
I proceeded to scream.
There was burning tyre rubber coming up through the car floor, come to think of it I wasn’t sure if the car had a floor. The driver flung the car around the track, skilfully drifting from one side to another at top speed.
I was still screaming.
Then we went round and round and round! I thought we had broken down but it was called a doughnut! I loved it and screamed even more. Wizzed round the track a couple more times, screaming, laughing and non-stop smiling! What an experience. When I we came to a stop and I was released from my crotch belt. I was totally ecstatic. This must be what it feels like to give birth! It was a life experience! I thanked the driver and all the lads profusely and ran to the canteen/club house, screaming ‘I got da ride!’
They were all super happy for me.
I drove home in a state of wonderment and with burn smelling rubber hair, with a big fat grin on my face.
I would like to thank the super friendly, hospitable, helpful people at Pallas Karting. And would definitely recommend it as a fun day out! They do all sorts of events and are very active through Facebook. I would also like to thank my friend Bonnie Boyle and my sister who shared the experience with me. I would also like to thank my other friend who asked me if I ‘was the oldest person there?’
The answer is ‘no’
At BitchMittens HQ, we have skydivers, jockers, climbers, runners, jockeys and more. But Ellen takes the trophy for MOST SHIT DONE IN ONE MONTH. Emily once went bouldering and kayaking in the same month. But Ellen’s gone angling and drifting in the same week. She wins. #Badass #2Fast2Furious.
We love her!
*Alan’s name has been changed to protect his identity plus the fact Ellen cannot remember his actual name. (Sorry Alan!)
Please note that PBM does not endorse getting into fast cars with strange boys!
(Where the intrepid Ellen goes lake-fishing and compares it to the trials and tribulations of the online dating site, Plenty of Fish)
Every good story starts with an outfit. Starting from top to fishtail. For POFL you’ll need a warm hat, long hair down and ideally facial hair required for maximum heat benefits (please see iconic fisherman Captain Birdseye, errrr and yes he is real life), waterproof coat with hood, 16 layers of clothing, waterproof pants and boots, glare glasses optional. Match everything and give up looking like a lady.
In contrast, POF outfit is usually just slackers clothing but pretending you are wearing something/nothing else, wink, wink.
Launching and navigating of boat on lake is a #manjob so find someone who knows what they are doing. This might require cash. It also helps if they are attractive too. Navigating your way around POF through the age-inappropriate ONS (one night stands), marrieds and perverts however, is unavoidable!
POFL Guide will have the expert knowledge to take you to various spots on the lake which will hopefully have fish, Brown Trout, Northern Pike, Perch, Roach, Salmon, Common Bream etc…
POF has loads of old trouts, trout pouts, slimy fish, slippery fish, common fish, wet fish and threesome fish.
The technique required to actually cast lures/artificial bait (which look like fish) to catch the fish can be learned. First you have to select your lure. There are some super camp glitter ones which I highly recommend or ones that look like small fish and even rat ones (the rat ones can also be found on POF!). You attach the lure on the end of the line then you must learn to cast, which requires new brain patterning. This is done in three steps which involve taking the lure to the mid point(ish) f the rod on the line, winding the reel till it is level with the rod, taking the two fingers around the line above the metal bar, opening the reel and then bringing the rod behind or more to the side of oneself and chucking the rod (whilst holding on to it) and releasing the lure on the line.
How many stages was that again? OK, so then trying to remember and execute the stages in a functioning manner takes about half an hour. Once you have done this correctly and the lure has (hopefully) flown through the sky and landed a bit of a distance away in the water, you shut the reel off and start to reel the lure in. Those are the basics. Then you have to make the lure look like it is swimming or even better make it swim like a sick fish as ‘Pike are opportunistic and love a sick fish’… also please see POF for opportunists. This is a skill in itself and is done by keeping the rod down in the water and making the rod go left, right, left to make to lure appear to be swimming. My lure looked like it wasn’t able to swim! A none swimming fish!
If there appears to be no fish on one part of the lake the guide will take you to other spots with the speedboat. This requires more layers of clothes then you think and waterproof boots, the guide will advise you what to wear before you leave for your trip but you can choose to ignore what he/says and remain ‘bang on trend’, freezing and wet and believe me you will get wetter than you think, unlike POF.
It can be truly blissful and almost like a meditative state casting, reeling in, ‘unleash the reel, cast, the lure, reel in, repeat’. My mantra whilst doing this was ‘please don’t catch a fish, please don’t catch a fish’. Watching swans fly overhead, a single bee low buzzing just on top of the water, being in nature and listening to the silence and stillness of it all, one feels like one is in a Planet Earth episode without any animals humping or eating each other.
The quietness of the lake is broken by being on a ‘drift’, this is where you let the boat drift (nothing to do with speeding cars, flying rubber and stick shifts, please see next blog) with the wind and current, by the excitement of a fish taking the lure and being reeled in as the rod bends with an almighty force into the lake. I was totally not expecting this or mentally prepared, so it involved a lot of screaming and running up and down the boat, holding the back of my hand to my forehead and trying not to faint. I am so not a drama queen. The fish that came out of the water was massive a seven-year-old Jerkster Perch which was totally the same size of Jaws…I was then instructed to do various things by the guide which I was barely able to do for all the dramatics…Anyways we managed to measure the fish (same, same POF always good to take a tape measure on a ONS FYI). It measured 1 meter 10 centimetres (you don’t get that on POF so I am told). I had never seen a fish as big as that in my whole life, let alone seen a real-life jerkoff perch. He weighed 22 something or others and then the guide put him back in the water.
We had been on the lake for about 3/4 hours and on the ride back to the harbour I was able to reflect on the experience as a whole. It was exhilarating, fun, and great to learn new skills but it was also calming, relaxing and quiet. I don’t know how I would have felt if I had actually caught a fish, probably cried! But I totally enjoyed the experience as a whole. The main thing was that when I got home I had a tan from the wind! How cool was that? I would also choose to have different life experiences such as POFL rather than be on POF FYI, ONS, STI, DHL.
Notes from the Ed
Ellen would like to thank her lovely guide for the day. She went out with Fishing Holidays – Pecheirelandepassion.com. You can find them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/peche-irlande-passion-107397099307685/.