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Yitka Winn Friday, 20 September 2013 08:51 TWEET COMMENTS 0

Venga! Venga! - Page 6

Runners combat soft sand on the climb up to the course's high point, Rogue de Los Muchachos, at 7960 feet. Photo by Yitka Winn.

Skyrunning is a sport in which “running” is really only one piece of the puzzle. In preparing for a sky race, it is not enough to log big miles; Kilian, after all, would take the win in this year’s Transvulcania on less than one week of actual running in training. Otherwise, he’d spent his winter, as usual, competing in ski-mountaineering races. In the weeks before the race, many speculated that Kilian would not have the running-specific training under his belt to adequately prepare him for this year’s race.

Wrong they were. In Skyrunning, factors beyond simple leg-turnover speed matter, too—the heart and lungs’ ability to thrive at altitude, the legs’ power to handle relentless vertical climbing and descending. Perhaps, above all, one must have the fortitude to not simply run, but to fly, across technical terrain where one misstep could mean disaster. It is this precipice between cautious tip-toeing and confident soaring that distinguishes between the elites of Skyrunning and susses out its champions.

At the course’s high point, a giant, air-conditioned tent offered a space for cooling off, while volunteers doled out pasta from large vats. Combining ultrarunning in 90-degree temps with Europe’s deodorant-averse culture then covering it all with
a giant canvas tent doesn’t lead to the freshest scents—but nothing could deter me from the hedonistic pleasures of cool air, shade and a plate of pasta.

Later, when recounting the race
with Canaday, who’d finished third, I mentioned the tent and was met with a blank stare. “I don’t remember a tent,” he said. Then, after a moment: “Oh, you mean the tunnel?”

Yes, I could see how clocking six-minute miles across the tops of volcanoes might make a tent seem more like a “tunnel.” Not for me. I savored every bite of pasta amidst new friends, before beginning a quad-shattering 20-kilometer descent to the seaside town of Tazacorte—the last aid station before a steep, four-kilometer climb on pavement and cobblestone to the finish line in Los Llanos.

I could see the ocean and hear the bellowing crowds in Tazacorte for over an hour before reaching them. During the final, relentless switchbacks down a sheer cliff, we spread out enough that I once again felt alone—but only for so long, until the course suddenly spit me out onto a village street, where I was met with more cheers of, “Chica bonita, buena, buena!”


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