Transgrancanaria 360° Part 2 - When quitting is not an option
The second big climb: 750 vertical meters. Cristina passes me as I’m always slow on uphills. She looks so strong! Why can’t I run upward that easily? Does it always have to be this feeling of passing out at any moment? What am I doing wrong? I’m hydrating and eating gels as scheduled, but still feeling like shit. My feet are barely moving, I’m as slow as a snail. Celine and Herve are passing me as well. No giving up at this moment! I force myself to follow them. Rocks and thorns, more rocks and thorns… The heat is punishing me for something I guess. At last - the top of the mountain. The dusty dirt road and a pipe full of water that runs along with it. It is torturing to hear the sound of running water, but not being able to touch it. All I can dream about is a refreshing spatter in the face but all I get is a cloud of brown dust, as it follows the passing car. Oh, thanks, not exactly what I wanted, though! Okay, if I call myself a runner I should run, right? The dirt road goes slightly uphill and I force myself to jog. I can do it! I’m still keeping up with the French couple. We pass through the empty village and there’s another mountain to climb. This time the water channel that runs along the path is open and I can get as much refreshment as I like. The view is changing, no more wasteland at last. The course is quite picturesque as the path is winding through the pine forest on a mountain slope. The magnificent sight of the valley on our left is a feast for my eyes. The French couple slows down and I can enjoy my run alone. The beautiful path changes into a rocky serpentine, which ends on the mountain top. At last, I am in my element - downhill running is my thing!
The path is rocky, uneven, and there’s scarcely any vegetation around again. It’s ok with me as long as it goes down the hill. I’m going to enjoy it! This surface, though, demands extreme caution, and suddenly I find myself flying and landing on the gravel. Damn it! This hurts! My belongings are scattered down the path but at least I managed to secure my navigator. Pay attention to the road, woman! I get up to continue my run. Concentrate, you fool! You have 230 kilometers yet to go! I’m doing my best at watching the track, but the very moment I take a glance at the navigator, I trip over a nasty little stone again. Time seems to slow down when you’re falling. Nevertheless, the impact is inevitable. I’m landing on my belly with knees first. For a moment I’m lying flat on the ground, struggling to catch my breath. I’m afraid to move - anything to delay the part where I have to face the consequences. What have I done? Is the race over for me? The pain hits me like a wave. It is sharp and unbearable. Tears start bursting over my cheeks as I finally take the courage to look at my knees. This is it, I’m out. I’m even not able to stand up. My leggings are torn. There are only a few small bruises on my left knee, but there is an enormous, bleeding wound, full of gravel on my right one. What should I do now? The disinfectant spray will be useful again. Done, there is only so much I can do for the wound. I have to move further, nobody can help me here, in the middle of nowhere. My hands are hurt and swollen as well - they took part in the landing as I was protecting my face again. The only part of my body that doesn’t hurt right now is the back - I guess it’s just jealous of not being my number one problem anymore. Celine and Herve are passing by and asking if everything is okay. Yeah, right - do I look okay to you, bleeding here on the roadside?! But I just nod and say that I will be. Somehow I manage to stand up and start to shuffle along. There is a small town several kilometers ahead. I should get at least that far. The route leads down the hill. A steep, winding and rocky path. I cannot enjoy it at all, I’m barely able to move. The knee stiffens more and more and my pathetic limping down the hill feels like torture. When I finally reach the end of the path, someone has to hear about my misfortune. No more damn rocks. I was kind of hoping, that my mom and husband will suggest that I quit the race. Well, if not the husband, then at least my mom - that’s what she always does. But no. They are cheering me up, telling me to find the pharmacy to get something for my knee. What’s wrong with you, people? Don’t you care about me at all? It hurts like hell. How on earth am I going to make 220 kilometers more on these crazy paths? But there is no point in dropping out of the race anyway as I have nowhere to go. It’s only Wednesday, the hotel room is booked starting from Friday when my husband Edijs arrives. Even if I find another hotel, what will I do? Just lie down feeling sorry for myself? Maybe I should. On the other hand - I could reach the first basecamp at La Aldea, have some sleep, and then rethink this all over again.
The asphalt road leads straight to Mogan - checkpoint with a time barrier. I spot the race organizer’s car and the emergency vehicle as well. There are Cristina and some other participants - relaxing and refilling their hydration systems. I could use some water, too. With a somewhat suspicious look, the organizers agree to pour some water over my knee to wash off all this bloody mess. It looks like the medics have spotted me, one of them is already approaching. I’m not sure that I want this, what if they tell me to drop out? I don’t want to be told what to do. This has to be my own decision! Here he is. The paramedic almost drags me to the emergency vehicle. I’m seated on the floor with my legs hanging outside. I don’t understand a word the medics say, but they are very cute. Laughing and joking all the time they are showing me that my leg will be amputated quickly and then I’m free to run further. I cannot help but laugh. My knee starts to look better as the lady doctor cleans it and scrapes out all the gravel. Still quite impressive - time to send some pictures to my family and friends. The hole in my leggings has been cut out even bigger, now the wound is completely exposed. I’m good to go. Really? Just like that? With a bare knee? Shouldn’t the wound be covered or something? What if I fall again? What about all those nasty thorn bushes and other aggressive plants? It’s a pity I don’t understand Spanish. I should learn it one day - I come here too often.
I’m hesitating to follow the route out of the city. I need some ice tea and coke and maybe even ice cream. But most of all I just need a hug. Well, I’m not going to get one here. Coke and ibuprofen will have to do. Sitting on a roadside bench I feel completely broken. I have 30 kilometers with two significant climbs left till la Aldea basecamp. Should I take more ibuprofen? How much is too much? After a moment of doubt, I swallow one more pill and drag myself back to the road. Let’s do the suffering!
I climb and climb. The village can now be seen somewhere far below. I’m alone for quite a while. Where are you, people? Ibuprofen is working well, the pain is not as sharp and much more bearable. Finally, I’m cresting the hill at my snail's pace. I cannot crawl that slow forever. I grit my teeth and start running slowly. It is very unpleasant, but I get used to it as time goes by. The view is stunning again. The sunset is painting the majestic rock on the other side of the valley in beautiful shades of orange. So impressive! Around the other curve of the path, I find a runner, sitting on the roadside, enjoying the view. I feel a sudden urge to sit down with him and admire the view together - it is always much nicer to share something that beautiful with another person, but no. Nonsense! Firstly - I don’t force my company on strangers, secondly - I’m not a weirdo. Last, but not least - my knee is so stiff, I cannot squat down. That is why I continue to run downhill.
I am still full of strength. The path leads down to the highway, turns sharp to the left, and goes further downhill through the rocks and bushes. It’s getting darker. Time to put on the headlamp - the last thing I want is to trip over something again. The route leads through an empty village again. Lights are on, but nobody’s on the streets. The next big climb is about to start here. Streets are getting steeper, and at one point I cannot understand, how they drive here. How come those cars are not just falling backward? Streets are almost vertical. Walking is so hard. As a bonus, I pick the wrong way in the crossroads but luckily discover my mistake soon enough. Standing in the crossroads, confused by the navigator I just can’t figure out which way to go. Too many lines. Two guys are approaching and saying: “It’s you again!” What? Do I know you? They are saying they’ve been using me as a navigator for a while. Okay, whatever - I will be using them now. And it’s nice to have company for a change. I’m just following and not paying attention to the navigator. They come from the German-speaking countries, but time after time I’m being entertained with jokes in English. Funny guys.
Wow, a photographer! In the middle of nowhere! I smile and run as gracefully as I can. Isn’t it too dark for this? How weird. Looks like my companions are either speeding up or I’m turning into a snail again, but soon all that is left of them are a couple of lights on a dark, monstrous wall ahead. Well, this looks like one tough climb. Tough and endless. Because it’s so dark you can’t tell where the mountain ends and the sky starts. The scenery is magic. I can see city lights far below and the starry sky above. It’s breathtaking. This is what I am here for. This feeling. My knee is only bothering me when I’m doing serious uphill power-hiking. There are some big rocks on the path and from time to time I have to crawl over them. Soon enough there are piles of these loose rocks and I realize I’ve lost the track. I’m standing on the edge of an abyss as it seems in the dark, surrounded by the labyrinth of rocks. I can feel my anxiety rising. I don’t remember which way I came from. Concentrate, woman! The navigator is confused as well. Luckily I manage to get back on track. Oh, thank God! There is a light in front of me, the German guys? No, it’s an elderly runner, who gasps and moans so dramatically, that I ask if he needs any help. He just steps off the path to give way. He probably doesn’t understand me. We continue to climb together and soon his moaning starts getting on my nerves. Unfortunately, I’m not fast enough to run away.
“What goes up, must come down…” A huge, almost full moon greets us on the summit. It’s so surprisingly bright, that when I’m running downward again, I mistake it for a following runner’s headlamp. For some moments the dirt road is soft and pleasant for running, but soon enough it ends in the rocky field without any sign of a path. It’s one of those places where you cannot trust the navigator. I pick one direction only to find out it’s a dead end. A moment later I’m struggling on a slippery slope and finally stopping on the edge of a cliff. Wonderful. As I don’t know how to fly and don’t want to jump I should turn back. Working my way through the aggressive bushes, I just can’t get this one question out of my mind - what the heck am I doing here!? On my hard-earned vacation. Paying my own way. Hey, the navigator beeps that we are back on track. Yes, I can see - it’s nasty, steep, with lots of loose stones, yet beautiful. The stones are not brown or gray but burgundy and white. Such an interesting color combination for a path, but weird, on the other hand. I see lights ahead and hear a distant sound of the German language. Seems like a good reason to speed up, and soon it’s my turn to yell: ”It’s you again!”, as we reach the village. I can keep up with these guys only for a moment. The village or town, I’m not sure, is completely empty. There must be a lot of dogs around - the sounds of their barking come from every corner. I’m not exactly fond of dogs, that’s why it’s so disappointing to see the guys moving away so quickly through scary, abandoned greenhouses. It’s up the hill again, don’t ask me to run. Nevertheless, I’ve caught up with somebody again. It’s Cristina and her companion, who speaks only German. I have a sudden boost of energy and I’m rushing away as fast as I can. La Aldea is close, but my navigator is giving up. If only it could last as far as the city border… No, not tonight. I have to sit down and change the batteries. As I’m sitting on the roadside Cristina and her companion are passing me by. The poor guy notices my bloody knee, turns back to say something, and steps off the path. This is like a movie scene. He is falling backward down the slope, waving with his poles in the air. Somehow he manages to catch hold of a bush and stays there hanging. Somebody’s screaming. That’s me, of course. The guy looks calm. He crawls back to the track and continues to run with Christina as if nothing happened. What was that? Did it happen for real? Hee-haw, hee-haw… Only the sound of a donkey braying loud over the valley as if it was mocking someone. I got the navigator working again and ready for the last stretch to La Aldea. This city is huge and empty. Okay, it’s midnight, maybe it is a little late for people to be outdoors.The base camp is full of people. The medics are here, too. Excellent. The wound has to be cleaned again. I don’t even want to imagine what would happen in the case of infection. There is one good-looking and helpful volunteer who speaks English. That’s good, I don’t have to do pantomime in front of anybody to show them what I need. I’m one hour behind my schedule, but considering the circumstances, it is quite excellent and somehow I don’t even care. First things first. I need some good food, a decent WC and some fresh clothes. The night seems to be getting colder so I put on my waterproof pants and jacket. That sucks. The material is sticking on to my wound and making it hurt even more. Will I get used to it? Suddenly I feel so lonely. Many runners around here have their support teams. I notice Celine and Herve. His bald head is stained with blood. Everybody here has some kind of a battle of their own, I guess. I could call my family, but it’s too late, they are sleeping. When I finally get to the bathroom I notice someone in the mirror. Well, hello there, you old crone! The witch of Canarias herself! No wonder: I’ve got 70 kilometers with 3308 meters of a vertical climb and an epic fall behind me already. And what is yet to come? I have to go further to the second basecamp and find it out!