Matterhorn Ultraks 2015 Preview

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The 3rd edition Matterhorn Ultraks 46K kicks off on Saturday, August 22. As the name suggests, the magic Matterhorn mountain provides a stunning backdrop to this iconic race.

Stevie Kremer, 2014 world champion for the combined title and race winner of 2014, return to Zermatt and will look to defend her title. Recent success in America and 4th place at Sierre-Zinal shows the pocket rocket is in form!

Italian Elisa Desco, placed 3rd at Sierrie-Zinal just 2 weeks ago and has had a mixed 2015 so far. Placing 2nd here last year she will without doubt look to take the top slot.

Megan Kimmel is on fire on 2015 and is my hot tip for victory in Zermatt. A stunning victory at the Dolomites Skyrace and 2nd at Sierre-Zinal shows that the American not only has climbing and descending legs but also plenty of speed.

Maite Maiora, currently ranked third on the Skyrunner® World Series always is a strong and consistent performer, Azara Garcia de Los Salmones has struggled with injury and currently it is questionable if she will run. Paola Cabrerizo, placed 2nd at Zegama-Aizkorri and may well contend the podium, Anna Comet Pascua has been a revelation in 2015 and Eva Maria Moreda.

Stephanie Jimenez and Czech Anna Strakova along with Holland’s Ragna Debats are top 5 contenders.

Italy’s Tadei Pivk currently leads the SWS ranking with two straight wins in Zegama and Dolomites, without doubt he is a strong contender for the win.

Spain’s Manuel Merillas and Romanian Ionut Zinca however would love to beat Tadei in the pursuit for the top of the podium. Ranked 2nd and 3rd respectively in the SWS. Britain’s Tom Owens may well stir up the apple cart and has all the ability to win this race.

Aritz Egea was 3rd last year and is always a contender for the top-5. Sintu Vives and Jessed Hernandez are among other strong Spaniards and Moroccan Hassan Ait Chaou and Norwegian Eirik Haugsnes will place in the top-10 if all goes well/

Tromsø SkyRace® winner, Jonathan Albon may well be the surprise podium contender. He is an obstacle racing world champion who surprised everyone in Norway.  

The records to beat? Kilian Jornet’s 2013 time of 4h43’05” and Stevie Kremer’s 2014 record of 5h18’43”.

The 46 km course takes on a tough 3,600m of ascent and descent. The famous Gornergrat observation station marks the highest point of the race at 3,100m altitude, overlooking the Grenz Glacier and Monte Rosa, Europe’s second highest summit.  The entire course is overshadowed by the iconic Matterhorn peak. 

Nearly 700 runners from 34 countries will be toeing the line in Zermatt Saturday.

Some 2,000 participants from 44 countries will participate overall in the weekend’s four events – a 30% increase on last year’s figures.

 

Join us on Facebook and twitter for news and updates.

Current Sky ranking

Race website

Berghaus Trail Chase 2015 – Day 1 Images and summary

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Three spectacular courses located in the North York Moors National Park provided the setting for the 2015 edition of The Berghaus Trail Chase. Starting on Saturday, runners were transported from the event centre to their respective starts for the adventure to begin. Using a colour-coded format pioneered in skiing (black, red and blue), Shane Ohly RD at Ourea events offered three fully way marked courses: long course as one would expect is black, middle course red and the shortest course will be blue.

Starting 12:30 (red) 13:00 (black) and 14:00 (blue), all three courses converged at the same overnight campsite at the end of the first day. The only difference for runners will was the distance covered. Day-1 camp provided a relaxed and friendly atmosphere with an emphasis on an opportunity to relax, have fun and share stories of the adventure day-1 provided. A village hall was available with live folk music, bar and food.

It was a hot day on the trails and many suffered in the latter stages primarily due to dehydration.

Sam Thompson was the 1st finisher for the black route in 3:52:11, Charmaine Horsfall was the 1st lady 3:52:52.

David Camm was the 1st finisher for the red route in 3:05:12 and Catriona Curtis was the 1st lady in 3:32:48

Liam Swann was the 1st finished for the blue route in 1:21:55 and Niandi Carmont was the 1st lady in 1:40;37.

(Results will be available for pairs on the race website)

Sunday is when the real excitement begins and the true ‘chase’ commences. Runners will depart in the order they finished on day-1. The objective? Front-runners will try to hold the lead and respective places while behind a battle will commence as they CHASE the runner in front. It’s simple, catch a runner, you gain a place!

A real head-to-head race will develop and tactics will come into play. Go out too hard and you may blow up… go out to easy and you will possibly loose places. The Berghaus Trail Chase brings an innovative format to trail running and one that not only provides a new incentive and experience to each and every runner, but also really does put the fun back into racing.

 

Tromsö Skyrace 2015 Preview – “Soul running between the sky and the sea!”

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It’s the 2nd edition of the Tromsö Skyrace and although the 2 race directors won’t thank me for adding a spotlight onto them, one has to admit that Emelie Forsberg and Kilian Jornet as RD’s really does add a plus to an event.

If you were a cynic, you may well think that the race just uses the two Skyrunning stars as a vehicle for promotion! If you do, you could not be more wrong! Just a glance at Facebook this last 2 weeks has provided us all with a real insight into how ‘hands-on’ Kilian and Emelie have been in getting this race off the ground and ready for an increased audience.

The duo brings a true love of the mountains and a desire for technical terrain to a larger audience and with the Tromsö Skyrace the challenge is a tough one! Edition 1 had many a runner saying that it was the most extreme and technical 45km’s they had ever run. That I am sure would place a big smile on Kilian’s and Emilie’s’ faces. Using inspirational race like Trofeo Kima as an influence on the Tromsö Skyrace, the race is set to be a classic that will run for a great deal of time.

Located in Tromsö, Norway, the race embraces the wilderness and 24-hour days with fjords and glaciers as a backdrop. In the words of Kilian and Emelie, it is “Soul running between the sky and the sea!”

In summary:

  • Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg: two world-class race ambassadors
  • Tromsö, a remarkable landscape
  • Three races
  • International yet familiar race
  • Eco-responsive race

300 runners in total will arrive in Tromsö for what I am sure will be an amazing, awe inspiring experience that they will hold and cherish for a long time to come. After all, the race does take place in the Norwegian Arctic Circle.

“First we just started to talk about how cool it was that in the north we can run 24 hours in light during the summer. And then we started to talk about what we think Skyrunning is and how we would like a race that includes all the key ingredients; trails, summits, ridges off trail aid stations, a consideration for the environment and so on! We decided to make a course that comes close to the city but still has all the key ingredients that we want in a race, summits, wilderness and technical parts! We are so happy about the route!”

 

Friday will start with a Blamann VK, 2.6km in length and 1044m of vertical gain make this race a true challenge for those who like to push themselves on a steep gradient.

The Tromsdalstind Skyrace has 19km length and 1600m elevation and the key race for the weekend is the Hamperokken Skyrace which is part of the Ultra Skyrunner® World Series and has 42km length and 4100m of vertical gain.

So who is running?

VK

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Nejc Kuhar heads up a strong VK race and as Skyrunner® World Series leader for the VK distance he is a firm favourite for the title in Tromsö.

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However, Eirik Haugsness and Thorbjorn Ludvigsen are almost certainly going to want to represent themselves highly and what is a ‘local’ race.

Rising star, Remi Bonnet will also be a key contender as will Ferran Texeido but the dark horse may well be Stian Hovind so keep an eye on him, he is my dark horse for the top of the podium.

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The ladies VK race is wide open and maybe not surprisingly, Emelie Forsberg may well be a hot favourite for victory.

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Azara Garcia will almost certainly contend the podium, as will Therese Sjursen and Ekatarina Mityaaeva.

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Mira Rai will also run but I think the Nepalese runner is still finding her feet in these short vertical races. I am sure she will be looking to the Ultra on Sunday for her best performance.

 

ULTRA

I fully appreciate that 42km is not an ultra, so please don’t email in and point this out! The Tromso Skyrace gains ‘ultra’ status due to the demanding course, technicality and because of the time it will take to complete the course. As we said earlier, this is NO easy race! If in doubt, the winning time from 2014 was 6:38:30!

Men

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Skyrunning World and European Champion for the Ultra distance, Luis Alberto Hernando will toe the line in Tromso and one has to say, he is the man to beat. He has been on fire in 2014 with victory and Transvulcania, Ice Trail Tarentaise and 2nd place at the IAU World Trail Championships.

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Franco Colle equally has been a revelation in 2015. His victory at Tor des Geants in 2014 placed him on the radar for any race over 100-miles but this year he has nailed Mont-Blanc 80km and Ice Trail Tarentaise. One to watch!

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Last years winner, Eirik Haugsness is going to have his work cut-out to top the podium in 2015 but Tromso is a race that holds a special place for him and that always adds so those essential extra percentages when you need to dig deep.

Philipp Reiter has had a quiet 2015; no doubt university has placed a demand on his time. Tromso however will suit the young Germans skill set and I am almost certain we can expect to feel his presence at the front of the race.

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Cristofer Clemente adds to the front-end action and has consistently performed well in 2015 with a string of top 10 placing.

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Salomon team manager, Greg Vollet can never be ruled out of the front end action and I see that Canadian Adam Campbell is on the start list but I am not sure if he will run after a sterling effort at Hardrock 100.

Local talent will provide a huge surprise factor and here Emelie provides me with some valuable inside information:

Lars Eirik Skjervheim is a member of the Norwegian ski mountaineering team and a very good runner. He has had a struggle with an injury but if he is in good shape he could be on the podium, I think?

Ola Hovdenak was 2nd in 2014 and loves technical trail.

Sven Are Paulsen is a Tromsö X- country skier, that last year got really into Skyrunning! Top 10!

Kristian Ulriksen is a fast roadrunner from Tromso; lets see how he handles the technical trails.

And finally,

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Aurélien Dunand-Pallaz, Zigor Iturrieta (in hospital for an operation), Florian Reichert, Jan Bartas and Stu Air will all figure in or around the top 10 and my dark horse tip goes to Dan Doherty who may well be the surprise package of the whole race.

 

Ladies

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Mira Rai may well excel in the tough and challenging conditions of Tromso. Her victory at Mont-Blanc 80km was a revelation but recent races at the Dolomites VK and Dolomites Skyrace were mixed. Maybe they were too short? Tromso may well be short in distance but in time, it’s a long race that will play into Mira’s hands.

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Maite Maiora is a Skyrunning specialist and specializes in the Sky distance. However, she nailed Transvulcania in 2014 and that therefore elevates her up the ‘one-to-watch’ to THE one to watch.

Australian rising star, Lucy Bartholomew will also run the race and this will be a big test. But I strongly believe it’s a test that she will rise too. The podium may well be a long shot this early in her career but I don’t think she will be too far off.

Malene Hakoy is a Norwegian ski mountaineer, she won Hornidal runt this year and placed second overall… one to watch!

Hilde Aders placed top 10 in the Dolomites VK and placed 2 in Hornidal Runt this year.

Finally, a real dark horse shout out for Shiri Leventhal; I am sure she won’t thank me for pointing a spotlight at her but she made the podium at Everest Trail Race a few years ago and may well be a surprise package. Also, Heather Ohly from the UK may well make an impact on the top-10.

Needless to say, Tromsö Skyrace is going to over a seriously exciting weekend of running in an amazing part of the world and what almost certainly will be and incredible course.

I can’t wait!

You can follow the race in words and images here at iancorless.com on Facebook HERE on Twitter @talkultra and on Instagram @iancorlessphotography

also follow Skyrunning via the official facebook page HERE on Twitter HERE and via the website HERE

Tromso Skyrace logo

Emelie Forsberg to race the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline

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It’s with great pleasure that I can announce that Salomon International Athlete, Skyrunning Ultra World Champion and recently crowned Skyrunning Ultra European Champion, Emelie Forsberg, will run the first edition of the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline (Scotland) in August 2015.

Speaking after the Dolomites VK and just before the Dolomites SkyRace (where she placed 4th) Emelie confirmed that she will travel to the UK on August 20th to participate in the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline.

Emelie in recent years has become one of the most important mountain/ skyrunners in the world after a string of high profile victories and podium performances in distances ranging from VK to 100-miles.

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Ironically, it all started in 2012 when Emelie raced The Three Peaks (UK) where she placed 2nd behind Sarah O’Neil. This race was quickly followed by running the iconic Zegama-Aizkorri where she placed 3rd after an incredible display of downhill running behind Oihana Kortazar and Nuria Picas. We knew then that Emelie was special!

Arguably, Emelie was unstoppable in 2013 and victory at Transvulcania Ultramarathon, Trans D’Havet and other high profile races only confirmed that a new multi-talented star was amongst us.

Known for her incredible strength, endurance and break neck downhill running, she has also become an inspiration to men and ladies all over the world by her infectious passion and love of life which she daily shares via social media. No matter how hard the race, no matter how tough the conditions are, no matter how bad she is feeling, Emelie is guaranteed to provide a smile.

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Emelie recently has an incredible start to 2015. A last minute decision to run Transvulcania Ultramarathon (off skis) was rewarding once again with a dominating victory. This was followed with a new course record and victory at the iconic Mount Marathon in Alaska.

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Just days after the Mount Marathon victory, Emelie raced the VK Face Bellevarde in Val d’Isere (as a loosen up) and then 2 days later won the 65km Ice Trail Tarentaise and was crowned Skyrunning European Champion 2015.

What a week! Mount Marathon and now European champion in ultra-distance Skyrunning! I’m really happy. I climbed summits and glacier and ran on beautiful trails. Thank you everyone standing along the course talking to me and cheering me on.”

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Never one to rest, 5 days after the ITT, Emelie ran the Dolomites VK and then placed 4th at the highly competitive Dolomites SkyRace just 2 days later.

“I need a little rest now but I am so looking forward to Scotland and this incredible course!”

Emelie’s presence in the UK is something that fans of mountain and trail running have wanted for some time, so, to finally have this come to fruition is extremely exciting. From day one my aim and desire with Skyrunning UK has been driven in providing UK runners challenging courses that would give them an insight into what is available in Europe. However, with careful planning and some great work with quality race directors, we are slowly but surely building a series of races that can offer a challenge to anyone! This was proven in 2014 when Stevie Kremer raced the Mourne Skyline MTR. Emelie’s presence in Scotland later this year is a dream come true but it’s only the beginning. I had a plan that in 3 years we would bring a host of world class talent to the UK to race and I can now see that coming to fruition, it’s a really exciting time!

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Shane Ohly form Ourea Events along with Gary Tompsett have worked tirelessly to put the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline race together and it hasn’t been without some raised eyebrows and concern (excellent article HERE). But the plan has been very clear from the start:

“We are not creating another mass participation fell or trail running event, but rather a world class Skyrunning course for experienced and competent participants. The Glen Coe Skyline is a fusion of mountain running and alpinism where competitors need to be skilled at both disciplines to negotiate the course.”

On hearing that Emelie would run the inaugural Salomon Glen Coe Skyline, Shane was very clear in his thought process:

“It is an honor that Emelie has decided to race at the inaugural Salomon Glen Coe Skyline and I am delighted that this world class Skyrunning course we have conceived has attracted a Skyrunning World and European Champion.”

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Emelie will not have an easy race! Finlay Wild, Es Tressider, Jim Mann and Dragons Back Race 2015 ladies champion (also 2nd overall) Jasmine Paris will also run the race.

‘We sincerely hope that aspirational races like the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline will contribute to the growth of the sport both in terms of participation and general awareness within the wider running and outdoor community within the UK,” said Ohly.

 

“I would love to see the same kind of community engagement and atmosphere at a UK SkyRace as I have personally experienced at European skyRaces like Zegama-Aizkorri. Certainly this is my goal for the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline and we will be working hard to achieve this.”

The Salomon Glen Coe Skyline™ follows in the finest tradition of the most prestigious Skyrunning races, fusing mountain running and alpinism in a pure test of speed, endurance and skill on an uncompromising, world-class course.

The Salomon Glen Coe Skyline™ will take place on Saturday 22nd August 2015 and will be part of the Skyrunner UK Series. The event is only suitable for highly experienced competitors and all aspirant entrants will be vetted for experience.

Entries are limited to 200 max. The current entry list is HERE.

Information

Skyrunning UK can be found at www.skyrunninguk.com

The Salomon Glen Coe Skyline can be found at www.glencoeskyline.com

Contacts

Ian Corless – iancorless@skyrunninguk.co.uk

Shane Ohly – shaneohly@oureaevents.com

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How is your Posture? Part Quatre – Marc Laithwaite

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                                                image from Primal Patterns

Okay, so we’re now onto part 4 of the series and this week we are looking at exercises to correct anterior tilt of the pelvis, which creates the lordosis posture. If you’ve not yet read parts 1, 2 and 3 read them HERE, HERE and HERE.

The topic for today is looking at breathing issues related to posture, we’re also going to look at the dreaded stitch. Aside from that, we’re going to look at ways of dealing with cramps.

Breathing and posture

The breathing issue is interesting for me as it’s something i’ve suffered from myself and couldn’t find a cure. They symptoms were very rapid and shallow breathing, I also felt that I couldn’t breathe deeply from my diaphragm. The best way to describe it was as if the bottom 2 thirds of my lungs didn’t work and i was just rapidly shifting air in and out of the top third. It felt to me at the time as though I had exercise induced asthma, there was some ‘wheezing’ which is a symptom of airway problems, so I went through that process and resolved nothing. The rapid shallow breathing was often, but not always linked to a pain under my ribs which most people would commonly refer to as a stitch. In a few triathlons I had to slow down to get rid of it, by relaxing and breathing deeply.

The key to resolving it was when i noticed that it was occuring more frequently in triathlon training and racing, compared to just running. Basically, it was a lot more likely to happen if I biked first. That got me thinking about posture and how it was affected by riding my bike before running. I soon noticed that I had a more pronounced lordosis posture (anterior tilt) after riding hard in the aero position then attempting to run. Interestingly, since identifying this problem i’ve spoke to more and more people who suffer stitch and breathing difficulties running in triathlon and a lot of them tend to be  children.

So what’s going on?

Time to post our anterior tilt photo again, it feels only right we put it in this final issue. I’ll start by saying that anterior-pelvic-tiltthis is purely my own thoughts and ideas, based on things I’ve tried which have worked for me. Nobody has given me a decent answer to why I had this recurring stitch or breathing difficulties.

Take a look at the photo right and picture the ‘abdominal cavity’. The abdominal cavity is the space which contains your intestines and in simple terms it’s a box with front, back, sides, floor and ceiling. The pelvic floor is underneath, the abdominals, lower back and obliques (muscles on sides) make the front, back and sides and your diphragm is the ceiling on this box.

If you have anterior tilt, this box becomes ’tilted’ out of position. If fact, it isn’t a box any more, it’s more like a rhomboid shape. If you don’t know what a rhomboid is, google it!! Keeping it simple, it’s fair to assume that if your diaphragm is pulled in an odd direction and out of position, it probably won’t pull down and allow you to deep breathe very well.

Keep is simple mate…

I’m trying. So having noticed this issue related to running after cycling and thinking about it way too much, I altered my posture when running. To my surprise, it was like someone has just pulled a giant plug out of my lungs and I could breathe normally!! I’ll explain the changes I made in as simple terms as possible.

Old technique:

1. Anterior tilt of the pelvis, creating an arched lower back and my stomach to stick out (leave it!!)
2. Felt like I was sticking my chest out at the same time. As I was sticking my chest out, I was looking slightly upwards (my natural line of site was upwards)
4. Point 2 & 3 meant that I was very upright, almost leaning back

New technique

1. To try and counter the upright / backwards lean I looked down at the road/track 15m ahead of me
2. Consciously held a slight forwards lean (my torso was slightly ahead of my pelvis)
3. Didn’t stick my chest out and shoulders back, moved shoulders forwards slightly (without hunching too much)
4. Pulled my belly in and avoided pelvis tilting forwards into lordosis

One final thing which can also help with the breathing issues, although not related to posture, is your stride rate. We are often encouraged to run or cycle with high cadences, 90 foot falls or 90 pedal revolutions per minute (or higher). Faster cadences for both cycling and running increase breathing rate. If you are struggling with rapid breathing, slow the cadence and stride out more (longer / slower strides), that can help to slow the breathing rate down.

Hopefully you can picture the changes above! I think it’s pretty common for runners who are tired and pushing hard to lean back, stick their chest out and look upwards. Thre result is a very upright and almost ‘leaning back’ posture. If you can relate to any of the breathing or ‘stitch’ symptoms above, then give the changes a go, see if they can help your run performances, if it works, i’d be interested to hear the feedback.

Cramping issues

There’s one final thing I’m going to talk about which is issues related to cramping. I explained in detail during previous blogs, the reasons for cramping and how posture can be a direct cause. As this is the final part of the ‘trilogy’ (I say trilogy in the tenuous sense of the word), I wanted to specifically answer a few questions which had been emailed, largely relating to cramp in the calf during open water swimming.

As per previous blogs, it’s nothing to do with salts etc the issue may well be related to changes in length and muscle stretch receptors / nervous system confusion. I’ve suffered from this issue and have a simple plan to resolve it. When swmming, your calf is in a shortened position and if it remains shortened for a long period of time, it can go into spasm. You need to remind your calf of it’s original length at regular intervals, so try this:

1. Every 3 minutes, pull your toes up to gently stretch your calf. Do it once on each leg and you don’t have to hold, just stretch and release. This inhibits your swimming slightly, but it’s not going to slow you more than 1 second at most!
2. You need to do it at regular intervals, not just in reponse to the cramp, so make it a habit every 3 minutes.
3. It needs to be gentle movement, don’t do a sharp stretch of the calf, which can also trigger spasm.

About Marc:

Sports Science lecturer for 10 years at St Helens HE College.

2004 established The Endurance Coach LTD sports science and coaching business. Worked with British Cycling as physiology support 2008-2008. Previous Triathlon England Regional Academy Head Coach, North West.

In 2006 established Epic Events Management LTD. Now one of the largest event companies in the NW, organising a range of triathlon, swimming and cycling events. EPIC EVENTS also encompasses Montane Trail 26 and Petzl Night Runner events.

In 2010 established Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 LTD. This has now become the UKs leading ultra distance trail running event.

In 2010 established The Endurance Store triathlon, trail running and open water swimming store. Based in Appley Bridge, Wigan, we are the North West’s community store, organising and supporting local athletes and local events.

Check out the endurance store HERE

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Karl meets Kilian ©suunto ©sebmontaz

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Many thought there would be some tension between Karl Egloff and Kilian Jornet. After all, Karl has broken 2 of Kilian’s records.

View the original Suunto post HERE

“Nothing was set-up,” says the film maker Seb Montaz. “It was really the first time they met. They were both excited to meet and I hope people see them laughing together – there was no rivalry.” – Seb Montaz

But I already knew the answer and Kilian summed it up himself when he said after Aconcagua:

‘Records are there to be broken!’

So what happened when the duo met up in Chamonix?

Video ©suunto ©sebmontaz

You can read my interviews with Kilian HERE and HERE and HERE

Read about Karl HERE

And listen to them both in my podcast HERE

The Berghaus Dragons Back Race Day 5 2015 – The back is broken

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‘So what a week, what a journey, impossible to explain how tough, how mentally and physically challenging it was but also how spiritual it has been. Cut off from the world, no social media, no showers, just living in the wild with a group of equal enthusiasts.’ – Mike Evans

It’s over! The Berghaus Dragons Back has been broken. Mike Evans sums it up above, how do you compress the highs and lows of an incredible hard 5 days. For the tough and tireless 66 who completed the full race, the emotion (or lack of) was poignant in Carreg Cennen Castle. For some, it was just too much. I can understand it, 5 days of exhaustion, fatigue and stress and finally it’s over. The simple crossing of a line and a final ‘dib in’ and it was job done.

Some smiled, some laughed, some looked bemused at the assembled group who clapped and cheered; it was all too much and a lack of words summed up the the journey undertaken more than loud chants of yee-ha!

This select and hardy few may well have broken the back of the Dragon but it had been a a touch and go affair for all. Even race winner, Jim Mann said on the final finish line:

‘Dense cloud, rain, cold, difficult navigation, I could have done without that today!’

But slay the Dragon they did and at the evening awards ceremony, race director Shane Ohly summed it up very well:

‘It seems wrong that I have to countdown the finishers from 66 – 1 as it emphasises the top of the field and places a priority on them when in reality, everyone here is a hero.’

The racing and the finish line was full of stories. As you would expect, every single finisher (and non-finisher) had a very unique story to tell. Old to young, these stories will be discussed in time to come and as time passes, more will be revealed. For now, the journey is too raw, too sensitive, the enormity too big to understand. I said during the race that lives would be changed as the race progressed through Wales. I witnessed at first hand how the weak became strong and the strong became weak. It’s the nature of the event. It’s meant to be tough and those who didn’t complete this time, for whatever reason, will learn and I am sure will be back in 2017 for the next edition.

The final day was not without drama. A wet day, conditions proved to be very tough and post race many commented on how difficult the navigation had been in the white out conditions, driving rain and strong winds. It’s somewhat ironic that as Pavel Paloncy crossed the line first, the sun and dry weather followed him and all assembled were treated to a warm and sunny afternoon with incredible views. Paloncy would almost certainly have been a contender for a podium place had he not taken a bad fall on day 1 resulting in hospital treatment.

Mann will of course be remembered as the Dragon Slayer of 2015 but notably it was the year of the ladies with Paris, Pascall and Wraith featuring in the top 10 throughout the race and all 3 of them placing in the top 6 – Paris 2nd, Pascall 4th and Wraith 6th. Just like in the original race when Helene Whitaker showed the men a thing or two, 2015 had all the potential for a repeat performance and this was something Ohly touched on at the awards:

‘Despite the so called ‘advantages’ men have, ladies once again triumphed at the Dragons Back Race and I think that it is brilliant. All 3 ladies raced incredibly well and Paris had all the potential to win the race outright.’

Father and son team Glenn and Huw Davies in many ways provided me with a raw insight into the race. Having lost my father way too young I watched this duo battle the terrain as one. Joined together from beginning to end they witnessed each others highs and lows in a way that is beyond comprehension. Ever day I looked at them, envious of the time they were having together. What they shared is beyond special and I can only wish that I had had that opportunity in my life. When they finished in the castle it was a whirl of emotion for the duo; it all proved too much for young Huw (just 22), ‘I am real proud of my dad!’

It’s funny, all assembled, big to small, old to young suddenly got something in their eyes… maybe it was the wind or the midgies?

Joe Faulkner, legend that he is completed the very first Dragons Back Race and in 2012 he came back for more. Completing the 2015 event makes him quite the unique individual. He is the only person ever to complete all 3 Dragon Back Races. Wow! As a just reward, Ohly offered a tribute to Faulkner at the awards ceremony and acknowledged how instrumental he had been in Ohly’s own rise and development in the sport. As a nod of recognition, Ohly asked Faulkner to offer the awards to male and female winners; Jasmine Paris and Jim Mann.

Beer was flowing, spirits were high and as Paris and Mann sat down with awards in hand, the 2015 Berghaus Dragons Back race came to a close.

I can’t help but think there a great deal of runners (and marshals) today sitting, looking around and thinking, ‘What next?’ Races are like that, they make you, they break you, they inspire you and they take you to the lowest of the low and highest of the high. Plans are being made. What’s next?

It may very well be a new adventure, a new challenge, another race, maybe even recovery  but I know one thing,  all those who toed the line in the north of Wales a week a go will now be thinking of 2017 and contemplating coming back for more.

Like a Phoenix, the Dragon will rise from the ashes of 2015 and return in 2017.

Just one last question:

Can you tame the Dragon?

http://www.dragonsbackrace.com

Full results HERE

It’s extremely important to acknowledge the tireless help and devotion of all the volunteer marshals, kitchen staff and crew that made this race happen. They had their own ultra to undertake and events like this could not happen without them. In addition, sponsors provide an aid that facilitates the day-to-day functioning and feasibility of a race like this. Ohly pointed out his appreciation for Berghaus as a main sponsor, ‘Without them this event could not happen!’

dragons-back-race

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PHD Summer Lightning Review

© www.NICKMUZIK.com

Fast and Light. They are buzzwords in the world of trail, mountain and ultra running. We could argue all day about how this came about. Many would potentially give Kilian Jornet credit for the movement but I think it’s fair to say that men and women have been going light to the mountains and trails for quite some time, it’s just recently that we have all become far more aware.

Light does have its problems!

We have many documented reports, articles and stories of runners, mountaineers or alpinists being ‘caught out’ on a mountain and as a consequence in certain circles, mountain runners have gained a bad reputation.

Travelling light is all well and good providing that you are able to move fast! The two words go together; FAST and LIGHT! But what do I mean? Well quite simply, the process of going light will almost certainly mean that what you carry as a runner or alpinist will be minimal. Minimal of course is subjective and dependent on the person. For arguments sake, lets call light as follows:

  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Pack to carry water
  • Mobile phone

In essence, that is going light to the trail or mountain. Should conditions become difficult or problematic, this is where FAST comes in. You need to get out of trouble, danger or the cold fast and to safety. In many respects, this is part of the challenge. Running in the mountains is not a risk adverse sport.

Question:

What if though you could add a 1000 fill down product to your pack for a weight addition of 3oz (85g) or 6oz (180g)?

I kid you not.

UK based company PHD currently have 2 remarkable products that embrace low weight, low pack size and ultimate functionality in a limited availability range of products called Summer Lightning.

PHDsummerlite-jck-1-5-15_med

PHDwafer-vest-28-4-15_med

A SUMMERLITE DOWN JACKET (£199 6oz) and a WAFERLITE DOWN VEST (£99 3oz) are part of the K Series range of products that offer ultimate warmth against minimal weight. Filled with 1000 fill power European goose down (responsibly sourced) the jacket has a water-resistant Ultrashell outer fabric, stitch through construction and the vest has a 10x inside and out fabric that is not water-resistant and stitch through construction.

I have to say, having tested both these products I think PHD should make them available all year around. As a brand, my understanding is that they see them as a warm alternative for summer months but to be honest, they are a great addition to any kit list irrespective of the time of year. Both products would provide ideal warm layers to any multi-day adventure such as MDS. The potential to combine a warm layer and lightweight sleeping bag are endless. The apparel would also make a perfect addition (for every run) to any mountain runner’s kit list and lets face it, for fast packing they are brilliant. You see, these products are so light, so small I simply can’t think of a reason not to take them! I even have the jacket packed away in my day-to-day laptop bag or camera bag for that ‘just-in-case’ scenario.

On Test

I have had both products for 1 month and I have tested them ‘in situ’ at Richtersveld Wildrun in South Africa and at the Ultra Skymarathon Madeira. Both races provided me with changeable weather and an opportunity to test each product to the full.

On first impressions it’s difficult to believe that when one looks at these items compressed in a small stuff sack that they could possibly be a down vest and a down jacket. You pick up the vest and you don’t even notice any weight. It is just 3oz. The outer Ultrashell fabric on both products is silky smooth and a pleasure to wear against the skin. I wore the vest and jacket with just a t-shirt underneath and found them both really comfortable.

They may be light but they are warm, really warm. Let’s be realistic, they are not for polar conditions. But if you need a warm layer to protect against morning or evening chill, daily colder or cooler temperatures or an additional warmth layer to be added under a Gore-Tex (or similar) or windproof jacket, they are the perfect choice.

They are arguably the lightest down products in the world? Both pack to the size of an apple!

I have to say, I was spoilt; having a vest and jacket did allow me to regulate my temperature extremely well and on one occasion I actually wore the vest under the jacket on a very cold and damp night in South Africa.

They are simple, no frills products. The vest has no pockets and just a half-zip to reduce weight. The jacket has a full-length zip, two side pockets and a short stand up collar with no hood. However, it is possible to add a hood when ordering for the additional cost of £27.

As with all PHD products, items are made to order and this does allow you to customize any apparel exactly to your needs. For example, you could have a jacket with a half-zip, no pockets and a hood! The choice is yours.

Please keep in mind that if you need or require products by a certain date, you will need to allow for manufacturing time.

On the go, I found adding or removing either the vest or the jacket easy. They pack so small that I could actually just stuff either item in the pocket on my shorts. This is important because as soon as you start to move quickly, they retain heat exceptionally well and you find that you need to remove them so that you don’t sweat. Of course, as soon as you stop, you can quickly access the vest or jacket and wear them so that you don’t get cold

I wore the jacket all day on a very wet and chilly South African day and the Ultrashell outer fabric did a great job protecting the down from wet and moisture. Admittedly, I did wear a waterproof layer over the top. But in and around base-camp I was often moving from one tent to another with no waterproof layer and the product held up well with no problems despite constant drizzle and rain. Notably, the vest and the jacket did a great job of blocking out the wind.

Summary

PHD has come up with two incredibly light and small items of apparel that are now part of my ‘essential’ kit. They are so small, light and effective that I can’t be without them. Yes, they are that good!

Do I have a negative comment?

Down does not like rain, wet or moisture and it effectively becomes useless should this happen. Ultrashell fabric does protect the insulation in the jacket but this would only protect to a certain extent. So, if you anticipate bad (wet) weather you would almost certainly need a Gore-Tex or similar 100% outer layer to maximize the 1000 down fill. To be honest though, if you were going to the mountains a waterproof outer layer should be mandatory no matter how light you are going!

On a final note, I can’t recommend these two products enough. They may not be the cheapest apparel available but what you get are two incredible products that are functional, pack small and are superlight. Did I also mention that PHD has two sleeping bags that are also part of this range: ELITE RACER DOWN BAG (8oz) and RACER DOWN SLEEPING BAG (90z) more news on those to follow.

 PHDracer-sleeping-bag-26-4-15_med

PHDelite-racer-down-sleeping-bag-10-5-15-1_med

 

Specs as provided by PHD 

Summer Lite Down Jacket £199 

PHDsummerlite-jck-1-5-15_med

  • A PHD ‘K Series’ product: Ultimate warmth / weight performance
  • PHD’s Unique 1000 fill power European Goose down
  • Water-resistant Ultrashell outer fabric (our lightest-ever proofed fabric)
  • Ultralight 10X inner fabric
  • Stitch-through construction for lightness
  • Pockets: 2 zipped hand-warmer pockets

Not only is this our lightest-ever insulated jacket, it’s made in water-resistant Ultrashell fabric too.

A super-light down jacket with exceptional summer race and trekking performance.  At just 180gr it weighs less than many base layers, and it packs down tiny taking the absolute minimum space up in a summer rucksack.

The amazing Ultrashell outer fabric (our lightest water-resistant material) protects the down from damp and its 100% wind block qualities enhance the performance of the unique 1000 fill power Down insulation.

  • Ideal companion for summer nights
  • Pack without noticing the weight or bulk
  • Outer layer or mid-layer warmth
  • Warmer, lighter and a smaller pack size than a fleece jacket and 100% wind block too.

5 deg C

180g / 6oz

Add a hood £27

Three colours 

XS, S, M, L, XL

 

WAFERLITE DOWN VEST

 PHDwafer-vest-28-4-15_med

  • A PHD ‘K Series‘ Product: Ultimate warmth / weight performance
  • PHD’s unique 1000 fill power European Goose Down
  • Outer & Inner fabric: Ultra light 10X
  • Stitch-through construction for maximum weight saving
  • Down-filled collar to seal in the warmth

At 85g (3oz) the WaferLite vest is the lightest down vest in the world. 35% lighter than our superlight standard Wafer Vest.

The 10X fabric gives total wind block and the unique 1000 fill power down provides the highest warmth-for-weight performance possible. Packed into a tiny stuff sac, the WaferLite vest is simply breath taking for summer racers and ultra-light trekking.

The WaferLite vest will fit snugly under any of our down jackets, even the Minimus or the Yukon.

  • Ideal companion in a cool camp, bothy, or hut.
  • Pack without noticing the weight (or the bulk).
  • Midlayer to boost warmth

Add performance to your sleeping bag.

5 DEG C

85G / 3OZ

£99

 

PHD are available HERE 

SummerLite Down Jacket and WaferLite Down Vest are currently only available in May/ June.

 

 

Ultra Skymarathon Madeira #USM2015 – Race Images and Summary

©iancorless.com_USM2015-3343

Images to purchase HERE

Waking up at 0400 to pouring rain is never a great way to start a day, particularly when you have 55km of tough, challenging and mountain terrain to get over. After a couple of recce runs in the days leading up to the race, it became very clear that the USM was going to offer a very tough challenge.

Stevie Kremer had flown in from Colorado and was praying for sun. Ricky Lightfoot and Aritz Egea are from Cumbria and the Basque country and ‘it always rains’ they told me, so no need to ask what they hoped for.

The USM course is a unique one. Weaving up and down mountains, around beaches, through dense undergrowth, up a riverbed and of course plenty of climbing and descending. It’s not your ordinary Skyrunning course!

Departing the start line at 0600 on the dot, the runners disappeared down a darkened lane with only head torches and rain for company. It was a brutal start to the day, just 1km to warm up and then a climb of 1400m.

Onwards and upwards the runners climbed and a section of via ferrata at around 6km provided a taster for the final push to the summit. It wasn’t easy going. The mist had come in and visibility was poor. Add to this constant rain and steep gradients.

Ricky Lightfoot and Zaid Ait Malek were the first to appear. The contrast between the two striking, Ricky is tall and well built and a fireman by trade. Zaid is Moroccan, small and probably only about 50kg in weight when completely wet through and wearing three layers of clothes.

They matched each other step-by-step. Minutes later, Aritz Egea appeared looking calm and relaxed in the wet and challenging conditions. With 90 minutes of the race elapsed, the main male contenders came thick and fast and with them, Stevie Kremer.

It was sometime before the 2nd lady Ester Alves came into sight and the writing was on the wall. Stevie was going to need to crumble to loose this race. Descending over the summit, an inversion came in allowing the surrounding vistas to come clear. It was quite special to see so many mountains and trails all above the cloud.

Running the ridges and several more climbing sections, the front of the race didn’t change until a decisive phase around the 30km mark. Climbing from the sea and beach, Ricky Lightfoot continued to extend his lead looking strong. However, Zaid Ait Malek looked in trouble and Aritz Egea was closing. After 5km of ridge running and a technical descent, a riverbed with boulder hopping awaited.

Ricky was long gone but here Aritz moved ahead of Zaid. It looked like a decisive move but as we know, nothing is guaranteed in racing. Behind, Clemente Mora and Nuno Silva were coming to life. In particular Nuno, he ran over the boulders in the river like a man possessed.

But another long climb needed to be ascended and descended before the finish line and here the podium changed. Zaid was having trouble and feeling dizzy. His only option to ease off the pace providing a gateway to third. As Clemente and Nuno battled for 3rd, Aritz exploded through a lack of calories and was forced to jog/ walk it into the finish. Seizing an opportunity, Clemente proved the stronger and finally pulled away from Nuno and they finished 6:17:22 and 6:24:57 respectively behind Rick Lightfoot’s new course record, 6:09:56.

©iancorless.com_USM2015-5844

Steve Kremer was almost in another race by the time the riverbed and the final climb came. However, she did say she wasn’t feeling great. This was the longest race she had ever run! It was academic, Stevie despite what she said ran into the finish looking strong in 7:33:37 almost 45 min ahead of 2nd placed Ester Alves in 8:14:45. Lucia Franco took the final podium place in 9:01:53.

Post race, Stevie went on to say, ‘USM is one of if not the hardest race I have ever done. I think it is a much harder race than Zegama-Aizkorri. It was relentless terrain and the conditions just made it so much harder. Race organisation was brilliant and course marking superb. It was brilliant but so tough.”

By contrast, Ricky seemed relaxed after his run, ‘It was a great course and one that embodies Skyrunning exceptionally well. However, the first hour of the course is not designed for someone as tall as me! All those trees that needed to be crawled under; I was bent double,’ he said with a laugh. ‘Zaid is only tiny so he could just run. I felt like I was crawling. The views when the mist lifted were incredible. It was almost as though I was running in another race.’

The 2nd edition of the Ultra Skymarathon Madeira has been a great success. Madeira is an amazing island with a tough and challenging course. The future looks bright for this new addition to the Skyrunning calendar.

Results:

  1. Stevie Kremer 7:33:37
  2. Ester Alves 8:14:45
  3. Lucia Franco 9:01:53
  1. Ricky Lightfoot 6:09:56
  2. Clemente Mora 6:17:22
  3. Nuno Silva 6:24:57

All images ©iancorless.com – all rights reserved

RUNNING BEYOND – A new book announcement

Cover

Multiple meetings, trips backwards and forwards to London and I am pleased to say that I can now announce that I will have a new book available in late (September tbc) 2016.

It has been a long term dream to find the backing of a publisher and I am pleased to say that Aurum Press Ltd (Here) have had the trust to allow me to produce a book on a sport I love through photography and words.

An added bonus is that Kilian Jornet has agreed to write the foreword.

A work in progress, I anticipate some long days and nights as I evolve this project. I hope through imagery and words it will be an inspiration to those who look at it and read it.

Grubby pages with repeated use, I’d like to see multiple ‘post it’ notes marking races for future ‘bucket lists’ and most of all I hope it will be a book that allows you to dream.

Wish me luck as I put this together. Many thanks for the continued support and most importantly, thanks to Aurum Press Ltd, Kilian Jornet and all the wonderful races and people around the world who have afforded me the opportunity to make a dream a reality.

Ian

*Please note the cover is just an illustration. I anticipate a new cover for the actual book.