David Johnston Interview – Iditarod Trail Invitation 350 #ITI350 and Susitna 100

dave family

 

“This year’s Iditarod Trail Invitational begins in a couple days and I’m looking forward to watching what David Johnston does this time around. Will his recent 18-hour assault of the Susitna 100 hinder his ITI performance? Not many people would be bold enough to run a 100-miler as hard as they can a week before a 350 mile race in which they are trying to run as fast as possible, but Dave is one of the most bold racers I’ve ever come across. He’s also one of the most upbeat, happy, and likeable people you will ever meet. I’ve talked in the past about how ‘unbreakable’ I feel Steve Reifenstuhl’s foot record is at the ITI, but Dave might just be the one person who is crazy enough to try, and talented/experienced enough to pull it off. A year ago I would have said, no way could Dave ever run the ITI as fast as Steve did, but after his amazing run there last year, and his jaw dropping performance at Susitna last week, he has proven that it is within his grasp if the trail conditions are in his favor. He simply has an ability to drag a sled for long distances on snow really, really, really well. I would love to be out there giving it a go beside him, but that will have to wait for another year (or a few) for me. For now I’ll just have to settle for rooting for Dave from the warmth and comfort of my house here in Colorado. Go get ‘em, buddy!”

by Geoff Roes (posted on Facebook, Feb 21st 2014)

Geoff sums it up perfectly. I personally followed the Iditarod Trail Invitational closely last year (2013) as I had arranged with Joe Grant to monitor his progress with a series of step-by-step interviews to record his journey as he prepared for his first attempt at this epic 350-mile race. After the race in a candid catch up, Joe continued to be amazed by what the race leader, David Johnston had achieved, when I mentioned to Joe about my interview with David he said, ‘That’s awesome Ian. Look forward to hearing about it. Dave continues to run phenomenal races on these winter courses. Can’t wait to see what he does at the ITI this year.’

 

I caught up with David just 5-days after he set an incredible new course record at the Susitna-100. Running a time of 18:22, this smashed Geoff Roes 2007 record of 21:43 out of the park.

Believe it or not, today, Sunday 23rd February 2014, David won’t be at home with his feet up recovering, he will be on the start line of the ITI350 to see what he can do… again!

 

 INTERVIEW

IC: In last years punishing 350-mile ITI race, ultra runner David Johnston endured countless problems; sleep deprivation and hallucinations, nausea and diarrhea, sinus problems and a strained right knee. The soles of his feet were numb when he crossed the finish line, and the numbness persisted for more than a week afterward. (From http://www.adn.com)

But David Johnston returns for more!

DJ: Thanks Ian, great to be here.

IC: Last year we followed Joe Grant step-by-step as he prepared for the ITI. It was great to get an insight how he prepared and then catch up afterwards. One thing he said continually was. “This guy David Johnston has had an incredible run, what he has achieved is incredible’. From the outside looking in, the ITI is a small community. Not many know about this race. The 350-mile or the just crazy 1000-mile race; what is it for you that attracts you to this race and severity of course.

DJ: Living in Alaska is the big draw. You know, we Alaskans think of ourselves as locals, we cut our teeth on the shorter races and it gets in your blood and you think what is next? The ITI sits up there as the top shelf whiskey and you long to do it. So it’s great to get the opportunity and when you do, you give it your best.

IC: You completed the 2013 race in 4hrs 13min short of the previous record (considered unbeatable) did you go out for the record or did you just see how it goes?

DJ: When I started the race last year I think my main goal was to see if I could run the whole way. I didn’t know if I could do that. When I started off I was with Joe Grant. We were together for the first 30-miles. He asked, ‘what are you going to do?’ I said you know what, ‘Joe, I am gonna see if I can run the whole way.’ He replied by saying, ‘your nuts, you can’t run the whole way’. But I thought to myself I am gonna try… In the first 150-miles I went through some tough times. At mile 135 I left Fingerlake checkpoint and it was do or die. I probably shouldn’t have left but I was like an animal. I thought I would put my head down and just go for it. I hit mile 200 and I thought, you know what, I am close to the record. I thought lets go for it. I ran as hard as I could… even with 50-miles left I had to run within 10-hours (5-miles per hour). That is pretty much top speed on snow…

IC: That’s crazy! It would be hard enough trying to do that on fresh legs at the beginning but after 4-days? Wow; crazy.

DJ: (laughs) I pulled it off for a while but with 40-miles left I was on pace and then the snow started at it came harder and harder. My effort was reduced to 3-miles per hour and I could see it slipping away. I thought this is all I have got! I definitely had to put up with Mother Nature but that is this race! It was the first time I had ever decided to just go for it… You just don’t know what you will get?

IC: How do you just go for it when it is a 350-mile race in such tough conditions? You have touched on that you live in the environment so you will be far more savvy and aware of what you can and can’t do and of course what will and won’t work. I know that in the process Joe Grant went through, there are certain things that he had to guess. Once at the end, his learning curve was complete. Joe realized what he would do next time and things he wouldn’t do. Do you think that the success for you is that you know what works?

DJ: Yes, it’s a huge part of it. I learn daily. You learn the basics the first time but you never stop learning.

IC: Of course you have just completed Susitna-100 and we will come on to that soon. However it would be rude not to discuss your ITI350 from 2013 but part of the reason I am not talking in depth is because today, Sunday 23rd, you are about to go and do it all again… just 7-days after Susitna. What are the tips that you could provide for anyone competing in something like this?

DJ: Practice and practice. Get out with a sled everyday. Wear the shoes that you are going to wear and prepare the mind. The mentality of it can’t be underestimated. Get out in the cold conditions and get used to what you will have to endure. If you have an indoor track near your home, don’t use it! You need to be out and in the conditions to get ready. It’s just little things. It is interesting, in the snow I run so much better than on dry ground. I think it’s the excitement and the energy of the snow. The whiteness. You know, Christmas is my favourite holiday. Maybe it’s just like Christmas all the time. I can’t repeat my performances on dry land, that is a long term aim for me but something about the snow energizes me.

IC: I opened up our chat mentioning all those things; sleep deprivation and hallucinations, nausea and diarrhea, sinus problems and a strained right knee. How do you mentally focus to get yourself putting one front in front of the other? Is this natural or have you had to work on it?

DJ: You know what, luck plays a big part. Some days it just doesn’t work but I think of cold beer or a great song to help me push through. You know, the benefit of these races is that you just don’t have too many points that you can drop! So, even when you are low you have no choice but to continue. You know, you hit mile 60 and feel like death in a normal race and you can drop because it’s easy, so this is a big plus to racing out here. You are forced to go on.

IC: In terms of food and nutrition, how do you sustain yourself from day-to-day? The interview in adn.com mentions, Smarties and Pop Tarts. Is simple food and simple sugars the way to fuel yourself or do you need a good hot meal at an aid station?

DJ: I’m a big guy with size 12 feet so I need fuel. My biggest problem is my stomach. So that is 75% of the battle with me. If I can figure out how to make my stomach cooperate I will do fine. I am really careful taking in stuff. When my body allows it, I will eat what I can… hot meal or whatever. When my bodies complaining, that is when I kinda just nibble on Smarties or a piece of Pop Tart to try and keep some calories going in. The Susitna-100 last week I ran on probably only 200-calories. With the effort I was putting out I couldn’t take anything. I try to eat well the week and night before any race. It’s a weak link for m. I’d love to work it out one day.

dave susitna

IC: Okay, you mentioned Susitna-100, which happened just last weekend. You raced at Hurt-100 earlier this year, Gary Robbins won once again but you had a tough race and you dropped at 60-miles. Did that play on your mind going into the Susitna race or are the 2-races just so different it wasn’t an issue. I know Hurt was very hot and humid!

DJ: It was a huge disappointment. I went to Hurt in the best shape I have had for years. I was gunning for a top-3 position. I started out at a pace that I thought would do that but I just started to fall apart. The course is brutal. You know, up here in the winter you can’t come close to getting anything like that Hurt course. The other guys were flying over roots and rocks. No way I could run like that… I thought I could go out and tough it out and forge on but by mile 60 I was reduced to a stumbling walk and I thought, I gotta pull the plug. So, lining up at Susitna last week that was on my shoulders. You have 100’s of your friends at the line watching and they are supporting so you want to do your best. It was definitely a determining factor to go hard and not stop.

IC: Can you give us an insight into the course and the race, what is it like?

DJ: Oh man it is a neat race! You line up at a famous Iditarod dog mush kennel. You line up with 75-biker, 40-runners and 20 or so skiers and they say go…! This year it was so icy. It’s unique; it’s a race that I would recommend anyone to try. Particularly if they want to do the ITI or other winter races that require qualification. I’m not kidding you; at least 10-miles was like running on an ice rink. It was glare ice. On the rivers or lakes it was glare ice. This year was all about shoes. At the start I checked shoes and I was thinking, mmm, some of you guys will have an interesting run. Shoe experience is invaluable. I strapped on some new ice bug racing flats and those things grip like Spiderman. They are not a100-mile shoe so I got pretty beat up but when I hit the ice I started running 8-min miles. My sled would start to overtake me…

(Laughter)

IC: Okay, so that is how you broke the record?

DJ: Conditions were excellent. You know I went into this race a 60-mile brutal training run in Hawaii and so the confidence of the training and my preparation was excellent.

IC: Geoff Roes set the record in 2007. His time is over 2-hours slower than what you achieved this year. I guess having listened to what you have just said, I guess the ice wasn’t a bad thing because you knew and were prepared to run well in those conditions. You had the correct shoes but of course a big advantage is that the slid glides instead of you pulling it in soft snow.

DJ: The sled weighed about 24lbs with everything in it. As you say, it got great glide. The thing with a course record, every few years the course changes a little. Maybe 50% of the course was different? The distance is always spot on, always 100-miles but the courses are not the same. Also, when Geoff ran in 2007 he wasn’t in his prime. I think he would definitely have beaten his previous time with his form of a few years ago.

IC: You ran 18:22 and Geoff ran 21:43. A big difference! When you run a race like this and when conditions are good do you think about CR’s or is it a case of I will see how it goes?

dave training

DJ: I didn’t think about a CR. The courses are too unpredictable. I am hoping they keep this new course for a while but it will take a real effort to be at the time I have set, 18:22 will be super tough. I would almost say it is going to be impossible. My goal before the race was to break 20-hours. Only a few people knew this before the race and they shook their heads thinking it was crazy! I started out at a pace faster than 20-hours. Conditions for skiers were terrible. One of the top skiers was with me for a long time, at mile 35 he skies up behind me and says, ‘don’t you think you went out a little too fast this year?’ I agreed with him but thought, you can’t go back now so I put my head down and pushed on.

IC: Did you have any bad points?

DJ: Mile 45 or so I guess. I hit that point and my stomach was saying I don’t like you anymore. I was getting low on energy. I had a 10-mile stretch when I was struggling. I was thinking to myself that maybe I had gone out too fast. I had no choice. I wasn’t going to let myself down again so I stared at the snow and pushed as hard as I could. At mile 55 I cam out the other side; I think my body was using fat as fuel, I could tell the difference. At mile 60 you hit a resort that is road accessible and my 2-kids and wife met me. That picked me up. I actually hung out for 20-minutes with them. It was a great burst of energy. I realized the last 40-miles just needed to be done!

IC: So at 60-miles you hung out for 20-minutes. So, at this pint you weren’t covering ground… maybe the CR could be 20-min quicker? (Both laugh)

DJ: Normally I would have taken a 5 to10-min break but they had driven out to see me. We sat at the table while they ate… I couldn’t eat but I sat talking and shivering (laughs). The temperature was sort of cold but not cold if you know what I mean. I chattered my teeth and decided it was time to push on. My wife was begging me to slow down, ‘I don’t want to find you lying on the trail.’ My son told me I was nuts! It was great to see them, I just didn’t think about the time. Also the course was so hard. I took a beating out on the trail so the rest may have well been good. For the final 10-miles I was running 9-min mile pace which was great.

IC: Considering Susitna was last weekend and today, you embark on the ITI350, was this a long-term plan or have you just seized an opportunity?

DJ: This was always a long-term plan. It started 12-months ago after the 2013 ITI350. I knew I would do both races. In regard to how hard I would run Susitna I didn’t know that until a week before the race. I was doing one of my daily 10-mile runs with a sled and I was flying. I knew conditions were going to be opportune so I had to take advantage. When the gun went at Susitna I embraced the conditions and went hard. I hope the damage is done… a week is not long recovery especially when going into a 350-mile race. I went out a couple of days ago for a 5-mile run with the sled and I didn’t move too fast (laughs). I guess we will find out how the ITI350 goes. Many are shaking heads thinking I am crazy but hey, I have to give it a go.

IC: I guess you can start, see how it goes and you will know relatively quickly if it is a good idea or really a bad idea. I suppose the only thing that may happen, it may take a day before you feel good?

DJ: Yeah. We are starting to get some fresh snow; I was hoping for the super fast conditions but we have had fresh snow; which will slow things down. It is amazing what a few inches of snow can do. Just 3-inches can slow you down by 1-mile per hour. But I am going to go for it!

IC: You did 4-days 19-hours 14-mins last year and you were 37-hours ahead of 2nd. What’s the competition like this year.

DJ: I have some great competition. It’s hard to distinguish because you have runners doing both 350 and 1000-mile races. But everyone does the 350! So the harden 1000-mile races push hard for 350-miles and then rest for a day before pushing on for the 1000-mile journey. Tim Hewitt is one of the world’s best winter endurance athletes. John Logar raced with Joe Grant last year and I would say that Parker Rios will perform; he won Arrowhead in 2013.

IC: Well, I am really looking forward to following the action as the race unfolds. It has been really great to speak to you before the ITI350 and post Susitna. I am really looking forward to catching up with you after this year’s race so that we can have a blow-by-blow account of the 2014 ITI350 was like.

DJ: Thank you so much… I hope it’s a good blow-by-blow!

 

Notes and links:

All images ©davidjohnston

The Iditarod Trail Invitational

iditarod-route

The Race

The Iditarod Trail Invitational is the world’s longest human powered winter ultra. Beginning in Knik, Alaska it follows the Iditarod Trail to McGrath covering 350 miles. Ironically this is called the ‘short race’. They also have a ‘long race’ covering 1100 miles finishing at Nome, Alaska. Support is minimal. Two snow machines ride ahead of the leaders providing a broken trail to McGrath. Food drops are provided at 130 miles, 210 miles and in even numbered years a feed is provided at ‘Cripple‘ and odd numbered years at ‘Iditarod‘.

That’s it!

Between checkpoints, racers are solo or may work with each other. If they continue to ‘Nome’ for the 1100 mile journey once past McGrath it os solo all the way apart from a food drop at ‘Ruby‘. After that they can use village stores, mail packages ahead or possibly use a school for a warm nights rest. Hard core!

Somehow this quote seems a little understated: Tim Hewitt, six time finisher of the 1100 mile race said:

“It’s the toughest race in the world.”

History

The Iditarod Trail Invitational follows the historic Iditarod Trail. The famous sled dog route runs 1000 miles through frozen Alaska every March since 1973 in memory of those brave individuals who brought the important serum to Nome in 1925 during a diphterie outbreak. Using bicycles as a means of transportation on Alaska’s frozen rivers and tundra might seem a little odd and a crazy idea, but men looking for gold around 1900 that couldn’t afford a dog team actually used what they then called a “wheel” and followed the gold rush from Dawson City to Nome on the Yukon River on bicycles.

How do you get in?

This is the most remote and longest winter ultra race in the world.
Competitors in the human powered event go through an interview process with race organizers Bill & Kathi Merchant.

If they have the skills and knowledge to be self sufficient in cold weather, such as high altitude mountaineering experience or previous arctic expeditions they can enter the race.
Prior finishes in races such as the following are qualifying events.

 

 

 

Ultra Running Review of the Year 2013

Rob Krar UROC ©iancorless.com

What an amazing time to be involved in the sport of ultra running! The once niche minority sport has exploded to greater heights and distances in 2013. No longer is a long beard and ‘Buff’ a pre requisite of ultra running (unless you’re Rob Krar). Clean cut, young, fast is the new ‘ultra runner’ mixing it up with the old guard.
Just think back to this time last year, had you heard of Zach Miller (not the Zach Miller, but, the Zach Miller; confused?), Michele YatesRob Krar, Magdalena Boulet and Xavier Thevenard.
Racing and the opportunity to race has also increased to the extent that it is now possible to race pretty much week in and week out for 12-months of the year. Of course, this brings pluses and minuses, certainly from an elite level, runners need to be far more savvy and race clever. You can no longer race month on month and expect to win. Races now have much higher quality fields and the pace is going up. The growth of Skyrunning has been instrumental in enticing a world audience to test runners of all abilities on tough, technical and high-terrain and the feedback has been incredible. UTWT have launched a series of races above the 100-km distance and in doing so have created a ‘trail’ circuit that offers multiple terrain in multiple locations all over the world. It will be interesting to see how the inaugural year goes when 2014 comes around.
So, what are the highlights of 2013?
Ultra Runner of the Year – Men and ladies
Rob Krar UROC ©iancorless.com
  • Lets start with Rob Krar. I interviewed Rob just after his incredible ‘FKT’ in the Grand Canyon early in 2013 when he put the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim record at another level. At the time we discussed Western States, he was intimidated by the ‘Super Bowl’ of ultra and his first 100-miler. “I’ll give it a shot and see what happens”. Well, if you hadn’t noticed Rob pre WSER you did afterwards. Your not supposed to run WSER and get 2nd overall in your first attempt. UROC, Ultra Race of Champions was the final of the Skyrunner Ultra World Series and for some reason they had bestowed upon themselves the title, ‘The Ultra Running World Championship’. Mmmmm well, it certainly had a quality field but ‘World Championship’? I don’t think so. In the end it came down to a head-to-head between Dakota Jones and Rob Krar. Dakota looked as though he had it sewn up but on the final descent, Rob unleashed a pace that Dakota went on to say was ‘just crazy’. Rob took the win and a pattern was forming. We were all a little surprised to see Rob’s name on the start list for JFK50, primarily with TNF50 in San Francisco just two weeks later. As it happened, Rob dropped at around the 41-mile mark and went on to say that it was either ‘a great training run for TNF50 or the worst decision he had made in a while.’ It was a great training run! Rob ran a super calm, collected and mature race in San Francisco and when he took the front in the last fifth of the race he released a pace that was just incredible. Without doubt my ultra runner of the year!
Kilian Jornet and the Matterhorn ©iancorless.com
  • Of course, you can’t talk about male ultra runner and not mention Kilian Jornet. Kilian is a phenomenon. He is the star of our sport. Once again he was crowned Skyrunner World Ultra Series Champion with wins at Transvulcania and Ice Trail Tarentaise. In addition to this, Kilian was also champion of the ‘Sky’ series with 4 wins; ZegamaMont-BlancMatterhorn Ultraks and Limone Extreme. Add this a couple VK’s, a win at Canazei Sky race for the European Championships and a win at Trans D’Havet for the ‘Ultra’ Skyrunning European Championships and you would say the deal is done! But wait-a-minute, we haven’t mentioned his records for his ‘Summits’ project. A stunning new FKT for Chamonix-Mont-Blanc-Chamonix but arguably THE highlight of the year was his Matterhorn Summit. It was a sublime and surreal performance that put going to the mountains light on another level. It was without doubt my ‘moment’ of the year. You can read my ‘Matterhorn Summits Interview’ with Kilian here. Kilian is the most complete athlete I know.
Michele Yates - iancorless.com ©bradclayton

Michele Yates – iancorless.com ©bradclayton

  • Michele Yates hadn’t run an ultra before 2013. Who would have thought that Ms Figure Colorado 2008 would be such an awesome talent? Well her history shows that she is a 2x Olympic Trials Marathon Competitor, she has 9 marathon wins and PB of 2:38:37. To say Michele burst on the ultra scene would be an underestimation. Her win at Indiana Trail 100 (17:35:18) almost went unnoticed but then taking top spot and the $10,000 prize at Run Rabbit Run suddenly made every one stop, look around and take notice. Placing 3rd at UROC was another sign that Michele was no one trick pony but just like Rob Krar, Michele sealed a quality 2013 with a win at TNF50. She started that race from the front and never relinquished the lead until the line. Is Michele female ultra runner of the year? Well, I would have said yes. That is until the weekend of Dec 13th/ 14th(Listen to interview with Michele on the Christmas show of Talk Ultra, Ep51 out Dec 27th)
  • Pam Smith victorious at Western States turned up at the Desert Solstice track meet run by Aravaipa Running and not only took out the win for 12-hours on the track but set a new female record for 100-miles, 14:11:26. Take your pick, Michele or Pam; it’s a tough call.
Emelie Forsberg ©iancorless.com
  • But wait a minute, what about Emelie Forsberg. Emelie arrived on the run scene in 2012 and instantly had success, continually placing top-3 with Anna Frost and Nuria Picas. However the break through moment came ironically this time last year, she won TNF50 in San Francisco. This seemed to change everything, Emelie arrived at Transvulcania in May 2013 and won, she followed this up with a win in ZegamaCanazeiIce Trail TarentaiseMatterhorn UltraksUROC and then went on to run her first 100-miler at the super tough Diagonale de Fous (Raid de la Reunion) and place 2nd. Do you want to vote against Emelie?
Performances of the Year
tnfutmb 2013 ©iancorless.com
  • Rory Bosio blasted around the TNFUTMB course and in the process not only obliterated the female record but placed 7th overall. Her performance was nothing short of miraculous.
  • Jon Olson set a new American record for 100-miles on the track and then just as the year came to a close, Zach Bitter broke the record with an 11:47:21 but maybe even more important, Zach set a new World Record for 12-hours (101.66 miles) beating a Yiannis Kouros record. That does not happen very often! (Zach Bitter will be in the Christmas episode of Talk Ultra, Ep 51 out Dec 27th here)
  • I have already mention Kilian and the Matterhorn but it was so good I am mentioning it twice!
  • Timothy Olson went back to Western States and won again. You can win a race once but going back and doing it again is always a true sign of a champion.
  • Seb Chaigneau took a win and CR at Hardrock 100.
  • Nickademus Hollon became the youngest person ever to not only complete Barkley but also win it. You can listen to his interview on Talk Ultra here.
Julien Chorier Ronda dels Cims ©iancorless.com
  • Julien Chorier produced a sublime and calculated performance at the super tough Ronda dels Cims. It was a joy and a pleasure to watch someone control and dominate a race from the front and look good all the way.
  • Sage Canaday, jeez I missed him out and he definitely deserves a mention for BanderaTarawera, Transvulcania (3rd), Lake Sonoma and Speedgoat 50k.
 
Francesca Canepa ©iancorless.com
  • Francesca Canepa once again had an incredible year with a great performance at Ronda dels Cims but arguably a repeat win at Tor des Geants places her well and truly at the top on ‘endurance’ lady of the year!
  • Iker Karrera nailed Tor des Geants.
  • Ricky Lightfoot went over to South Africa and raced at The Otter and not only won but put the course record at a new level, in addition he won the IAU World Title in Wales.
 
tnfutmb 2013 ©iancorless.com
  • Xavier Thevenard took everyone, including himself, by surprise at TNFUTMB with a controlled and impressive performance against some top competition.
Jez Bragg TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com
  • Jez Bragg completed the Te Araroa in New Zealand. An incredible journey from the northern tip of New Zealand all the way down to the southern tip. Listen here.
  • David Johnston completed the Iditarod trail Invitational in 4 days 19 hours 13 mins.Crazy fast.
  • Ian Sharman and Nick Clark went head-to-head in the Grand Slam of Ultra Running and produced possibly the most exciting competition of 2013. The pair of them produced incredibly consistent performances and showed us all that it is possible to race four 100-milers back-to-back. They didn’t only ‘complete’ but they competed. They both won a race and were never out of the front rankings. Ian Sharman ultimately had the icing on the cake with the overall fastest time and a new Grand Slam record. Respect! Interview with Ian Sharman here.
  • Paul Giblin at the West Highland Way race. 15:07 and good beating of Terry Conway’s previous CR.
Stevie Kremer Limone Extreme ©iancorless.com
  • Stevie Kremer doesn’t do ultras but she is a darn fine trail and mountain runner and what ‘Pocket Rocket’ achieved in 2013 is nothing short of miraculous. Can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store.
  • Ed Catmur has continued to knock out some great 100-mile performances on the GB scene with wins at North Downs Way and the Winter 100.
  • Lizzie Wraith new female CR for the Lakeland 100 in the UK.
  • William Sichel keeps running and running crazy distances and setting new records.
  • Jonas Buud didn’t win Comrades in 2013 but he ran one of the best paced races I’ve ever witnessed. He was way back in the late 30′s and slowly moved up to 3rd. Wow! Notable mention to Brit ladies, Joanna Zakrezewski and Holly Rush who placed top-10.
Surprises of the Year
  • Rob Krar – Just one word sums up the bearded warrior ‘Krarnage’.
  • Zach Miller – no, not Zach Miller, but Zach Miller. Zach rocked up at JFK50, nobody knew him and he didn’t know anyone else. He took over the lead when Rob Krar dropped at mile 41. Not only did he win but also he set the 3rd fastest time ever. Interview with Zach here.
  • Xavier Thevenard – TNFUTMB was going to be won by Anton KrupickaMiguel HerasJulien ChorierSeb Chaigneau or Mike Foote. Somebody should have told them all about CCC winner, Xavier.
  • Michele Yates – wow, what a first year in the ultra world.
Who and what to watch out for in 2014
Cameron Clayton UROC ©iancorless.com
  • Cameron Clayton has found his feet, 2013 had some mixed performances but when everything aligns he races with the best. His TransvulcaniaUROC and TNF50 performances without doubt elevates him to ‘hot’ for 2014.
Luis Alberto Hernando Haria Extreme ©iancorless.com
  • Luis Alberto Hernando pushed Kilian close at Transvulcania, Zegama, finished joint first at Trans D’havet and won at Cavalls del Vent. In 2014 he plans to race TNFUTMB, now that will be interesting.
  • Magdalena Boulet had an ultra debut at TNF50 and placed 2nd. This sub 2:30 marathon runner may turn a few heads in 2014.
  • Brit, Stuart Air may raise a few eyebrows in 2014. He had a solid Ronda dels Cims, Ice Trail Tarentaise and Tor des Geants and for 2014 he has a Hardrock 100 slot!
  • Hardrock 100 had it’s draw and suddenly much of the WSER ‘lottery’ chat shifted focus to the field up at Silverton. The 2014 race is a classic in the making with Kilian JornetSebastian ChaigneauJulien ChorierJoe Grant and more. Excited? Just a little.
  • The Skyrunning World Championships take place in Chamonix with runners from all over the world coming to race VK, SKY and ULTRA in one of the endurance capitals of the world.
  • Beards – the jury is out. Are beards fast or slow? Rob Krar, Timmy Olson and ‘Clarky’ are certainly great advocates for hairy running but Kilian, Cameron, Sage provide a strong counter argument. What are your thoughts?
And finally…
 
A review of any year is going to be personal. Without doubt we will all have our own highlights and favourite moments, so, I would love to read your thoughts.
Please use the form below.
Ian Corless ETR ©iancorless.com
On a personal note, 2013 was an incredible year, I feel blessed with all the opportunities I have had. To witness many of the moments I write about is a great pleasure. Of course, it’s nothing without you folks reading, looking at my photographs or listening to my podcast.
A very BIG thank you from me.
Happy Christmas and a wonderful 2014 awaits us all…
LINKS:
Photography from 2013 races HERE
IMAGES book HERE
Calendar HERE
Podcasts HERE

Ultra Race of Champions – UROC – Race Preview 2013

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All good things must come to an end and it is no different for the Skyrunner Ultra World Series. The five series long championship is four races down with just one to go. An incredible start on the island of La Palma with Transvulcania La Palma and victories for Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg was followed with the tough and challenging 100-mile, Ronda dels Cims seeing Julien Chorier and Francesca Canepa shine. Ice Trail Tarentaise in Val D’Isère tested all with altitude, snow and ice and once again saw the ever present and dominant duo of Kilian and Emelie take convincing victories. Speedgoat 50k in Utah saw and impressive course record by Sage Canaday and a ladies victory by Steph Howe.

So with one race left. It’s all to fight for. Arguably one of the most impressive fields of 2013 will line up in Vail, Colorado for the 100-km, Ultra Race of Champions (UROC). The fifth and final event will not only see two champions from the race but also two Skyrunner Ultra World Series champions crowned (three events for five award points).

Let’s be clear, UROC is not a 100-km world championship race it is merely the final race in the Skyrunning ‘ULTRA’ world series and is such will be a decisive race in both the men’s and ladies overall classification.

UROC sees the race as a championship event for the sport of ultra distance running.  This, I believe is a title they have imposed on themselves, for sure, they have a great line up and without doubt, the concept of an ultra race of champions rings true! The objective is to bring together annually the year’s best ultra runners in the first ever ‘formal’ ultra running championship event, but at the same time has the appeal of being open to one and all. It’s an admiral claim and one that ambassadors of the sport would seem at least in principal, to agree with.

“There is a growing demand for a trail ultra running event that celebrates and encourages as many top level runners as possible to come together on the same trail, on the same day, to compete in a true championship style race. In UROC, I think we finally have an event with a desire and a commitment to meet this demand. I can’t wait to toe the line in September with the field of elite runners this race draws.”- Geoff Roes, UROC 2011 Champions, UROC Elite Advisory Council Member, Two Time Ultra Runner of the Year.

“UROC is an amazing opportunity for the best in the ultra running sport to test themselves on a course that favors no one. May the best all around runner win.”- Max King 

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Of course, as ultra sport progresses, the desire for prize money progresses and UROC is do different. It has a very healthy set of cash prices available. The cash reward system is something that Skyrunning have had in place for some time and not only are prices award by the ISF at every Skyrunning race (VK, Sky and Ultra) they also award cash prices for the respective world champions, in each Skyrunning category.

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Cash Purse: (awarded by UROC)

Champions Male/Female:    $5000.00

Runner Up Male/Female:    $2000.00

Third Place Male/Female:    $1500.00

Fourth Place Male/Female:  $1000.00

Fifth Place Male/Female:     $500.00

Other Race Premiums will include $250 King/Queen of the Mountain, $250 First Male/Female to Copper MT Ski Area and $250 for the Winners of the Corporate Cup Challenge 

The course in detail (please note, the 2013 route is a ‘new’ route)

Overall Distance:  100K

Course Type:  Point-to-Point

Course details:

  • Section One (Mile 0 to Mile 13): Start in Breckenridge- Elevation 9600 feet.  The race travels toward Peak 8 to an elevation of 11,000 feet.
  • Section Two (Mile 13 to Mile 27):  Breckenridge to Frisco- Elevation 9100 feet.  The race travels over Ten-Mile range at an elevation of 12,408 feet on the Colorado trail between Peaks 5 & 6.
  • Section Three (Mile 27 to Mile 40): Frisco to Copper Mountain Ski Area- Elevation 9712 feet.  The race travels over Vail Pass at an elevation of 10,622 feet.
  • Section Four (Mile 40 to Mile 45):  Copper Mountain to Vail Mountain- Elevation 10,981 feet.  The race travels from Vail Mountain at 9170 feet to Minturn, CO at an elevation of 7,861 feet.
  • Section Five (Mile 45 to Mile 51):  Minturn to Vail Mountain- Elevation 10,981 feet.  The race travels from Minturn to Vail Mountain on the Game Creek Trail.
  • Section Six (Mile 51 to Mile 62):  Vail Mountain to Vail Village- Elevation 10,981 feet.  The race travels from Vail Mountain to Vail Village at an elevation of 8150 feet.

Estimated Total Vertical Gain:  13,245 feet

Elevation loss:   12,379  feet

Maximum altitude: 12,408 feet or 3782 meters at the Ten Mile Pass between Peak 5 and Peak 6

Percent of paved road: 19%

Technical Features: The Ultra Race of Champions crosses 4 passes or peaks above 12,140 feet or 3700 meters.

Aid Stations: 9

Time Limit: 19 hours 30 minutes

Interactive Route Maphttp://www.mapmyrun.com/us/breckenridge-co/uroc-vail-2013-route-112588745

Content taken from UROC website ©

THE 2013 RACE

Stacked! It’s a word we have used multiple times in 2013 but if ever a race was stacked, it’s the 2013 edition of UROC. In the men’s race I have thirty-two names of note! Yes, thirty-two.

  • Max King
  • Dave Mackey
  • Sage Canaday
  • Anton Krupicka (not racing due to injury)
  • Dakota Jones
  • Cameron Clayton
  • Mick Donges
  • Rickey Gates
  • Pablo Crado Toca
  • Gustavo Reyes
  • Mike Wardian
  • Luke Nelson
  • Matt Flaherty
  • Trent Briney
  • Dylan Bowman
  • Troy Howard
  • Duncan Callahan
  • Ty Draney
  • Karl Meltzer (not racing)
  • Adam Campbell (not racing)
  • Paul Terranova
  • Josh Arthur
  • Ryan Burch
  • Gary Gellin
  • Michael Versteeg
  • Justin Ricks
  • Brian Tinder
  • James Walsh
  • Mike Wolfe
  • Joe Grant (possibility of not racing tbc)
  • Martin Gafurri
  • Rob Krar
  • Kilian Jornet

For the ladies race it is an equally impressive field with fifteen names that stand out and shine,

  • Tina Lewis (not racing)
  • Francesca Canepa
  • Kristina Folcik
  • Shannon Price
  • Jen Benna
  • Ashley Arnold
  • Helen Cospolitch
  • Michele Yates
  • Devon Yanko
  • Darcy Africa
  • Tracy Hoeg
  • Anita Ortiz
  • Fernanda Maciel
  • Steph Howe
  • Emelie Forsberg
  • Kerrie Bruxvoort

It would be quite possible to look at the lists above and say, take a pick. Anyone of the listed runners on the right day could come away with victory.

As with all previews, I have to put my neck on the line and look at the likely contenders.

Males

Kilian Jornet has gone from strength to strength and just never really seems to have a bad day. His list of results and achievements in 2013 is second to none. Not only is he performing at the highest-level at all three disciplines in the Skyrunning calendar (VK, Sky and Ultra) but he is also setting record in his ‘Summits’ project. In actual fact, as I write this he is in Russia for an attempt at Mt Elbrus. So, how will Kilian perform at UROC? He will be at the front, pushing and without doubt will be highly competitive. Can he win? Of course, it’s Kilian. However, the lack of really high mountains, technical terrain and 19% of road will not play to the Catalans abilities.

Sage Canaday ©iancorless.com

Sage Canaday ©iancorless.com

If ever a course was made for Sage Canaday, this course is probably it. The mixture of trail, road and climbing ticks all the right boxes and we all know after a disappointing performance at Sierre-Zinal, Sage took some rest and has been extremely focused on performing in Vail. Add to this his win and course record at Speedgoat 50k and a top placing at Transvulcania; Sage is also in a great place for the overall Skyrunning World Series title.

Previous winner of UROC, Max King will be looking to repeat his 2012 performance. A world mountain running champion and 2:15 ‘ish’ marathon runner, Max, like Sage has the ability to win once again. However, he is mixed things up in 2013 and he is short on racing long. UROC at 100-km may just be a little too long?

Rob Krar until recently was relatively unknown, however his FKT at the rim-to -rim-to rim rectified that. Having secured a place at Western States at a previous race he went to his first 100-miler with respect. At the finish, he had placed top three and in doing so is now without doubt a one-to-watch. For sure, the 100-km distance will suit all aspects of Krar’s running abilities and he won’t mind 19% of road too… his background is well established in road running.

Dakota Jones recently pulled out of TNFUTMB and has been pretty quiet in 2013. However, if Dakota is turning up, you can guarantee he is running to win. Nobody would question that Dakota may very well be standing on top of the podium come the 28th.

Cameron Clayton ©iancorless.com

Cameron Clayton ©iancorless.com

Cameron Clayton will love the UROC course and as per usual he will be fired up and ready to race. He loves to push hard from the start and hold on. If he does this it at UROC, he will have no shortage of followers. However, the secret is to keep at the front! Cameron’s recent races have been a little mixed and he was nursing a foot problem. He came through Matterhorn Ultraks well and that must bode well for UROC.

Rickey Gates has already had a full season of racing and travelling. He is always a consistent top ten performer and as he has shown in Europe this year, he has had great results in France and Italy on some tough and technical European mountains.

Matt Flaherty has performed real well over 50m with a win at American River 50, fourth at Ice Age Trail and second at Cayuga Trail in June. He has been relatively quiet since then so maybe UROC is his ‘A’ race?

Dylan Bowman had a great Western States finishing just behind Ian Sharman; however, just recently he had to pull out of TNFUTMB with injury. The question mark for Dylan will be if he has the form after some time off.

Finally, Mike Wolfe. Wolfepaw is back, his FKT on the John Muir Trail with Hal Koerner was a great run. But turning up at TNFUTMB with all that running and time in his legs was just too much and he dropped relatively early on. With some RnR post Chamonix; with luck Mike will be fit and firing on all cylinders in Colorado.

I could go on… just look at the list above. So many names to choose from and so many could be in this preview, Mike Wardian for one has been a podium finisher at UROC before, don’t rule him out.

Ladies

Emelie Forsberg ©iancorless.com

Emelie Forsberg ©iancorless.com

Emelie Forsberg has been dominant in 2013. Her performances and her ability over multiple distances and terrain are second to none. However, UROC will be her first 100km race, this will provide a new challenge for Emelie. Like Kilian, this course may well prove to be lacking altitude and technicality but Emelie does like to run fast, just as she proved at San Francisco last December.

Devon Yanko (Crosby-Helms) has had a quiet 2013, her only significant result was second at Chuckanut 50k. She has started a bakery and apparently that is the priority. But I am sure she will be coming to UROC with a win in mind. To be honest, Devon may well pull it off. She is a great marathon runner and the 100km distance suits her (4th at Comrades in 2012).  The road section will allow her to push and that may very well be all she needs to make a decisive move. Her list of results is impressive, very impressive.

Francesca Canepa ©iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa ©iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa has had quite a 2013. With a win at Ronda dels Cims, top placing at Ice Trail Tarentaise and just recently a return win at the super tough, 330km, Tor des Geants. UROC for sure will be too fast and not hard enough for Francesca; she also may very well be just a little tired!

Helen Cospolich is a three times finisher at TNFUTMB, her best performance came in 2011 with 6th so she packs endurance punch. She recently returned to Mont Blanc but had to drop through illness. She has recently been training on the UROC course and has now covered the whole route; without doubt, Helen will be looking to put TNFUTMB behind her with a podium in Vail. In 2013 she already has had a string of top placing’s, second at Desert Rats, third at Miwok 60km, second at Silver Rush 50m and finally third at Power of Four 50km in early August.

Darcy Africa once again has had a string of top three places in 2013. At Telluride she placed second, second at Squaw Peak 50, third at Coyote Cohorts Backbone 68m but importantly she has won at Hardrock 100 (again) and Miwok 60km. Darcy has a little of everything and on her day could win at UROC.

Steph Howe has had two great results in 2013, victories at Speedgoat 50k and Gorge Waterfalls 50k. The big question mark comes if she can take that speed to double the distance?

Kristina Folcik will be smiling all the way around UROC that is for sure. She had a great race at Cayuga and will hope to bring that winning form to this race. She says on her blog (dangergirldh.com) that she is, ‘an ordinary girl living a not so ordinary life’.

Ashley Arnold placed 16th at Leadville 100 (won the ladies race) recently and 15th at White River 50m; so, one would think that she currently has the form to contend the podium. Ashley is certainly more consistent over the 50k and 50m distance so the 100km may just be a stretch for her considering the speed that this race will be run. Leadville is a very different race to UROC.

Kerrie Bruxvoort placed 1st at Run Rabbit Run 50 on Sept 13th so she must come to UROC a little tired and jaded. Earlier this year she placed 16th at Western States so that contrast between the two races is high. Despite this contrast, Kerrie has won Quad Rock 50 and Zane Grey this year, so, the 50m distance is her forte, can she stretch out her performance for those other twelve miles.

Tracy Hoeg has had a quiet 2013 but in 2012 she had repeated success over 50km and 50m with a fourth, two third places, a second place and a win. As far as I know, her results beyond 50-miles are sparse, so Tracy comes to UROC a relative potential dark horse.

Fernanda Maciel ©iancorless.com

Fernanda Maciel ©iancorless.com

Fernanda Maciel has been racing a lot in 2013 but she has been plagued with a few niggles. At the CCC she was having a great race but an old injury flared up causing her to drop. Certainly longer races suit her but this may just not be technical enough.

Finally, Anita Ortiz, Speedgoat winner from 2008 will join UROC. She has quite a pedigree but it is almost impossible to say what her current form is like. She has been a US Mountain Running Champion several times, won Western States and she has also won Pikes Peak, so, she has a great mix of endurance, speed and altitude adaptation; she may be a surprise on the day!

One thing is for sure, UROC will certainly be an exciting race and great way to end the Skyrunner Ultra World Series.

Links:

UROC website HERE

Skyrunning HERE

Hardrock 100 preview

Joe Grant, Cavalls del Vent 2012 copyright iancorless.com

Joe Grant, Cavalls del Vent 2012 copyright iancorless.com

So many races, so little time. No sooner am I back from three weeks travelling around the Canaries, Spain, Italy and France covering races and I am back in France for Ice Trail Tarentaise and then the Skyrunning European Championships in Canazei, the Dolomites. Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely love what I do. But it can be difficult to keep up… of course Western States occurred while I was travelling, I did manage to preview that and now as I am sitting in Italy to head to Val D’Isère, Hardrock 100 is due to start. So, here is a preview.

 

Just a week ago the race looked as though it may have problems due to wildfires. However, the fires subsided and the race is on. In comparison to previous years, the route appears to have less snow, so a faster time may well be a possibility. Although the race has a quality field, it ultimately looks like a two horse race in both the men’s and ladies races.

 

Joe Grant is returning after second place last year and sacrificed participation in Ronda dels Cims to make sure he is in the best possible shape to win. He had an awful run at Transvulcania in May after picking up a bug that would appear to have leaped around many of the elite runners staying at the same hotel. A bug that took Anton Krupicka out of the race. Joe dedicated late 2012 and early 2013 to the Iditarod Trail Invitational, a super long race in freezing temperatures pulling a sled. He should be well recovered now and I am sure the benefits of that race will come to the fore at Hardrock 100.

Sebastien Chaigneau, TNFUTMB 2012 copyright iancorless.com

Sebastien Chaigneau, TNFUTMB 2012 copyright iancorless.com

Last minute entrant, Sebastian Chaigneau has wanted to run this race for some time and he finally gets his chance. Always a tough competitor, this long, hard and gnarly course will work to his strengths and I think you will see Joe and Seb battle at the front of the race. Joe has two advantages; he has done the race before and he will also be more adapted to the altitude. It will be a compelling race to watch.

 

Speedgoat is returning, like Joe he knows this course like the back of his hand. He had a few problems early this year with a niggling calf but despite all logic, he turned up at Western States just a few weeks ago and still pulled off tenth place. Possibly the most experienced 100 miler on the planet, you can never rule Karl Meltzer out!

Jared Campbell at Ronda dels Cims copyright iancorless.com

Jared Campbell at Ronda dels Cims copyright iancorless.com

Jared Campbell needs no introduction; he loves races that are tough gnarly and a challenge. He recently raced the super tough 177km Ronda dels Cims and finished 7th. When I interviewed him the day after the race he looked fresh and trouble free. Ronda took him nearly 34 hours and that has to leave some fatigue in the body, however, I think we will see him improve on his 13th overall at Hardrock 100 in 2012.

 

Scott Jamie is an experienced Hardrocker (does that term exist). Anyway, he has finished in the top ten five times with a best overall placing of second. He appears to be in good shape with a recent win at Antelope Island Buffalo run.

 

Other male contenders:

  • Ted Mahon
  • Troy Howard
  • Chris Price
  • Nick Coury
  • Jamil Coury

 

LADIES

 

Diana Finkel was out front last year and dominating the race. Karl Meltzer sums it up when he says, ‘Diana is the best in the business on these long tough courses, and she can hike really quick’. However, she dropped at just over 80 miles last year due to ongoing health issues that she needs to monitor. It was very much a safety precaution and the correct call. Diana will be gunning for the top of the podium and if her health remains positive, I think we will see her in the no1 slot in the ladies race… don’t rule her out for the ‘overall’ too!

 

Last years winner, Darcy Africa returns and will be looking for a repeat performance. When Diana dropped in 2012 she was 1 hour behind, so, Darcy will need to up her game a little if she wants to remain in contention in 2013. It’s going to be an exciting battle.

 

Other female contenders:

  • Sarah McCloskey
  • Darla Askew
  • Betsy Kalmeyer
  • Betsy Nye

RACE WEBSITE HERE

 

Inov-8 are 10?

First Mudroc 290 in 2003 (grey) Latest Mudclaw 265 (red)

Founded on June 11, 2003, inov-8 is the brainchild of Wayne Edy, a former consultant in the outdoor industry, who spotted a gap in the off-road running market for innovation.

Initially operating out of a coach house in his garden and then an old church hall, both in the North East of England, Wayne launched his first shoe, the mudroc. Aimed at fell and mountain runners, it weighed just 290g and delivered outstanding grip through an aggressive outsole.

Zimbabwe-born Wayne quickly became a regular at off-road races across the UK and Europe selling the shoe out of the back of his pickup. Later that year, New Zealand athlete Melissa Moon won the World Mountain Running Trophy in a pair of mudroc 290 shoes she borrowed on the day of the race in Alaska. The shoe was an instant hit.

Building on that success, Wayne launched three more off-road running shoes and pioneered the arrow system, based on the height difference between a shoe’s heel and toe. The system provides a transition-focused approach for committed athletes to develop a more natural running technique.

Inov-8’s stripped-back, minimalist footwear range continued to go from strength to strength as athletes wanting to push boundaries discovered the brand.

This was the case in the US in 2009 when a then relatively unknown functional fitness community discovered the low-profile inov-8 f-lite 230 shoe as perfect for their high intensity workouts.

Today Inov-8 trades in over 60 countries around the world and boasts more than 80 shoes, meeting the needs of off-trail, off-road, road and functional fitness athletes. It also has a global team of athletes who compete at the extremes of sport and stretch limits.

The team includes UK-born Joe Grant, who raced 350 miles across the Alaskan wilderness earlier this year in the world’s longest human-powered winter ultra-marathon, the Iditarod Trail Invitational, and Brendan Davies, who recently won the high-profile TNF 100km trail race in Australia, shattering a course record previously held by three-time Skyrunning champion Kilian Jornet.

This summer inov-8 will also launch its first running apparel range, tested by international mountain runners.

Wayne said: “I am proud of what we have achieved, it has been an amazing ride so far. We are not followers, we carve a new way, and that’s why our products are different.

“And we will not let up. We will continue to sweat innovation and provide outstanding products for committed athletes wanting to run fast on all terrains and smash hardcore workouts.”

inov-8 timeline

Inov-8 head for Zegama-Aizkorri

Shona Stephenson - Inov-8

Shona Stephenson – Inov-8

Natalie White, is the sports and marketing manager for UK Company Inov-8 who this year celebrate 10 years in the business. With less than one week to go to Zegama, I caught up with Natalie to discuss the brand and the expansion for the future. In 2013, Inov-8 has put together an International Skyrunning Team, it is a new departure for the brand, I asked how this has come about and why now?

 

NW: Yes, when I began at Inov-8 in Feb 2012 budgets had already been set so I had to focus on what people were telling me to do based on the budgets we had. However, in September 2012 I sat down with the European marketing manager and I said that we need to get involved in Skyrunning. It is a passion of mine anyway but all the high profile athletes are at these races and we as a brand needed to be involved. So, it made sense. I set up an International Skyrunning Team with runners from Australia, America, UK and France. Hopefully we are going to make an impact.

 

IC: It is an ambitious project and one that will test the financial strings as much as the runner’s legs. How do you go about putting something like this together, particularly in this current market?

 

NW: It takes some serious logistics. I also have a 101 other jobs to plan and budget for. I really need to manage my time well. It’s a case of getting a small International team and focusing and what needs the athletes have. Such as kit, what they expect from the brand, travel expenses and then budgeting all that. We shall review the total cost at the end of the year and then make adjustments for future years. I am a runner myself so I know what the runners want. I need to balance all the costs, hopefully everyone will be happy.

 

IC: Is part of the project also to develop new products such as clothing and shoes that you can take forward in future years?

 

NW: Yes! We have just sent our SS2014 workbook to print with some very exciting new products. I can’t talk about that yet…

 

IC: Your lips are sealed?

 

NW: Yes, we have our launch this month, in May. We are also working on other new products. It is all very exciting.

 

IC: In the past, as a company you have been renowned for your shoes and packs but you are moving into clothing?

 

NW: Yes we launched AW2013 running apparel and showed it in February 2013. Our athletes will be wearing our new mountain running wear in Zegama. I hope it will make retail outlets in July and August. It’s a very exciting time for the brand and the athletes.

 

IC: How have these products been designed? Do they all have athlete input?

 

NW: Yes, everything we do has runner feedback and athlete feedback. We put everything together, produce a product and then test it. Our athletes test it in training and our marketing team test the products. We go out at lunch and run on local trails. We debrief and then make adjustments as appropriate.

 

IC: You have mentioned the athletes. You have some real variety for 2013. Such as Brendan Davies and Shona Stephenson from Australia and then we have Americans, UK runners and then somebody like Joe Grant who is a Brit who lives in the US. Zegama will see the British runners head to Zegama… it is quite a mix.

 

NW: Yes, it is a mix. Prior to me joining we only had a small team of UK based athletes. To get more brand awareness across the world I thought we needed an International team. So, the best athletes from around the world put them in one team and then send them out to run in the Skyrunning series. We support them and help them travel the world to race. We want to help them achieve.

 

IC: Skyrunning is a very different sport to a lot of other running. UK runners in particular seem to adapt well particularly if coming from a fell running background… of course fell doesn’t have the altitude but it does have some tough terrain. How do you think Brendan and Shona will handle Skyrunning? It will be very different for them. How do you help them and help them adapt to the challenges?

 

NW: I speak with Brendan and Shona every other day via email and we have regular Skype chats. Because I have done plenty of Skyrunning I can help them. They are currently preparing with adjustments for altitude. They are in form. Look at the results from UTMF and TNF 100. Incredible! (Brendan just won and set a new CR at TNF100 in Australia, a record previously held by Kilian Jornet)

Brendan Davies - Inov-8

Brendan Davies – Inov-8

 

IC: How will Brendan and Shona recover from these high profile and demanding races and be ready for Skyrunning?

 

NW: To be honest, they both seem to recover very well. I don’t think recovery will be a problem. Of course flying and travel may impact but I think, fingers crossed, they will be fine.

 

IC: Zegama is the first race that you will attend, yes?

 

NW: Correct, yes.

 

IC: Zegama is the classic mountain race. It is famous for the terrain, the racing and a top quality field. What team will run?

 

NW: Alex Nichols from the US, he is in great shape. We have three UK runners, Ben Bardsley who is coming from a SkiMo season. He has actually been racing Kilian. He has been in the Alps doing some fastest known time attempts too. We have two ladies, Sarah Ridgeway and Anna Lupton. Sarah has been training on the Isle of Skye doing some ridge running. Ana Lupton is in good form too…. Hopefully everyone will be fit and healthy and will be able to have a great race!

Ben Bardsley - Inov-8

Ben Bardsley – Inov-8

 

IC: Yes, it is going to be a great way to kick off the series for Inov-8. I have just done a race preview and I think Ben and Alex are potential dark horses.

 

NW: Ben came into our office just the other week and he looks super fit and healthy. He is very keen for the first race. He is very appreciative to be part of this team. It’s a dream come true for him. He is very happy.

 

IC: As the season progresses the priorities will fall with the Sky marathon and Sky ultra series. What at the end of the year will mean that this year has been a success?

 

NW: Ultimately brand awareness. We have many plans and we will attend many races. After Mont Blanc marathon we will stay on in Chamonix to do product testing, photography, video and so on. It will be great to have everyone in the same place at the same time. It is taking some planning but I am sure it will be fine! We then have Alex Nichols at Pikes Peak and then we have a team at Ultraks in Switzerland. Shona and myself will race Ice Trail Tarantaise…. Not sure why I signed up for that! Speedgoat and UROC will see some American runners participate and then we will have a team at the last race in Limone, Italy. It will be a great finish to the year. It will be a case of having representation across the world with athletes in the overall rankings. All about developing the brand.

 

IC: Inov-8 has been going almost ten years. As a company it has achieved a great deal. From a shoe perspective you have always been highly respected. You understood the needs of particular terrain and developed products accordingly. For example, the mud claw, it is a classic. How will the brand develop in the future? Will you have any shoes developed specifically for Skyrunning?

 

NW: My lips are sealed!

 

IC: Okay, enough said. That is a yes then!

 

IC: If we look forward to 2014, do you have a plan to increase your team or do you think you will look after the team you have and help them progress.

 

NW: We will progress the team we have and build on that. We are always inundated with requests for sponsorship but it is just not possible to help everyone. We just don’t have the budget. We need to look after the people that we have currently. We need them to have the results and we need to help them achieve that.

 

IC: Much better to have a hardcore team of eight to ten who you can help, finance and support so that they can get results. No point having a team of thirty and no results.

 

NW: Exactly!

 

IC: Finally, you have Joe Grant on the team. Joe has done some crazy exploits such as the Iditarod Trail Invitational… a crazy event! 350 miles in sub zero temperatures. Do you plan to help progress ideas like this as a brand, for example, will you create projects that your athletes can undertake. I guess adventures which Inov-8 can help finance.

 

NW: Definitely, we have Ray Zahab from Canada who is currently taking on a challenge of crossing the Gobi Dessert. He is doing that in June this year and we are helping to support him. We love this sort of thing. Crazy challenges… the crazier the better!

 

IC: It creates a story and it creates a buzz. Ultimately that is great for you as a brand. You need your name out in the arena and that comes from inspiration. It filters back to consumers.

 

NW: Yes, exactly. We are all about making the brand the best it can be and ultimately providing the customers with the right footwear and clothing for them to achieve!

 

IC: Natalie, it has been great chatting with you and I am looking forward to Zegama this coming weekend. Best of luck for you and the team!

Calendar:

SKY
1. SPAIN: Maratòn Alpina Zegama-Aizkorri - 42k, Zegama – May 26
2. FRANCE: Mont-Blanc Marathon - 42k, Chamonix – June 30
3. USA:  Pikes Peak Marathon - 42k, Manitou Springs, Colorado – August 18
4. SWITZERLAND: Matterhorn Ultraks - 46k, Zermatt – August 24
5. ITALY: Limone Extreme SkyRace® - 23k, Limone sul Garda – October 13

ULTRA
1. SPAIN: Transvulcania Ultramarathon - 83k, La Palma – May 11
2. ANDORRA: Ronda dels Cims - 170k, Ordino – June 21
3. FRANCE: Ice Trail Tarentaise - 65k, Val d’Isère – July 14
4. USA: Speedgoat - 50k, Snowbird, Utah – July 27
5. USA: Ultra Race of Champions “UROC” - 100k, Vail, Colorado – September 28

Links:

Race Elite 230 - Inov-8

Race Elite 230 – Inov-8

 

 

Joe Grant – Transvulcania 2013

Joe Grant Transvulcania 2013 - copyright Ian Corless

Joe Grant Transvulcania 2013 – copyright Ian Corless

Arc’teryx athlete, Joe Grant chats with Ian about his recovery from the Iditarod Trail Invitational and about he is excited to once again to return to La Palma.

Joe has the advantage over much of the competition to have experienced the Transvulcania course before. In 2012 he raced well to place just outside the top 10. He hope to improve on that this year….!

YouTube HERE

Links:

  • Joe Grant – HERE
  • Arc’Teryx – HERE
  • Transvulcania 2013 – HERE
  • Skyrunning – HERE

 

 

 

Joe Grant heads to La Palma

Joe Grant with Ian Sharman at the 2012 edition of the race - copyright Ian Corless

Joe Grant with Ian Sharman at the 2012 edition of the race – copyright Ian Corless

TWO months after conquering 350 miles of frozen wilderness in Alaska, hardcore inov-8 athlete Joe Grant is preparing to make his racing comeback – this time on much drier ground.

The 29-year-old overcame exhaustion and pain to smash the epic Iditarod Trail Invitational – an event described by organisers as the world’s longest human powered winter ultra-marathon – in just six days.

Now, fired up by his joint-second place finish in Alaska, Joe is ready to go head-on with the rest of the planet’s elite mountain runners this summer.

His first assignment is this weekend’s 52-mile Transvulcania ultra-marathon monster on the island of La Palma in the Atlantic Ocean.

The gruelling race, which features 4,415m of elevation gain over volcanic and technical terrain, is the first in the Skyrunner world ultra series and, as a result, the entry list is stacked with extreme talent.

Joe placed joint 11th on La Palma last year before recording an outstanding second-place finish at the 2012 Hardrock 100-mile race in the US – achievements he wants to better this year.

“I’m super excited to kick off the skyrunning season with this now classic race in the series,” said Joe, who was born in Oxford in the UK, raised in France and Spain, and now lives in Colorado, US.

“The course is spectacular, the crowds are fantastic and the race is about as competitive as it gets.

“Following the ITI (Iditarod Trail Invitational), I went to Japan and trained hard while I was there.

“I’m feeling fit and ready to race.

“Knowing the course is also helpful, and I hope to improve on last year’s time and place.

“Transvulcania will set me up nicely in preparation for the Hardrock 100, which takes place in July.”

Joe will wear shoes from inov-8’s trailroc™ and roclite™ ranges to race over trails and mountains across the world in 2013.

He added: “The super-lightweight trailroc 235s will be spot on for this weekend’s tough course.

Links

Arc’teryx announce team for Skyrunner World Series

Arc’teryx, the Canadian outdoor brand and ISF partner, announces their six-man team participating in the 2013 Skyrunner® World Series. 

Arc’teryx, the Canadian outdoor brand and ISF partner, announces their six-man team participating in the 2013 Skyrunner® World Series.  From the US, charismatic and eclectic runner Joe Grant is back for more and will race the Ultra Series starting with the Transvulcania Ultramarathon on May 11 where he placed 12th last year as well as a 2nd place at Hardrock 100 and a second place at the 350-mile long Iditarod Trail Invitational, the legendary Alaskan sled dog race.  He’s also aiming at the Sky Series’ new Ultraks 46K in Zermatt, Switzerland.

Adam Campbell

Adam Campbell

Canadian distance runner Adam Campbell, plagued with injury last year, has got big plans for the SWS Ultra Series and he’ll be toeing the line at Transvulcania with Grant in the first of the Series Ultra races which he describes as, “a global race series in some of the most iconic mountain settings and over some very rough and technical terrain”. The SWS in a nutshell.

Italy’s Nicola Golinelli will be tackling both the Sky and Vertical Series.  Last year, he chalked up two third places in the Vertical K and a fourth position at the Giir di Mont, Premana, Italy.  He will debut at the highly competitive Zegama-Aizkorri marathon on May 26 where he placed 5th in 2011.

Frenchman Didier Zago, like Golinelli, will aim for both Sky and Vertical races, starting off with the Cara Amón Vertical Kilometer® on May 18, site of the 2012 SkyGames® in northern Spain.

Tessa Hill

Tessa Hill

Briton Tessa Hill joins Zago in the two disciplines and skyrunning new comer Florian Reichert from Germany, will race the Sky Series, launching at Zegama.

An intensive season of highly competitive racing faces the runners, from the short steep Vertical Kilometers to the marathon distance Sky Series and the grueling Ultra Series.  With no less than five world champions competing, one thing is for sure – everyone will be racing for the love of it.  Champions or not, unquestionably the driving force behind every SWS participant lies their passion for running in the mountains.

Follow news on the athletes on Facebook and Twitter and www.arcteryx.com

Memories of La Palma – Transvulcania

It’s not always the racing that leaves memories but often what happens around the racing. In 2012, arguably, one of the best fields ever assembled on the island of La Palma to take part in the Transvulcania La Palma.

This film was actually a trailer for Kilian’s Quest Season 4 ‘Living Legends’.

But it shows some great times and experiences and ultimately it shows what running is about… having fun!