A week in paradise: Tenerife

Arriving on the island of Tenerife, officially a part of Spain but located off the coast of north Africa, is like leaving the real world and entering a fake beach paradise world. At the end of January, nineteen member of the OSI running team had left foggy, cold Oslo for a week of sun, running and good times.

Urd, Hanne Marthe and Fredrik enjoy a morning run on the promenade.

Life at the training camp was very simple: run, eat, relax, repeat. Eating was easy; there was even a breakfast buffet at the hotel where we could spend an hour every morning shovelling down pancakes with dulche de leche, omelettes, fruit, pastries and bacon. I expected the whole relaxing part to be difficult, but running two-a-days is conducive to wanting to lie still. A lot. Especially when one of the runs is a track workout.

A row of OSI runners, lying still. Photo: Fredrik

We put in three track workouts in our 8 days there. If you had asked me before the trip if I thought I would run all three, I would have said "No way!" I would never have made it through all the tough workouts without my team mates. Being tired was no excuse; everyone was running the same amount and was just as tired as you. It helped that we were a group of 5 five girls who were fairly evenly matched and could run the workouts together. We would often plan out who would set the pace for each interval, psyching each other up as we prepared for the workout.

There was, of course, an ongoing competing to have to shortest shorts and the fastest sunglasses at the track workouts.

The OSI Girl Power Train, Roque del Conde in the background. Photo: Fredrik
We didn't spend to whole week running on the track. Me being me, I quickly discovered there are mountains (big ones!) on Tenerife, and begin hatching plans to get on top of something. The first (mis)adventure came early in the week, when the OSI group climbed Roque del Conde, the iconic peak that towers above the track at Las Americas.

Beelining it for the summit.
Some miscommunication (I thought only some of the group wanted be going up the mountain, turned out everyone wanted to go) lead me to run the first, paved section out of Las Americas twice, and I was hot and bothered by the time we finally headed up towards the mountain in earnest.

Stephan, Brit Ingunn, Hanne Marthe and Fredrik on the cactus-infested trail.
Still, I was happy to be headed up a mountain, albeit a cactus-infested one. The road ended, and our route to the summit followed steep, dusty trails that lifted us above the coast. The trail faded to faint traces in the dirt, but eventually we wound around the mountain and hooked up with the main trail to the summit from Arona (where most people hike from). Some in our group became impatient and tried to head straight up the mountain, but off-trail equalled cactus and I think they may have regretted their decision.

Fredrik gazes at the ocean. Photo: Pål
Stupidly, I was carrying only 1 liter of water, and I realized I was drinking it far too quickly as we reached the top of Roque del Conde. From the summit, the long downhill to the sparkling sea stretched below our feet, and behind us Pico del Teide and the high inland mountains loomed.

Me, Hanne Marthe and Urd on the summit of Roque del Conde.

We found an absolutely magnificent trail down from the summit. It was steep and technical to begin with, and gradually became more and more runnable. The group grew spread out on the descent, and I felt rather responsible for making sure everyone found the way home (since the whole expedition was my idea). After spending 20 minutes helping someone remove a thorn from their shoe, I was ready to move, fast. Luckily we were almost at the road, from whence the route finding grew easy, and I decided to book it for the last 5 K.

Fredrik and me on the steep part of the descent. Photo: Pål

I stomped into the hotel lobby some time later, covered in dust and parched, ordered an overpriced orange soda and drank it in one. It had been a fabulous day. {Strava here}

A couple of days later, after a particularly nasty track workout of 2000 m repeats, a group of us decided to take an easier day. We decided to go for a trail run in the morning and spend the rest of the day relaxing. Once again pouring over maps on the internet, I suggested to try to pick up a trail that climb up above some cliffs along the sea and connected the towns of Las Americas and Los Cristianos.

Pål and Hanne Marthe ascended the sea cliffs.

We were out at sunrise, and the trail was all I hoped for and more. It climbed steeply up to the cliff edge and rolled along, providing breath-taking views as the morning rays of sun slowly illuminated the landscape around us.

Christiane and Urd run along the cliff edge.
{Strava here}

Group photo from the morning run. From the left Pål, Stephan, Urd, Christiane, Fredrik, Hanne Marthe and me.

After the now familiar leisurely breakfast, we grabbed a taxi out of Las Americas to check out La Caleta beach a little ways down the coast. We hiked over a hill and down to the beach, and began to spot assorted colorful tents. The beach turned out to be a kind of free area of all sorts of hippies and vagrants. There was a also a strong nudist faction, but luckily nudity didn't seem to be obligatory.

The ambiance at this beach was completely different from the more groomed tourist beaches where overweight Europeans lay on tanning beds with umbrellas. We spent the day on the beach snacking and jumping in the waves and getting all of our clothes and possessions filled with sand.

La Caleta beach and hippie camp.
On our last day, we headed into the mountains again. Originally, everyone (including me) had been eyeing the 3718 m Pico del Teide. However, upon discovering you needed permits to go all the way to the summit, I started searching around of alternatives. Guajara, Tenerife's 4th highest mountain at 2715 m, seemed like a good consolation prize.

Six of us shared a taxi to the charming alpine village of Vilaflor and began the steep ascent. Pål turned early, feeling the effects of what we would call the 'Tenerife flu' that nearly everyone suffered in the weeks after the trip. Hanne Marthe had also caught Tenerife flu and turned before the summit.

The moon landscape on the way up Guajara. Photo: Fredrik
Despite the ever-present sun, it was much chillier at the higher altitude. The wind picked up as we ascended into from pine forests into the barren volcanic landscape. I was glad to have brought a wool top, hat and mittens in addition to my Goretex jacket.

Fredrik on the way up Guajara.
The summit was just across the valley from Pico del Teide. A long ridgeline stretched out from Guajara, and I was tempted to extend the run and explore the mountains further. But excess of 130 km in 7 days was getting to my legs, and I did the wise thing and ran the same way down. {Strava here}

On the summit of Guajara, above Pico del Teide. Photo: Fredrik
We toasted an excellent week with beers and food at the only café in Vilaflor before headed back to tourist central. Filled with sun and camaraderie, it was time to back our bags and head home to snowy Norway. Our real lives were waiting.

- The Wild Bazilchuk