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L'Isla Bonita!

by Robert Britton
Monday 24th March 2014
 
 

Run247 columnist Robert Britton, member of the Great Britain 24hr Running Squad, Team Inov-8 and Team Centurion, has arrived at his 'shed' on the side of a volcano on La Palma, where he will be based in the run up to the Transvulcania Ultramarathon

Run247 columnist Robert Britton, member of the Great Britain 24hr Running Squad, Team Inov-8 and Team Centurion, has arrived at his 'shed' on the side of a volcano on La Palma, where he will be based in the run up to the Transvulcania Ultramarathon

It has been nearly 4 years to the day since I last set foot on L'Isla Bonita, one of the further most Westerly Island of Los Canarios, off the coast of Africa. Once again arriving on a ship, albeit a slightly larger one this time, brought back memories of a very different chap who had answered a Gumtree advert asking for "able crew to sail across the Atlantic Ocean".

The reply to the advert mentioned a level of experience that consisted of a university field trip in a rubber dingy on a Californian Lake, where a Bloody Mary was the breakfast of choice and an ability to cook. I failed to mention that we struggled to keep that mighty craft afloat and often had to hurry back to shore with air escaping and water coming on board and my cooking was limited to student cuisine and the odd meal to attempt to impress a lady. Popeye I was not, more likely Jonah, but Columbus in spirit, venturing into the unknown.

Arriving in La Palma was the last stage of a trial that started in Faro, Portugal, although it was not your usual test of sailing ability. The most important characteristics were an ability to cook, not complaining about sea sickness, being able to handle a drink or two and the fact I was small enough to be hoisted up the main sail for repairs (very handy when the main halyard snapped in the middle of the ocean).

We set off on the beautifully flawed and home built 43ft Adeline of Gweek in March 2010 and I was a mixture of Quartermaster, Cabin Boy, Chef, Apprentice Sailor, Entertainer and fisherman. A true jack of all trades and master of none which might  explain why it took us two weeks to catch out first fish!

In the three months that followed we crossed the Atlantic Ocean twice and the second time it was just the Skipper Chris, a Cornish man with a awkward tendency to let his balls hang out of the hole in his shorts, and I, working shifts of 6 hours on, six hours off for 3 weeks straight. I'd gone from the 5'8" coffin berth bunk to the First Mate's cabin, merely due to Chris' ability to scare crew off.

I returned to the UK for just two days and jetted off to South Africa for the brilliant Comrades Marathon and so great was the race I decided (well, my legs decided) that I would enjoy the experience for 11 hours and 39 minutes. The three months of sailing and drinking had seen me reach a solid fighting weight of 13 stone and left me wondering how Popeye kept in such great shape?

So now I am back on La Palma, fitter than I have ever been and once again off into the unknown a wee bit. I meet a German chap called Fritz at the ferry port and drive up into the hills to his little farm, which has a lovely hütte hidden away 350m up on the side of the mountain.

In my mind I romanticise the trip and liken it to the British cyclists venturing into Europe from the 60's onwards. Tom Simpson, Cav & Robert Millar putting everything on the line so that they never wondered "what if" and took their chances with the best in the World. You never look back and regret the years running up mountains? I'll get a "real job" when I'm 65, an inverted retirement as such.

The race of Transvulcania (HERE) has drawn me back to this island, the first in the SkyRunning series in Europe this year and with a starting list that is a who's who of World Ultrarunning, Kilian Jornet, Timothy Olsen, Ricky Lightfoot, Dakota Jones, Tom Owens (add a few more here). Almost as stacked a field as the Middle Fell fell race last weekend... Almost.

Having arrived here via a rather strange route, enjoying some success in UK 100 mile running and 24hr races, I have worked down to the shorter distances and out of my comfort zone. Most guys normally work up in distance and bring the speed with them, whereas I'm trying to find ways to make my little legs move a bit quicker!

After watching Aritz Egea, Eirik Haugsnes and David Schneider disappear up a wee 600m hill last weekend I know how far I still have to come, the hills, proper hills, are not my forte so why I've chosen a race with 2000m of climb in the first 18km as my first A race of the year I do not know? I do love a challenge.

So here I am, still seven weeks from race day, in a glorified shed next to a 5.4km trail that goes up 1550 metres. I know the old adage "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger" but as my heart attempts to escape from my chest in a hill interval session I wonder how close you are allowed to get.

My aim was a top ten finish in TV, but as more and more runners enter my task becomes harder still! Maybe I should have waited until race day before setting my aims, but it makes no difference now, I'll just have to work my socks off and see what happens. It's going to be a great day.

The Iznik ultra in Turkey is next up in the middle of April and a chance to see how training is going with a profile very similar to that of TV, up, up, up, down, along, up some more, down, down, down and then up again. Simple right?

Today's rest day has left me itching to get running again and Sunday is the first time I have a session long enough to get me up onto the ridge on which we'll be racing in May so I'll have some photos and a selfie for everyone then!

Until then I'll keep listening to Fritz's Jazz CDs, reading about Tom Simpson and assisting the La Palma economy by eating as many bananas as possible. We all need to do our bit!

Over the next few weeks I'll do my best to write about my time here and not become too strange with the lack of human interaction, but I've already shaved one side of my head so what hope do I really have?

Run247 columnist Robert Britton, member of the Great Britain 24hr Running Squad, Team Inov-8 and Team Centurion, has arrived at his 'shed' on the side of a volcano on La Palma, where he will be based in the run up to the Transvulcania Ultramarathon

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

About The Author

Robert Britton

Robbie is a 100 mile runner who is a member of the Great Britain 24hr Running Squad and Team Centurion and likes to run ridiculous distances as quickly as possible.

To provide enough food to feed a monster running habit, Robbie coaches other ultra marathon runners through www.robbiebritton.co.uk and is also a member of the coaching team at Centurion Running. He likes to dabble with a bit of writing so that others can learn from his mistakes and enjoy the sport as much as he does.

Robbie is also a is a Profeet ambassador.

www.robbiebritton.co.uk

"Pain is inevitable, suffering is just part of the fun"

 
 
 
 
 

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