After winning in 2017, Azara García returned to Transgrancanaria, taking third this year. In the following interview, she talks about why she’s changed up her running calendar, what races that means she’ll be running this year, how she changed her approach from her 2017 Transgrancanaria, and how coming back from injury has changed her attitude about racing.
[Note: The forthcoming transcript will include longer translations of Azara’s answers. Thanks to Alvaro for facilitating this interview with his translation!]
Read our results article to find out what else happened at the front of the race.
Azara García Post-2020 Transgrancanaria Interview Transcript
iRunFar: To start I want to ask you, many races you’ve ran are shorter ultras or marathon. Why did you choose to do Transgrancanaria this year?
Azara García: Previous seasons, we chose the marathon distance, because it was a requirement from the Spanish Athletics Federation in order to go to the [trail or mountain running] world championships, because we were headed to compete in that distance. This year, I decided that I’ve sacrificed too many seasons for the Federation, when they aren’t really good with us, so we decided that the calendar this year was going to be focused in ultras. I’ve been wanting for many years to run ultras and races I’ve had to quit before, and this is the year to do them.
iRunFar: And you’ve made sacrifices for the Federation, and maybe, not in the other direction.
García: Sure, that’s what I thought this year. It’s been too many seasons; this year I’ll make the calendar.
iRunFar: Now, you’re here in Transgrancanaria, and from the start you ran very strong. Was that your plan?
García: We weren’t arriving here strong, as I’ve only had three weeks…not even four weeks for preparing Transgrancanaria as I’ve been injured. I’ve had injury problems since November. So my strategy was not to start really fast as I did it in 2017, and it went wrong. I went off on a controlled pace, controlling my heart rate on a comfortable pace, and I felt good. I’ve had some stomach issues during the race that were really painful and wasn’t able to eat almost the whole race. So, I got the famous ‘bonk’ and had a real bad time.
iRunFar: That just continued to be difficult, your stomach, was it the main problem on the race?
García: It was hard during the downhills. On flat and uphills, I could control it a bit better. But when going down, with the impact, my belly started hurting a lot. I’ve had a moment when it looked like if I didn’t eat, it felt better, but then, of course, I had to eat a gel or salt, because otherwise it would’ve been impossible, so my stomach started working wrong again. I’ve had a rough time, but I’m happy because I was able to control it and finish the race. Then, also the rivals had me so pressured that sometimes I forgot about the stomach… it was a beautiful race.
iRunFar: Kaytlyn [Gerbin] passed you just before Roque Nublo. Did you try to run with her?
García: I made it first to Roque Nublo, got the timing control, and when I turned around she was arriving. And when we started going down, she left me behind on the technical parts, as she’s a really good downhiller.
iRunFar: So when did she just went… gone?
García: I was close to her for a while, but then I lost her with the issue we had at Garañón. We got there together, but the marathon start was happening. She was quicker than me and avoided the jam, and I got stuck with the people from the marathon and couldn’t run. Then, she suddenly appeared aside me on the downhill again, she was lost at some point. But then she got back to the race.
iRunFar: When did Kaytlyn leave for good?
García:. She went past me like a bullet, and haven’t seen her again. Also she was fast squeezing in between the runners, and as I’m a little small it was harder for me.
iRunFar: The second half of the race you are in second position, when did you know Fuzhao Xiang was close to you?
García: Arriving to Ayagaures aid station, you can constantly see on the downhill, and I was checking as I also felt horrible, and saw her. I suspected she’d pass me.
iRunFar: What did you think when the Chinese woman passed you?
García: It was fun, we were running on the cliffs and almost 1km or 2km before it ends, there’s a small aid station. I looked back and didn’t see her, so I stopped to refuel. I was almost done filling my soft flask when someone said: “The Chinese lady just passed you.” I tried to go and run behind her, and said “bah.” I went back, and started eating and drinking again because I was really, really bad.
iRunFar: Was it the stomach or the mind?
García: My mind was pretty well, in fact, I say I was able to manage the race as I get nervous when problems happen, and it affects my performance. However, we’re working on that pretty well and I was able to manage it great. When I saw her, the usual me would’ve ran behind her without water or food like crazy. So I said “no, don’t be crazy,” because I couldn’t leave the aid station without food or water, I stayed easy and then continued.
iRunFar: Are you happy with your performance?
García: Yes, a lot, because it was complicated for me since November after the Mountain Running World Championships in Argentina. I was constantly injured and couldn’t get where it came from, and when we finally found what was the problem, we only had three weeks and a half for Transgrancanaria. In fact, we didn’t book the tickets until the end, because we weren’t sure of coming. So being here with so little preparation after many months injured, and getting a third place in between some of the best in the world, makes me proud and happy.
iRunFar: Are you content with your sun cream?
García: I’m really burned… headlamp, headband… ready for the pictures.
iRunFar: This season is for you, your calendar. This year, what other races will you try?
García: This season the goal is to make the Ultra-Trail World Tour, with a main goal of being at UTMB. That’s the biggest goal for me. And then other races from UTWT like Transgrancanaria, Lavaredo Ultra Trail, Penyagolosa, and UTMB. We’ll also do Transvulcania Ultramarathon, Les Templiers… all ultras. A big season.
García: Thank you.