2016 Transvulcania Ultramarathon Women’s Preview

2016 Transvulcania Ultramarathon logoThe Transvulcania Ultramarathon, is a 46.2-mile (74.3-kilometer), point-to-point race with 14,200 feet (4,350 meters) of ascent that crosses the major volcano making up the island of La Palma in Spain’s Canary Islands. The island’s tropical spring climate is sure to produce decent humidity and warm temperatures, which creates additional challenge. Significant wind, which is called the Calima wind and which bears the heat and sand of the not-so-far-off Sahara Desert, has impacted the race several times over the years. As the first race in the Ultra category of the 2016 Skyrunner World Series, the women’s field this year is deep! Though it’s only April, Transvulcania should turn out to be one of the more globally competitive 50-ish-mile races this year.

You can find out which top guys are racing in our men’s preview.

iRunFar will cover Transvulcania live starting at 6 a.m. local time (WEST) on Saturday, May 7, which is 11 p.m. (MDT) on Friday, May 6 in the U.S. Stay tuned!

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Top Contenders

Anna Frost - 2014 Transvulcania Ultramarathon

Anna Frost

Anytime Kiwi Anna Frost (pre-race interview) turns up fit to the start line of a burly mountain race, she’s a favorite. Given her history with and passion for Transvulcania, this is even more true here. Anna is the 2012 (interview, report) and 2014 (interview, report) Transvulcania champ, with her 2014 race being darn near miraculous. She had been injured all winter prior, had a very short window to train intensely, and came off with both the win and an 8:10:and change course record. Last year, Anna was here on La Palma, but couldn’t race due to a hip injury. However, she recovered from that in time to pull off a wicked American double: a win of the 2015 Hardrock 100 Mile (interview) and finishing the Nolan’s 14 route with Missy Gosney (interview) as the first two women to do so. Hopefully with a winter of time off and cross training, she’s fit and ready to roll this course once again.

Anna Comet - 2015 Transvulcania Ultramarathon

Anna Comet

Spain’s Anna Comet (pre-race interview) had a breakout race in finishing second here last year (interview), though she was a half hour distant of winner Emelie Forsberg in 9:02. As a relative ultra newcomer back then, however, she enacted a smart race by starting easy and coming on stronger as the race progressed. Anna raced frequently in the balance of 2015, including a second place at the Mont Blanc 80k and a fifth at Ultra Pirineu. I’m excited to see what she does this year with a full year of ultra experience under her belt.

Spain’s Uxue Fraile seems to be made for racing this kind of terrain. I believe Uxue’s run Transvulcania three previous times, in 2012, 2013, and 2014, finishing a respective fifth, third, and third. In 2014 she ran 8:48, which would have put her in second place last year and is pretty-dang fast on this course. Uxue had a heckuva 2015, taking sixth at the IAU Trail World Championships, second at UTMB (interview), and winning the Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji (interview). And so far this year she has been third at Transgrancanaria (interview). Uxue’s a patient runner, so expect to see her outside the women’s top five for quite some time and moving up in the second half of the race.

Alicia Shay

Alicia Shay

With her outstanding leg speed, road runner turned mountain runner Alicia Shay (pre-race interview) (USA) has all the potential in the world once she figures out the extra details of racing mountain ultras and if she can manage to stay healthy. Last year she finished fourth here, but she was less than three minutes from the podium–close! This spring, she won the Moab Red Hot 33k, finishing some eight-ish minutes ahead of third place Anna Frost, and she also won the Crown King Scramble 50k, coming within several seconds of a longstanding Ann Trason course record. She’s definite podium potential, but it’ll come down to her holding to together on the summit-to-sea technical descent in the race’s final third.

We’ve watched Anne-Lise Rousset (France) race a couple of times, and she’s been both fast early in the race and able to hang on for a decently strong position as the race goes on. Anne-Lise has one Transvulcania finish, fifth in 9:10 in 2014, which put her an hour back of winner Anna Frost and about 20 minutes behind Uxue Fraile who was third. Last year, we saw her finish fourth at the IAU Trail World Champs, where she finished ahead of sixth-place Uxue. We also saw her take third at Les Templiers last fall.

Mira Rai - 2015 Ultra Pirineu

Mira Rai

Nepal’s Mira Rai has been trail running for less than two years, and 2015 was her first year competing internationally. Standout results from last year include a win of the Mont Blanc 80k, 20 minutes ahead of Anna Comet, and a second place at Ultra Pirineu (interview), also head of fifth-place Anna Comet. Just this weekend Mira was in the U.K. racing the Three Peaks Race, where she took second.

The list of contenders for the women’s podium just keeps going on. Kiwi Ruth Croft, who lives in Taiwan, came onto our radar last year when she took second at the Tarawera Ultramarathon (interview), won the CCC–a UTMB sister race–in an extraordinarily fast time, and took fourth at The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships. Phew!

Jo Meek (U.K.) is another of those runners who I put in the category of having not yet reached her ultrarunning potential. On the world stage, we’ve seen her put up some great ‘flat’ ultras–a fifth at the 2014 Comrades Marathon and a fourth at the 2014 IAU 100k World Champs. Last December, she took eighth at the TNF EC 50-Mile Championships, where she raced in some more hills. Though Transvulcania represents a whole different kind of terrain, Jo’s familiar with the technical terrain of the U.K.’s Lake District and she’s also raced on the super steeps in Nepal.

American trail running phenom Jodee Adams-Moore has one Transvulcania finish, a sixth in 9:19 in 2014. Jodee kicks butt in U.S. races, but she’s not yet run to her potential abroad. Last fall, she was eighth at Les Templiers, and this spring she won the Gorge Waterfall 100k. I believe her potential to be the podium here.

Top-10 Potential

Hillary Allen

Hillary Allen

Hillary Allen (USA) is coming off a breakout 2015 in trail ultrarunning. Last year we saw her finish third at the Mont Blanc 80k behind winner Mira Rai and second place Anna Comet, set a course record at the Speedgoat 50k, and take second at The Rut 50k (interview). She had a bad day for her when she came in 12th place at Les Templiers last fall, at the end of a long season. I’m guessing she’s fresh and ready to rumble.

Magdalena Łączak (Poland) was fifth here last year. Also in 2015 she took second at Ice Trail Tarentaise, beating fifth place Anna Comet by a decent bit. Magdalena has about a five-year history with trail ultras, including a sixth at UTMB back in 2012.

The USA’s Kristina Pattison had a heckuva race here last year, finishing sixth and helping put two American women in the top 10 of a competitive Euro race. Elsewhere in 2015, she was sixth at the Mont Blanc 80k and fourth at The Rut 50k. Last year she ran conservative early and moved up at the race progressed. I’m guessing she’ll practice the same tactic, and I’ll be fun to watch how many people she picks off later in the race. Update May 6, 5 a.m. U.S. Mountain Time: Though here on the island of La Palma, Kristina Pattison is sick and won’t be running.

Christel Dewalle (France) is best known by the global trail community as the women’s vertical kilometer world-record holder. She’s raced several ultras, but I’m not certain that any of those has been in the last almost three years. Perhaps her best ultra result on record is a fifth place at the 2013 CCC. Update May 4, 8 a.m. U.S. Mountain Time: Christel Dewalle is running the vertical kilometer, not the ultra.

As far as I know, this will be Oihana Kortázar’s (Spain) longest race by several hours. She’s specialized in the last couple years in the Skyrunner World Series Sky division, and she finished sixth in the series last year. She’s clearly treating Transvulcania seriously as she raced on La Palma in early April at the Reventón El Paso 55k, evidently looking to acclimate to the island’s conditions, taking second. Update May 2, 11 a.m. U.S. Mountain Time: Oihana Kortázar is racing the marathon distance this weekend.

Anna Mae Flynn

Anna Mae Flynn

I’ll probably get flack for saying this, but I kind of wish U.S.’s Anna Mae Flynn wasn’t racing. We just saw her have a breakout race a month ago when she took third at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (interview), her first shot at racing 50 miles. And here she’s back at another long ultra. I see great potential in Anna Mae if she can harness and develop that talent sustainably. Anna Mae told me when I interviewed her after Lake Sonoma that she prefers steep and technical terrain. She’s certainly in luck this Saturday.

More Women to Watch

  • Gemma Arenas (Spain) — 4th 2015 Ultra Pirineu behind second place Mira Rai and ahead of 5th place Anna Comet, 3rd 2016 Reventón El Paso 55k behind second place Oihana Kortázar
  • Juliette Benedicto (France) — 2nd 2014 Les Templiers, has tried to race since then but has had trouble staying healthy, seems to have enormous potential if harnessed
  • Judit Franch Pons (Spain) — 19th 2015 Transvulcania, 9th 2015 Ultra Pirineu
  • Elisabet Margeirsdottir (Iceland) — 5th 2016 Hong Kong 100k
  • Ida Nilsson (Sweden) — Made her ultra debut in taking 2nd at the flat and fast 2015 UltraVasan 90k
  • Zoe Salt (U.K.) — 13th 2015 Transvulcania
  • Gabriela Sánchez Cabezas (Spain) — 10th 2015 Transvulcania
  • Adriana Vargas (Argentina) — 5th 2016 Transgrancanaria and more than an hour behind 3rd place Uxue Fraile
  • Manu Vilaseca (Brazil) — 5th 2015 Trangrancanaria and 10th 2015 UTMB, seems to excel as races get longer so Transvulcania might come up a little short in distance for her

On the Entrants List but Not Running

  • Ester Alves (Portugal)
  • Azara García (Spain)
  • Núria Picas (Spain)

Call for Comments

  • Who do you think are the likely women’s podium finishers from this field?
  • Know of anyone listed above who’s definitely not racing?
  • Who might we have overlooked? And who is particularly fit for this race? Let us know in the comments section!
Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com's Senior Editor, the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running,' and a Contributing Editor at Trail Runner magazine. The converted road runner finished her first ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places. For more information on Meghan and her adventures, please visit her personal website.

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